How to Make Your Own Content and Produce a Movie

Originally written for Backstage

One of the greatest tools actors have is how to build a character’s backstory. But we often stop there.

We are storytellers first and foremost. So why aren’t more of us producing our own content?

There’s a moment in Uta Hagen’s Acting Class where she singles out an actress to tell her what her problem is. She then goes on to talk about our need for an audience, our need to perform and how there’s not enough out there for all of us. But I think there can be. It’ll just take a bit more creativity on our side and a lot of tenacity.

Look at actress Brit Marling – she’s writing her own content. She wanted more roles, so she wrote them. We have Another Earth and Netflix’s The OA because this actress wasn’t willing to wait for a role to be written. She went out there and did it.

If that’s not enough for you, look at John Krasinski. Yes, A Quiet Place was already a screenplay when he heard about it, but he still wanted to add his perspective to strengthen the story. And before that, he wrote Promised Land with fellow actor/writer Matt Damon.

We need to follow their lead. Write, direct, and star in our own films. We have no excuses for not producing our own movies.

So where do we start?

By writing. Get your hands on books like Story by Robert McKee and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Research how to format your screenplay and then sit down and write it.

Talk to the people in your life that love and know story and ask for their opinion on what you’ve written. Take their advice into consideration and make adjustments if need be. The more concise and excellent you can make your script, the less you’ll need to fix in post.

Above all keep it simple. This is the hardest part for me, my favorite genres are fantasy and sci-fi, but it can be difficult to find a story in this genre that’s simple enough to produce on a limited to zero budget. But it’s possible. Look at the subtle sci-fi in About Time.

Once it’s written, reach out to your filmmaker friends to see if anyone is interested in helping shoot it. Appeal to their passion for filmmaking by asking them to “donate their creative equity”, in other words, volunteer their time to make it.

You can also raise funds for the film by crowdfunding it. If you go this route, make sure you look into the different platforms out there to find the one that’s going to best suite you. Then make sure the perks you’re giving to those who do donate funds are feasible for you to get to them without extra cost to you or your film.

Then comes the fun part. Film it. Be like Krasinski and direct it yourself, or be like Damon and Ben Affleck who found a respected director to film Good Will Hunting.

The beauty of making your own indie film is that you’re not only helping your career, but you’re helping a whole community of filmmakers and actors too.

So why aren’t more actors doing this? Because it’s not for the faint of heart. It will demand years of your life. There will be days you wonder why you did it, and others where you feel the constraint of finances like a noose around your creative neck. But, with so much technology at our fingertips it is possible. And it all starts with your passionate and tenacious spirit, so what are you waiting for?

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  • Charis Joy Jackson

    Producer, Director, Writer, Actress

    Charis Joy Jackson is a writer, director, producer and teacher working with The Initiative Production Company. During the day she makes movies and in her spare time is writing a novel. She's a self-proclaimed nerd who wishes she could live in Hobbiton. You can follow her on Instagram @charisjoyjackson

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