Featured Artist In Action: SNL’s Sasheer Zamata

Sasheer Zamata

Photo by Cate Hellman

Over the last few years, Sasheer Zamata has been on fire! Not only has she garnered acclaim and fans for her improv, sketch, and stand-up work with UCB, CollegeHumor, and MTV, in 2014 she joined the rarified ranks of the Saturday Night Live cast.

In 2012, when she was on the brink of major success, Sasheer took the Path Course. I recently had the pleasure to ask her about that experience and what “path” her career has taken since then.

What brought you to the Path Course back in 2012?

In 2012 I was performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater (UCB). I was on house improv teams, writing and acting on sketch teams, hosting a variety show and doing stand up throughout the week. My manager was sending me out for commercial and TV auditions. I was auditioning a lot, but not booking a lot. I was doing well and keeping busy with all my projects, but I wanted to be more focused with my goals and activities.

What were the goals you set when you took Path?

The one-year goals I set during the Path class were to book a national commercial, have a one-person show running at UCB, finish my webseries (Pursuit of Sexiness), shop a pilot around to different networks and audition for SNL. I reached all of my goals. Some of them happened sooner than I hoped, some happened later, and some happened but didn’t turn out the way I hoped but that ended up being okay. I did finish putting together my one-person show and I auditioned it for a run at UCB. The theatre passed and I didn’t get a run, but I was glad I completed it, and later I put up a half hour of stand up at the theater, which ended up being a better way for me to get my material out anyway.

I booked a national commercial within the year and that financially helped me to work on other goals. Nicole Byer and I did complete our webseries within the year, I think we released it the following year, and we went around to different networks to shop our pilot idea. No bites from the networks, but we did get a lot of attention and positive reactions for our webseries and we’re still continuing it.

And I auditioned and got cast on SNL. In 2012 I wanted to be called in for a screen test for the show, that didn’t happen, but it happened in 2013 and I got cast in 2014.

What’s your life like today?

Most of my schedule consists of SNL during the season, and when we’re off most of my time is dedicated to writing and performing stand up, and auditioning for other projects. Life is really great right now. I feel very lucky that I get to make a living by doing what I love.

Sasheer Zamata

Photo by Luke Fontana

Have you encountered unanticipated challenges and roadblocks? How did you handle them?

I still have to deal with rejection. There’s a lot of that with the business I’m in, but not taking it personally and using that energy to focus on other things helps. If I didn’t reach a goal, or if I reached the goal but didn’t get the result I wanted, I would reassess what I wanted and try a different thing. And sometimes by working on another goal, I end up getting other goals along the way.

What was the most valuable thing you took away from your Path experience?

I didn’t think about the idea of celebrating my success until the Path class. Before I would just go go go and if I accomplished a goal it was like “Great. Got it. Now on to the next thing.” But I would rarely take a moment to acknowledge the thing I accomplished and be proud of it. That helps. I have a lot more reflective moments where I’m like “Oh yeah, I wanted to do that thing, and then I did it.” And I’m rewarding myself more, which feels necessary in order to have perspective on how much progress I’ve made.

Also being able to break down tasks into manageable bites is very valuable. I still have to remind myself to do that. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with goals like “write a movie,” but if I start with “write a logline for a movie” it’s a bit easier to start the project.

What advice do you have for those who struggle with a loud inner critic?

I don’t know if that inner critic will ever go away. It’s hard. It’s easy to think about all the things you’re not doing and the things you “should” be doing. But you can use that inner critic to analyze what’s going on with your behavior. Like instead of getting mad at yourself for not doing a thing, take a moment to think about it. Maybe you’re not doing a thing because you don’t want to do that thing. Maybe you haven’t finished your pilot because you don’t actually like it, or maybe you’re just more excited about something else at the moment.

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

I wish I knew not to be so hard on myself. I can get really down on myself for not living up to my own expectations, but no one else has those same expectations for me. I’m my biggest critic and biggest nag, and I could’ve been a nicer to myself. I also wish I took more time to chill out. Not everything is so serious, and there are no real deadlines. It’s good to make deadlines, for sure, but also time isn’t real, so what am I even worried about?

