You can achieve all of the goals you set professionally, but without the balance of a happy personal life and true enjoyment in your work, you will feel empty.
Michael Coleman is an award winning Canadian actor, writer, and director who began working in the arts at a young age. As the oldest of four brothers, the Coleman brothers teamed up, along with friends, to write, produce, and star in their own community sketch comedy shows. While in high school and upon graduation, Michael created various sketch comedy groups and tried his hand at stand up, performing all over Vancouver, BC. One of his fondest memories is a night at New Westminster’s Lafflines, where Michael came off the stage and joined other comedians, including Robin Williams. Robin was in town shooting Jumanji and stopped by to spend the night backstage as “one of us” offering pearls of wisdom. He was just coming off a dispute with Disney for Aladdin and his specific advice for Michael was never work for the mouse… Of course, later in his career Michael spent 7 years on Once Upon a Time and didn’t follow that one to the letter. To his credit, Robin had also gone back for Aladdin 3 by then so Michael is likely all good here.
One of Michael Coleman’s first on-camera roles was for the Chris Carter series “Millennium” with Lance Henriksen, as Howard Gordon. This was a sweet Homage to one of the producers (named Howard Gordon) who was leaving the show to join a new series called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. The real life Howard is one of the masterminds behind the 24 franchise as well as Homeland. It was an honor for Michael to play this role and give Howard a warm send off with a funny death scene. Michael Coleman has gone on to act in Supernatural, Smallville, Fringe, Blood Ties, Once Upon a Time, Stargate: SG-1, and Stargate: Atlantis, just to name a few. He has also gone on to do voice work for television shows and video games.
Michael continues to find success in the arts, and has pursued his other passions: philanthropy and education. He has designed three schools, including one post-secondary for acting, writing, animation, video games, and photography. Michael’s newest school is scheduled to be revealed this Fall with some new and innovative approaches to learning the professional arts. Additionally, Michael’s feature film, Thirty-Seventeen, is also due for release this Fall.
Where did the idea for a career in acting come from?
I have been referred to in LA, Toronto, and Vancouver by many as an “Actorpreneur”. My insatiable desire to learn has allowed me to explore roles as an actor, writer, director, producer, editor, and many other positions in the industry. I am also a firm believer in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and its core principle of learn it, teach it, apply it. In order to apply the skills I’ve been developing to their full potential, I’ve spent the last 15+ years working as an acting instructor to give me an opportunity to “teach it” as per Mr. Covey. I’ve coached actors who have gone on to perform leads and guest starring roles on shows like Once Upon a Time, Supernatural, Riverdale, The 100, My Little Pony, Lego Star Wars, and many, many more.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There is really no such thing as a “typical day” in the life of an artist but I do have a few elements to my regular routine that ensure productivity. Number one, always focus on sharpening my positive habits. Number 2, try to be better today than I was yesterday. If I do these two things, I am confident I will see continued growth and happiness in my work.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As a writer I always start with one of two ideas off the top. What is the central question or what is the thematic statement? For example, what am I trying to tell or ask the world? My personal philosophy and preference is to never tell people what to think or how to think, but to simply remind them to think. Storytellers are meant to be a reflection on how our moment in time sees yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and to be the mirror we hold up to society for them to reflect on who we are and where we are going.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am fascinated by the evolution and accessibility of technology. It is amazing what we can do now, especially with technology like VR and AI evolving at an unprecedented rate (who knows what tomorrow will bring!). This truly feels like the wild, wild west of the film industry and the brave new frontier has unlimited and unknown possibilities. What is missing now, as a result of easy access to technology, is the education for the organic and artistic elements of storytelling. I am hopeful that we will never lose sight of the importance of this crucial element.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The habit I work hardest on, and consider my greatest strength and my greatness weakness, is the concept of “try to understand before you are understood.” This is useful as an actor, where listening and reacting is a core element of our process. It’s also useful as a business owner, where knowing what your partners and competitors desire allows you to better understanding how to collaborate or remain competitive. Another key productive habit is my ability to always get up more times than I fall down.
What advice would you give your younger self?
A stable work/ life balance is imperative to happiness. You can achieve all of the goals you set professionally, but without the balance of a happy personal life and true enjoyment in your work, you will feel empty. You can have it all, but what we consider to be it “all” often changes with age. My mother’s advice to me when I was 18 and just out of high school was “Find what you love to do and then be good enough to have people pay you to do it.” These are truly wise words that I live by.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
We don’t need to pick sides. We can be individuals and find pieces from all ideas and viewpoints to create our own individual positions on things. This goes for politics, social issues, and all kinds of different things. It feels like the last few decades have us trying to pick one of two sides or by the jersey, and stick to the team’s plan regardless of how we may feel with real investigation. I fantasize about a world where we are once again free to agree to disagree, engage in respectful debates on big and small issues, a world where we don’t use the court of public opinion or social media to try and solve our problems.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I work smart and hard always. I always find that doing something the right way takes the same amount of time as trying to find shortcuts, and it creates stronger relationships as well as a more authentic brand for yourself.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
There are several elements to my businesses as an actor, writer, coach, etc. that I use daily.
I believe it is important to empower people to transition external motivation into internal motivation if you want to work with a team that sees consistent, long-term growth and success. I believe it is important to focus on innovation and culture in your work and life if you wish to motivate people and find new solutions that are more effective and more efficient.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Like many entrepreneurs before me I have seen my fair share of failures. I have started businesses and seen them fail for different reasons. Each and every time I have taken this as a learning opportunity and started over, ensuring that I never make the same mistake twice. Each new business has been stronger than the one before it. Failing is hard but we learn more from failure than we do from our successes.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This is an idea for actors or creative individuals where work isn’t a steady Monday – Friday and has peaks and valleys. Regardless of your success, find a secondary passion that can offer security and personally challenges you. This will diversify your work experience. Here are some examples of businesses you can initiate that offer the flexibility you need to also pursue a career as a professional actor: Accountant, Special Events Coordinator, Photographer, Video Editor, Registered Massage Therapist, Social Media Expert for small businesses, and Drop Shipping.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I took a former student out for lunch and we discussed her next steps in her career, where she’s now ready to both take bigger steps forward as an actor, but also big steps forward in sharing knowledge with her own classes of students. Seeing the student become the teacher and breaking bread over a decade plus of memories is a brilliant way to spend $100.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
IMDb Pro is an invaluable resource for anyone wishing to do more than be an actor for hire. This offers you financial information on nearly every film made, contact info for everyone in the industry, a database of like-minded individuals and their bodies of work. I love having all of this information in one spot.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
All of them. Reading every day is important as a storyteller. We have one job: tell the story. Knowledge is power and reading provides knowledge. Words are our way of life. The specificity of each word, the phrasing of words to articulate a specific point, the ability to paint a picture using nothing but words and imagination. You should read books by a variety of authors, on a variety of topics, with a variety of viewpoints. Read it all to get some amazing inspiration.
What is your favorite quote?
I have many, but the one I come back to often is “Success is journey, not a destination.” (Arthur Ashe)
I am also partial to:
“Be the change you wish to see in this world.” (Ghandi)
“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” (Wayne Gretzky)
● Be authentic. Be kind. Help others.
● Fall down. Fail. It’s the best way to learn. Just never stop trying.
● Life is short. Live like you’ll die today, dream like you’ll live forever.
● Work smart. This is more important than work hard.
● Habits are the secret to success. We all know the answers and yet most of us still make choices that don’t generate the results we’re after.