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Becoming a Beginner


Madeline MerrittIf you’re anything like me you’ve always known you wanted to make moving pictures. You were inspired by the epic stories of your childhood that lit up your internal world, the self-esteem building films and television that helped you navigate the tough realms of adolescence, and the enlightening cinematic works that gave insight into life’s meaning. Magic, storytelling, performing: moving people to laughter or tears as you express the human condition through your instrument- that became your passion.

Acting was something I’ve always done: in the school of life every experience brings new levels to my work as an actress. I’ve sung and danced, performed comedy and tearful tragedies, learned new skills and dialects as I take on new characters and it has become such a part of my life that I can no longer remember what being a beginner felt like. Yet lately, my vision has grown. As women are beginning the movement towards equality and representation in Hollywood, I no longer imagine myself as simply an actress. I want more. I want to make things happen. I want to see the stories that fill my imagination with wonder on the big screen. I want our stories to be heard. And since this willingness in me has grown, no longer discouraged by limited women’s “roles” in the movie making business, I have become an eager beginner again, and YOU can too.

This is the year I’m sending myself to film school. Last year I practiced producing from the creative side: and this year I am excitedly launching into learning the business aspects of becoming a successful producer. Today there are so many resources available if you are only willing to dive in and become a beginner again. Learn for yourself the information that can help you compete and be willing to become an expert by starting at the beginning.

SO get great resources, and study hard woman!

Here are a few of my favorite resources for you to begin the process of becoming a producer, badass, and all around creative boss in the know. Because at the end of the day you are a business woman: and there are a few things about this business you need to learn before you will be taken seriously. In order for those wonderful stories that will wow audiences around the world to make it onto the screen, you have to be able to sell a solid business plan to investors and distributors of your content.

Here are my top resources for 2015:

1) The Producer’s Business Handbook: The Roadmap for the Balanced Film Producer.

This book is gold! It explains the dynamics and hierarchy of all the actors involved in developing, financing, marketing, and selling a film. It explains studio dynamics, crunches numbers, and provides incredible online resources for the internal green-light process. If you want to be a producer that makes money in film, this book is an incredible starting point. If you have always thought of producing as something purely creative, this book will be positively illuminating.

2) The Complete Film Production Handbook.

This book teaches all things on set, and has an incredible library of production forms available online. Want to move from the gorilla indie to a studio film production? This book lays out the rules of play in understandable terms. Don’t be a nube, study first!

3) Save the Cat!

By far the most useful screenplay book I have ever read. This book is great for all creatives who want to create compelling stories. Once you follow the structure in this book, you will be able to turn that incredible idea into a story structure that will keep audiences (and execs) involved throughout your script.

4) The Filmmaking Stuff Podcast with Jason Brubaker. His motto, “Using the resources you have TODAY, what is the film that you will make this year?” is the ultimate positive challenge. Stop making excuses and make stuff. His website also has a ton of wonderful resources for the budding film-maker in you.

So ladies, here are some of the best resources I have to offer. Allow THIS to be the year where your vision expands and you achieve more than you could have thought possible! Want to change the roles that are available to women on casting websites? Become the women filmmakers that will change this industry for the better in the years to come.

Madeline Merritt

About Madeline Merritt

Actress, Freelance Writer - Madeline grew up on stage and has loved telling stories her whole life. From the Bay Area, California, Madeline received her degree in Theatre and Political Science from Northwestern University and moved to Los Angeles in 2008. She recently spent a year in Paris, France but missed the city of Angels and the entertainment industry here. She cares deeply about social issues, including women’s rights, indigenous rights, poverty and the environment. She feels the role of storyteller through entertainment is very important in opening dialogue and creating change in the world. You can see her in The Guest House (available on Netflix, Itunes, Amazon and Time Warner on Demand) and the soon to be released American Idiots, coming to a Redbox near you in June 2013. She is thrilled to continue her journey of collaborating with women in film and television through Ms. In the Biz.