Friday, October 24, 2008

Are Red States Where Artists Should Go?

There is a part of me, as an actor / writer / director, who would love it, if less actors / writers / directors kept coming to Los Angeles. I am sure if you live in New York or Chicago or any other big media market... you would agree with me. It's hard enough finding work, and more and more competition makes it harder and harder every year.

Mix in a dash of economic hard times, and as you can see the mainstream media in Los Angeles is hurting. Labor issues in the past year have also added to the problems for Major Studios and Networks. Every mainstream media entity from Paramount to Sony are making major cuts to budgets and staffing. This is also affecting the amount of movies being made and new orders for T.V. Shows. Businesses are relying on old add campaings in stead of making new commericals, and with folks nervous about cash in their pockets, they are going out less and less to theatrical presentations. Credit in a crisis? Yes? What does that mean for independent producers? Less opportunity to get funds or budgets for new projects. For the other visual media artists, less money means less opportunity to sell paintings or get commissions to create new works. Galleries will start shutting down.

However, despite how bleak things are on the East and West Coast, I read a report today that the good old Heart land of America has not been hit by the recession, so much. States like Texas are still coasting on the economic bubble we were all coasting on about 18 months ago. That bubble may or may not burst. Why are they coasting? Well, most of the states who have major economic ties to energy and oil and food production are doing okay. Jobs are secure and unemployment is not on the rise. People are also not losing their homes. Maybe because their mortgages aren't insane. (Seriously, there was a 1600 square foot home near me, that sold for 800,000 a few years ago).

Anyway, these traditional "Red States" maybe the ripe new place for struggling artists to settle. I've asked myself... if I were going to start a theater for example, would I do it here in Los Angeles? Probably not, even a low key operation would take tons of work, and I'd spend more time renting the space to other people than doing actual theater. However, what if there was a medium sized city without a strong regional theater or arts center? Could I go there and provide a community with a place to send their kids for acting classes, and possibly buy season tickets to two or three shows a year? It makes you wonder.

Traditionally the coasts have offered artists opportunity financially to do what they love or at the very least trade their craft for a paycheck. The best and brightest go to L.A. and N.Y.C. and the surrounding cities to 'make it big'. However, with the opporunties dwindling should the artist start staring homeward back to their midwestern roots they left for the lure of the big city? It is an interesting question.

Red States as you know, are traditionally more conservative. It would probabably be hard to open a Drag Cabaret in say, Peoria, Illinois. However, a small theater with simple ambitions and a school for kids? Or maybe if you were a film maker, a videography business? I don't know. Perhaps the opportunities are endless. However, I wonder if all the 'liberal artists' weren't just living on the East and West Coast, if we all spread out, could that lead to a less 50/50 divided nation on a social and political scale between liberal and conservative?

Artists are traditionally not very good at understanding markets or business. It's not what we gravitate towards, usually. However in a Capitalistic Society like the good old USA it is important for an artist to be innovative not only in their art, but also in their business. It is funny, we have so much vision... but we do not ever apply to anything but the work. If we were to re-think the model of how we produce and sell our art perhaps we would be better off. Examining economic trends isn't fun or sexy, but it may help an artist understand how to live the life they've always dreamed of in a place they never would have thought to live.

Gee... if I opened up a Meisner Institute in Crawford, Texas? I wonder if I could get Laura Bush to take classes.

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