Should Actors Produce Their Own Content?

Article Image
Photo Source: Pexels

“Create your own content!” It’s something you hear a lot these days—from other actors, coaches, friends, your mother, possibly—to take some control of your career into your own hands. But is it truly worth your time and creative energy as an actor to merge into producing, as well? Per a number of industry and Backstage Experts, yes, it is; here’s why.

Just put pen to page.
“We need to...write, direct, and star in our own films. There are no excuses for not producing our own movies. But where to start?

“By writing. Get your hands on books like ‘Story’ by Robert McKee and ‘Save the Cat’ by Blake Snyder. Research how to format your screenplay, then sit down and write it. Talk to the people in your life that love and know story and ask for their opinion on what you’ve written. Take their advice into consideration and make adjustments. The more concise and excellent you can make your script, the less you’ll need to fix in post.

“Above all, keep it simple. This is the hardest part for me; my favorite genres are fantasy and sci-fi but it can be difficult to find a story that’s simple enough to produce on a limited—or no budget. But it is possible. Look at the subtle sci-fi in ‘About Time.’ ” —Charis Joy Jackson, actor, casting director, director, producer, and Backstage Expert

Actor-writer-producer is its own triple threat.
“Something new has happened recently because of the Internet and social media. Actors can now establish themselves (no need to be a movie star to get a primetime series) by creating their own material (i.e. webisodes, short films, creative videos and even standup comedy) which can be posted on YouTube, Vimeo, and their websites.

“They can then attract a fan base on Twitter and Facebook. As a matter of fact, it’s necessary for actors today to promote themselves this way. That means successful actors are becoming the new triple threat: Writer, producer, actor.

“In the old days, a triple threat was a singer/dancer/actor. Agents were thrilled to sign a performer who could work all the time in one media or another. Now they’re delighted if their clients are super proactive, creating their own products. That means really owning your career. James Franco is a great example. He does EVERYTHING!” —Gwyn Gilliss, acting coach and Backstage Expert

Collaboration is key when starting to produce.
“If you’re getting your start, look to build a group of people that are committed to telling a story with you. Collaboration is really important. And then find a way to tell your story and make it meaningful. There’s an incredible array of Web series out there… I would say keep it simple at first and tell a great story—a great story is worth something really valuable, whereas we can always put in the CGI when we’re in Season 5 and everybody loves it.” —Ondine Landa Abramson, creator of, intersecting web, theater, and independent storytelling online

Producing gives you the control.
“I began my career as an actor, then started writing because, alas, I wasn’t getting as much acting work as I wanted. Extra creative energy, a love of writing, and performing in a play together brought me and my writing partner together. (Pro tip: If you can find a writing partner, it can make the adventure more fun.)

“This leads me to my main advice to actors: This is your life. You cannot wait for your agents to make the moves for you. Take control. Explore all your contacts—and their contacts. Meet whomever you can, work as much as you can, and keep in contact with everyone you’ve met on the way. And, while you should be nice to everyone on principle, keep in mind that the secretary you talk to one day can be a lead casting director the next.” —Catherine Schreiber, actor and Tony-winning producer

The quality of your content does matter.
“Truth be told, there’s a ton of competition on the Internet. You’re not just looking at the acting pool in Hollywood, you’re looking at people gathering around the globe. What will make you stand out is the quality of your production. Is your content strong? Have others given you positive feedback on the script? Are you working with a high-definition camera? Do you have a great makeup artist? What about an editor? Good lighting? Lighting is essential—you have to make sure you can be seen and you look good!

“Nowadays, high-quality videos do not require a ton of money so long as you collaborate with your artistic community. People know people! And if you’re new to networking and production, branch out to college students who are looking to build their credits and careers. Chances are, they can rent equipment through their university for free and will probably film you for free, too. Again, just make sure the students’ production quality is strong before you upload the video to your channel.” —Mae Ross, acting teacher and Backstage Expert

Looking for a gig? Check out Backstage's audition listings!