What’s next for you?

I’m going on a stand-up tour in July, Nicole and I are planning to film another season of Pursuit of Sexiness, and I’m excited to do more work and create more.

Get to know Sasheer even more with this video Q&A from SNL’s 40th Anniversary celebration!

7 Ways Game of Thrones Resembles Your Career in the Arts

Last week, we got into a little office conversation about the long-awaited premier of season 5 of Game of Thrones. Turns out, I was the only one NOT waiting: yes, it’s true, I have yet to watch a single episode. (Alarming! I know!)

Lauren, our new Director of Operations, did her best to describe the show to me (so complicated!) and how many parallels she felt there were between the show and life as an artist. In the end, I encouraged her to create a blog post about it. It seemed to be sitting in her back pocket, ready to be shared with all the true Game of Thrones fans.

I offer you Lauren’s take on the parallels between Game of Thrones and your life as an artist. Let us know what you think. Enjoy!

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1. The Underdogs Persevere 

arya stark

The most popular characters in Game of Thrones tend to be those who started with nothing, or who fell so far it seemed they’d never rise again. They’re those individuals who, in final moments of despair, seize unexpected opportunities to find their elusive success. Their achievements rarely take the form they’d initially envisioned, but success is success, nonetheless; and it’s always relative.

Despite getting kicked around, losing faith, and experiencing degrees of despair, the characters who thrive often manage to do so from the bottom of the heap, making unexpected comebacks at the last moment.

2. It’s Emotional…

emotional 

…and what artist isn’t? ‘Nuff said.

 3. It’s Clever

game-of-thrones-clever1 gameofthronesclever2

Game of Thrones is one clever show! And you’re one clever artist. Just as the characters play their game, so too does any artist who seeks to conjure career from craft.

4. It’s sexy.

Drogo-and-Daenerys-khal-drogo-30463789-1280-720

It might not always feel sexy to be an artist, what with the constant threat of failure and financial insecurity. But think, for a moment, about how non-artists regard creatives: as romantics with an uncanny and admirable compulsion to follow their hearts!

Sure, it’s not all sipping espresso in a Paris cafe being fabulous and inspired 100% of the time. But without artists, where would the world get its beauty?

Beauty and creation are among the sexiest things that exist, and they do exist, thanks to you.

5. Power Plays

Margaery-Game-of-Thrones

In Game of Thrones, the characters work hard to keep whatever power they have, whether it’s a lot, and especially if it’s not.

As artists, when we land a gig that allows us to engage with our craft for money, we often hold onto it as long as we can. Even sometimes past the point of productivity or usefulness. Whether you’re Queen Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, or an artist trying to pay the rent or get to the next level, sometimes the best course of action is to say no, and allow someone else to sit upon the throne du jour.

6. Twists and Turns

shae got

What says “creative career” like a few near misses, misapprehensions, and double-backs?

In Game of Thrones, those who perish seemed just a moment before like they might make it. Some trust where they shouldn’t, and yet others doubt when they’d be better off with a bit of faith.

If these dips and turns don’t resemble the tumult of a creative career, we don’t know what does. As complicated and fascinating and full of surprises as Game of Thrones is, so too is your career. In moments of self-doubt, don’t miss the forest for the trees.

7. Tyrion Lannister

CS 68a 27th October 2010

Okay, your career might not have a literal Tyrion, but it probably has a figurative one. Played by the incomparable Peter Dinklage, Tyrion is bestowed with certain innate gifts, like wealth and a way with the ladies.

You’re bestowed with certain gifts, too, like the creative impulse, and a drive to follow the dream.

Tyrion also faces some serious disadvantage. His father, Tywin, is a very unpleasant fellow. He takes every opportunity to remind Tyrion that he’s a disappointment and a failure.

Not sure about you, but he’s a bit like our Inner Critics personified!

