I don't know any performer that just does one thing. We all have so many skills, so why void the world of those skills?
Hello, it's Tony Howell, and I want to welcome you to Conversations with Changemakers. On this episode, we speak with my friend Jamie Body, entertainment and media expert.
Having worked as a performer in television, film, and theatre all around the world, he's now expanded his career to becoming an accredited and published journalist, keynote speaker, business coach, marketing consultant, NLP practitioner, and red carpet host.
That's right, whether working on large events like The Olivier Awards or Monster Jam, special UK premieres like Mary Poppins Returns and The Illusionist, or helping clients one-to-one with their branding and social media, Jamie works with companies, creatives, and freelancers to connect the dots, to build the career they want.
With COVID shutting down the US and Broadway for the near future, I was really interested in exploring a few key topics with Jamie: career evolutions or expansions, COVID changes and choices in the UK versus the US, and business branding and marketing from an international lens. You are in for a treat with this brilliant bloke. Enjoy.
Jamie Body, thank you for coming on this show. I'm so excited to chat with you.
Thank you. I am a long term listener, a long term fan, so I'm so thankful to be here.
Well, you know that I adore you and we stay in touch via social media, but will you share the backstory of how we came to know one another?
Yeah, of course. So I used to work at Tokyo Disney and my friend Shiloh, who you also know as well from New York–
Shout out to Shiloh.
She put me in touch because you were doing some fantastic things in the realm of social media - this was years ago - and once I came back from Japan, I was transitioning more into my media career. So I was actually going back to school to study journalism, and working a bit of marketing. And so she kind of put you on my radar, and then -what was it, two or three years ago? - our worlds aligned. And I was actually in Barcelona, choreographing a job, and you were traveling through Europe and happened to be in Barcelona at the time, so we were able to build our social media connection and then actually meet in real life, which was amazing.
The world got so much smaller, but yes, I just wanted everyone to know how small the world is, and how easily we can get connected. So Jamie, tell us about what your career is today because that's really what I'm excited to explore with you
Yeah. And I think - the thing I love about us, as well - we both had very similar journeys in the fact that we started off on stage, but then had other passions that we developed. So my journey was - I went to musical theatre college here in England, and then I still do perform, but I just don't actively audition. So if the phone rings, I will take that job if it fits into my schedule.
But for the last six years I've been working a lot in media, so I went from dancing. I then did an internship at a marketing firm with a company called AKA UK, who actually have a New York branch, and from there I was an intern for three months, working on the social media marketing for West End musicals. And I was very fortunate after my internship - a month after - a position actually opened up.
So a year and a half, I stayed there, grew, and learned a lot more about marketing and social media. And then I took another leap of faith. I went from freelance to full-time in marketing, then another leap of faith into freelancing again, and actually went back to school part-time to get my official journalism qualification.
And now I sit in the space of being a speaker, a marketing consultant, and an NLP coach because I recently, at the beginning of this year, trained to become an NLP coach as well. And I'm sure you find this as well, Tony - you work with clients about social media marketing, but actually sometimes you spend a whole session just figuring out what their goals are, or what's holding them back.
So, for me, doing the coaching qualification has allowed me to kind of know a bit more about that and how I can help clients, not so much just with their marketing needs, but maybe, I thought, “you know what? You don't need to push selling your show right now. We need to just work on you and your goals, and quiet the voices in your head.”
Brilliant. Well, I have to say that I never knew what NLP was before I was traveling. I actually learned about it in Thailand. So can you explain for anyone who doesn't know what NLP is and what it does?
Yeah, of course. So NLP stands for Neurolinguistic Programming and it was created in the seventies by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. And in a nutshell, it just allows you to look at things differently, talk kinder to yourself, and it really helps with communication, not only to others, but with yourself. So it's great for setting goals and limiting beliefs, and it's all to do with strengthening neural pathways. And just how, for instance, if you have a limiting belief, we can really dissect that and separate what is fact from a limiting belief. Someone may say, “I have no money in my bank account.” That's a fact, but a limiting belief could be, “I can't earn more than $25,000.”
So the bigger question is why can't you earn that? And sometimes we get so used to just sitting in the way in which we deal with the world that we are not open to seeing other opportunities. And we also don't see our own gifts that we have.
Brilliant. I'm seeing your gifts come through. I think you're going to get several clients from this podcast, my friend.
Thank you. You are the OG. You have always been such an inspiration for me because - I know we'll get on to this - but I think what we both do now– in England, it's still quite a new thing of knowing what a personal brand is, and seeing yourself as a business, as a creative, where I feel like in America - I could be wrong, obviously I don't live there although I've frequently been - I feel there's a lot more passion and skill-building. And it's okay if you are a dancer who's a photographer and you work in a restaurant. Where here, that is the case, but it's kind of we're only now starting to see the value of having a strong online presence, and using social media, and marketing yourself. It's not just enough to just have an agent.
Well, let's poke around in there for a moment. I want to ask, what is the vibe? What is the culture? Because in the US, Broadway is shut down until June 2021, like possibly longer. So what's happening in the UK in relation to COVID?
