We had the good fortune of connecting with Danielle Brewer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danielle, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Around the time my daughter turned two I reached out to one of my girlfriends who I hadn’t seen in a longtime. She is a film producer who has two kids about five years older than my baby girl. I was trying to balance returning to work as an actor with auditions, training and selfcare while being the primary carer for my toddler. I kept feeling like I was tired and failing.
The greatest piece of wisdom I got from that phone call was to change how I thought about my work/life balance. Instead of thinking about it as a balance I now think of it as integration. With balance there is a perfect point that is so hard to get right whereas integration takes into account the needs of a day, a week or a season that changes often so last minute in the film and tv industry. Its less about getting it right and more about pivoting, tessellating and adjusting to fit all the priority pieces together.
With this I wanted to ensure that my ongoing choices are developing a long term picture of health for me, my family and my career. So, I created a new list of success indicators by answering one simple sentence: “I am succeeding in the things that really matter to me when…” I ended up with a list of 14 values from growing in my creative career to ensuring my daughter feels important to me. I feel less like a failure these days and more like a priority ninja.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I spent my twenties graduating from university with a business degree, travelling the world and ended up in human resources in the the tech industry. I had a habit of gathering around me friends who were musicians, actors or artists. In almost every job I had I was asked to present, act or model in one form or another. It was as if a creative career kept calling me out in the midst of what I considered to be a real and sensible career path. On returning from England for a friends wedding I was delayed due to a health scare that closed the window of opportunity for me to move back to Europe. Nine months later a sat in my car furious at a lack of direction because I am a planner. I love a good plan even if the plan needs to deviate, at least I had a plan.
I looked up and said very sternly “God if going and living in Switzerland isn’t the plan, then it better be bloody good!” I took a deep breath and this question came to me “If time, age and money were of no barrier, what would you do?” The only thing I could think of was acting. I had given it up as a teenager in school because it wasn’t a subject that would get me into university and I was the sensible child in my family. So still a little salty I responded to God out loud “Fine just to prove that’s not what I should be doing I will go find an acting class and then I can get back to this Switzerland thing.” A last minute cancellation on a local creative acting weekend away opened up 2 weeks later. On that weekend I discovered people and a craft that moved my soul once again but this time as an adult.
From there I kept looking for the next training opportunity. It led me to moving interstate to be near a better school and worked full time in the tech industry while studying part time at nights. I found my first agent and starting booking acting jobs in short films and a print job for Nestle. A year and a half after juggling full time work and a burgeoning creative career I auditioned for an acting school in New York and got a part scholarship. Much to my surprise my family believed this was a wonderful idea.
I moved to New York and over the last 10 years I have like most actors studied the craft, worked a mix of jobs some in the industry and some survival jobs. My background in business became a real asset in getting work that financially has supported me through the transition as a single person pursuing a creative career.
Five years after arriving in New York I met my husband on the set of a TV show that was shooting in the underground train museum in Brooklyn. That show never went to air. Its almost like it was made for us to meet.
We now have a two and a half year old daughter who has changed the way I see almost everything. I had to muster the courage during the last three years to take periods of time off to sleep and spend time with our new human. Confronting the fear that if I took time off at any point would equal the end of my dreams was a tough one. I had to rewrite my own benchmark of success and stop letting others or the industry to define it for me. My career is marathon not a sprint. It is ok to have seasons.
I have been travelling with my husband and daughter for the last year and half around the southeast, between Texas, Atlanta and North Carolina where my husband has been working on location as an assistant director on tv productions. I work from home auditioning with my southeast agent and have returned back to weekly acting classes while we getting babysitter help along the way. Since having my daughter I have somehow booked the same amount of work as I did before and still get to travel. The juggle is real but I am getting better at it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I had a whole week to take one of my girlfriends on an adventurous and restful getaway I would take them out to Vista Verde Ranch (https://www.vistaverde.com/) which is only 3.5 hours outside of Denver. My adult hobby is horse riding and they have 100 horses on the beautiful ranch with amazing staff who look after you during your stay. It is open all year round snow, spring or summer. I recently went during winter and it was breathtaking not to mention how incredibly delicious the house chef prepared food which was. I got to spend days either riding horseback in the snow or doing horsemanship skills training in their heated indoor arena. They also had a slew of other winter sports and relaxing activities but I was having so much fun with the horses I didn’t get a chance to do anything else. I am looking forward to returning during the spring when they do cattle drives on horseback and trail rides through the breathtaking scenery. Sleep, Eat, Ride and Repeat!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Mother raised me and my three siblings on her own with patience and humor. She is both a great storyteller and a teacher. For her I have endless gratitude.