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Brit Marling
I met this actress at Sundance by the name of Brit Marling and was very struck by her career path thus far. A graduate of Georgetown, she met two friends of her (and now frequent collaborators) at Georgetown -- Mike Cahill and Zal Batmanglij. They apparently worked together at Georgetown doing some shorts.
After graduation, Brit worked briefly as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs before deciding that wasn't for her and giving the entertainment industry a shot. Unfortunately, when she moved out to L.A., she realized that most of the roles for her type was something along the lines of, "girl in bikini running from monster" and set about to create some roles for herself by writing and then working with Mike and Zal to make them happen. I should note that she basically became self-taught -- mentioning that she read Robert McKee's "Story" but not having much else to go on.
At this year's Sundance, two of her films were at the festival -- "Sound of My Voice", a short directed by Batmanglij and "Another Earth", a feature directed by Cahill which was bought by Fox Searchlight. Brit co-wrote and stars in both of them. She's now a bright, rising star and was signed by UTA a few months ago.
As I flop around on the periphery of the entertainment industry, I really look at Brit's path as inspiration (and hopefully as some guidance.) When I first started acting, I quickly had some small wins -- I picked up a number of NYU and Columbia students films and then was selected as an apprentice for Williamstown. However, when I moved to L.A., even though I signed with an agent when I got here, it became apparent how quiet everything was. It was really hard to get auditions and just to get roles generally. Rather than wait around, I set about trying to make roles for myself (first by trying to produce them for myself but then realizing the best path was to write good roles for myself and then produce them.)
Obviously I've written a small amount (just my web series, "The Consultants") and have been working on additional forms as well -- sketches, shorts, and now a feature. I've also been reading the standard screenwriting books and also have myself a writing coach.
For me, though, what's really missing is I don't have the frequent collaborators that Brit has -- which I'm looking for. There's something difficult and imposing about trying to do things yourself. Producing "The Consultants" was frankly one of the most difficult things I've ever done -- and that's with the benefit of a ton of help from many folks involved in all aspects of the production. However, on an ongoing basis, it is difficult to get things going. Even having other people to work with, bounce ideas off of, and broadly be in a journey together where you're trying to get something done is mentally so important. I didn't realize this when I worked at Amazon and Google -- but the infrastructure of a company, the infrastructure of an office -- there's something very comforting and helpful when working within that environment.
Having a team that I work with on a regular basis to get projects done and then turning those opportunities into opportunities where I both get practice (acting and writing-wise) and exposure would be amazing. So I guess that's what I'm working towards right now. We'll see.