As actors, we are given a lot of advice everywhere we go. Due to the nature of the industry and it’s unpredictability, we are constantly seeking “the answer”. Within the last year or so, the number one piece of advice I've heard being tossed around was "go MAKE stuff". If you want to take control of your career, MAKE stuff. If you have a cell phone, you have no excuse NOT to, it's SO easy. Why aren’t you writing your own roles? Etc. etc.
Okay, while I admit the intention behind this advice is positive, I have several problems with it. First off, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but it’s NOT easy. Maybe for some it is, but for the vast majority of us it isn’t. Now allow me to explain…
Acting, by itself, is a sort of different art form than most. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, it’s just different. For instance, painting or writing requires you to come up with something in your brain and translate it to the page. It’s solitary, it goes in one direction. Imagination + skill set & tools + executing idea = finished result. If you’re a musician, you write songs, from your brain, and use your skill set and tools to create it. The list goes on. For actors, however, WE are the tool. But typically, instead of thinking up random dialogue in our head and saying it out loud to create a finished product (that’s Improv, which is different), we let other’s stories live THROUGH us. We are the vessel that brings to life people’s characters and worlds. Sometimes it’s our own, but usually it is not. That’s the fun of it, transforming ourselves to fit the world given to us. That’s the reason most of us entered this business; to insert ourselves into an infinite variety of stories. It’s a paradox of complexity and simplicity coming in and out of us a different way every time.
Now back to why I have a problem with this advice everyone’s giving to go “make stuff”. Assuming that every actor should be creative enough to “do it all” and “create their own content” invalidates the art of acting itself. Not everyone wants to be a writer. Not everyone wants to be a filmmaker, even if they love filmmaking and movies. Not everyone has the skill-set for this, or even the desire to learn it. That DOES NOT MEAN they aren’t talented, or worthy of being an actor. It does not mean they are lazy. It does not mean they’re egotistical or one-note. We don’t tell painters they must be able to sculpt and carve if they’re going to be taken seriously as a painter. We don’t tell writers they have to be able to write textbooks as well in order to get noticed. If they can, and want to, WONDERFUL. That’s amazing, and if you’re a creative multi-hyphenate who has a desire to pursue and make lots of stuff, go for it. I am not bagging on those of you who can and WANT to do it all.
But for everyone else, being given the “blanket advice” to go “make stuff” can be overwhelming. I have seen it disenchant many actors who are just starting. On top of everything they’re paying for, spending time on, and pursuing, they’re told they need to now be writers/directors/producers/social media maniacs on top of it if they EVER want to have a chance. But damn it, that thing you make must be good or else what’s the point! So then people never START and end up staying stagnant because they don’t know how to move forward.
Instead, I think we should be telling people to go FIND things. As an actor, YOU are your most important tool. Go FIND yourself. Go FIND opportunities to be in projects. Go FIND your passions, talents, and hobbies. Go FIND ways to be of service to other people and hone your talent. Go FIND relationships with people in the industry that will last you a lifetime. By shifting the mindset of pressuring people to be creative in ways they might not desire to be, to instead focusing on FINDING creative ways to live your art, it may produce more positive results in some people.
I completely understand that the industry is shifting due to the digital age. I see how in some cases, making your own content is helpful. But what’s NOT helpful to creativity is feeling forced to do something that only ends up hindering your progress in the very thing you chose to pursue in the first place.
So, for those of you who feel a pit of dread or anxiety every time you’re told to go “make stuff” if you want an acting career, chose to instead figure out how you can FIND stuff. And if your search leads you to inspiration, maybe even the desire to make something? Then you’ve struck gold.