<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Helenna. We met on twitter not too long ao, and she’s totes mcgotes one rad chiquita banana with a flare for all things flair! That’s right, Helenna here is what we call an artsy fartsy nerd. She’s a poet, into all things dramatic arts, and she’s going to come on board to write each week about her love of said drama. Well not like actual drama drama, like some cat fight shit – but you get the idea.
I only have one thing left to say … HIT IT HELENNA!!! </editorsnote>
Recently a number of people have been asking me what my next producing project is going to be. My simplest answer?
After having spent the last few years as what my friend Bonnie Gillespie (casting director/author) would call a “self producing actor,” I’ve churned out a heck of a lot of content. From my web series pilot The Day Player back in 2009 to 98 episodes of my vlog “Helenna’s Tinseltown Tuesdays,” to my latest online project the animated comedy series “Girl and Boy,” I’ve spent a lot of time and energy creating projects. While none of them really “took off,” that was never my goal. While some of the projects I produced were purely for the love of creating, some of them were solely a means to an end. The goal for me was never to create a hit online series, it was always to use the projects I produced as a spring board.
Since graduating theater school I have always been focused on being a working actor. Ultimately, a series regular whose hiatus from her show is spent on film sets each summer.
The reality is that this type of goal can take many many many years to accomplish, and for the majority of people it’s not a goal that will ever be attained. Consistent financial success in this industry has so much to do with other people’s free will and the “Entertainment Gods” aka) fate. You can be the most incredible actor that has ever lived but never catch a break or “get arrested” as Hollywood folk say. This very reason is why so many actors, myself included, turn to producing their own projects. It’s a way for us to take control over our careers while also allowing us to mold how we are seen by the decision makers and higher ups.
When I produced the 2 part web series pilot “The Day Player,” I had very specific goals in mind. I knew that I wanted to showcase myself as a comedic actor. I also knew that I wanted to get the project in front of people in “traditional Hollywood” so that I could open doors that had previously been closed to me. This is something that I talk a lot about on the Geek Girls Create panel that I sit on; specifically that so far, producing for me has been a means to an end, and a successful one at that. After all, it’s because I produced The Day Player that Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg were introduced to my work as an actor and planted the seed of what ultimately lead to me being able to audition for “American Reunion” and then book it.
For me, this is a definite measure of “self producing” success. But this being said, I’ve made the decision to fly without my “self producing actor safety net” for the rest of 2012. I say “safety net” because I’ve kept myself busy for a few years doing everything I could not waiting for the phone to ring. As an actor in LA, I firmly believe that this is one of the best things you can do so that you don’t feel like you are being eaten alive by this industry. It helped me feel a great sense of control in an extremely fickle business.
Over the past few years I’ve also spent huge amounts of time absorbing information about new media and learning everything I could. One of the biggest things I’ve learned? Researching and implementing social media strategies is a full time job. Producing content is like, 6 different people’s full time jobs. And while this definitely kept me busy and feeling like I was feeding my creative self, it took me further away from the reason I moved to LA to begin with and made me feel like my brain was going to explode. Is there a lot more that I could do to open even more doors as a “self producing actor?” Absolutely. But, I was spending so much time creating that I was overloading myself so much that ironically, my creative self was starting to burn out. Being a burned out creative does not really support being a strong actor.
In addition to the exploding brain factor, all of the projects I’ve produced including the musical series Songs From, The Ex-Convict’s Guide, my vlog, Girl and Boy etc… were projects I did because I loved the content and I loved producing, but I’ve recently realized that with the majority of these projects I was making lateral moves instead of upwards steps.
I love producing and it is something that I will absolutely be coming back to especially since my husband and I share a production company, but I have decided that I’m shifting focus. The rest of 2012 is devoted solely towards upward steps in my career path; specifically, to Helenna the Actor.
So, what does this mean?
I am now declaring my remainder of 2012 as the year of “Project Helenna.”
tweet me at: @helslevy
browse me at: helennasantoslevy.com
email me at: [email protected]