Erica Cardenas

Risky: a job in show biz

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It’s a new year, and so come the usual resolutions and commitments to move toward something you really want. It’s time to grab hold of your dreams and aspirations, and pursue whatever it is that you’re passionate about, right?

This is the time when many people assess their lives and contemplate their current path – or perhaps finally follow their passion. For local 29-year-old actress and performer Vanessa Ramirez, she’s had her eyes and heart set on her passion for years, and she’s made a sustainable career out of it to boot.

Ramirez is among countless others that aspire to share their talents to both entertain and make a living, whether it’s singing and dancing in front of live audiences, working behind the camera directing or producing films, or in Ramirez’s case, acting. The entertainment field is broad and can lead to a variety of career options.

Working in the entertainment arts industry requires vision, patience and formidable self-confidence, particularly for performers, who move from audition to audition, rejection to rejection, and little pay, at least in the beginning.

Ramirez herself can attest to this – she’s moved through the ranks of countless auditions, sometimes with success, sometimes not.

“Having tough skin is a requirement in this business.You might get rejected many times before you land a gig or a particular part,” she says. “You have to be able … to take constructive criticism and learn and grow from it.”

In relation to the camera

So, what are some of the jobs in the entertainment industry?  The myriad of “departments” vary in specialty and scope. A professional makeup artist could work on a movie, television show or stage performances, directly hired by a theater company or as a freelancer for a production company. A film editor can get a steady position with a cable network or work as a self-employed editor from project to project. Location managers scout for the perfect classroom, boiler room or desert vista for a feature film or television series. CG artists are the talent behind special effects in many mediums.

Numerous professions can be pursued under the entertainment industry umbrella, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment was predicted to grow 11 percent between 2008 and 2018. This would include employment opportunities for actors, producers, directors, camera operators, production designers, costumers – the list goes on. It’s also projected that the continued development of interactive media, online movies, and mobile content produced for cell phones will also fuel job growth.

At the core of the entertainment industry is, of course, the entertainers: dancers, singers and actors. All of them have a plethora of avenues to “make it” in show business, depending on their goals and aspirations. Some actors may start out as “extras” or “background” with no lines to deliver. They also do voiceover and narration work for advertisements, animated features and other electronic media, or teach in high school or university drama departments or public programs.

Regardless of their level of skill or experience, entertainers may pursue private study as a way to gain formal training by hiring a drama, dance or singing coach. Another option is to receive training at a conservatory.

Ramirez took a circuitous route and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications first, then began her entertainment career at the age of 23 by signing with a local talent agency. Since then, she’s been featured in three independent films and has been cast in several commercials.  She’s taken several acting classes and says the more auditions she goes on, the more practice she gets.

In fact, sometimes one performing job can lead to another, as was the case for Ramirez, who was spotted modeling in a DBacks charity fashion show. She was eventually hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks as the in-game host, doing live entertainment segments between innings at home games. The JumboTron is her “silver screen” for the third year now.

For aspiring actors or directors who want to approach the industry through formal study, Arizona State University’s Herberger’s Institute of Design and Arts offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate and even doctoral degree programs. The university’s theatre department was established in 1977 and added film studies and film production classes by 1980. In 2005, the film production program was formalized and the department was reorganized as the Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film.

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