By many counts, social concerns are becoming more and more prominent in modern society, with the advent of the internet and social media bringing these concerns to the forefront of the public eye. In light of this, many people are now seeking ways in which they can have a greater impact on the issues they care about. To help us better understand how one can integrate their existing work with a drive to better their community, we looked to the life of Paul Alan Smith, an entertainment professional with a penchant for encouraging social and political change.
Before diving into his work, let’s first look to the background of Paul Alan Smith, as this can help give an indication as to why he has been so committed to activism over the years. Though born in Los Angeles, he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the politically turbulent ‘60s and ‘70s. His experience witnessing activism firsthand throughout his youth helped to inform his views later in life, creating a firm resolve to work towards social and political change wherever possible. This resolve has been further supported by both his travels and education in entertainment. His formal education saw him studying Theatre at both UCLA and NYU, though his love for the craft goes as far back as early childhood when he first fell in love with the musical Hair. His travels in life have seen him visit places across the globe to gain a firmer understanding of different cultures and their approaches to life. These journeys included time in India, Europe, Africa, Israel, and Palestine. Many of these locations have been repeat destinations for the entertainment professional, serving as places to be visited when he needed to reset and gain added insight into his own life.
Integrating work and activism
For many people, one of the challenges of engaging in activism is the context of their work situation and how it precludes them from living their life fully in accordance with their own values. In this area, efforts by the agent/manager can be quite informative. Though the field of entertainment can be quite competitive, with many people keeping the whole of their focus on ways in which they can get ahead, Smith was still able to create work environments that would help further his social and political values. An example of this is his efforts to institute recycling efforts in past workplaces. Even in ‘80s, when recycling was not always a commonplace practice, he was able to convince employers that it would be worthwhile from both an environmental and monetary standpoint — more recycling meant less trash and less money spent on waste disposal. Later in his career, when he started working to incentivize alternative transportation options, he was again able to institute policies that were not only beneficial to the environment but worked within existing fiscal constraints for the company and employees alike. These types of considerations have helped contribute sizably to the success of his efforts.
Another way to help move culture in a positive direction is through the spread of ideas. This is one of the reasons social media has helped push many political issues into the public consciousness. Never before has the spread of ideas been so easy, with more information on a given subject always just a click away when browsing the internet. However, though these technologies make the spread of information easier, they are still somewhat lacking when compared with in-person communication, which can often help a person think about an issue in a way that online communication cannot. Cognizant of this dynamic, the entertainment professional has made in-person gatherings another means by which he has helped spread social and political ideas. This work has included organizing events he has called Speaker Soirées. At these gatherings, members of the entertainment community could gather to eat, drink, and listen to orators who had interesting ideas about the world around them. Past speakers included Gore Vidal, Condoleezza Rice, Budd Schulberg, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. In addition, leaders of organizations concerned with political and social activism would also come to speak on pressing issues at the forefront of their work.
While the above examples show how you can incorporate activism into your existing work, it is true that a certain amount of control over your own destiny helps to make these efforts easier to complete. An example of this from the agent/manager’s life has included his ascension through the ranks of the companies at which he has worked. Once it was clear that he could deliver results to his clients and employers, he was in a better position to negotiate the terms of his employment. These negotiations often involved acknowledgment of his ability to run his office in a manner he deemed to be socially conscious.
Of course, even the most favorably negotiated employment situation still can leave room to be desired. That is one of the reasons that the entertainment professional ultimately decided to go into business for himself. He is now opening his own firm, alongside business partner Lee Rosenbaum, known as New Deal Mfg. Co. The firm will serve as both a management company and agency to his dedicated group of film and television directors. The unusual move to create a company that handles two different aspects of representation is just one more way that he is bucking trends to create a work environment that he feels makes the most sense.
With the modern era affording unrivaled access to new ideas, social and political activism is seeing a newfound degree of interest. This type of activism, however, is not always easy to incorporate into one’s life, especially while working in a restrictive employment situation. The above examples of the ways in which Paul Alan Smith has engaged in activism while navigating various working environments should be instructive for those seeking to accomplish something similar. Those interested would do well to follow the entertainment professional’s career for continued examples of how to live according to one’s beliefs in today’s working world.