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Building Your: Specialism(s)

Creative Careers

Photo of young man dancing
9 Jun 2019
7 min read

If you have a range of interests and talents, a traditional career path might seem limiting when you could become a ‘slashy’ instead. We find out about the benefits and challenges of wearing different creative hats. 

Get experience and build a portfolio of work
Director and videographer Akinola Davies Jr – aka ‘Crackstevens’ – was never an academic at school and put a great deal of effort into overcoming the feeling that he wasn’t entitled to excel.

After toying with several career ideas – from football to journalism – Akinola settled on directing and sought out work experience. He interned for directors Tim & Barry - an independent duo who have shot MOBO-winning music videos for grime artists such as Skepta and JME. After gaining hands-on experience of editing, directing, and organising shoots, Akinola used savings from an office job to film a music video for a friend.

'I made a video. It did alright. It hasn’t got a huge number of views, maybe nine or ten thousand on YouTube but I just put my heart and soul into it. I remember thinking, ‘Why am I doing this? I could be paying my rent but I’m just trying to figure this thing out instead. Will anyone care?’ But a few people cared and they shared it. From then, people saw I was capable and commissioned me to do a couple of other things.’

The video helped Akinola score a film campaign for fashion brand Kenzo, which he shot in Nigeria with a fantasy theme. 'If there’s no opportunity to do stuff, just try to make it happen for yourself and the people around you.’

Find a way to harness your full potential
Chetna Pandya trained as an actress, but despite starring in award-winning plays and TV shows, she couldn’t help feeling that acting work wasn’t giving her the opportunity to utilise her full creative potential. Whilst she enjoyed acting, Chetna was also passionate about teaching work, and she was interested in other elements of bringing a production to life such as directing, casting and fundraising.

Rather than allowing herself to be pigeon-holed into a traditional career path, Chetna found a way to flourish in her own right and in 2011, she co-founded theatre company, Outspoken Arts. She is now responsible for a broad range of tasks, from securing Arts Council grants, to overseeing rehearsals. Chetna is also a board member for the internationally renowned theatre company, Complicite and works for the BBC as a member of the Radio Drama Company.

‘I’m a British-Asian actress whose parents are from Africa. In the industry I work in, Asian women are either exoticised or they’re looked at as authority figures. There’s a limit to that and there’s a limit to how much I want to allow myself to be used like that. I wanted to do something about that. I wanted to be able to create work so that I had a trajectory, some long-term goals that meant that I could harness all the elements of my creativity and not have to rely on just this one thing that was called, ‘being an actor’.’

Find a healthy balance
Rosa Slade is an incredibly busy ‘slashy’. Not only is she working on her 4th studio album with her band Peggy Sue, she’s a member of an all-female choir, helps run a music performance collective, and has a day job as Events and Trading Manager for start-up support charity, Bootstrap Company.

Having toured with artists such as Mumford & Sons, The Maccabees and Jack White, Rosa is well-connected in the music industry and several years ago, she began organising events to provide performance opportunities for bands. It was through this that Rosa was offered her current job. By learning about the technical aspects of running events, Rosa began working as a sound tech for Bootstrap and after a few years, she was asked to manage three event spaces - Dalston RoofPark, BootYard and The Bunker.

Although juggling different hats can sometimes prove a challenge, Rosa emphasized the importance of being creatively fulfilled but also being responsible and taking care of your finances. She said, ’You need to ask yourself every day, ‘is this fulfilling me creatively?’ But we all know that you need to be financially viable. Rent in London is really expensive so you need to balance out that choice. Ideally, you need to find something which fulfils you in both ways.'

‘Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to do any more admin, but even when you’re in a band, sometimes when you’re touring you just want to be at home. Then you get home and you’re like, ‘I just want to be in New York.’ The grass is always greener.’

It's vital to believe in yourself
Kazim Rashid finds it tough describing what he does as his day-to-day work involves so many slashes. He is passionate about telling stories through film, music and art, and works as an artist manager, label owner, director, producer and marketer, amongst other roles.

But before becoming a ‘slashy’, Kazim worked in advertising – a job he found creatively unfulfilling. Looking for a more inspiring path, Kazim made contact with artists online whose work he found interesting and tried to find ways he could collaborate with them. He ended up directing some short promotional films for an up-and-coming fashion brand and was responsible for writing the storyline, styling, directing, making artwork, and bringing the project together.
Kazim now works with a range of brands such as Converse, Red Bull, and Samsung, providing consultancy and creative direction through his label ENDLESSLOVE show. He believes that having conviction in your work is essential to being a ‘slashy’, especially when it comes to securing new clients.

Kazim believes, ‘When you stand in a room, you have to be the person who believes in your idea more than anything. I think if you believe in your idea and you have conviction, most people around you will as well. People want to believe in stuff; they want to be on a train that’s moving. If you can convince people that you’re going to get to the end of the line regardless of whether they’re involved, they’ll most likely be involved.’

You must have 100% passion for what you do
Mikey J is a record producer, composer and dancer. He currently produces records for rappers such as Kano, but he is also the co-founder of award-winning Hip Hop dance company, Boy Blue Entertainment.

Having contributed to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, Mikey’s dance company made such a mark on the industry that school children now learn about it through the AQA syllabus. But despite his success, at the age of 23, Mikey realised that he was not ‘100% passionate’ about dance and decided to concentrate more on the musical side of the business. ‘With dancing, I knew I had to quit. I knew I just didn’t have the 100% passion and drive for it. I felt I could be more useful, energised, and happier working in the music aspect of dance.’

Mikey added, ‘I just follow my passions. Whoever I’m working with, I want to give them the best. That’s just how I am as a person. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I don’t want to let the person down so I wouldn’t want to sell myself if I can’t get the job done or at the right quality. It has to be something I’m passionate about and that I’m going to take to the nth degree.’

Be confident about what it is that you do
With 15 years’ experience in the creative services industry, Torri Stewart has spearheaded dozens of campaigns for leading brands including Burberry, Budweiser, Mars Foods, and many more. He has had huge successes in his career, such as devising a multi-million-pound promotional campaign for Sony and is now Deputy Creative Director of youth-led marketing agency, Livity.

Torri originally decided he wanted to be a ‘slashy’ after scoring a big break back at university. A friend, whose album was being released by Virgin Records, asked Torri to produce the album artwork and direct music videos for two of the tracks. Despite feeling daunted by the prospect, Torri seized the opportunity in what he describes as ‘a moment of bravery and self-belief’ that went on to set the tone of his career.

‘I understood for the first time that if I was really going to do this thing of being a ‘slashy’ and was going to wear different creative hats, I needed to get out there and have my own agenda. There was a little journey of self-awareness that ‘slashies’ have going on. You’re isolated. You’re on your own. You’re doing your own thing. But you have to understand what it is you do and have the confidence in what it is that you do.’

This session took place on 9 June 2019

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