If you’re an actor, you’ve likely heard someone talk about the importance of “creating your own work.” Admittedly, when I first started hearing this I would roll my eyes. I didn’t want to do anything but act. If that is your initial reaction, I feel you. You don’t have to create your own work; you can still be an actor without making stuff. But if you’re curious about it, I would encourage it! After doing so for a few years now, I can say that it often comes with a new-found sense of freedom and play.
As an actor-turned-published-playwright-and-produced-filmmaker, I believe that we are all innately storytellers. You already have a lot more tools than you might think to start creating your own work: we tell stories, have conversations, and rely on our instincts every day. Keep reading for some tips to consider as you start creating your own work as an actor!
KNOW YOUR “WHY”
Before I start any project, I always ask myself: Why am I called to do this? Why do I want to do this and why is it important for me to do this now? Maybe you’re a seasoned actor that wants to add a new scene to your reel, maybe there’s a story inside of you that just needs to get out on paper, maybe you’re a new actor caught in the catch-22 of “you can’t get auditions without a resume, but without booking gigs, you can’t build a resume,” or maybe you just want to have fun and make something! No matter the answer, when you’re clear on your “why” you can be clear on your next steps. Also, you can always come back to the reason that you are creating your own work as motivation if/when things get tough or tricky.
LISTEN TO STORIES IN THE MEDIUM YOU WANT TO CREATE IN
Once you decide on the story that you want to tell and why you want to tell it, I would recommend taking in as many stories in that medium as you can. Do you want to make comedy videos on social media? Go watch a bunch of other actors’ videos and take notes on what you are drawn to and what you feel is working. Do you want to write a reel scene? Visit various actor websites and watch some reels. Want to create a solo show? Hop online to watch a few, or grab a copy of the scripts and read! You will gain so much insight about what goes into these different mediums structurally and technically.
START WITH A BRAIN DUMP
Before starting to write a first draft of anything, I would encourage you to do a “brain dump.” Write down any idea/thought/word/image that is relevant to the project at hand. With no obligation to use any of them; just get it all down on paper. Once you have that, you can figure out a structure for your story. I also have an ongoing Google doc called “Ideas/Anecdotes” where I jot things down on my phone if I’m out and about. You never know what will inspire you!
COLLABORATE WITH YOUR EXISTING COMMUNITY
As an actor, you already have a community of people around you. Start telling people that you’re working on something and chances are people will want to help you along the way. For instance, I created my first short film by hopping on Instagram and asking if I knew any budding DPs (directors of photography) looking to collaborate. Someone I knew peripherally responded, and we made a micro-short that went to eight festivals nationally! It can sometimes feel really daunting to create our own work, but we are never really doing it alone.
SET EXTERNAL DEADLINES
Actors can be very busy people, juggling multiple jobs, auditions, and responsibilities. Creating external deadlines has been a game changer for me personally. Hop into a class with built-in deadlines, set a timer for 20 minutes and work until it goes off, set up weekly meetings with a friend, ask actors to hop on Zoom in two weeks to read through a draft of your work, or book a studio space to do a reading of your solo show. (I did this a lot!) There are different ways to set external deadlines for yourself. It’s about finding what’s best for you!
So much of the business is out of our control. I found myself less impatient and more creatively fulfilled as I’ve created my own work consistently over the last five-ish years. If you’d like to hone your skills, we have a bunch of classes here at TBG for you to learn the technical aspects of various mediums of creation. I’ve personally taken the solo show class and screenwriting classes, both of which really streamlined my process.
As with anything, take from this what works for you and release what doesn’t. Happy storytelling!
Arielle Beth Klein not only teaches Beginner Acting and some Youth Classes at TBG, but also loves working with fellow storytellers to achieve their creative goals. You can listen to her podcast Just Start Storytelling or follow her on Instagram @arielle_beth to stay in touch.
You can find TBG’s full schedule of classes here.