Tyrion advises John Snow to wear what he is “like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” He was referring to both being a bastard, and being a dwarf, but we think it applies just as well to being an artist.

Although Tyrion’s tender heart suffers, he maintains his sense of humor, and has so far prevailed.

tyrion-dancing

Tell us what Game of Thrones has taught you about your career!

——— visit us at capesco.com ———

11 Ways We’ve Honored Our Path in Our 11th Year

We’re proud to share that, once again, Capes Coaching is celebrating an anniversary! This month marks eleven years serving creative professionals worldwide, helping our clients align with their truest passions, and bringing dreams to life. We couldn’t be more excited with where we are, and where we’re going.

After all this time helping you with your Paths, we thought we’d celebrate by sharing with you these eleven ways we’ve honored our own Path this year!

11 ways we honored our path this year

1. We Have Clear Goals that We Set Using Our Own Path process!

This may seem like a no brainer, but think about how many people and organizations you know who don’t have clear goals. In December, we sat down as a team and “Pathed out” our own one-year goals, with milestones and action plans along the way, just as we ask of our students and clients. We check in with them regularly to make sure we stay on track.

2. We Established our Three Guiding Principles

These are our core values. We refer to them each time we have to make an important decision to make sure we’re still aligned with our primary purpose.

  • Honest Relationships + Compassionate Communications
  • Fierce Scalability with a Growth Oriented Mindset
  • Keep it Simple

3. We Personalized Our Work Space

simplifyWe’ve made our little office into a lovely and cherished home. We even have plants.

And they’re still alive!

So far!

4. Our Team is Growing

In keeping with that second guiding principle, we’ve more than doubled our team! We’ve added new coaches, new instructors, and a new director of operations to better serve our ever-expanding client base.

5. We’ve Expanded Our Reach to Art Schools & Universities

We’re proud to share that Capes Coaching now offers curricula in three universities, in NYC and across the country. This fall, we also plan to introduce a new four-semester curriculum at a prominent NYC University! Stay tuned…

6. Growing in Volume

Focused again on that second guiding principle, we now coach and teach 4x more we did last year at this time.

7. We Took Mark Twain’s Advice & Ate a Big Ol’ Frog: Curriculum Developmentmark twain eat a frog

It’s hard work, but it was time. We’ve devoted hundreds of hours to redesigning our flagship Path Course. It’s now two weeks longer, and stronger than ever.

8. We Commit to Rituals that Support the Team

We’ve been doing tons of research on rituals and habit formation, and we’re loving the newest ritual we’ve implemented in the office! For the past few months we’ve been using a meeting structure called Traction, from EOS Worldwide, and we find that it’s getting us further, faster.

9. We Take Breaks

We teach that time off is as important as time on. As part of our company Path this year, we’ve prioritized individual self care and time off in order to show up fully for the work we do together.

Proof!

Liz in beautiful Inverness, CA; Betsy and Marc in the Berkshires; the toddler daughters of Capes Coaching doing a bit of stress-diminishing baby-yoga;  the Fogler family on a weekend away; Shana reveling in her pre-baby time off; Lauren and Andrew in St. Kitts.

Liz in beautiful Inverness, CA; Betsy and Marc in the Berkshires; the toddler daughters of Capes Coaching doing a bit of stress-diminishing baby-yoga; the Fogler family on a weekend away; Shana reveling in her pre-baby time off; Lauren and Andrew in St. Kitts.

10. We Stumble. We Fall. We Get Back Up.

When we’re challenged, we continue to ask ourselves: what’s the learning? How can we do better next time?

11. We Stay Inspired

Our Path is nothing without all of you out there working yours. Whether you’re hitting the big time, still in the trenches, or anywhere in between, we’re inspired by your triumphs and struggles and your continued commitment to your passions. We’re so grateful to be on the journey with you.

Here’s to another year of goal-getting and growth for all of us!

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There are still 4 spaces left in our round of Spring Path Courses, beginning in 2 weeks. Sign up to #FollowYourOwnPath today!

