There are two things you need to know about my friend Peter: He’s a successful film director, and he just turned 50. To celebrate, the two of us went out last week for a big dinner at his favorite restaurant. After our second glass of wine, Peter started reminiscing about his college days at USC. Here’s what he told me:
“People don’t realize how easy they have it. When I was going to film school, I had to take out a student loan so I could afford to shoot my grad film. And when I cut the movie, I literally cut the film with a splicer. Can you imagine that? Now, directors are making their first films on an iPhone with a budget that’s less than this meal!”
He was right; dinner was expensive. But that’s not the point. The point is that actors can learn a great deal from his drunken rant.
RELATED: Ready to Make Your Own Stuff? These A-List Creators Tell You How to Start
The ability to create your own content is a superpower. You can produce a short film, web series, TikTok video, or just about anything without having to spend a fortune. And thanks to social media, you also have the ability to get your work seen.
Over the last few years, I’ve signed quite a few actors who had limited film and television credits; but I added these people to my roster because they had created their own content. That work helped me see their potential, and after we started working together, I used that material to create opportunities for them.
I’m especially impressed when clients surprise me by creating something I wasn’t expecting. Here’s a recent example. (Please note, the specifics have been changed so I can maintain a Batman level of secrecy.)
Brenda is a working actor in her 30s who tends to get typecast as meek, humorless characters. The truth is that she’s nothing like that, but those are the cards the industry has dealt her. Brenda’s fine with this because she loves to work, but her inner goofball has been dying to get out for years.
So what did Brenda do? She created her own podcast. It’s a weekly show in which she and two of her girlfriends sit around trashing the sexist nonsense in every single James Bond film. It’s funny as hell, the show is getting a ton of downloads, and they’ve received multiple offers to monetize. The best part of her success is that she was able to break free of any unfair limitations by doing her own thing.
Creating content can also be educational. I’ve had several clients produce and direct their own projects, and they’ve developed a newfound respect for that side of the business. Who knows? In a few years, they might be off making movies for Marvel, and I’ll be pitching them some of my other clients.
When I was starting out, actors seeking representation would put together a live showcase. They’d rent a space, rehearse for weeks, send out invitations, buy cheap wine, and pray that someone in the industry would show up. Unfortunately, the performances at those showcases were like dust in the wind. One or two nights and they were gone, never to be seen again.
Is it me, or does that approach seem quaint in our digital world?
This story originally appeared in the July 21 issue of Backstage Magazine.