Brit Marling is an innovative independent filmmaker, actress, and writer. Her Original Netflix show, The OA, which she created with Zal Batmanglij has gained a huge cult following, but the reason more actors should be like her is that she’s paved her own way in this industry.
There are two things in particular I think helped Brit find her success as a creative – her tenacity and her love of teamwork.
Her mini biography on IMDb states she started writing two screenplays at once – Another Earth and Sound Of My Voice. Brit would write one in the morning and one in the afternoon. And her hard work paid off when both films premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.
I feel like it’s obvious, the woman is tenacious. Writing one screenplay is already a big task, but to write two at once speaks to her tenacious spirit and passion for creativity.
In an interview with Sam Jones, for the YouTube channel The Off Camera Show, Brit talks about her career change from economics/banking to becoming an independent filmmaker, writer, and actress. She likened the change to walking on a highwire without a safety net.
“I accept that my life is going to be on a highwire and that I’m gonna put one foot in front of the other every day.”
It all happened when good friends Zal Batmanglij and Mike Cahill asked Brit to join them in New York for a 48 Hour Film Festival. She was in the middle of a massive workload, but decided to join them for the weekend, staying up all night, to make a crappy little short film instead of doing her work.
Brit had so much fun she realised,
“I can work my butt off doing something that I love – and is dangerous and I may never make any money – and I may be broke all the time but I’ll be happy, I’ll be delighted. Or I can do this thing that doesn’t feel right in my body, where I know there are predictable, safe outcomes. And to me it suddenly wasn’t a choice anymore, it just seemed so obvious.”
But even this huge leap came with barriers. She was only being offered the “cute blonde” roles. But instead of letting this get her down, she leaned into her creativity and taught herself how to write.
If you’re a struggling actor, take a cue from Brit’s life. Do you have the tenacity to teach yourself how to write, so that you can write the roles you want to play? I encourage you to try it. There are heaps of helpful articles here on TII on how to write a screenplay, the tools are at your disposal, you just have to harness that passion and be tenacious about pursuing your dream.
Besides learning how to write, Brit also surrounds herself with other creatives, who could sharpen her art. After leaving her job to go make a 48 hour short film with her friends, Zal and Mike, she went on to make several feature films with them. All three worked together on the independent film Sound Of My Voice; Brit and Zal wrote it, Zal directed, Brit starred in it, and Mike did additional photography. Mike and Brit co-wrote Another Earth and while Brit starred in it, Mike directed the film. Then Zal and Brit teamed up again to write indie film The East, and collaborated again to create the Netflix Original The OA.
Brit calls the idea of a lone creative genius “a myth”, saying in an interview she couldn’t have had the success she’s having without a team of creatives around her. “Some of the most creative people I know, are […] working inside a collaboration.”
She calls it a testing ground to see whether or not the creativity and story are actually working and engaging the other person.
And as a creative, I can relate. When I meet with my writing group, I’m constantly bouncing ideas off my fellow storytellers. Wanting and hoping that the art I’m sharing will captivate them, and paying attention to the areas where it’s not working. If you, as an actor, don’t feel confident in trying your hand at writing, collaborate with a friend who has more skill in this area. Partner with them in writing a short film together. It’ll allow you to sharpen your creativity too, making you a stronger storyteller.
I’m fascinated by Brit Marling’s passion for creativity, art, and telling a good story. And I think more actors can learn a lot from her success. I for one am definitely taking her example to heart. I’m even toying around with a screenplay of my own. It’s terrifying, but with tenacity and a strong film community around me, I know it’s possible. Now it’s your turn, get out there, create and be tenacious in your art!