It’s May 14th. Actors are out of work. Broadway has shut down at least until September, but most likely longer. Productions are slowly starting to come back, with higher safety protocols (Tyler Perry’s shows in Atlanta are quarantining the actors for two weeks on location before filming). Casting directors for indie films are gathering self-tapes during the quarantine and finding talent for when production is green-lit. Other casting directors are holding virtual generals, and getting 60,000 self tapes. Episodic TV writer’s rooms are stockpiling scripts for when shows return. Original content, even web series filmed over Zoom, are becoming more and more prominent as creatives work to take advantage of this down time to recalibrate.
What should actors be doing during this strange downtime? That is a question I get every day. We all want a creative outlet, a way to keep our sanity, a break from the monotony. For some, that means staying active in online acting classes. For others, it’s sharpening our self-taping skills, or finally writing that script for yourself.
More than ever before, industry veterans are offering free advice, over Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram. Agents, managers, and casting directors are working from home, or wondering when they will resume work, and a lot of them are giving back to actors. On our studio instagram, our guests over the past 8 weeks have included David Caparelliotis (the casting director for “New Amsterdam”), Ben Jordan (an agent at Headline Talent), Stephanie Holbrook (casting director for “The Sinner”), Natasha Matallana (agent at Take 3 Talent), and coming up we have Robert Attermann (CEO of A3 Artists), and Howard Leder (editor for “This is Us”). Julie Schubert (casting for “Manifest”) and Peggy Becker (manager at Parkside Talent) spoke to my students over Zoom. The perspective and honesty is so helpful for actors, and it is helping us all come together in this difficult time. It’s also a reminder to us that we are all on the same team, that we have the same worries.
These last two months have given actors a lot of time to think and recalibrate. Do we sit and wait for this all to be over, or do we finally take the reins and create our own work? I think it’s time to finally sit down and write that part for yourself, that ONLY YOU can play. Yes, right now. Right after you read this post.
Hear me out.
Take 15 minutes a day, the time you would normally spend submitting yourself on Actors Access, and start writing down your thoughts. Think about how unique you are, and write a deeply personal story (comedy or drama). Think of it as a journal entry. Download free screenwriting software (FadeIn), and come up with a story. Maybe it’s a pilot for a web series, a short film, a feature. Just write it down. Start with a few scenes. Let it suck. But keep writing!!! Write a part for yourself that ONLY YOU can play. Get some friends together over Zoom and read it out loud. Then tweak it, write some more, and do it again. Write it for YOU, not so that you can get an agent or impress a casting director. Think of all the bad scripts you read, and write one that’s better. In your authentic voice. With all of your quirks. Maybe you will end up taking this to festivals, or maybe posting it online and making more episodes. It can be 5-10 pages! Most festivals consider shorts as being under 11 minutes. Microshorts are under 5 minutes. Think of how amazing this could be. “I’m not a writer.” I know, I know. But trust me, you are better than you think and this doesn’t need to be a huge 3 act structure 120 page feature film. It’s just a few pages, with a few scenes, with a couple of characters, starring you. What do you think?
So many of our actors are already doing this, and even filming the scenes through Zoom and cutting them together. Do something different, inspiring. Everyone is sitting at home looking through content. Give them something to talk about! Write it, and then think about cheap, affordable ways to film it. Teach yourself how to edit. Then when the industry comes back, you will have this great script you are ready to film with your friends, which you can be proud of, show people, go to festivals with, and maybe even sell it to streaming. Now go, DO IT.