An Essential Survival Guide to Making It in N.Y.C. for the International Artist
by Paul Pryce
The purpose of the artist is to investigate. Investigate ideas, the world in which she or he lives, humanity in general, and herself or himself. What a glorious purpose! But, as liberating as it seems, this purpose comes with feelings of uncertainty. Facing the unknown, whether it’s a blank canvas, a new play, a lump of clay or a still piano, the artist must embrace the unknown, awaken their muse and remain open to inspiration to create.
Having the courage to face the unknown can bring great reward as much as it can bring failure. Failure is part of the process of creation. It’s an exercise in faith more than anything else. Craftsmanship, hard work and talent are all basic prerequisites for success, but without “divine” inspiration, however one chooses to define that, we remain ordinary or even worse, unfulfilled potential.
Notwithstanding, we all live in the real world. A world that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about divine inspiration. As an actor, you’re just trying to survive and realize your artistic dreams. Just paying your rent on time, covering bills and keeping food in the fridge every month requires so much faith in itself, there’s not much leftover to create your own art. It’s enough to get anyone frustrated and cause them to lose hope. We’ve all been there at some point.
The artist’s journey is definitely a road less traveled and those who dare tread along its path, do so with much sacrifice. Now, imagine being an artist on this very journey, in a foreign country, with no family or friends for support, no knowledge of norms or customs, and having to grapple with a foreign language. Emotional and psychological stresses are exponentially higher for the foreign transplant as compared to their native compatriots, not to mention the almost unbearable burden of immigration and employment authorizations one must overcome just to stay in the country legally.
What is supposed to be an exhilarating period of discovery and new experiences as an artist, quickly becomes taken over by feelings of cultural alienation, personal loneliness and legal anxiety. The artist’s mind is everywhere but in the present.
However if you plan for these inevitable obstacles beforehand, not only will you be giving your career a better chance of survival, you’ll be able to enjoy the journey even more.
In the next few columns, I will outline some tips and strategies I have either employed, learnt from others or discovered the hard way, while on my own journey. We’ll be looking at a number of common issues facing the international artist in the United States:
- Mastering an American Accent – Is it necessary?
- How do I get an agent in New York?
- Do I need an MFA to be successful?
- Obtaining a work permit as an artist
- Visualizing Your Path to Your Success!
- Staying Ready So You Don’t Have To Get Ready!
- Conquering Stage Fright.
- Bringing Yourself To Your Art – That’s What an Audience Wants to See!
- What’s The Difference between Film Acting and Theatre Acting?
- How Do I Go From Queen’s Hall to Broadway?
- What’s An Artist Visa and How Do I Get One?
I encourage you to use them to your heart’s content. As with anything, only you know your own circumstance. Trust your instincts and listen to the whispers of your inner voice and have the courage to follow through.
About Paul Pryce
Actor based in New York City. Notable credits include: Hamlet featuring Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti, Othello, Romeo & Juliet, Pericles; Prince of Tyre and Julius Ceasar among many others as well as the Caribbean play Pecong featuring Tony Award winner Lillias White; National Black Theatre of Harlem. As a Producer/Writer: Come Out, Come Out (Short Film/NYC) currently in post-production, Jus Sayin’ Comedy (Web series/NYC) and is currently shopping a feature length screenplay set in Trinidad and Tobago. He has an M.F.A in Acting from the Yale School of Drama. Received the Eldon Elders Fellowship (2012), the Oliver Thorndike Award for Acting (2013) and was an awardee at Caribbean Life Newspaper’s 40 Under 40 awards in 2014. Co-artistic director of Scarlett Project; a non-profit performing arts and arts education company dedicated to producing Caribbean theatre (Smile Orange, Rum and Coca Cola). He is currently filming a new original series for Netflix. Paul was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago.
About the CaFA Film School:
A series of posts on the craft of filmmaking, authored by featured guests, who are emerging Caribbean talents in their respective fields. The series will include posts on acting, writing, producing, directing, shooting, editing, sound design, and scoring. Through the posts, the contributors share information on their specific craft, on the industry as a whole, practical tips and tools, and do’s and don’ts. We hope this series will provide needed and relevant information for novice and somewhat experienced film artists.