Nick Cain: The Actor Redefining the Creative Career

TOP POST INSIGHTS:

  1. Have the courage to try and fail. 

  2. Find different ways to apply your trade. 

  3. Why network is everything.

Who: 

Nick Cain, Actor and Freelance Content Producer.

Where:

The Grumpy Baker, Maroubra.

Overview:

Nick is living proof that you can have a multi-dimensional career.  From acting, event producing to hosting a podcast, he's finding a balance of both the arts and corporate world. But at his core, Nick's an exceptional storyteller. We spoke about the stigma associated to acting, why he doesn't believe in the 'struggling actor,' knock backs and career advice for anyone looking to turn a passion into a career. Even if you're not in the entertainment industry, Nick's got some great pearls of wisdom. My favourite:

There’s a lot of advice and not all of it is altruistic or valuable. You have to learn to trust yourself. Because when people are booking you, they are booking you for you, not for the person giving you advice.

Enjoy reading! xx

For those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing you yet, what do you do for work?

I like to think of myself as a storyteller first and foremost. But that comes in different forms, so I’m an actor as well as a creative content producer in the corporate space.

EARLY LIFE

What were you like as a child?

A very goodie-too-shoes! I’m actually writing a play called ‘I’m Too Fucking Polite.’ Which is how I would describe my childhood. I grew up in a Melbourne country town of about 600. Played lots of footy & tennis but I was also dux and school captain. So there was this weird mix of a seriously goodie too shoes and passionate sports player.  

When did your interest in the creative arts start? Because it isn’t typically something boys are encouraged to pursue.

Exactly. I was actually just lucky. There was this program called Machismo which came out to our school. The program focused on giving males a creative outlet, as a means to prevent depression or suicide down the track.

Shooting the feature film 'After The End,' in Princetown, Victoria.

Shooting the feature film 'After The End,' in Princetown, Victoria.

We had these creative ‘blokey’ blokes introduce us to creative activities. Everything from film making through to circus training. In the country, people think creativity is ‘airy fairy’ and ‘arty farty.’ I didn’t really align to that perception, so I guess the program gave me the kick to my creative tendencies.

Have you always wanted to act?

Not really, when I was 16 I was in a rock band called Masokist! It was actually my drama teacher who said, ‘I’ve seen your show and you should apply for the play.’ Anyways I auditioned and ended up getting the lead role. I honestly think, if that drama teacher didn’t ask me to audition I wouldn’t have found the arts like I did.

PRELUDE

How did you begin your acting career?

When I was 19, I auditioned for NIDA. I was lucky because they saw something raw in me and took me to the final stage. NIDA generally doesn’t really accept people unless they are 22-23. They believe you should have some worldly experience, so they can shape that experience in you as an actor. They said to me, ‘go away, live your life and come back.’ But I actually never went back!

So how did you get your training and experience?

I call myself a workshop junkie. I even went to the US with some other actors to learn different acting techniques. I guess that’s how I’ve shaped my own style.

Acting is so fucking subjective. So you just have to do what you think is right and do something that is uniquely you.

But during the time of that NIDA audition, I also had an agent. He was pivotal in helping me land a few small roles in the industry.

THE BALANCING ACT: CORPORATE & Acting

Alongside acting, you also work in the corporate space. How did you get your first job and what were you doing?

I interned at the Fringe Festival during uni. A year later they offered me the main event producer role, where I was managing many shows and spaces. I was only 21 at the time, so it was really trial by fire.

From there, I went on to do more festivals like Melbourne Fashion Week. Essentially I worked with brands and developed how their sponsorship rolled out during the event.  It was pretty fun and so I made the jump to more corporate gigs … where the money is much greater than the arts world!

You seem to have taken a ‘financially realistic’ journey as an actor, do you think there’s still a stigma that acting is not a serious career?

There could be worse places to brief a tech team! Ciragan Palace, Istanbul, Turkey.

There could be worse places to brief a tech team!

Ciragan Palace, Istanbul, Turkey.

Absolutely. Look, I don’t see the purpose of the struggling actor. I get its kind of ‘cool’ being that dude living out of a van. But I actually want to live and eat!

