The advice every casting director or industry professional has ever given me has always been these four words: CREATE YOUR OWN CONTENT. For years I resisted; “Why can’t I just be an actor??? I’m good enough to find work through the audition grind and the acting hustle. Aren’t I??” For awhile that inner struggle fueled my hunger, reinforced my passion, and pushed me to take risks and fight for myself when no else would.
Then I was pulled off my touring theatre gig because of a pretty substantial injury, and I was at home, not working and not acting. I no longer had the opportunity to audition. I was creatively starved and miserable. I had to do something. I grabbed my laptop and just started typing. The story that flowed from my fingertips was the story that’s burned inside me since age four. They always say, ‘write what you know’… so I did just that.
28 years ago, I lost my Mom in a fatal car accident. It was a moment that forever shaped my being, and propelled me into the career path I’ve chosen. Acting has always been a coping mechanism for me, but I’ve always pulled from deeply intimate feelings or emotions as sort of an outsider; taking my life experience and personalizing it by injecting it into someone else’s work. This time, in writing what I know, I would use my life experience, and tell MY story.
I had written poems, blogs, articles, and even some scenes for fun, but had never written a screenplay. I had no idea where to begin and had many moments of doubt and constantly fought the urge to give into those negative feelings and give up. It was an incredibly challenging undertaking, but I forced myself to rise to the occasion and forged on.
After nearly 40 drafts and two months of grueling writing sessions, I had a full script. I can proudly say that I am currently in pre-production, and crowdfunding for my short film, The Space Between. I learned so much along the way, and am still finding moments of realization. Hopefully you can take some of these tips and lessons learned, and your next creative venture is a personal one, where you’re able to take your career into your own hands, and create your own content.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH A SUPPORTIVE TRIBE
I could not have done this without the assistance and guidance of trusted supporters, who have my back 100%. You cannot expect to dive into a labor of love alone, without council. Whether that’s a third eye to read, watch, or listen to your project, (or just someone who won’t let you give up), you need a support system. I joined an accountability group, meeting weekly with three other like-minded artists to discuss my my journey and my film’s developments. It was invaluable to have people encouraging me and my project from it’s inception, and be able to share wins and vent struggles. The most important part however, was being held accountable for the follow-through.
DON’T BE TOO PRECIOUS
One of the biggest things I learned is that writing is re-writing. A difficult part of that, is ‘killing your babies’, as they say–letting go of things that you hold close to your heart, in order to best serve the project, and in my case, my story. Get it ALL out in the first couple drafts, but be willing to TRUST the work, and part with the things that do not move the project/story along.
STAND BY YOUR TRUTH
Like most artists, my life experience has often influenced many of my creative ventures, whether that be roles I gravitate towards or projects I choose to work on. Drawing from loss or trauma can be a dangerous path to go down, and you have to take care of yourself emotionally and know when you’re potentially nearing dangerous territory. However, the more personal you can make it, the more raw, the more real, and the more other will connect to it. It was cathartic and healing to flesh out the details of the most painful moment of my life, and create a narrative born from suffering. I wrote my TRUTH, no matter how unpopular, no matter how hard, because it’s my honest truth. There’s something very beautiful about standing by it, and as scary and revealing as that is, it’s the brave thing to do…and it’s incredibly freeing and rewarding.
SOAK IT ALL IN
From the writing, to the casting, to the producing, to the crowdfund campaign, I have had my hands in it ALL. I’ve been a sponge to every moment, and it’s really made me appreciate all aspects of this industry, and in turn made me a better actor. I combed through over 600 submissions, spent two full days casting, reading with prepared (and unprepared) actors, researched everything from set insurance to crafty, and hired a team of insanely talented people to help me tell my story. In doing it all, I appreciate it all. I have seen what it really takes to get a project off the ground, and my eyes have been opened to what filmmaking really entails. (It’s a lot of fu**ing work.)
It’s incredibly fulfilling to conceptualize an idea, to fight through trials, setbacks, and self-doubt, and see it through. I challenge you to find your inner truth, create something inspired by your story, and just MAKE IT HAPPEN. Your future creative self will thank you for it..
Editor’s Note: Find out more about “The Space Between” HERE on Seed & Spark.