One of the greatest tools actors have is the knowledge of how to build a character’s backstory. But all too often, we stop there. As actors, we are, first and foremost, storytellers. So why aren’t more of us producing our own content?
There’s a moment in “Uta Hagen’s Acting Class” where she singles out an actor to tell her what her problem is. She then goes on to talk about our need for an audience, our need to perform, and how there’s not enough out there for all of us. But I think there can be; it’ll just take a bit more creativity and a lot of tenacity.
Look at actor Brit Marling. She wanted more roles so she wrote them. Now we have “Another Earth” and Netflix’s “The OA” because she wasn't willing to wait for a role to be written. She did it herself.
Or consider John Krasinski. Yes, “A Quiet Place” was already a screenplay when he heard about it, but he wanted to add his perspective to strengthen the story. And before that, he wrote, “Promised Land” with fellow actor-writer Matt Damon.
We need to follow their lead. 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.”
Once it’s written, reach out to your filmmaker friends to see if anyone is interested in helping shoot it. Appeal to their passion for filmmaking by asking them to “donate their creative equity.” In other words, volunteer their time to make it. You can also raise funds for the film by crowdfunding it. If you go this route, make sure you look into the different platforms out there to find the one that’s going to best suit you. Then make sure the perks you’re giving to those who do donate funds are feasible for you to get to them without extra cost to you or your film.
Then comes the fun part. Film it! Be like Krasinski and direct it yourself. Or be like Damon and find a director you respect. The beauty of making your own film is that you’re not only helping your career, you’re helping a whole community of filmmakers and actors too.
So why aren’t more actors doing this? Because it’s not for the faint of heart. It will demand years of your life. There will be days you wonder why you did it and others where you feel the constraint of finances like a noose around your creative neck. But with so much technology at our fingertips, it is possible. And it all starts with your passionate and tenacious spirit. What are you waiting for?
*This post was originally published on July 25, 2018. It has since been updated.
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