“That guy is a jerk”. Correct.
“Take physics before you graduate high school.” Yup.
“Go to college.” And how.
Most of the time, I do an alright job of listening to my mom (and my dad! they’re both great) but sometimes there are things that slip through the cracks. One of these things, for a very long time, was writing.
And just as often as my mother is right, I wonder why I didn’t listen to her sooner. When she told me I was a good writer, I kind of blew it off.
“It’s the same career struggle, Mom,” I said over and over again.
And it is — it totally is. You have to learn what you’re willing to sacrifice to push forward and achieve career goals. You have to be willing to sacrifice some “artistic” integrity in order to get paying work. But writing roles for yourself — now that’s a little different.
Perhaps the single best thing I have done for my career — or, heck, for my own sanity — was pick up a pen (er, copy of FinalDraft) and start writing my own material. For me, about me, whatever: I WROTE it. I CREATED this thing and there is nothing more liberating than wrenching control of your career from the hands of the breakdowns, schedules, casting directors, your agent, or whoever else seems to have control of your entire day to day life.
I know that at this point, every actor/writer/director/creative type on here has heard this: MAKE YOUR OWN CONTENT. I know you don’t need to hear it again couched in terms about how it’s the only way to be seen — you’ve got that. So instead of lecturing you about how important it is to grab the bull by the horns and ride into the sunset, I want to talk about what I, personally, found fulfilling.
What I really took away from starting to create my own stories is just how incredibly freeing it is to be able to dictate what you want, how you want it. Even if you write terrible garbage the first time (or ten times — trust me, I have piles of scripts I’ve written that will never see the light of day) you have spun a world out of nothing — that’s pretty impressive. That’s what I think I needed to know; that I can make something out of nothing and I can do it well. And just in the first year since doing this, I’ve banged out two short sketches (The Concession, Do Drugs PSA), a webseries (Kate & Joe…), a musical number, and a short film/documentary (Anyuta), my own personal ‘showcase’ scene, and I have a boatload of other projects sitting on my computer waiting for production — it’s addicting to boot!
When you’re an actor, so much of your job is predetermined by either the script, director, producers, or any number of variables. That’s not to say we’re victims or that we can’t be creative, but you are definitely tied to the words and wishes of other people in a way you simply aren’t when you’re the writer and creator. IT’S KIND OF LIKE YOU ARE GOD. Which is neat. Instead of spinning my wheels and just hoping, I get to call the shots and I get to engage in something beyond “just” acting. I can’t tell you how many actors out here can’t talk about anything but “the craft”, and you guys: I mean, as much as I love acting, there is a whole world out there.
So, I mean, unless you don’t like wielding WILD AMOUNTS OF POWER (which I DO) … listen to my mom. Branch out. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. No, not everyone is a writer/actor, but you are way more than any one thing and in this career climate, you really have to be. Can you organize people? Produce. Can you decorate? Set design. Can you draw/paint/sculpt? Props. Find a niche and then find people who can fill out a film set and make some dreams a reality. It beats waiting. Plus, you get to be SO POWERFUL!