One of the biggest things being done in the industry nowadays is creating original work. Even big movie stars have their own production companies so that they can make the movies they want to make. Of course for non-movie stars, actors and writers need to go through a much larger and collaborative process to get their stories told. But even if you’re not Brad Pitt or Reese Witherspoon, you have an extremely powerful weapon at your disposal when creating original content; Yourself.
Everyone has a story to tell; even the mailman.
In fact, go out right now and ask him or her to tell you a story and I bet you’ll find something interesting from them you could put into a story; even if that something interesting is that they once delivered mail to Bobby Brady a.k.a Christopher Knight and sang the Brady Bunch theme to him while caressing the actors’ royalty check. Hey, it happens. But something like that, or any encounter you have in life that may seem odd or worth remembering, is a story. It’s not just a story, its content.
You don’t always have to be the best writer to make this happen.
There are plenty of people out there who are skilled word-ists (I guess like myself making up the word wordist and trying to pass it off as an actual word…just go with me here) who’d love to collaborate and help you tell your tale. The business is a collaborative one, and it’s ok to admit that you may not be the best at something. I will tell you now, however, that the one thing that every great actor is skilled at, is storytelling. That is all we do as actors; we tell stories. So creating a story, whether it be in the form of a short film or a comedy sketch, is one of our greatest gifts and strongest assets.
So, you want to create your own content? Ok, then first find something true.
It often doesn’t matter the genre or type of project you want to create because the only way it’s going to be any good is if you are true throughout. For example, right now I am involved in 3 simultaneous original projects in the works. One is an original full-length horror novel that is in its final editing stages. It’s been a four year venture, with breaks in between, but it has taught me a lot about the craft of writing, but more importantly, about my own sense of storytelling. Even though it’s a horror story and some of its content is very much fictional (Thank God, because bleeding soul-possessed pumpkins probably aren’t very pleasant to be around), there is so much truth scattered throughout involving my characters and things that have happened to them. My main character, while different from me in circumstance in the context of the story, still maintains much of my truth as a person. She believes in many things I believe, and has experienced (minus evil pumpkins) many things I have. Other characters are also based on people I know in real life, with a heightened reality for the purpose of entertainment.
The second project is a short film that I am collaborating on with a friend. It involves the topic of weight loss and what happens when you reach what you think is your “goal”. My friend and I are taking aspects of our own struggles with weight management and using them to create a story about two people who ultimately find that accepting themselves the way they are is more important than a number. The situation and the characters are fictional, but they are heightened versions of ourselves. The plot is formulaic in order to entertain. You need a beginning, middle, and end when you’re creating a story. But what’s great, is that if you implant the truth of your real life in some way, again here it’s done through our characters, the story never really ends because real life goes on each day. You’ll relate to your audience, and also be able to reflect back at yourself.
The last project or projects, are my constant original web sketches that I turn out on a monthly basis. These involve various wacky characters, some recurring, and others brand new to reflect current events. Some are funnier and more successful than others. But what I try to do with every character I portray, is hold on to some point of view that I also believe in. Even if I’m playing an old woman in her eighties with a thick accent (clearly me, right?), there are things about her that I find to be my truth. I am creating something different than me on the outside, but without that inner truth, the character would be baseless and bland.
If you have a story to tell, even if it’s about hot pink robots who wear Barack Obama masks while trying to take over the world, there is something in there that must be true to you as the creator. There is always room for you to implant yourself in your story to keep it grounded. Perhaps one of your main robots likes to listen to the Cyndi Lauper song “Money Changes Everything”. That’s a personal truth connected to you (If you also like that song). Obviously, there are other ways to make something truthful than just implanting things you like, but it’s a start. You have a voice and a point of view. And no matter what anyone else tells you, that’s important. If it matters to you, then don’t be afraid to let yourself shine through in your work. Create! And do it with your own voice! Because without it, we’ll only be stuck with non Cyndi Lauper listening pink robots. And that’s so boring.