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How to Write Your Way into the Film Industry

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How to Write Your Way into the Film Industry

Posted Dec. 22, 2016, 10 a.m.
This article originally appeared on Backstage Magazine

Last month, I wrote an article called “The Actor as Healer” and created a Facebook group where people could talk about this idea and share the kind of difference they want to make through their art.

One of the challenges that came up for people in the group was the inner conflict that happens when you want to play particular kinds of roles, but also feel you need to take whatever you can get so you can keep the heat on and feed the kids.

Many actors feel powerless because they’re not writing the script or calling the shots. How do you make the difference you want to you’re not in the driver’s seat as a writer, director, or producer?

The answer? Write your own ticket.

Throughout Hollywood history, so many actors have written their own tickets. Charlie Chaplin wrote and directed all of his films. More recently, Tina Fey did it with “30 Rock,” Kristen Wiig with “Bridesmaids,” Amy Schumer with “Trainwreck,” Billy Bob Thornton with “Slingblade,” and (my personal favorite) Sylvester Stallone with “Rocky,” which he wrote in three days.

Stallone tried to sell the script several times, but producers offered to buy it only if they could cast someone else as the lead. Stallone stuck to his guns, starred in the film, and “Rocky” went on to be nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning three of them.

Sometimes actors think they’re not writers, but the truth is actors are storytellers, too, just like writers. There are so many similarities between acting and writing, you just have to look for them.

When you do improv, you’re writing. When you’re working lines with a director who wants creative input, you’re writing. When you’re finding your own interpretation of material (often improving it), you’re writing.

“Writing” doesn’t have to mean putting pen to paper. As an actor, it can mean so much more than just the written word in physical form.

The best scripts are born from writers who embody the characters, think like them, and feel as they do. That’s where the most authentic dialog comes from.

If the idea of making a positive impact with your craft resonates with you and you’re not sure how to find those roles when you’re still trying to get any role, I highly encourage you to write your own script, regardless of the length. Just get to creating.

If you need a little help getting started, the best and first resource I would encourage you to get is a book by Blake Snyder called “Save the Cat .”

The second book I’d recommend is “On Writing” by Stephen King, which isn’t about writing screenplays, specifically, but is the best book I’ve ever read about the creative process.

Finally, pick up a copy of “101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters” by Karl Iglesias. It’s a treasure trove of amazing advice.

Don’t be shy about casting yourself as the lead.

This is your opportunity to create whatever kind of story you’d most like to tell and whatever kind of role you’d most like to play.

You don’t have to wait for anybody else to give you that chance.

If you need some more help on how to take the lead, I encourage you to join my private Facebook Group, TEA House, for daily advice, support and encouragement from me and other like-minded artists like you!

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