Where the Path May Lead: A Second Season of Acclaimed Comedy Central Hit, Broad City

In Season 1, they brought us bug bombs, adult babies, and degenerate subway broadcitygirlsbehavior. Season 2 begins today, and we can’t wait to see what wonderfully weird antics writers Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer have thought up this time.

Following Their Path to Laudable Success

The NY Times calls Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” “an absurdist, slapstick look at two women scraping by in New York.” We’re inclined to agree with that assessment, but why are we talking about it here, on the Capes Coaching blog?

We couldn’t be more delighted to share that Ilana and Abbi, who write and star in “Broad City,” are both alumni of our flagship service: The Path Course!

It Started Small, and Grew

Just about one a year ago, nearly to the day, we promoted the first season of “Broad City” here on the Capes Coaching blog, with an interview with the girls. They were preparing to launch Season 1 at the time, before it became a hit series!

Get in On The Action

If you’re curious about the Capes Coaching Course both girls took, read more about The Path on our website. We hope for the opportunity to help you find your own path.

We Can’t Wait for Season 2

We wish our two super-funny clients the very best of luck with their second season of Broad City. We plan to watch every minute! (Season 1 killed us. They’re hysterical.)

Watch the Season 2 Trailer

Wiping the slate clean

The Griswolds are ready to get away from it all. Are you?

The Griswolds are ready to get away from it all. Are you?

Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you took some time off this summer?

Hmmm. Interesting. It looks like quite a few of you did. Okay, let’s be a little more specific. How many of you actually “got away from it all?” By this, I mean that you disconnected from everything — you were able to step away from your job or daily routine and you focused exclusively on enjoying yourself and spending time with family or friends. Let’s see another show of hands.

Yup. Just as I thought — a lot less this time around. This isn’t surprising at all, particularly when it comes to creative types. I was actually coaching a client the other day who is heading out of town on vacation, and we had to stop in the middle of our session to remember what the purpose of a vacation is. Being a mom, she chuckled upon answering and said, “You mean in theory?” before following up with, “to decompress. To recharge.” And then she said something that struck me as something I wanted to share with all of you: “The purpose of vacation for creative people is to wipe the slate clean so that you can reboot.” Filling the well, as Julia Cameron says in The Artists Way.

What she said is supremely important. Even when we do our best to disconnect from the daily grind, our minds are usually still engaged in the creative process. You may be on the beach sipping a pina colada, but you’re worrying that the third act of your screenplay isn’t working out. No matter where you go or what your craft is, you probably experience some form of this scenario or another. The trick is not to simply go through the motions of taking a break, but to actually do it.

Even if you’re not involved in something creative right now, you still likely have difficulty taking real time off. You probably spend a lot of time working hard, trying to balance everything on your plate…but that plate always seems a bit too heavy. Particularly in this day and age, when it’s nearly impossible to disconnect (due to email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, you name it) it’s all the more important to find a way to make it happen.

So, here’s a radical idea — what if you used these last days of August, before that go-go “Fall Fever” hits you, to reboot your creative soul? You don’t even need to go away to have a “mental vacation” — whatever it takes for you to “wipe the slate clean”…do it. For some it might be a weekend away with your significant other. For others it may be a day trip to the beach. Or even just a weekend in town doing nothing but following your whims — seeing every movie you’ve been “meaning to see” for months now, going dancing with your friends, or trying your hand at a creative project that ISN’T related to what you normally do…just for fun (imagine that!). Just make an effort to get away from your regular routine…maybe even immerse yourself in an adventure!

So, what’s it gonna be?? Whatever it is, I hope you can make the most of it and return back to your career post Labor Day with a clean slate, a full well, and a smile on your face :) I’ll be here — refueled and ready to help you! See you in September!