It's an interesting one. When COVID initially hit that was it, theatre and events were done, and not just West End musicals - tours, corporate events, awards ceremonies, all done. Now, there are some little rays of light shining through where some producers are putting on socially-distanced performances, whether that's an outdoor concert, or outdoor immersive dining, or cinematic experience. And there are some West End shows, which are slowly coming back or producers are trialing them.
I just think, not to get too political, but our government hasn't been the most… they haven't championed the arts during COVID, and don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the arts are more important than any other job in the world, but I think especially during COVID, people are watching Netflix, they're watching Amazon Prime, they're listening on Spotify, and that's what we do. We entertain, and our government hasn't been championing us.
So I think there's going to be a big change when the industry does pick up again, whether it’s that people have moved out of London, or they've given up, or there's a lot more mental health issues on it. But that being said, we are having some shows that we can perform in, and there are some audition breakdowns still coming through. Lots of filming has taken up again.
My friend did a commercial the other day, and they had a makeup artist direct her on how to put on her own makeup because of social distancing. So she stood like two meters away and said, “now pick up this eyeliner and apply it like this.” So I think, obviously, when Broadway closed until like, you said, possibly beyond June next year, that's heartbreaking. So I don't want to be “woe me” because obviously it's hard here as well, but we are lucky that some shows are still able to perform.
And Jamie, I wanted to have you on to just share another perspective, a global perspective. And so, if you would, whatever you want to share, but let's go back in time to this moment that you felt this need to expand beyond performing. And can you walk us through sort of your thought process - what you wish you knew. Because I feel like there's going to be a lot of people that are considering career changes or expansions. And I just want to see if we can help them together.
That's such a lovely theme you have there, Tony. I know you helped so many people already, so I'm glad that I can hopefully help as well. So for me, I loved performing, but I wanted to push myself mentally, not just physically, because I was predominantly a dancer. I could hold a tune and I had one or two audition songs, but for me, dance was what I did.
I think as all performers, we are in it. We attach our worth to our skills and what we produce on stage, and we sometimes don't see the value of them off of stage or outside of the audition room.
So it got to a point– I was at Tokyo Disney - got back in late 2011 - I was there for the earthquake. So that in itself was an eye opener because as a dancer, you never expect to be in a situation that could be so catastrophic. They took care of us so well, but yes.
I got home, and then I'd always enjoyed film and media and photography. And I did a bit of academic college performance theatre. So I thought, I'll do a few little long distance courses on journalism and writing to see how it felt. And I was realizing the more I was going to press events, I was getting the same buzz that I got when I was on stage. And that, for me, was such a light bulb moment. I said, this makes me feel the same as when I'm performing or being clapped, like as a performer.
And I think it took me a very long time, though, to have the confidence to voice that in my circle. My friends are so supportive, but when you're actively auditioning, you don't want to take your eye off the prize because you almost feel a bit guilty because you've done that your whole life since you were a child. It's been your focus. And I remember I was very fortunate. I back end danced on The Voice over in Ireland - so the TV show The Voice - one of the best jobs of my entire life, live TV each week.
And then when I got back from that, it was the very next day I had a casting, and I thought, “How lucky am I to have just done a job I love?” Got back to London, and the next day, I have a casting and someone said to me, “Well, what are you going to do next? You've just done The Voice. You need to do another job or it won't be as strong on your CV.” And I just thought, “I've not had a moment to enjoy what I've just done.”
And that for me was such a trigger to be like, no, I need to stop worrying about what other people's perceptions of what my career should be. And I think that's great that people are interested in me, however, I'm the one that's got to go home and live my life, not them.
So then I voiced what I wanted to do, and I found maybe more people in the industry who are like, “that's great. Tell me about that. Where can you study? What can you do?” Because I'm not sure if you found this, Tony, as well, but when you transition a bit from performing, you're not at all the auditions anymore. And if you say to someone, “I'm not going to that audition,” they're kind of just like, “oh, okay,” because it doesn't fall into their world anymore. And it's not them being selfish at all, it's just their eyes are still on that prize.
So for me, I had a few light bulb moments. And then once I got more into journalism, and press events, and being on Red Carpets, I got that buzz. And then I found a way to combine my passion, and my history, and dance, as an entertainment journalist on the red carpets. I knew who the choreographers were. I knew who the directors were. I knew to ask questions that maybe mainstream media outlets didn't ask, because they just want to know, “how does it feel to be nominated for the Olivier,” when I'd be like, “you've just had a five-week R&D process, into a rehearsal, and you've had to reblock it.”
I was getting interviews and soundbites that other people weren't. And that wasn't because I think I'm the best journalist in the world, but I think I knew to ask questions because it was my passion. So I think anyone listening, who's maybe thinking of a career change, it's okay. And sometimes you have to do something to know you don't want to do it, and you can try something else. And if it's not for you, you can always go back to performing. Or, if performing's really not getting you where you want, either financially or mental health, it's okay to try something else. Because I don't know any performer that just does one thing. We all have so many skills. So why void the world of those skills?
