Creating Your Own Content
Writer's strike? Use the time to develop your own projects.
The film/TV industry is slow. S.L.O.W. Pretty much a standstill. At least in the union world, it is. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is striking for some very good reasons. Streaming services are at the center of the dispute. The guild says that even as series budgets have increased, writers' share of that money has consistently shrunk. Writers are not being paid commensurate with their experience, and many are looking at their full-time employment being replaced with a freelancer "gig" model. WGA members are fighting for better pay, streaming residuals, mandatory staffing, employment duration, and AI technology safeguards.
The result? Every project that employs professional writers is coming to a screeching halt. And it looks like it'll remain so for some time, as negotiations don't seem to be progressing too rapidly. As a result, many in the industry, like the actors who get most of their work from these projects, are turning to their side "safety" jobs (often in the service industry) to pay their bills until the strike is resolved.
Those of us who are non-union or Fi-Core have it a bit easier. Non-union projects are not as affected by the strike. Nor are most voice over jobs. For those of us who work both on camera and behind the mic, that gives us more time to pursue voice over opportunities in the non-union world, like non-broadcast corporate narration, explainers, and eLearning.
But this time is also ideal for keeping our on camera skills sharp with classes and our own projects. Film actors are always encouraged to write, direct, produce, and even star in their own productions to broaden their experience and garner greater notice. And often these short and feature-length films do well in film festivals, bringing accolades and media attention to the actors and filmmakers.
I've decided to take this film-making on a different route, especially since as a voice actor, I'm acutely aware of the advantages of marketing through social media. Extra points when the marketing vehicle offers entertainment or educational value. Translation:
YouTube videos and, in particular, YouTube shorts.
Short videos are, well, SHORT and simple enough for just one person to do on her own (which, truthfully, are about all I can handle!). Plus, they're fun to make, which - hopefully! - means that they're also enjoyable to watch.
Long before the strike, I made a series of YouTube videos, each several minutes long, called "On Camera Tips for Busy Execs." The idea: use both my corporate sales experience and acting training to help business professionals and entrepreneurs become more comfortable and charismatic on camera themselves. After all, video IS king when it comes to content marketing. Maybe you've noticed that videos seem to be EVERYWHERE. Business folks are finding that they're appearing more on camera than ever before, in corporate videos, Zoom calls and presentations, panel discussions, and one-on-one interviews.
Working on the series got my creative juices flowing and sparked ideas for several other short video series that I'm now pursuing. Then, when Google announced that it was going to include YouTube shorts in their general search criteria, it made sense to give these new series a shorts format: each under a minute long and shot vertically (in portrait mode on my iPhone) to ease viewing on mobile devices.
Take ownership of your creativity. When work dries up, make your own!
And use it to showcase your talent and skills.
On Camera Confidence
After creating the "On Camera Tips" video series, I saw an opportunity to repurpose much of the same information, but in a shorter, more easily accessible format.
Voila! Instead of one 2-5 minute video on a topic with multiple points, such as how to get over your fear of being on camera in the first place (a biggie for most people!), I began creating shorts of 60 seconds or less that deal with different aspects of that fear and how to handle each one.
The advantages? Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and quick sound bites are easier for people to watch and absorb. Plus, the vertical format makes it easier to watch on mobile devices. Each video is captioned, too, just like in the original series, but with larger and more dynamic captioning that reminds viewers of Instagram or TikTok videos. These are not clips from the original video, but brand new videos. It's a different way of repurposing existing content, rather than just presenting re-runs that subscribers may recognize and therefore bypass.
This series is all about having fun. I have a wry, dry, and occasional dark sense of humor, which has been acutely developed since becoming a mom. A coincidence? I think not.
For two years, I've been collecting all the funny witticisms I've come across in gift shops while on vacation. Quips that are printed on cocktail napkins, towels, notecards, postcards, and wall signs. I've long thought about putting them in teeny, tiny short videos ... and now's the time.
I call the series MOMisms, and it's made up of all the things that moms think, say, or do when they believe their kids aren't paying attention. Or are too fried to care.
