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The importance of creating work as an actor

Have you ever considered creating your own work?

From monologues and one person stage shows to short films, skits, web series and even full-blown feature films or tv shows, actors have been diversifying their talents since the beginning of our humble craft.

While there are career actors who prefer to stick to the art of acting their entire career, some – either out of interest, or necessity – branch out into writing or directing as a way to either attain or showcase other skills or to simply get their name out into the wider world.

And many of them will do so, while also taking a supporting or even lead role in their project. Talk about wearing many hats!

So, what can you get out of creating your own work?

For starters, it gets your name out there.

If you’ve written your own material, the likelihood is that you’re also going to want to star in it – most likely in a lead capacity. Being able to produce this work and showcase it to others in the industry will not only allow you to showcase your acting prowess – on your own terms – but it will also show the world you have a creative eye and a knack for originality. It will show people that you’re truly committed to the greater arc of our jobs in the entertainment industry – that of a storyteller.

Actors devising a short film
Actors devising a short film

You’ll be creating your own opportunities – and people will notice this.

Not only will you be able to create on your own terms, and tell the stories that you want to tell, but you will also show people that you’re truly dedicated to the pursuit of becoming a working actor and actually wanting to make a career out of it. If you’re successful, it might even mean you’ll be able to pursue – or create – roles that actually mean something to you and that you want to present to the world – instead of waiting for a role that you may or may not truly like, but might have to just do.

The best way to learn is to do it.

If you’re willing to put in the hard work and collaborate with other people in the industry, it’s only going to be a positive for you. You’ll not only have a chance to create new works, but you’ll have the time to hone your acting skills and you’ll gain valuable time in front of a camera.
You might also pick up a new skill along the way, or learn more in-depth knowledge about how a film set or stage production works by learning from others who would be willing to work with and support you.
Have the patience to give each project the time it deserves, tell a unique and powerful story, create complex characters and work with professionals you can learn from.

Director Frank Harper works on set with actors
Director Frank Harper works on set with actors

Despite still being in the middle of a global pandemic, the opportunity to create is still within our reach.

You don’t need a big budget in order to create compelling projects.

If you’ve written a monologue and want to perform it, but can’t find a venue, consider performing it live over platforms like Zoom or YouTube.

If you have a small budget, invest in some good lighting and learn proper key lighting techniques to give your production a simple boost in value.

You could also create your own YouTube channel and pre-record the monologues, then post them on the channel. Post as frequently as you want and use your network to spread the video around.

If you’re creating a short or feature film, learn to write within the confines of a single location – a room or a house.

Create a compelling story that allows you to make more out of less.

Equipment doesn't need to be expensive
Equipment doesn’t need to be expensive

You don’t need professional equipment and 100 man crews.

In the case of monologues, you’re the writer, director, actor, DOP, producer, editor, sound designer and more.

This may also be the case if you ever make a short film on your own (Try it at least once, you may be surprised with what you can do).

If you’re making a short film or a minimal budget feature, you will only need the bare minimum of roles required. The director may even still be the writer, DOP, producer and editor.

You also don’t need a camera that costs £5000, £10,000 or £30,000. Nor all of the extra equipment that comes with it.

If you want a good looking film but still on a budget, look at hiring a DSLR capable of shooting at a minimum of 4K for a good day rate. They usually aren’t very expensive.

If you don’t want to pay any money for a camera, then use your phone. Most newer models are capable of shooting in 4K. If you don’t have that, then just shoot in 1080p.

Just do one thing for yourself. Make sure you have a decent quality mic. People can bear a lesser quality picture, but inaudible or terrible sound design can ruin even the simplest of films.

Check out some of these films created on iPhones by true pros. (Android phones are obviously fine too)

Unsane – from Steven Soderbergh

Snow Steam Iron – from Zack Snyder

Tangerine – from Sean Baker

Read up on and learn from these actors who’ve done it all

Brit Marling

Emma Thompson

Lake Bell

Ben Affleck

Aziz Ansari

Ricky Gervais

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

John Krasinski

Donald Glover

Olivia Wilde

Bradley Cooper

Jon Favreau

How about some resources to help you on your way?

Filmic Pro is an app designed to be the most advanced cinema camera for iPhones and Android. Get the most out of your phone’s camera with the professional settings and adjustments that this app provides.

Film Riot is a fantastic YouTube channel run by industry pros, with the aim to demystify the process of making films and open up the art form to a wider audience.

Check out some of these videos to get started:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Fkcr8lK1A8 – Best free resources for making short films.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJ8HEfA5tLg – Storytelling with cinematic sound design

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue8HqdIrjko – The 4 L’s of no-budget filmmaking

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbWv0WYj2H4 – How to start writing your screenplay

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKEM9UViXgI – How I develop my films

Epidemic Sound is a platform designed to bring sound designers and filmmakers together. It’s a subscription-based service where you can get all your sound effects and music for your project with all the rights, bundled into one easy price.

Artgrid.io is a platform similar to Epidemic, in that it’s a subscription service – but this time for beautiful stock footage for all your B-Roll needs!

Celtx is a free screenplay writing platform – you can also upgrade for extras!

Final Draft is another screenwriting application. An alternative is Fade In Pro, which supports the Final draft format and is cheaper.

DVinci Resolve is a video editing/grading program that is completely free – with the option to upgrade to their studio edition.

Adobe Premiere Pro is a widely used program for editing/grading videos. While it’s not free, there is a trial period and affordable monthly payment options.

Other YouTube channels we’d recommend spending time on

Corridor Digital
https://www.youtube.com/c/Corridor/videos

Nerdwriter
https://www.youtube.com/user/Nerdwriter1/videos

Lessons from the Screenplay
https://www.youtube.com/c/LessonsfromtheScreenplay/videos

The Closer Look
https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCloserLook/videos

Savage Books
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94nMPZBCJM0&t=534s

Every Frame a Painting
https://www.youtube.com/c/everyframeapainting/videos

This Guy Edits
https://www.youtube.com/c/ThisGuyEdits/videos

So, now you’ve got a bit of a head start…

What are you waiting for?