Amen. And even celebrities with their product lines - they have other revenue streams is the way that I look at it now. It's through a business lens. Only because this is the vibe of my show, I want to pry in just a little bit more. Was there ever a moment that was challenging for you, like this identity change? Because, you had said - it was over there - it's the same - that you are attached to the work that you do. Your value is like, I am an actor attached to X, Y and Z project. Was there any moment of challenge for you?
Yeah, especially for me even just going back to school to study journalism that summer. Although I had done a lot of journalism work to get my official NCTJ journalism qualification, which is a recognized qualification here in the UK, I went back to school part-time, and I had to say no to a lot of dance jobs. And I remember that summer, I got offered a two-week job in Japan, a week job in Dubai, and a week job in Paris. And I had to turn them all down because I had exams. And I think as a performer, you're always thinking, “what's shiny and what's new?” but I had to say, “no, I'm trying to build this new career. I need to invest in it.”
So that, in itself, was a challenge: saying no to people that I've spent so long trying to be their go-to dancer, or build those connections. And then not going to Japan for two weeks, but then sitting in a classroom as someone spoke at me. And I'm used to being such a visual learner because of what I did. And that's how good you say you are as a dancer - you dance and they can see it. Where as a journalist, I have to write how good I am. That has to reflect in my work and my study ethics.
So I think taking the courage to retrain, and then that whole process - that whole 10 months of going back to school part-time - was a challenge. Because also, I couldn't do those pockets of work that made me good income, so I had to completely change how I worked to get the money I needed to get through the course, as well. So, for me, that was a big challenge, that whole year.
But we grow from our challenges, don't we? If we already had what we wanted, we'd already have it. And obviously I didn't have what I wanted, and I'm so grateful I did it, but those 10 months were hard.
So give us some insight on what a typical week is like in 2020 for Jamie. What does your life look like now with all of these different branches?
Yeah. It does vary from week to week. Sometimes I love that, sometimes I hate that. But it will vary. So as a freelancer, like social media and personal brand consultant, I have some clients I have on retainer and some, I just do ad hoc.
This week, for instance, I've been lecturing at a couple of colleges, talking about social media and how to market yourself as a performer when you graduate. So, it could be anything from lecturing or one-on-one clients. Obviously, at the moment with the world there's not many press events going on, so that avenue for me is a bit more quieter, but I could then have a press junket or a press night.
And then, as I said, I do occasionally still perform. I was very fortunate last summer into the beginning of this year where there's a new Netflix show called Bridgerton, which is produced by Shonda Rhines, and they needed dancers, obviously dancers who were younger, but also dancers over the age of 30. So at the time I walked my 32-year-old ass into that audition and I was like, “I'm older, but I'm proud!” But you're not old at all, but in dance terms, it can be.
And I was very fortunate that I secured a couple episodes dancing on that. So the tail end of my last year was probably the dream for me. I was lecturing. I was dancing and covering press events. But then there also are those weeks when, at the moment with COVID, the landscape's completely changed. So my main focus of work is actually social media work, which is maybe I'm at home, I'm on my laptop a bit more. But again, I'm very grateful that I have an opportunity to actually make money at the moment.
I just want to also rewind and maybe make sure that we've articulated your advice for someone that is thinking, “okay, I need to explore another avenue, at least temporarily” - is to really pay attention to what they're passionate about, and try something. And then see how it feels and keep going from there.
Completely. I think you don't know until you try, or you have an idea of what you think you want, but then you don't know until you do it. And I think you just have to. It's your life at the end of the day. And I think as performers we often chase credits for our CV, as opposed to maybe taking the foot off the accelerator and thinking and stopping and being like, “where am I? Where have I come from? And where do I want to go?” And I think you have to do that as a creative.
Some people, their trajectory is dancer, choreographer, agent, whatever, but for the majority of performers, it’s probably not. So I'd say, yeah, if anyone's listening and you have other passions and other things that make you happy, explore them. Try them.
Obviously, if you're still actively auditioning, don't take your eye off the prize too much, but develop those skills. And I think build a side hustle, build a career, make money if you can. It might not be for you to come back to, but I think you should follow your heart and your gut. You want to know, but sometimes you might be too scared to take that leap.
This interview is somewhat selfish, because I wanted to, like, ask you all of these things that I feel like– you're speaking my language, essentially. And we're the same person.
Completely. That's one of the reasons all of the amazing work you do resonates with me so much. Because I'm like, your media career started before mine did, and I thought, “wait, you can. It's still success to do what you want to do. And you are still in the arts and being creative.” So I think everything you do, Tony, is fantastic. So listeners from your show and then from my show as well, just realize, yeah, it's okay. We can create our own success and if you're still in the arts doing what you love, but doing something slightly different, then you're still winning, you're building a career.
Amen. Well, I also think that it's the idea of an artist as an interpreter or a creator. I don't like the word creator, but it's this new modern word that everyone is using. And I'm like, yeah, I guess we're creators, Jamie - we're producers. We're entrepreneurs. We can wear a lot of different labels. Talk to me - what do you think is the role of the artist in this crazy year? What do you think the modern artist should be focused on?
