In the last couple of years I have become a food stylist on wheels. Up until recently I was based in Montreal and shooting in Ottawa and Toronto. Last year, I was out of town so much that I decided to take the plunge and try living in Toronto for a second time. I had lived in Toronto for three years between 2004-2007 and it is where I started my food styling career. Over the last 5 years, the majority of my work has seemed to move from Montreal back to Toronto where opportunities like shooting for McDonald’s Canada and cookbooks like Bitchin Kitchen for the Food Network were happening more and more. Logic said I should move to Toronto, where 75% of my work was coming from and travel to Montreal from time to time when the jobs would come up as opposed to living in Montreal and spending week after week in hotels in Toronto. All this to say, I have been in Toronto for 6 weeks and I am already heading back to Montreal for a two week job. No complaints at all but….the travelling can be exhausting!
I have a close friend who has to go to China for work, once every two months. She goes there for two weeks at a time and has to go visit factories, attend meetings and still do her work for her job back home. In between these trips, she travels to New York City, Chicago, and Minneapolis. The travelling at first sounds fun and exciting but when you do it all the time it gets tiring and lonely. From my experience, I felt my social circles slowly fall away as people never knew if I was in town or out of town, so calls started to slowly drop and all social responsibility was left on me. I would want to see my friends but when I’d get home from a trip to Toronto, all I wanted to do was sleep! As these out of town gigs became more and more frequent, I started to try hard to make sure I saw my friends when I was in town, as well as making sure to see my friends in Toronto while I was there. It always felt like I was visitor to both cities and that I didn’t live anywhere. It’s a strange feeling but now that I am settled in Toronto, and starting my life anew, I am looking forward to having more of a feeling of home in one of the cities I work in.
I will say that having the flexibility and ability to work in any city in Canada is definitely a major reason why I have done the jobs that I have had the opportunity to do. At first when I would take jobs in another city, my clients often didn’t even know I wasn’t a local. I would be hired by photographers or producers like Leanne McLellan, an amazing agency producer that took a chance on me way back when. I would never hide the fact that I lived in another city but it would never really come up. I wasn’t worried that it would be a problem but I also didn’t want it to become a reason to not book me. A question often asked is why hire someone from out of town when we can hire X Y or Z? This was a question I didn’t want to bring to the table. I wanted the opportunity to get into these jobs, meet these clients and show them why they should hire me. Other details would work themselves out later on. I for sure suffered a slight loss for these travel shoots at the beginning but they have been so worth it and my travelling was one of the smartest things I have done for my career.
Here are my tips for a successful working voyage:
1. Treat yourself to a train ride or flight whenever possible. I drove from Montreal to Toronto most of the time but whenever I could, I gave myself the opportunity to enjoy the time to sit on a train, read a book and fall asleep.
2. Enjoy the city you are visiting when you are not working. Toronto is a great city to visit so when the shoots were done, I would explore new areas, eat at new restaurants and whenever I could I would go see a play. Made my business trip feel like a pleasure trip 🙂
3. If you are in a hotel, enjoy it! Room service one night, swimming in the pool, and watching in a hotel bathrobe… Feels great from time to time!
4. Work your ass off! It will pay off in the long run…hahaha