3 Benefits of Acting In Independent Film

Originally published on Backstage

A lot of actors and filmmakers shun independent film, especially when it’s a passion project and you’re getting paid in exposure. But there’s still a place for the independent film and there’s still a reason you should consider being involved in it — even the passion project.

1. Independent film gives actors more opportunity to have creative input

When I first dreamed of acting and working in film, I had no idea what kind of input I’d be able to achieve. But it’s opened creative doors I never even imagined for myself. For example, I never thought I’d be a producer or write the novelisation of a feature film, but working with The Initiative Production Company, I’ve done both and more.

Most independent films are all about collaboration, which means the director is often more interested in seeing what the actor brings to a character and even gives them opportunities for more creative control. 

For example in Netflix original show, The OA, director Zal Batmanglij wanted to give one young actor, Ian Alexander, the chance to create a wardrobe piece for their character. Ian used this opportunity to create a shirt with an easter egg so incredibly hard to see that even the director didn’t notice right away.

Other great independent feature films have been written by the cast. Ruby Sparks is a great example of this – staring Zoe Kazan, the actress also wrote the screenplay. She then went on to co-write Wildlife with fellow actor Paul Dano. Which leads perfectly into another awesome benefit in working in indie film …

2. Independent film gives you life-long friendships

I’ve worked in indie film for over ten years and continue to collaborate with the same core creatives. These guys have become more than just a creative community for me, but life-long friends. We’ve been in each others wedding parties, celebrated achievements and mourned together. We do life together. Which honestly makes it so much more fun to create new films and stories. 

The OA’s Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have collaborated on several projects. Brit even says her move from corporate life to a creative life was because of a few film friends who wanted to make a short together. She then went on to collaborate with these friends for several independent films and tv shows. 

3. Independent film gives you the chance for bigger roles

One of my favourite aspects of working in independent film, is when I get to give an aspiring actor a larger role to play. For example, one actress, I had the privilege of teaching, came back to work on one of my first feature films, The Umbrella. She was part of the main cast and it was a role an aspiring actor could only dream of, but thanks to indie film, she got the opportunity of a lifetime.

While major hollywood studios are trying to get the most popular actors in their next film, independent flicks are looking for fresh new faces to celebrate. We want the raw talent because we want to help push them up to that next level, to get them out there, and give them a chance to show the world how awesome they are. 

Which also means there are going to be more original characters for you to sink your teeth into, giving you incredible experience to tell unique stories. Even popular actors like Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe left the world of popular movies to do a stint in independent film, making movies like Swiss Army Man with Paul Dano, and What If with Zoe Kazan to give hollywood an idea of his versatility. This helped the world to see him as more than just Harry Potter.

The next time you see auditions for an indie film, give it a go. You never know how much it can bring to your life. And if this isn’t enough to sell you, consider the community of dreamers and creatives that will enthuse your passion with theirs – giving you more inspiration to keep creating awesome characters.

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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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