Oh gosh, that's a good question. I think the weird thing about this year is, it's making artists actually think about what they want instead of always trying to maybe perform - not to please other people. Because obviously, at the end of the day, they want to perform.
But the onstage aspect of it, we perform to make other people happy, when now in 2020, we're almost having to stop and think, oh gosh, what makes me happy? And I'm sure a lot of people don't feel comfortable with that, but I think the role of an entertainer and a creator and storyteller now is just that. It's with storytelling, and our situations and emotions can really influence the story we tell.
Artists might now need to inspire, educate, and, I think, bring together a sense of community, not just with other performers, but other people having a really bad year, worse than we’re maybe having individually. And our YouTube videos, our songs, our books can inspire people, or take people out of the situation they're in, even if only momentarily. And we've got thick skin. We’re rejected all the time. We have to look in the mirror eight hours a day as we're training for three years. It sucks. But I think we have a resilience that maybe not a lot of people outside of the arts have. So what may be really tough for us now is still to educate, entertain and build community.
Now, you are based in the UK, but how many countries have you performed in?
I should make a list. I know. I know in Europe, when my partner says, “should we go on holiday?” I'm like, “oh yeah, this is good there,” or “I've been there.” And he's always like, “so we won't go there.” So I've been very fortunate. I worked for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for a year and a half, so I did a lot of Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean or Caribbean for you American folk, in Alaska—
Give us your American accent.
My American accent is terrible. All I can say is “vitamin water” and that's it. And I worked in Tokyo Disney for almost two years. I've toured Europe in a couple musicals. I remember that I did one Disney musical, and we had to learn parts of the script in every language - and it was Turkish, Greek, Italian, Spanish and English. And, by the end, I have no idea what I'm saying on stage anymore. So I've been very fortunate with the jobs I've had.
When I graduated musical theatre college, I had dreams and goals, but I wasn't tunnel-visioned to be like, “I have to be on the West End, or I have to do this.” I was like, “I'm just going to audition. See what auditions I want to go to, what opportunities–,” like some of the best opportunities I've had have come from maybe an audition months ago, or people I've met on one job who's recommended me for another, and I've just kind of gone with it.
Well, the reason I ask is because I think it's A) super cool, and again, I'm really excited for people to hear you and meet you because you bring such a large perspective to things. But, my last guest was Lea Salonga. I had a moment when I was preparing for that of going, “this woman has been traveling the world since she was so little.” And it's the same with you. You've been traveling and performing all over the place.
And I think with COVID shutting down Times Square - we were talking this morning as a team - that regional theaters will probably have more prestige because people are booking these jobs. But I have this feeling that artists are going to be traveling all over the place and we're going to see stars from different parts of the world all co-leading - co-sponsoring - like, an international tour of X, Y, or Z show. Do you feel like that's in our future?
Yes. I definitely feel performers now are realizing they don't maybe have to be tied to just one city to try and build the career they want. So regional theater and Off-West End, Off-Broadway productions I think will have more weight. I don't know how it is in America, and it is changing here, but there used to be a while when certain venues - if they weren't a number one touring venue - that show wasn't considered quite as prestigious, perhaps. Or, if the theater didn't hold as many seats. And that is definitely changing now. But years ago, that was very much the perception.
So as you said, I hope it does give a lot more weight and prestige to theaters that maybe aren't in the capital of that country, and also allowing performers - because of auditions now being online - people can audition who maybe didn't have the money to get to that city to audition, or couldn't afford to stay in a hotel for callbacks. So I'm hoping it really - as hard as it's been and probably sadly stopped a lot of careers - I'm really hoping it launches a lot of new careers and maybe people that weren't able to a couple years ago.
That's beautiful. I think of small-town people. It's going to be great. I want to brag on you. You have an incredible podcast. You've interviewed some incredible people. So, first part of the question: go ahead, drop a few names - some of your favorite celebrity interviews. Second part of the question: what have you learned from being an interviewer?
This wasn't from my podcast, but one of my favorite interviews and one of the people I've actually randomly interviewed the most is Patti Lupone. She's been in the UK so much for musicals, and at the Olivier awards, and when she was doing Company, I think I got to interview her at three separate times for that show. So I was like, “this is amazing.”
So my podcast is called The Business Of Show Business. Obviously I had a purpose and a goal for it, but it's been such a learning curve and an amazing experience from doing it. And it alternates between a solo episode of me talking more about things such as marketing, networking, online presence.
And then every other episode I have an expert on. So, it could be something maybe more mainstream - what you might think - like an actor or a choreographer. But then, I'll get a PR expert or a talent exec on. And it's been really rewarding.
And then, in a journalism world, I've been very fortunate from covering theatre events, and TV and film, press junkets, to interviewing people like Cuba Gooding Jr., Mel Gibson, Christian Slater. It's been an amazing roller coaster.
One of the first people I got to chat to was Sir Ian McKellen, and that was such a fluke. I was helping to run social media for a musical, and they had a press team there to film the opening night trailer and vox pops.
