Does Producing and Starring in an Indie Preclude Other Gigs?

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“The Role Not Taken”

Dear Michael:

I'm four years out of acting school. In that time I've acted up a storm: theater, film, even a little television. I've also formed a production company with a colleague. We're working on a feature-length indie film I wrote and am acting in, but it's taking a while, as these things do, and it'll be another six to nine months before it's finished. Then there's the lengthy business of getting it out there.

How much should I worry about doing other acting projects while producing my film? I keep panicking, thinking I'm not doing enough else (I'm doing some side projects, but mostly with people I've worked with before), but I don't want to shortchange myself by not giving 100 percent to the film. Is it worth letting projects go to dedicate myself to my film? Or is that too risky, in the event this film doesn't become big enough to really help move my acting career forward and I've "lost" a couple of years of momentum?

Befuddled in Brooklyn, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Befuddled:
Ah, we poor beleaguered actors. I'm not sure what it is about this profession, but it seems to attract people like us who constantly worry that maybe we're not doing things right and, at the same time, foster that very worry.

Befuddled, here's my very simple answer: As long as you're keeping the bills paid, just do the work you're passionate about and relish every moment. Do as many things as you can, but don't exhaust yourself. Stand by your decisions, and try really hard not to keep looking over your shoulder to see if you should be doing something else. This is the professional actor's curse. We don't know what path will lead to what opportunity, so we drive ourselves crazy, stabbing around in the dark, wondering and worrying and losing sleep over neglected pursuits. We'd make lousy fishermen. Constantly wondering whether we should be fishing in a different spot, we'd probably keep moving around and never catch anything. The smart fisherman brings a book or a beer and enjoys the day.

Don't drain the joy out of the cool journey you're on by worrying. Fit in whatever side projects you can, but not at the expense of your film, your health, or your sanity.

And what if the film doesn't make the splash you're hoping for and skyrocket you to notoriety? I'll tell you. Show business will still be there. You'll have turned down a few projects in favor of the one you did -- a decision I bet you'll never regret. And whether the results are what you'd hoped for or not, there will be results. You will have built your sense of accomplishment and expertise. You'll have something to point to with pride and say, "I did that." And you will have grown your circle of colleagues and fans.