Dynamic, juicy dream roles can be few and far between for most actors but they don’t necessarily need to be. With a huge, whopping thanks to Youtube, Netlfix and the rise of new media, the opportunities to make your own work and cultivate an audience are more widespread and diverse than ever.
Most actors that I speak to would love to make their own work. They may have even started the process of writing their own web series, launching their own theatre company or brainstorming ideas for their own independent short film. But so few actually take their dreamy vision and end up with a final product that they’re proud of. Here are five of my favorite self-producing tips that can help the goal of creating your own work become a lot more tangible and reachable.
1. Just Begin Creating
It’s undeniably scary and somewhat overwhelming to start creating your own original work. You begin with more questions than answers and it’s easy to just put it off and tell yourself that you’ll get to it soon. Many of the actors I work with have a lot of self-doubts about writing their own material or producing their own work. They don’t know what they want to create or which medium will best suit the idea that they have. But in the first draft, it doesn’t matter if your idea changes halfway through the script or if each scene is suited to a different medium. It doesn't even matter if everything you put to paper feels like absolute crap. Creating the first draft is the biggest hurdle because it’s the part where you create something out of nothing. Editing existing material, getting people on board and redefining your vision are incredibly easy compared to the initial task of getting your first draft on paper. So get started with the intention that you’re going to make an absolute mess of a first draft. It’s going to look, feel and sound like rubbish, but you’ll have a place to start and you’ll have overcome the hardest part of the process.
2. Be Consistent
It’s one thing to sit down today and work on your draft for two hours. That would be an amazing start but doing that every day is what will get you to the finish line. You have to consistently set aside time and dedicate it to your work if you truly want to get from point A to point B. I will be the first to admit that inspiration comes and goes just like the weather but the greatest tool I have found in accomplishing any seemingly insurmountable goal is planning and consistency. That's why I schedule time first thing every day to work on the project I'm most intimidated or overwhelmed by. Even on the mornings where I’m under-slept, under-caffeinated, and uninspired I still sit down at my dedicated time and get to work. Sometimes the work that I produce on those mornings ends up being unusable but it always lays the groundwork for the next day. Doing this helped me see that creating is more like a muscle that strengthens with continued exercise than a mood to be seized when it comes around.
3. Claim Your Expertise
When I work with self-producing actors and other creatives, one of the steps we always go through is getting familiar with and descriptive about their individual expertise. It’s also the part where my clients tend to have the most trouble. No one wants to claim to be an expert on anything because they think it sounds presumptuous or self-important. But I don’t mean “expertise” in an “I know everything way.” It’s more about looking at the experiences you’ve had and what they’ve taught you. You can start to hone in on this by asking yourself some questions like:
If I were to go back in time ten years and speak to my younger self, what is the one piece of advice I would offer him/her?
What do people often seek my advice out for?
When I’m faced with a big or scary decision, what stand-out experience do I often look back on to help me?
What’s the most difficult thing I have accomplished or overcome and what did I learn from it?
In a group of creative people, what is the function that I am usually performing?
This exercise may seem a bit like getting to know what you already know which could sound silly. But it’s actually extremely helpful to define what you know and what you’re naturally good at when you’re going into the process of creating your own work. It helps you better define what you should be writing about, what function you best serve on a creative team and who you may need to bring on board to off-set your skills. In a sea of confusion and questions that is often the area of self-producing your own work, it helps to anchor yourself by clearly identifying your creative expertise.
4. Call On Your Creative Tribe
No man or woman is an island and you shouldn’t be either. Creating your own work is a deceptive concept because it usually involves a lot more people than just yourself. After you’ve identified your creative expertise, it’s easier to see some areas where you may need a little help. Many of the actors I work with find that they want to work with others but shy away from bringing others onboard their independent projects. Sharing your vision makes it real, bringing others onto your team gives you accountability and it means that you have more talent and drive working toward your vision. Don’t be afraid to express to your friends and cheerleaders what you value about their expertise and the ways that their talents could help your vision become a reality.
5. Let Go of Preciousness and Perfection
The greatest killers of creativity and productivity are preciousness and perfection. Preciousness and perfection are usually just fear and insecurity posing as high standards and good taste. So if you find yourself stalling and getting in your own way, just remember that while this project is important to you, it’s just one of the many things in your life that you will create. Creativity is often more about navigating curveballs and working within limiting containers, not unlimited resources and perfect circumstances. You will have to adjust your course continually. You’ll have to edit and rewrite, recalculate and adjust all along the process. But if you keep going and throw out any expectations to make something perfect the first time, you’ll never feel like you have to start over from scratch.
Making the decision to create your own work might feel overwhelming. But finishing work that you’re entirely invested in and proud of is unlike any other creative accomplishment. If you remain true to your own voice and stick to these tips, your goal of creating your own work should feel less like a dream and more like a tangible process.
If you think you might need a little extra help getting started, you can email me at Madison@thescenelabs.com for more info about my creative coaching. You can also sign up for a free profile here on The Scene Labs for acting tools and get more tips on self-producing sent directly to your inbox.