They had a camera person, and I'm not sure what happened, but the presenter didn't turn up or whatnot. And they asked, “Who can do the interviews?” And I was like, “Well, I'll do it. It's fine.” And then the first person to get out of the car who arrived was Sir Ian McKellen, then I was like, “Huh. Okay.”
But I think one of the best ways that helped me get as far as I did as a journalist and presenter, before actually even training, was as a dancer. I got to a point in my career when - as I'm sure with you, Tony, as well - you've seen the same people at auditions, certain casting directors know you, so they pull you in or whatnot.
Not saying you always get the job, but you build up kind of a bit of a reputation, your brand, great. But therefore, the pressure came with, if I muck up or go wrong, these people know who I am. And my last name being Body, I was always in the first audition group, always. I do pick up quick, but I could have done with being maybe in the second group, just to give me that couple extra beats of the music, but it was fine.
But as a journalist and presenter, when I started out, no one knew who I was. So I thought, “you know what? I can just go for this. And whatever happens happens.” And it gave me this weird confidence, which actually did help me excel in it, which I thought was very peculiar. When you think, oh, something you've done your whole life, you sometimes are a bit more cautious, but then I tried something new and it's, “well the worst that can happen is no one knows who I am. So it's fine.” And that gave me kind of the confidence and push to really take that further than I ever thought was possible.
So you have a journalism degree in all of this experience. And I know that there will be listeners who want to start their own podcast, or they want to do red carpet interviews. What is one tip that you would give them?
I would say you can create your own work. You don't have to only apply for the jobs that are out there. When I started working as an entertainment reporter for Broadway World, the UK branch, I noticed that all the video segments they had were the ones that were taken and sent to them. So they had great interviewers and reviewers, but no one was doing their own unique videos. So I had my own camera, which I trained myself up on, and I pitched them and said, “I'm a journalist. I can self-shoot. Do you want me to go along to your next press event?” And I did. I had, like, two or three trial interviews, and, like, trial video segments - and after that, they said welcome to the team.
It was a freelance position, but I got to cover the Oliviers and interview some amazing people. And that was because I found a gap and exploited it, and made sure my skills fit it. So anyone who wants to start a podcast or to start as a host, don't just think, “oh, there's not auditions coming up. I'm not going to get it.” How can you start recording already? Is there a local newspaper or a blogger or someone that accepts guest interviewers or video segments? And find or create the work.
If you were to look at your very first interview, what notes would you give yourself?
I'm a very animated person. I'm quite, like, hands-y because I'm very passionate when I talk. And I believe a lot of communication comes in body language and I'm quite good. I'm obviously good at it now, but I think when I first started, I gesture the emphasis of that word with my hands. So, some of the videos I used to watch going back, I'm like, “you need to reel that in, clamp those dinosaur arms into your side.”
I used to edit my show reel as a presenter with a glass of wine because I was seeing myself back, hearing myself back. Whereas a dancer, I was a lot more comfortable editing my show reel. But as a presenter, when I first started out, I was like, “oh, this is new. This is alien.” So, I'd always edit my show reel with a glass of wine.
That's incredible. And I love that you can self-edit and also not take yourself so seriously. One of the questions I also want to ask you that I think is valuable to our audience: is there a throughline - as you examine your career as a performer and now this career as an entrepreneur - what are the throughlines? What's always the same?
I think one thing now that I look back in hindsight - one thing I was really good at or open to - was actually seeing opportunities where I would meet someone at an event or audition who would talk about another audition and say, ”you should just come along.” And then, that would actually be the job I got, I think, because I wasn't so narrow-focused on, “I have to be on the West End and that's all I do.”
As a journalist, it wasn't like, “I just want to write for Broadway World.” Other things like - I was a news runner for CNN at Meghan and Harry's royal wedding - which I never thought when I'm, like, doing battements and wearing a ballet leotard in class, 10 years later, I'd be running news bulletins to Anderson Cooper.
I never thought that, but I was as open to those opportunities. I think, sometimes, we are so focused on our end goal or where we hope to be, that we close ourselves off, and we don't see the doors that are opening along the way. And it's okay to go through those or take a different path. So, I think for me, my throughline is I've always been quite good at not being chained to one thing and just seeing the opportunities.
And then - I also want to ask because you've seen a lot of the world - what's been the same everywhere? What's different?
I feel like every question you ask is good. I think– I've been so fortunate to travel. And some people, I think, worry about travel because it's obviously…strange country, strange language. I think we are the stranger in that situation. Whether it's on tour in Italy or France or going to stage shows in Japan, their life already exists, and we just slot in. And we may look different, and we may sound funny, and they want a picture.
But there's a sense of belonging and being because everyone has their routine, even though no one knows each other. So, you could be on the busiest crossing or on an island with hardly anyone there, but they're going about their day-to-day life, and we just happen to slot in or get in the way or whatnot. So, I think I've loved that when traveling.
I've always thought, “when I go to Italy, that's going to be the best place,” and it's great. Then I go to Spain, “but this could be the best place.” And then I'll go to Sweden and I'll be like, “but the people here could be nicer.”