Featured Artist In Action: Michael Cyril Creighton

Michael Cyril CreightonIt’s Featured Artist in Action time again (which, as regular readers know, I am a BIG fan of!). This time around we’re talking to actor and writer Michael Cyril Creighton. Michael has a great success story that’s sure to inspire: While working in the box office at Playwrights Horizons, he created a web series about a guy that works in a box office. That series — Jack in the Box — went on to win him a WGA award for best new web series. He subsequently quit his job at Playwrights and less than six months later was cast in a play there, in which he was then nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. He’s since found success in numerous mediums, and continues to make a name for himself as an actor and writer. Let’s turn it over Michael to get the full story!

1.  When you were first starting out in the business what were your goals? 

To be honest, my goals change daily. However, the constant things I’ve always kept in mind are: 1) I want to do work I am proud of; and 2) I want to be surrounded by people I enjoy and am inspired by. Of course, there has been a lot of trial and error, but so far, so good. I was constantly told when I was in college that I “wouldn’t work til I was in my 30’s and grew into my type.” While I appreciated the candor of my teachers, I came out determined not to be defeated. So another goal was to stick with it and be patient. But I’m not patient. So, I decided it was best to make my own work so that I didn’t get stagnant and petrify while I was waiting to age.

2.  What have you accomplished since then?

Pretty early on in my career I was a founding member of The New York Neo-Futurists, which was an invaluable first step in figuring out my voice as a performer and writer. While I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I dabbled in stand-up and storytelling and did a little hosting for VH1’s video podcasts. Eventually, I started working regularly with The Debate Society, a fantastic Brooklyn based theatre company and through working with them really feel like I honed my craft as a stage actor. I have been lucky enough to originate roles in four of their plays: Cape Disappointment, You’re Welcome, Buddy Cop 2 and most recently Blood Play (which we did at The Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival, and later at Williamstown Theatre Festival). In between working on those productions, I was also lucky enough to do the NY Premiere of Christopher Durang’s The Vietnamization of New Jersey, which is how I got my Equity Card. (Side Note: When I found out they were doing that play, I wrote the director and said “I’d love to be seen for the role of Father McGillacutty. I know you may think I am too young…but I can grow a beard. I can do it.” And I did.)

I also did the NY Premiere of MilkMilkLemonade by Joshua Conkel, in which I played the role of “Nanna” and received a NY Innovative Theatre Award Nomination. During this time I created my web series, Jack in a Box, which was based on my day job working in an off-Broadway theatre box office. This was the smartest thing I ever did and became a calling card of sorts for me. The series ran for four years and consisted of 31 episodes. I won “Best Web Series” at the NY Television Festival in 2010, and was twice nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Original New Media. I won that award in 2013.

I think as a direct result of creating an on-camera persona through Jack…, I started getting work on TV. I’ve been seen in small roles on 30 Rock, Louie, Person of Interest, Orange is the New Black, and Nurse Jackie. Although Jack in a Box has ended, I continue to work on the web, guest starring in other people’s series and last year wrote an episode of the critically acclaimed (and totally beautiful) web series High Maintenance, which I also guest starred in.

Most recently, I was seen in the NY Premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss. I was named a “Face to Watch” in the NY Times Spring Preview and received an Outer Critics Circle Nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor for that production. The show was at Playwrights Horizons, which is where I worked in the box office for eight years while doing all of the above mentioned things. It was nice to be home.

3.  What was the most valuable thing you learned from creating your own work?

Creating your own work is scary, but also so rewarding. You don’t have to wait for people to give you the opportunity to show what you got…you can just show it. And you can work with whomever you want to work with. I am so grateful for the fact that I was able to work with some of NY’s best actors, all of whom took the words I wrote and made them sound infinitely funnier than I even imagined.  I didn’t create my own work out of a desire to be famous, it came from a real need to be seen and heard. It was also a safe way to learn. Learn about writing, acting on camera, working with others. It was like my own little grad school. I recommend it.

4.  What has been your biggest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

Self-Doubt. I am not sure I’ve overcome it, but I have learned to make it sit in the corner for a little while.  It’s a tricky little bugger. Also, managing expectations. I’ve learned not to have any and just enjoy what I’m doing.

