Why Every Actor Should Try Acting in an Indie Film

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Indie films may not be the most glamorous area for actors to work in, but make no mistake—it’s worth your time. From the material itself to the community-building opportunities indies provide, the benefits often outweigh the risks. Let these industry experts tell you why.

Performing in indies will only help you grow as an actor.

“Every creative opportunity presents a chance for you to grow as an actor and person. Acting in an independent film could give you a chance to play a role that you wouldn’t normally get to play. Often, independent projects allow for more creative risks than big-budget projects.

Also, the more you are on film sets using your acting skills, the more confident you will feel going into auditions and meetings. Work begets work. Actors who are working, even on smaller-scale projects, tend to feel more confident because they have interesting projects to talk about and more experiences to draw from.”
Mae Ross, acting teacher 

Indie scripts are ideal for working on character development.

“What attracts actors to indie films is the material. Character-driven films are actor bait. They’re playing characters they can really explore, and that can open up other paydays.”
Adam Saunders, CEO, Footprint Features

The indie scene is more accessible.

“As an actor, it’s easy to feel powerless. They’re going to auditions, but it’s the producer or the director or the casting director [who are] making decisions. You need to be able to have agency and control by saying, ‘I’m going to get to know the indie filmmakers, and they’re going to get to know me.’ ” Josh Welsh, president, Film Independent

Actors can make their own opportunities.

“Go where filmmakers go. Whether it’s New York Women in Film & Television, the Independent Filmmaker Project, or other filmmakers’ meet-up groups, be one of the few actors in the room. Talk to people, and make a point to attend film festivals even when you don’t have a film there. It’s one of the best ways to really feel like you’re part of an indie film community.” —Brette Goldstein, casting director 

Actors can make their own opportunities.

“Go where filmmakers go. Whether it’s New York Women in Film and Television, IFP, or other filmmakers’ meet-up groups, be one of the few actors in the room. Talk to people. And make a point to attend film festivals even when you don’t have a film there. It’s one of the best ways to really feel like you’re part of an indie film community.” —Brette Goldstein, casting director and Backstage Expert

With indies, you get out what you put in.

“One area [where] actors can set a great habit is to become part of the crew by helping to crowdfund a project. The films you’re a part of when you’re just starting out will probably be passion projects that have you ‘donating creative equity.’ In other words, you’re doing the job for free. But don’t shirk these opportunities; you never know what will come from being a part of them. 

A friend of mine started acting in independent films, and one was pitched to a large distribution company, which then turned into a sequel to a popular franchise, helping launch his career.” Charis Joy Jackson, actor, director, and casting director

You’ll gain on-set experience.

“Offer to help. If you have some time before your next scene and you are in your civvies, figure out what you can and want to do, and offer to pitch in. It’s easy for actors to blend into the scenery on an indie film set, because everyone else is moving and talking except you. If you have some skill that they could desperately use, offer it up. They will love you for it, and you will alleviate the urge to eat another Red Vine.” David Patrick Green, founder, Hack Hollywood 

Inspired? Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!