When I used to go on holiday as a child, I'd always make pen pals, and I'd get really sad when I couldn't see them, see friends anymore. Now, looking back, I probably sent one letter with terrible children's handwriting as a pen pal. But, I just love people-watching in their stories. So I love when I'm in a new country, just going for a coffee or a tea, and just absorbing it all, and almost getting a bit sad. Because I'm like, “what's their story? Why are they in a rush?”
So, flipping it your way- let's talk about your work as a social media and branding coach, and see if there are similarities here between the US and UK. Could you maybe highlight what are the most common questions you get asked?
I think, here at the moment, you either get two extremes. You get people that are very new to social media, and they hear these myths and it's like, “well I don't have 10,000 followers, so I'm not going to get a job,” or “I'm not verified,” or “I don't have the time to do it.” And I know one thing you always champion, as well, is: be you. You are so good at getting people to be authentic, and being social, and social media. I think that's the thing - it's just an extension of who you are.
I had a podcast guest called Nileeka Bose, who said, “if your brand is built on social media, you're an influencer, but if your brand or business is a business off of social media, it's a business.” And I think that's so true.
So a lot of questions I do get is, “do I need lots of followers because otherwise casting directors won't look at me?” Or, “it's so time consuming. I don't want to be on it.” So that's quite a typical question I get. And then you do get some people now who are really savvy on social media, but maybe use it a bit too much for broadcasting. “I've got new headshots. I'm in this show,” when they would never say that in real life. They're not being authentic. So then, you've got people who are really social savvy, but maybe don't know how to use it from a business perspective.
I like the distinction between influencer and business. Do you feel that there is a shift in influencer marketing?
Yeah, definitely. Especially when I worked at AKA UK for a couple years, I would be working on the social media content for musicals like Matilda the Musical, Jersey Boys, Dreamgirls, 42nd Street - so, big shows. And it's very different working on a bigger brand for a show than with an individual. And I think there was a time when influencer marketing was really the go-to because their fans were really engaged, and that would sell more bums in seats.
And there probably was a time when that played a bigger part in someone getting a role, how many followers they had. But I think now - because people can buy followers, or they hire social media managers, and they have bots, and also with COVID taking away the work - whether you are a leading lady on the West End, you're now the same as everyone else - in between work, looking for roles. So I think there has been a shift with that, where influencers are still an important currency in certain genres and niches. However, it's actually better to have a more engaged authentic audience who really comment, share, and engage with your posts because, actually, they're the ones who are more likely to convert to a sale.
Boom. You heard it from him first. The rise of the micro- and the nano-influencer is here, so love the people you have. Jamie, what are your biggest pet peeves or the biggest mistakes that you see that you just want people to stop doing?
Well, one thing I find with a lot of clients - especially during COVID times - I find a lot of clients follow people on Instagram or Twitter or whatever it is because they feel they are meant to - because it's industry standard to. However, it's not good for their mental health.
So, for instance, I get a lot of fresh graduates who will follow a lot of agents on social media. But actually, by that agent posting all of their current client successes, it’s actually really beating down some of those graduates. So, I'm quite a big advocate at the moment of only following people who do inspire you, or make you feel good, or that you want to connect with. No one actively wants to feel inferior, so why would you roll over out of bed and look at your phone when someone else's success makes you feel bad if you're not in that space? So don't follow them. Or, mute them.
So, that's one thing I've found quite a lot during COVID with clients - that part of their inner demons or their battles aren't even coming from them, and their issues are where they are– it's basing themselves off other people and whatever their online life or perception is.
Yes. I loved your tweet the other day, when you were said, “scrolling is the new smoking,” and I thought, “that's so true.” Everyone's going to have repetitive strain injury because they're just on that all the time. I thought that's so true because it is so addictive.
Yeah. I know I'm guilty of it as well. So, what do you think is going to happen then, when theaters start to reopen? What is your prediction for this blend of the digital and the tangible world?
I'm hoping anyone that was in a contract that was cut short will get first refusal on the show they were in. I really hope that happens because there are a lot of people who made West End debuts, or they've got a family, or they just love the show they're in. So, I really hope that happens. I think no one wants to be the first one to open their show full-capacity again, so I think it's going to be a slow road, sadly, because I think they're going to want someone to open it first, and see if it succeeds or fails. I think that's definitely going to happen.
Digitally, there's a lot going on in London now with digital shows and performances and online cabarets or live streaming of events. There are a lot of venues that can house maybe 20 to 30 people, but stream their cabaret or their show out, which is fab. So I hope that continues.
I just hope that it doesn't dilute the in-person show because I can imagine producers or event planners saying next summer, “well, last year I only paid someone so-and-so, and they gave me an online concert during COVID,” but that's no substitute. So, I just hope it doesn't dilute the industry when it comes back.
Brilliant. Let it be a bonus. Let it enhance. What do you do, day-to-day? What are your social media habits or practices?
I fluctuate, depending on– I'll start with my worst habits, so that people don't think I'm a self-righteous social media person. My worst habit is checking it on hours when I shouldn't. I have got my work hours set with clients, but I will still check my emails sometimes at 10 or 11, and I’m like, “well, that's riled me up. Why did I do that?”
