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Meet Tristen MacDonald of Happy Actors

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tristen MacDonald.

Tristen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I moved to Los Angeles in January 2002 with a pickup truck, a few boxes, and a copy of “How to Be a Working Actor” which I had highlighted and dog-eared.

I had previously studied acting in New York City but moved back to my hometown of Olympia, Washington after the September 11th attacks. While living with my parents, I saved up ten thousand dollars – a true fortune to me. With all my knowledge and savings, I felt I had “leg up on the competition.”

What I didn’t know was that everything cost way more than I’d planned. I mean… did you know that apartments in LA don’t have refrigerators?! This was before Craigslist was a thing, so my first purchase was an $800 fridge! Between that, first month, last month, security deposit, headshots, and an acting class intensive, I was almost out of money in the first two months!

It took me four years to get my SAG card, another to get an agent, and two more to book my first one-line co-star. Everything took so much longer than I’d planned. It’s been a long road since those days, but I’m proud to say that I’ve been working solely as an actress and coach for the last six years. I’ve appeared in numerous commercial campaigns, and recurred on shows like NCIS: LOS ANGELES and JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Over the years, I experienced manic stretches of “hustle” countered by periods of helplessness. I think most actors can identify with that. You work so hard in this business and give it all you’ve got, and it just hurts when you see nothing in return. And I tried EVERYTHING. I would eat, sleep, and breathe acting and ways to get myself in the doors for auditions. Sometimes I would just hit a breaking point with the time, energy and money I was spending on this career.

I began looking outside the regular avenues for wisdom. Classes and books on marketing, business, mindset, and even screenwriting. The result was a wildly new view of the business of acting that helped me shake that feeling of helplessness.

There’s knowledge and wisdom to be gained outside of your profession and “the way things are always done.” I’ve found a way to approach my career with ease and joy, and I want to help others do the same.

Happy Actors – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I love sharing information. I pretty much had to figure everything out on my own, and I’d love to help other artists shave time and struggle off their journey if at all possible.

When I’m not acting, I love helping actors as a coach by providing career and life coaching for creatives. I like to bring the career and personal growth together to  serve the “whole person” whenever possible. I care about my clients – their success is my success.

In addition to private coaching, I wanted to add more value than is possible in a one-hour session. Sometimes there’s not enough time to really offer the context needed to shake a client’s perspective or get them to understand a certain aspect of the business, particularly for new actors.

So I created HAPPY ACTORS, an online platform offering free information and resources with a focus on Craft, Business, Tools, & Mindset. In addition to our free content, we’re rolling out several online courses throughout this year on your acting business, organizing your biz, screenwriting for actors, and creating your own content with lots more in the pipeline.

Everything we’ll be offering at Happy Actors are classes I **WISH** were available to me. I couldn’t find them, so I made them. Our first online course, which launches in April 3rd, is called ACTOR BUSINESS PLAN. A full step-by-step training on the business side of your acting career. I take you through everything, how the business works, what casting is seeing from their side of your submissions, how to get and take agent meetings, and so much more.

I’ve held nothing back – this is everything I’d want an actor to know about how to work the biz side in addition to the creative side. Most actors have the creativity and talent part on lock – but you need to operate as a small business owner as well. When you have a business plan, your career is no longer happening to you, you’re in control.

I want to help make it manageable and, dare I say… fun! My mission is to reshape the collective psyche of the next generation of actors. We can not only pull each other up and succeed, but we can be happy while we do it. No more struggling actors!

We are no longer willing to put our happiness in the hands of gatekeepers, we’re taking that power back.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moments of my career are when I’m performing a role that I was born to play.

There’s a certain buzz that comes over me when I’m like “Yes! I’m exactly where I was meant to be!” I get that very same feeling when I see my peers perform the roles they were born to play.

Seeing someone step into their light is a pretty epic feeling. I guess that’s what led me to do what I do!

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