I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at directing and during the pandemic I took an online course. My agent has advised me that if I become known as a director then I’ll never be taken seriously as an actor – are they right? Should I focus on just one thing?
Imagine Michaela Coel had been given that advice – we’d never have had I May Destroy You. If Phoebe Waller-Bridge had stayed in her lane we’d never have had Fleabag.
I recently saw Billy Porter, star of Pose and Kinky Boots talking about his career and he said “I diversified my portfolio so I could eat” and I loved that. This career is a hustle, isn’t it? You’re always pitching yourself and your talent. The industry runs on talent, it is the engine that keeps us all going. So why wouldn’t you, as a creative, want to use all your talent and live a fulfilled creative life? Of course you do! You must explore your creativity to its fullest extent. Creativity is a gift and if you don’t use it you’ll lose it.
If I look back on my career in this industry I have never been in the same place for long. Where I am today is vastly different to where I was five years ago. Five years ago I was in a different place to five years before that. I have always followed my intuition and moved with that. It has taken me to unexpected places. I have learned interesting new skills. I may have felt unsettled but I have never felt stuck. I’ve always been happy to try my hand at something new. Doing something different can enrich your acting by giving you a wide range of experiences to draw upon. Personally I think it can be really beneficial to your metal health too. Look at acting as just one of many creative pursuits you enjoy. We can sometimes make ‘being an actor’ really, really matter to us and it can be consuming and obsessive. Having another creative skill can help you step back and see ‘being an actor’ in a different light.
Trying something new can be invigorating and that can be very scary. However, I think if you look around you will see thousands of examples of actors who all have other strings to their bow. All the evidence suggests that you can be both a director and an actor.
The last eighteen months alone should have taught us that we must be flexible and adaptable and willing to try new media and new ways of telling stories.
All actors are storytellers. All directors are storytellers. Whether you are choosing to tell a story as a director or an actor or a singer or a writer or a choreographer or a painter or a photographer or a dancer or some mix of all of these (and more), I think that if you are working in the service of the story you deserve to be taken seriously.
I think it’s a rare actor who wants to be ‘just’ an actor. Most actors I speak to have big ideas about their careers. There’s a huge, exciting industry out there and they want to be part of it. It’s exciting that they see opportunity everywhere. They’re creating a buzz about themselves and that’s attracting people’s attention.
Learn what works for you, Amy. I think that leaning in to do more of the creative work that makes you happy is never going to be a bad idea. Make this your journey. Grab that microphone and belt it proudly, “I did it my way!”
Stay connected. Stay creative.
Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]