So that's probably my worst habit - is not sticking to my own work. I won't reply to an email, but I will look at it out of work hours. Why do you do that Jamie? Why? I have a fit bit, so that wakes me up with a vibrate. I don't need the phone alarm, and I always try to put my phone either in another room or across the room on the cabinet.
So when I wake up, I actively have to get up to check it, and quite likely that's just a lot of effort. I'm a big tea drinker, so I try to always go and have a cup of tea before I check my social media because I don't want that to dictate how my day is going to be. And now, because I work in social media, I've got a schedule of when this is work social media - whether it's for my clients and doing community management, scheduling posts, checking on adverts. That is my work social media, and it has to be done within those hours unless otherwise specified.
And then my other time on social media - the odd 10 minutes here, or 20 minutes here - is social: me talking about maybe myself or my friends and checking on them. And that's one thing I'd always try and suggest to someone who's on social media a lot for their work as a creative - is try to schedule in your work hours with it so it doesn't bleed into your life and your day.
Or if you can't schedule your work hours because you are freelance, and it's all over the place, I always try and say to someone: schedule your time off, so even though you can't have a routine for your work, you can at least have a routine of when you don't work. So it could be in the evenings. It could be Wednesday is your day off. If you can't schedule your working hours, at least schedule your time off.
No, you're brilliant.
So, 2020 has been the craziest year. What is your opinion on raising your voice on social media or sharing hard news - personal, industry-wise? What is your take on the not-so-shiny side and how we address it on social?
There's so much that needs to be said online and championed and supported. There are so many amazing movements and causes that need to be voiced. I also do feel, though, on the flip side, there is a slight sense of hypersensitivity about some things.
Even recently, over here, at the Palladium Theater - which is one of the biggest theaters in the West End - they just did a socially-distanced version of The Last Five Years. They had to jump through a lot of hoops to produce that, and someone posted a photo of the auditorium slightly in an angle, which makes it look busier than it actually was. If you hold your phone the wrong way, the wrong angle, looking down and whatnot, it made it seem like people were closer than they actually were. And now people are coming for them, and two tweets ago you were like, “yay theater.” And now you're coming for them because it's not safe. So, you can only do you, and it is your social media.
But, I think, put your voice behind what you can, and what you need to, but, sometimes, being silent. Someone said you could tweet saying you like oranges, and someone will tweet saying, “but I like apples." It can be like that.
And I think sometimes if you are not a hundred percent confident, or if you can't verbalize what you are thinking because there's so much going on that needs your support, sometimes just retweeting an article that's really informative, or retweeting a charity account, or liking and commenting on other people's posts - it's still endorsing them and it's getting your thoughts across.
But I know sometimes it's hard to articulate what you are thinking and you don't want to offend. So, I think voice what you can and go for your beliefs, but if you are not sure on how to verbalize that, breathe. That's okay. Find out who can verbalize and whose values are in line with yours. How can you retweet or share what they've done to show that you do endorse that?
Yes. You are incredible. Now I also have to zoom in - because you juggle so many things, and it sounds a little unpredictable from day-to-day, week-to-week, what habits do you have in place to just help you be grounded and take care of yourself?
Again, I do fluctuate. There are some times when I'm so good with myself and I'm winning at life, and there are times when I'm like, “why has work bled into 21 days in a row? What's going on?”
I know for me, my energy, I'm quite a good morning person. So for me, I don't take any business calls before 11, because in the morning my creative juices are really going and my energy's good, so I will invest that in me and my work and what I need. And then in the afternoon, I will do my client's work, for instance. Or, I'll go out for coffee or a friend or something like that. I also work quite good late at night around eight or nine.
So if something will take me longer, I might do half in the morning, half in the evening.
It obviously depends on your working situation with housemates, and if you have a partner or whatnot. That's a really good way of keeping you in check. If you can't use a certain room, or your partner says, “why is your laptop always on?” that's obviously an external way to keep in check.
But for me, I think it's just knowing if I'm not in a good head space to work. I'm just not going to do it because it's going to take me hours to do something that should take me half an hour. So they're kind of a few hacks that I try to implement.
There's times when I can't because a client phones me with an emergency. I'm sure you get lots of those as well, Tony. And you're like, okay, I didn't need to go to bed at 11 o'clock on a Friday. That's fine. I try to kind of implement that structure a bit. So I work what works for me. I don't work for what works for other people.
Let’s go to that emergency moment because I know that there are probably executive assistants and personal assistants and other people that do what we do. How do you handle boundaries or these 911 emergencies? How do you decide what Jamie is going to do?
It took - a long, long time, Tony, I'm not going to lie - years to stop saying yes to things. It was like I was doing improv - “yes, and…, yes, and…” - and I was just accepting all of this work sometimes.
There was one winter when I was still working full time at AKA in social media, and I was doing a Christmas show. Because my show ran late, and I had to get there early for rehearsal, like warm-up and sound check, I would leave work at 4:00, get home from my show about 1:00. And then, I'd go in for work for like 7:00 to make up the hours I was doing that was missing because of the show. And then that winter, I did not look pretty. I was burnt out, and I think, sometimes, you need a big tipping point like that to be like, “I don't want to get there again.”
