Monday 14 January 2013

Independence Within Hollywood: The Actors Who Are Paving Their Own Way

Channing Tatum could, quite easily, hop happily from '21 Jump Street' to '21 Jump Street 2', without having to do much else. Yet he starred in the subtly brilliant 'Son of No-one', which hardly anyone saw. And he produced and starred in '10 Years', an independent film full of hugely talented actors.

'10 Years' is an important film to look at, because it stars some of the best acting talent in America. And they all did it for virtually no money, because they were longing to do something meaningful, where they get to play.

Ari Graynor is my favourite actress of the moment. She steals your attention in everything she's in. 'Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist' being the perfect example. She was heartbreaking in '10 Years', hilarious in 'Whip It' and frustratingly difficult in 'Celeste & Jesse Forever'. And then she did 'For a Good Time, Call'.

It's her best and biggest role yet. Her comedic and dramatic talent is undeniable. But how often does she get the chance to truly shine? Perhaps not enough, which is why she produced 'For A Good Time, Call'. Increasingly, actors on the periphery of Hollywood blockbusters are doing their own thing as a way of making memorable and personal films.

For all the hype surrounding Rashida Jones --she was universally praised for her role in 'The Social Network', for example-- it's still ridiculously hard for talented women like her to find truly great roles in Hollywood. So what did she do? She wrote 'Celeste & Jesse Forever'. It's a film about staying friends with your ex, and she penned it with a guy she once dated, ouch! (Will McCormack) That's what it takes to create a great movie. Go deeply personal!

The film is full of insight, openness and honesty, in a way that most big-budget movies lack. The difficult thing for the studio films, is that they need to cater to everybody, whereas a great indie only has to appeal to somebody. Not everyone will relate to Celeste & Jesse, but those who do will connect in a more thorough way than they would with a bigger movie because it has more genuine insight. That's why these small films are so important.

Back to '10 Years', because it really is a fascinating film to unravel. It was by a first time director, Jamie Linden, who was previously known as a writer. The film stars Kate Mara and Brian Geraghty, who were in 'We Are Marshall' (which Linden wrote), and Channing Tatum who was in 'Dear John' (also written by Linden).  This proves the most important rule in independent filmmaking, it's about who you know - who you can get to do favours. 

Which doesn't mean you have to be related to Steven Spielberg to make it in the film industry. It means that the relationships you build are crucial. When Jake Pushinsky edited 'A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints', he'd never edited a movie before. But the job he did was great. He went on to edit two more films that starred Tatum, 'Son Of No-One' and 'Fighting'. So when Tatum produced '10 Years', guess who he called on to edit? And is also stars Rosario Dawson, who was also in 'Saints'.

That's a huge part of why the film works. It was a huge collaboration, on a tiny-budget. Packed full of friends and colleagues amassed from projects prior. And that's kind of what the film is about too, everything that happened in the past and where everyone ended up since.

With the ever advancing technology and bigger appetites of Hollywood directors, we're always in danger of losing the subtle and small. That's why projects like '10 Years' are so refreshing. We get to see humans being human. Luckily, young actors like Justin Long and Aubrey Plaza prioritise the indie films, and because of this, their careers are building artistic longevity. They're not in it purely for the money, for the box office. They're doing work they care about.

It's a mistake that so many upcoming actors make. They think it's about rising to the top. And the top, of course, meaning big studio movies. But Ari Graynor did a no-budget short as recently as two years ago. It looks cheap, not all of it works, but it's creative! And she got to play an interesting role. I've met actors --unsuccessful ones-- who say "I'm done with short films. I don't work cheaply anymore". But Graynor did 'No Deal' for virtually nothing, and the entire cast of '10 Years' worked for scale, and it included the likes of Rosario Dawson and Max Minghella!

It's great to see some of the best Hollywood talent taking matters into their own hands, by producing personal works that they're proud of.  There are great independent films in America, you just have to look for them, and the people making them.

Care to share?


  1. Kid, I need your help. I'm a young filmmaker - 15, actually. Of course, the question of film school is popping up, within my own mind and my parents. My parents believe producers and studios won't give a filmmaker millions of dollars to produce a film if they don't believe he can do it. They say a film school degree will show them I know how to produce a film, how to make them money.

    What's the truth?

    Thank you for answering. It's a question that's been plaguing my mind for some time now. Cheers,


    1. Hey Alex, have responded fully here: - Good luck!