Each is only one or two sentences. They're quips, observations, and downright funny sayings that ring true and may even be things you actually heard your mom say out loud. And I act them out, with appropriate background scenery, to give them context as very short stories. How short? Under 15 seconds long. Just enough to give people a little laugh as they go through their day.
So what should be the subject of your own projects? Draw on your experience, interests, and passions.
Actors Over 50
Being an, ahem, older actor has its challenges ... and its advantages. Especially in the on camera world where, unlike in voice over, how we look largely determines the roles that we play. Our appearance is as much of our brand or type as our personality and acting style.
You'd be surprised to learn how many people take up acting careers later in life. I'm not talking about the occasional participation in the local community theater or appearing as a background character (an "extra") on screen. I'm referring to serious training that leads to professional representation and speaking roles in film, TV, commercials, industrials, and print. I've met attorneys, professors, medical professionals, and business people like myself who are pursuing acting full-time, as a side career, or in retirement.
Not surprisingly, there are questions and concerns that we older actors have that our younger colleagues may not share, such as:
Is there much casting for older roles? And if so, are we limited to mom and dad roles?
Should I or should I not try to look younger? What about using hair dye, Botox, or fillers?
Why in the world would they want me, at this age, to do a nude scene?!
Advice for your own projects
So what should be the subject of your own projects?
Draw on your experience, interests, and passions.
There are millions of people out there who are interested in all sorts of things. And many of them are surfing YouTube looking for ideas, examples of expertise, and tips to help them improve their own skills. Ask yourself: do I have something to offer that others could find useful, supportive, or just downright entertaining? The answer is probably yes. And hopefully, it's something legal that won't get you into trouble.
Assuming that you and your subject matter are on the up and up ... go for it! Bring your own personality and quirks into the mix. Share your unique perspective on life, work, or play.
Post consistently, whatever that means to you.
Consistency is important when it comes to getting noticed and growing a following. My schedule is one video in each series per week, for a total of three videos weekly. It may sounds like a lot, but it really isn't, especially since each video is so short and to the point. Once a week is a pretty good rule of thumb.
Batch the making of your videos, when you can.
When I have a block of time, I jot down my ideas, consider how I want to present them, and then tape several at one time. I usually edit them later, again as a batch, and then schedule them to be published on YouTube and posted on social media accordingly.
You'll feel a sense of accomplishment once you have the raw material recorded, again after they've been edited, and finally after they've been scheduled. Bonus good vibes when they begin to receive likes, subscribes, ad positive comments.
Keep it simple!
One idea per short is usually enough. Remember that short videos are not meant to be fancy. People actually prefer authenticity and a "real person" vibe over an obviously-tried-too-hard or snazzy professional production. (Longer form videos are another subject entirely.)
Keep the editing minimal, too. Clip the video so that the speaker or action begins immediately upon play and ends right after your message is done; don't leave any "dead" space when nothing is happening or you may lose your following. In this day and age, attention spans are extremely brief and if viewers aren't being engaged or entertained ... they're gone.
Laura's Quick Tips
Not enough work out there to float your boat? Make your own waves by create something yourself.
Producing your own content will keep your skills sharp and your creativity flowing.
The more you do, the easier it becomes. (Just like anything.)
If you're making short videos, don't overthink it. No fancy production necessary, just good content.
Have fun! Or what's the point?!
So, whaddya think? Want to try making your own content? If you'd rather just watch others' instead ... well, hop on over to my YouTube channel and take a look around. Of course, I'd love to have you as a new subscriber. It's kinda mandatory these days to say that, and people are tired of being told to "like and subscribe!" but it does encourage the creator to keep on creating.
Instead, I'll say: I have fun making these YouTube shorts and I hope you enjoy them, too. Let me know what you think. Seriously! Feedback is cherished. And, of course, if there's any particular topic or question you'd like to see addressed, let me know that, too.
Are you new to YouTube or just curious what a channel with multiple playlists looks like? Here's my channel as an example. And if you'd like to subscribe to be notified of each new video, you can do so here >. See? I couldn't help myself. I think the YouTube creator experience rewires your brain so you have to say that....