Is it Good to be a “Multi-Hyphenate”?


Presenting yourself as a multi-hyphenate in the entertainment industry has become less of a curiosity and almost more of an expectation but it’s counter to everything I was taught. Growing up my parents always encouraged me to pick one thing and get good at it. Find your lane and stay in it.

It’s the same today, parents figure out what their kid is interested in and get them in a camp focused on that skill, which can be as early as 5 years old!  Often there are dreams of a future career as a professional athlete or tech magnate. There are coding camps, sports camps, camps for making music, food, inventions, furniture and everything entertainment related.  Seriously, there is a camp for everything.

When I was a kid we lived in a small town set in a largely underdeveloped and heavily wooded area the only educational camp I went to was hunting camp, basically a one room cabin in the middle of the forest with no running water or electricity where I learned how to chop wood and get the fire going in the sauna (pronounced Sah-oww-Nah).  I built lean-tos, used a compass, whittled and read. It was definitely interesting and could be useful if I got lost in the woods but not a career launcher unless I was looking to become female “Bear Grylls.”

I was the kind of person who always wanted to try something new.  Because I never stuck to anything for long I became used to hearing people say, “Jack(Jane) of all trades, master of none” to describe my skill set.  It was not a compliment.

This idea that you have to be an expert at something to claim that skill as your own prevailed all through my life.  So much so that even though I was a DJ at my college radio’s FM station (91.5 RadioX) it never occurred to me to try and get work as a voice over artist or start a podcast.  I joined the AV club in highschool but didn’t think of myself as a filmmaker.  I wrote for my college newspaper, then the Colorado Daily in Boulder but still wouldn’t call myself a writer.  When I’m photographing families I’ll often record little video clips but didn’t realize I was directing them to get the shots I wanted.  I didn’t even try to get an agent until I had completed more than a year of acting classes in Los Angeles because I felt the training and shows I did in Michigan and Colorado wouldn’t qualify as legit.  It really wasn’t until I joined Group 101 films and surrounded myself with a strong support group that I put all of those skills together to make my own shorts.

Now, looking back, I see that my self-view was seriously corrupted by many external forces.  I was listening to all these opinions telling me what I should do, “Get a business degree”, what I shouldn’t do “Girls can’t do that”, and to be realistic, “You’ll never make any money doing that.”  My parents didn’t go to college, so there was a lot of pressure for me to go and have a successful career.  I fought the urges I had to explore artistic careers and instead worked for years at a high-tech computer company.  Art and photography were just ‘hobbies’.

If you’re a parent I’m sure you understand the urge to guide kids toward something that is useful, that would help them succeed in our capitalistic society, but I feel it’s just as important to empower them to follow their dreams. Especially when the economy is changing so much, who knows what skills will be necessary as technology evolves and opportunities change.

I’m excited that the entertainment industry is embracing the multi-hyphenate and I think it is a good thing.  I remember when it was unusual for an actor to turn director or a singer to get into acting.  Now I often meet people who are actor-directors or writer-producers or sound engineer-voice actor-make up artist.  It’s refreshing and inspiring.

Since I’ve been creating my own content airing on social media I find there is a lot of room for experimentation. I’ve been producing, directing, running camera and sound, props, makeup, wardrobe, editing, promoting, etc… Now, I wouldn’t try and get hired as a makeup artist without the proper training, licensing and experience, that’s not what I mean.  However, I have worked as a professional actress, voice over artist, writer, producer, PR/marketing and I’m a confident director in addition to running my own photography/media business.  In an ideal world I would focus on the one or two things that most interest me on a project and hire out the other jobs to people who love doing them and whose expertise elevates the production.

It has taken me far too many years to discover my lane is whatever I want it to be, and it can change whenever I want it to.  There is plenty of time to try lots of things and master a few of them too!