5.  What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

That it’s hard. That there are ups and downs, and they come without warning. That it’s ok to work a full time job while you have to if it allows you to do the work you want to be doing.  That it’s important to have a full life outside of performing. That if you book a vacation, you will definitely get a job that conflicts. That casting directors are not to be afraid of and they want you to succeed. That when it’s good, it’s really good. And when it is bad…it’s probably going to get good again.

6.  What are you currently working on?

I just finished writing an hour long pilot that I’m gonna tinker with for a bit. I’ve been writing more and hoping to create something new soon.  In July I’ll be doing a reading of The First Wives Club with Audra McDonald, Sherie Rene Scott and Lili Taylor. Other than that, I’m auditioning, looking forward to whatever is next and enjoying life.

7.    Anything else you feel like sharing?

I just want to say how much I support what Capes Coaching in doing and am so happy to see all the success they’ve gained. I worked with Jodie when we were both spring chickens at an amazing (but no longer around) theatre company called Drama Dept. It’s there I met some of the most influential people in my life, and I’m so glad Jodie & Betsy are two of them that had a dream and made it happen.

Accepting the roller coaster

Vintage Roller Coaster

I’m big on metaphors. Anyone who coaches with me knows this. There’s something about an image — a visual representation — that just locks in an idea for me. Even better, I’ve found that the perfect metaphor can resonate universally; it’s a powerful tool that can connect a vast amount of people in a very simply way. This proved true just recently in a group coaching session at One on One — I threw out the idea that navigating a career in this business is a lot like being on a roller coaster, and the entire room gave a collective sigh and emphatic “YES!”

Let’s be honest, when things are going your way in this industry, it can be THE BEST feeling in the world. It’s one of the reasons why artists often put up with all they have to — there’s nothing like the thrill of success in this business. Talk about peaks! And, the funny thing is that even the valleys can be exciting; the natural rush of going from one extreme to another brings its own sense of drama that, for artists in particular, can satisfy a desire for excitement. It’s kinda of like a constant series of mini-adventures! There’s a moment from the movie Parenthood (one of my faves!) that literally speaks to this idea, as the grandmother talks about how much she loved feeling thrilled, scared, sick and excited all at once when riding roller coasters in her youth, as opposed to the people who loved the consistency and sameness of the merry-go-round. Take a look:

Of course, she’s using it as a metaphor for life itself, just as I’m talking about a career in the arts. And, just as in life, there are some of us who are more drawn to the nice consistency of the carousel in our careers. And why not? It’s nice to know exactly what you are getting into — the pace is methodical; you don’t get shaken up too much; you can plan for it. The carousel is, essentially, the 9-to-5 day job. But, a career in the arts isn’t like having a steady, 9-to-5 job. And imagine the problems that could arise if you were to expect the experience that comes with the carousel (or the ferris wheel) when you’re actually in line for the roller coaster. The ups and downs…the adrenaline rush…the fear…none of it may come off as satisfying or exciting if it subverts your expectations.

And then there’s the waiting! Space Mountain is a lot of fun…for three minutes. After you’ve waited in line for two hours. Unless you are absolutely prepared for the experience of long waits that are occasionally punctuated by bursts of extreme excitement, you can easily grow weary of the entire process, and that feeling of weariness can affect your entire life.

What does all of this mean? It means that when you choose to pursue a career in this industry that you need to accept that you are indeed waiting to ride a roller coaster, and you have to embrace that choice!  If you can’t, then you are likely in line for the wrong ride. Maybe Space Mountain is not for you. Perhaps It’s A Small World or the tea cups are more your jam.

Something that may make waiting for the roller coaster easier is making the most of your downtime in between rides. You can do this by investing your time and energy in things that bring more consistency, stability, and grounding to your career as you wait your turn. Think of it as a halfway point between the exciting drama of the roller coaster and the steadiness of the carousel. You can have the best of both worlds — it just takes a little bit of work.

So, what ride are you in line for? And is it the ride you’re prepared to take?