There is incredible power as a performer when you make the choice to create and produce your own projects. By creating my own pieces and producing my own work, I have been reviewed by the New York Times, received four and five stars for my performance at the Edinburgh Fringe, nominated for an Amnesty International Award, received significant film exposure at several film festivals and have dramatically strengthened my resume and network. Oh and I kind of had fun doing it and gained a lot of energy to pour back into the rest of my acting career.
First, let's just state it out loud that you don’t need a lot of money to make your own work. What you need is your imagination and a will to take action.
To prove this point, last week I saw an opportunity to submit to an Instagram film competition for Toronto International Film Festival. I picked up my iPhone and told a story that I had been wanting to tell. I shot it and edited the whole piece in two days and then submitted it. I will be receiving an IMDB credit for it and it has potentially opened another door with another film festival.
It’s important to be reminded that our dreams can happen if we have imagination and are willing to take action. Sylvester Stallone, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Emma Thompson, Lena Dunham and Tina Fey all wrote and produced their own projects to make them stars.
The most valuable thing you can do for yourself is to let go of your fear of failure and of being judged. Who cares? As Nike says it best, "Just do it!" You will grow and develop discipline as an artist and as a person from taking action and producing your own work.
I wrote, produced and performed my solo show The American Soldier, which is based on actual letters from veterans from all of our wars. The show is now touring across the country and has earned me incredibly strong reviews, made some money and helped me develop amazing relationships with designers, directors and producers. I am now turning that show into a web series.
Your network is incredibly important in helping you to put your plans in motion. My director was referred to me by an actress from one of my last projects and I’ve shot and produced short films with friends. One time, my friend and I met over a cup of coffee, talked about how we wanted to do a short film, picked a date and then shot it the very next weekend. The project (Siesta) moved all of our careers forward, as we were accepted into five film festivals, including the Atlanta Short Fest and received tons of press for our careers, not to mention a few red carpet pics at screenings.
The most valuable thing you learn is the importance of holding yourself accountable, all while forming valuable friendships and partnerships along the way. Those relationships will be translated into new opportunities.
Here are some tips to get you going:
1. Look for film festivals. Look for film festivals that are accepting short film projects and when you find one, get on it. Grab your iPhone and a friend and shoot whatever story you have. Ask around and do a search on the net and you will find plenty of festivals to submit to.
2. Find a subject that you are passionate about. Don’t pick a subject that you are not passionate about because the amount of work that you will have to put in will be intense. If the passion is not there, you won’t be able to withstand the tough and frustrating moments. (Yes, you will have a few of those.)
3. Schedule it and do it. Once you know what you are going to do, schedule it in your calendar and do it. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t become a reality.
4. Don’t worry about the end goal. Just write and produce your work and do everything you can to get out there on the screen or up onto a stage. Be fearless in taking action and not focusing on the result.
5. Throw a big net out there. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for help. Maybe they know a director or sound mixer they can recommend. The more people you ask the more contacts you will create so that you can get your vision up. Definitely use the platform here on Stage32, it’s an amazing resource.
6. Write, write and delegate. If you want to create a solo show, but need to write a play or a script and don’t know how. Find two 30 minutes blocks out of the week and just write for a month, and don’t edit or judge your material, it’s not your job to do that. Then go to a class or a teacher who has experience in helping you develop your project. Always go to experts when you need more help. Don’t struggle with what you are not good at.
7. Here's some software I use for filming and editing: Sony Vegas for my PC, iMovie for my phone and Mac and Evernote for taking notes and keeping notes on the cloud.
8. Youtube what you don’t know: If you don’t know how to do something, just youtube it and you will find a video of how to do that task your you're having a problem with. I have basically taught myself how to become a pretty good editor on Sony Vegas thanks to Youtube.
9. Once you have a show, find an audience. Once you have a project up, get it into a film or theater festival. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure out which one. Just submit it and if it’s a film and is playing on a website or has been submitted to a festival, put that credit up on IMDB.
10. Share it with everyone and think of the next project you are going to produce!
Understand that there is great power in creating your own projects and it will have a tremendous impact on your career.
About Douglas Taurel:
Douglas is an accomplished actor and producer. His credits include Mr. Robot, Person of Interest, The Following, The Americans, Blue Bloods, Nurse Jackie, Damages, Believe, among many other TV shows. He has produced independent films, two Off-Off-Broadway shows that were well received by the New York Times and recently produced his solo show The American Soldier, which was nominated for an Amnesty International Award for Theatre Excellence at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He was recently seen in Tom McCarthy’s The Cobbler, starring Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman, and is currently producing a digital series and will appearing in an upcoming Rockstar Video Game.
For more information, on Douglas Taurel, you can check out his website www.DouglasTaurel.com and connect with him right here on Stage 32!
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