I have always believed that if I worked hard, anything was possible. I got straight A’s in school. I excelled in my extracurricular activities of dance, fast-pitch softball, and theatre. And when I decided I would pursue acting full time, it seemed logical that as long as I worked hard and did X, Y, & Z, I would have a successful career. I stayed laser focused on acting for years before I realized that I needed to be more than an actor.
Now, I’m not talking about the advice you often hear, that you need to live your life while pursuing your art. Yes, of course you need to have a life. And yes, each new life experience enriches your art and gives you a wider pallet to work with. I fully believe that. But I’m not talking about that today.
What I’m talking about is doing more in the filmmaking process. Be more than an actor. Get experience in other areas. You’ve probably heard this advice already, but in this modern time you can be creating your own content, you can use your iPhone to be the director of your own film, or you can write a webseries and have your friends shoot it. Maybe work as a production assistant to get a better idea of what happens behind the camera. The possibilities are endless.
I had heard this advice and resisted it because I was an ACTOR (and choreographer and educator, but acting was my focus). I had a fear that if I gave my time to anything else, my acting would suffer. But in the time I have lived in L.A., it has become increasingly apparent that my energy would be well spent creating my own content. So I decided to produce a short – I wrote it, cast it, funded it, brought everyone on board, supervised the editing of it, and have just submitted it to festivals (please cross your fingers for me!). And having done all of that, I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the industry I’m in.
5 Reasons Being More than an Actor actually HELPS Your Acting:
1) You will have a better understanding of what happens when you get on set. You’ll begin to understand all of the work that goes on around you, often times to make you (the actor) look good.
2) You will be able to better relate to other folks in your industry. Is someone talking about making cold calls to try to find a last-minute location? Or the long hours they spent PAing on an indie shoot? Perhaps you’ve had some experience with it. You know first hand the work that goes into it.
3) When you meet people, you’ll have so much more to talk about than just acting. When you’re at a networking event, or meet a director through a friend, you’ll be able to ask intelligent questions about their journey and career path. You’ll have a much better frame of reference and can connect with them more deeply, building a stronger relationship. This entire industry is built on relationships! And it won’t all be about you – sometimes actors have the reputation of approaching other people in the industry in terms of “what can you give me.” If you have other experiences, you’ll have a much better appreciation for what they do and can take a genuine interest in their work.
4) You will have more to offer. Your acting career will always ebb and flow — it is the nature of the business we are in. But if you gain experience in some other area of the industry, you can fill your downtime as an actor by offering your services in other ways. You can collaborate with a friend to write a screenplay, earn some extra cash as a PA, or start a side business editing reels. When you meet one of the other million actors in L.A., you can have something to offer them instead of just saying, “Yeah, I hope we get cast in the same project someday!”
5) You can take more control of your own career. If you are writing and producing, you can cast yourself and be certain of your next acting job. If you work as a PA or an editor, you expand your circle of industry folks that you know and work with. You’re not sitting by the phone, waiting for someone to choose you. You’re actively participating in your own career.
I’ve certainly gotten the writing/producing bug. Being able to cast myself in a project that I already know I’m excited about because I wrote it – it is an incredibly empowering thing. And while I am still doing everything I can to get cast in TV and Film, I really love exploring other parts of the industry. It has definitely enriched my relationships with the non-actor folks that I meet on a daily basis!