For several decades as an actor and stand up comic I kept hitting a wall. The phone wasn’t ringing. Auditions were lame. But I kept getting decent acting gigs here and there and it paid the bills. But there was nowhere to go but sideways.
This wall was my fault – primarily based on me thinking I needed to ’stay in the acting game’ so my peers, friends and family wouldn’t think I gave up. Gotta act full time. Gotta stay on the grind. If you’re not studying your craft, you’re losing your muscle.
Knowing what I know now, I think all that is horseshit. But I never had the courage to say it out loud.
My theory was proven accurate with my first entrepreneurial venture, which happened almost by accident.
In 1997 I was performing at a dinner theatre/magic show at Caesar’s Palace and a lot of the guests were Japanese. I lived in Japan until I was ten, and I speak the language. I knew Japanese tourists love that combination, and I saw an opportunity there. So I translated the English language script to Japanese and licensed it to Caesar’s Palace – and they paid me for it. I performed in two languages for three years. I added value to their brand and some cash in my pocket at age 23. It wasn’t a massive check, but it was the first time I realized that my ideas and creating opportunities OUTSIDE of acting could be just as valuable as my acting, and that I could be more than a cliche.
Fast forward to 2003: I used my acting class with Jeffrey Tambor to sow the seeds of my one man show, Basic Training. Broke and working four jobs, I rented a small theatre and invited everyone I knew in LA (there weren’t many). Within a year I had secured a major investor and leveraged that relationship to secure an additional two investors who then partnered with me to take the show to Broadway with a six figure capitalization. In the fall of 2008. With a few speed bumps in between, I served as my own actor, agent, manager, attorney, director, producer, and technician until I got the attention of people who could do it much better than I. Took longer than I hoped but unlike Caesar’s Palace, I had to build the brand and refine the product.
April 2010: My two business partners, Justin Sudds, TJ Dawe and I optioned PostSecret.com to develop it into a stage adaptation.
Oct 2012: After sinking two years of time, sweat and capital into building a script and a ‘test cast’, we have secured the interest of one of the top 5 theatre investors in North America. PostSecret: Unheard Voices is the name of the piece. In this venture I am an actor in the piece, a producer, writer, co-director, tour manager, technician and contract-drafter-person.
What will my roles be as a co-founder in my new tech venture, ReceiptNest.com?
The most common question I get when I meet investors in the tech space?
Wait…I thought you were an actor!
That’s correct. I’ve filled whatever role life threw at me and added my own color. I don’t have a BA or an MA. I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family. I never attended a performing arts school. And I hate musicals.
Maybe I’m more than an actor.
Kahlil (at) gigsmacked (dot) com