The idea is that in this day and age, you don’t have to be a creative act who is struggling. There are so many ways to apply your trade. It comes back around too, by working in the corporate space, it’s allowed me to fund the classes that can refine my craft.

What was your first big break?

Neighbours. I had 3-4 months on the show and I thought, ‘boom, this is it, this is cool.’ It was definitely a pivotal point because I never really had any formal training. But then, I realised I needed better technique.

Can you explain what 'technique' is, for someone like me who is completely oblivious to acting terminology?!

Haha, sure. With acting you’ve got to read between the lines.

eg. A tradie is not just a 'blokey' bloke wearing a fluro vest. That’s just not true to life.

What you want to do is always up the stakes. The audience doesn’t just want to watch a tradie order a meat pie. So, I go through the script like a detective to look for clues and bring the character to life. You’ve got to think about his socio-economic status, how its shaped him as a person, what he’s working for etc.

(nb. Check out this video of Anthony Hopkins in Westworld. Nick later shared this with me to get a better understanding of technique. Definitely worth watch!!!)

It’s interesting because people passively watch TV and think ‘oh anyone can do that’ but really, it’s a completely different art.

Definitely, and you don’t know it’s an art until you see someone doing it really badly!

Do you think your corporate and acting skills complement each other?

Absolutely. It’s funny because I used to keep them really separate, but now I find they really feed each other. I take acting skills and apply it to speaker training in the event space; and from my experience as a content producer, it enables me look at plays/ TV shows as a whole production and really think about the end audience.

Do you ever want to leave the corporate world and become a full-time actor?

Yes, that’s the goal. But I want to direct. However, creative producing work enables me to use my brain in a different way. Last year, I was on a short film for three months and I was grateful for the corporate work I had on the side. Sometimes you can get so self-absorbed in acting, so it was reinvigorating to do something else!  

 

trusting your gut

Personally, I view work as either two things: 1. Your ABSOLUTE passion or 2. A job that enables you to do something more rewarding than you’re 9-5. You seem to be doing both. What was it like when you decided to pursue acting more?

A few years ago, I said to Roxy my wife (then girlfriend), that I was really unhappy with my full-time job. I wasn’t giving acting much attention and I wanted to quit my job. But the fear was HUGE. The freelance world terrified me. I thought what if people don’t want me? Anyways I ended up doing it and it was the best thing I ever did! All this work came in and I had the freedom to say yes and no. ‘No’ is a very powerful word too....We could get into that all day!

What are the challenges working in the entertainment industry?

There’s a lot of advice and not all of it is altruistic or valuable. You have to learn to trust yourself. Because when people are booking you, they are booking you for you, not for the person giving you advice.

Do you think learning to trust yourself only comes from trying and failing?

Yes 100% that’s everything. At the end of the day, you’ve learned because you’ve tried and failed. A lot of the time its having the courage to try and fail.

Sometimes it can get you down. You think shit, am I going to have to go through this again? But you do and you’re better for it. I think that’s what weeds people out at the end of the day. Like when I was in my 20s, there were so many actors. Now that I’m getting older, the pool has gotten a lot smaller because they’ve said ‘oh it’s too hard I’m just going to do something different.’ But now is the time you actually have your shit together enough to navigate it all a little better.

Do you think it’s passion or drive that pushes people like yourself ‘filter through the rubble’?

Passion has to be there. If it’s not there, then why are you doing it?

But there’s also a confidence thing. Over the years I’ve begun to understand who I am and where I fit in (in the industry). I think it sort of comes in your 30s and you think ‘right ok LIFE I’m going to kick it in the nuts now!’ So yes, you’ve got to have passion, confidence, trust your instincts and the belief in what you’re doing.

 

CAREER ADVICE

You’ve turned your different creative tendencies into career opportunities. Would you agree that creativity is like a muscle that needs to be developed?

It’s totally a muscle. Your body is an instrument. It’s like a guitar, if you don’t train it, it goes out of tune. Your body, emotional intelligence and creativity is exactly the same. You have to train it.

By 2020, creativity will be the 3rd most desired skill employers will look for. How do you think people can cultivate their own creativity?

There’s so many ways!! I think creativity comes from going and seeing things. Whether you’re watching a movie, going to the theatre or a festival. You’ve got to go out and experience these things.