So, it's hard. And obviously, setting up contracts with those agreements are great. It's hard also when you are a creative. A lot of it is verbal, or it's a friend - and friends are lovely, but sometimes can be the worst - or not even close friends, but an acquaintance. Someone you worked for five years ago, all of a sudden, out of the blue, will contact saying, “Hi, Jamie, I need a website. Can I ask you a quick question?” And I'm like, “That question is not a quick question. That question's like 45 minutes and a follow-up email.”
So it took me a long time. Trial and error. But now, if a contract doesn't save me, I have to be very transparent with what my schedule is. And it happened, actually, with a client that kept pushing me to take on extra work for them at the end of the month, and I was trying to find situations. And it was only last week that I actually sent them a very transparent message saying, “I don't think I have the time that your project warrants, and I want you to get the best value and the best hands-on experience. So I'm not right for you. However, here are some people I recommend.”
So I found that to be quite a good thing because I want to keep that relationship - that conversation - still going for possibly a later date. So if I can't do it, here's someone else I trust, or I can do it, but in a month's time when my schedule's more free.
I love it. I want to, like, reach across the screen and give you a big old hug, and tell you, yes, these are the same challenges here. Well, it's been lovely to chat with you. I wish we could talk more. I'm sure we could talk for hours. But tell us what's coming down the pipeline for Jamie.
I'm hoping the Netflix show I did is doing a second season next year. They keep pushing back the launch date of it, obviously because of what's going on. So I'm hoping if that comes up, I will at least get a phone call or invited to the audition for the second season.
In regards to marketing, I'm actually working with an international drama school at the moment over here, which has been very nice for me because that's given me a couple days - a set schedule of certain days a week - and allowing me to fit my freelancing around it.
So it's kind of a bit of cherry-picking up lots of little bits and bobs and finishing up the rest of my season of my podcast. And then figuring out what we're allowed to do for Christmas. I don't know what the rules are in America, but the rules here at the moment are you can't be more than six people. And then there's certain regional lockdowns, so certain areas of the country can't mix households. I love Christmas. Netflix is announcing new films that are coming out. Can't wait. I'm such a big family person at Christmas. So I'm kind of dreading or waiting to see what happens with that, really.
I like that you went personal with that answer, too. It shows who you are. So 10 years from now, the year 2030, where do you see yourself?
My ultimate goal is what I think I would like. I would love to be doing what I'm doing but less maybe hands-on, whether that means I have a team, or I can do less of it because I have more high-profile clients. I'd love to be that person on the TV show and they're like, “Jamie, you're an entertainment specialist, tell us about the newest films and the newest media trends.” That would be a dream.
I'd love to do more TV spots like that and maybe change the presenting side to being an expert. That would be the dream. I am a workaholic though. So I know that if I sit here and say, “I want to be doing that and only work two days a week,” I will find something to stuff into the other five. So in the real world, I'd love to split my career still with a bit of hosting or expert talking, and then I work in one-on-one or consulting in the media world.
Jamie, you're an entertainment specialist, so what trends do you see in the film industry?
I think with what's going on, films are going to become a lot more mobile or short. They're not necessarily expecting a two-hour feature because you either can't do that because of filming restraints, or budget. And I think that Hollywood gleam of it that happened to be highly edited might not be such a thing. And also, maybe more point-of-view filming because it will be done on smaller handhelds or a reflection of true life. So who knows?
There he is. Alright, well you are a brilliant man and a lovely human, and I just want to rewind and kind of button up this episode. Let's rewind 10 years. What would you have told yourself 10 years ago in the year 2010? What do you want Jamie to know?
It's good to talk in the fact of– if you have other ambitions, talk to people sooner because those conversations could lead to work or opportunities. You don't have to chase a dream wholeheartedly that's maybe not fully your dream. So I think that would be the key takeaway - do what you do. But if you see that shiny light or see someone you want to have a conversation with, have it. Don't just think, “no, I'm just the dancer. That's all I'm doing.”
Thank you so much for being on the show, Jamie. Now you may say “bums” and we say “butts in seats,” but I am excited to know that we share the same philosophies.
I know that Jamie and I both want to hear from you, so if you would, take a screenshot right now, and then tag us with your favorite quote or takeaway. Jamie's handle is @bodyjamie - that's last name first - and I'm @tonyhowell - and I want to make sure that we see it.
If you have specific questions regarding career evolutions or expansions, business growth, branding or marketing, I'm confident you're welcome to slide into the DMs as well.
Now to see Jamie doing his thing in action, whether that's hosting, speaking, interviewing, dancing…be sure to click the link alongside this episode. You'll also be able to hear a bit of his podcast, The Business of Show Business. If you enjoy this episode, I'd invite you to check out the 21 other conversations with changemakers. Go ahead and subscribe for next month's incredible guest, and while you're there, do me one more favor: leave a review. Your review helps other people find the show.
Thank you so much for listening. Thank you, Jamie, for being on the show. Now please, go out there and use your work to change the world.
Maybe you and I can have a conversation about it very soon.