You can’t just look at the screen. It’s not enough to just watch something and go on with your day to day, like do you really understand the gravity of what you’re seeing? That’s why experiencing something is so important. You’ve got to get that sensory experience.

What advice do you have for someone looking to turn their passion into a career?

You can’t just talk about it. You’ve got to actually go out and do it.

For me, that meant going to acting classes, meeting people and just immersing myself in the industry.

Networking becomes is so important. Not only from a job perspective, but you actually get to meet people who are living your passion. You get an insight into their lifestyle, because sometimes you can go and put all your eggs in one basket only to realise that your passion has now lost its magic. You don’t want to wake up and think ‘oh god I’ve just ruined my passion, what do I do with life now.’

There’s so many ways you can do it. To start, you can find a mentor and observe what they’re doing.

 Yes! But also, people shouldn’t call that person a ‘mentor’.

So glad you said that! Never call anyone a mentor because it changes the perception of the relationship. The mentor will feel pressured and obligated to give you advice. What you should say is, ‘can we have a coffee, I just want to chat about X.’

Agree! What about work experience, how important is ‘unpaid’ work at the beginning?

Yes, you have to work for free! I get it, people don’t see the value of working for free. There’s a fine line, especially in the arts, between value and being taken advantage of. But the value isn’t just in the work, it’s the networking too. I’ve probably only ever interviewed once for a job, network is everything.

 

CREATIVE ACTIVISM

The Act of Storytelling by Nick Cain and Lauren Bailey

The Act of Storytelling by Nick Cain and Lauren Bailey

Because you’re not busy enough, you also host a podcast! Can you tell us how that came about?

My co-host Lauren Bailey and I met on an acting gig. When you connect with someone on a certain wavelength, you got to hold on to that and follow through. She came to me with a podcast idea called ‘The Act of Storytelling.’ We wanted to explore storytellers and how their technique came together; anyone from creative directors, actors to circus performers.

Today, you’ve had a slight shift in direction…

Yes, we realised the stories we loved were about the people who were changing the world through their art. So we’ve taken a shift to activism. That’s what we’re excited about, ‘how do I take my brand and change the world’. 

That’s awesome! They say you only find your true purpose by finding what you’re really good at and applying to something bigger than yourself. 

Yes! I love that. It can take years to find what you’re good at, so I say just keep going.

 

OVER THE HEDGE

What’s missing that will help you get to where you want in 3 years?

Doing more of my own work. I guess as an actor, you’re always working on other people’s projects. I want to do more personal projects where people can look at my brand and say yep, I want to work with him... so probably some sort of absurd stand up show. 

What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

Take a few more chances. Which sounds so cliché, but I think the 20 year old Nick was safe. He was very comfortable thinking ‘oh it will come,’ ‘it’ being work and success. 

He thought ‘oh I have plenty of time,’ and you kind of do…But when I was 20 I said to myself, if I’m not an established actor by 32, I’ll have to do something else. Which is something I really dealt with this year. But then I realised, this is actually the best time as I’ve just gotten my shit together! 

So yes, take more chances, get involved more in the industry and train train train.
Can this couple get anymore genetically blessed?! Hacking Life: Nick and Roxy in Mauritius. 

Can this couple get anymore genetically blessed?!

Hacking Life: Nick and Roxy in Mauritius. 

Finally, what’s your definition of ‘hacking life’?

Lifestyle design. Designing a life you find value in, which in turn allows you to be more present in your relationships, allows you to travel, feeds your passion/ career etc.

So when I talk about hacking life, for me it’s working 3 days in the corporate space 2 days acting –and I try to stay true to that.

I actually have this ‘Life Bible,’ where I break down 7 areas I really want to focus on. From acting, family, relationship, charity, money, health and travel, I create a vision and plan for each. In life, you can get caught up in so many different things that you often don’t know which one is next. So the Life Bible aligns you to your purpose. Keep it simple, use subject headings, lots of imagery. It’s pretty cool how you can see your life all come together!

Thanks so much! Always a pleasure chatting to you xx

 

Check out his website and The Act of Storytelling podcast here.

 

Liz PalComment