Acting. Writing. Creating.

Written by Ben Hopkin

I’ve been acting since I was ten years old.  It was a part of my growing up, an integral slice of who I was and how I saw myself.  I lived for the smell of hot lights, stale costumes and pancake makeup.  So much of my definition of myself was influenced by my experiences onstage.

And then there was my reading.  It started young, with my parents (mostly my mom) reading to me at bedtime.  I have magnificent recollections of The King’s Stilts, Where the Wild Things Are, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and anything Seuss.  This nightly reading eventually led up to us going through every one of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia several times over.

Suffice it to say, my childhood was one of embracing imagination and the creative spirit…mostly.

One of my best friends, a writer, says that anyone that’s an avid reader is a closet writer.  I think she may be right.  While I was encouraged in my love of books, somewhere along the way I developed a fear of writing.  Writers were special.  Writers were godlike.  Writers were unapproachable.  The world that writers live in may seem like ours, but is actually a mystical place where words distill on the writer’s pen like the dews from heaven.

Somehow what I did as an actor was inferior.  Writers were creating.  I was just parroting them.  (Ouch, by the way.  I would never dream of speaking of another artist’s art in such a denigrating fashion.)  I didn’t see that what I was doing was a beautiful partnership, where the end result can be greater than the sum of its parts.

What I also didn’t see was how similar the two disciplines really are.

Writers are storytellers.  Actors are storytellers.  The writer’s medium is the page; the actor’s medium is the stage or screen.  Even the way that we engage our audiences is very similar, although we may use different terminology to describe it.  What a writer describes as keeping the tension present, I talk about as clarifying and intensifying the conflict.  I look for a character’s objective, while a writer crafts an arc.  As an actor, I take a beat, where a writer may turn a scene.

Same essential ideas, different ways of talking about them.  And at the core of it, what we’re talking about as writers, actors, and… let’s face it… any artist, is the act of connection.  As an actor, I connect to my partner onstage or in front of the camera, which allows me to be open to connecting with the audience.  As the writer, you connect with your characters, your world, your voice… which allows you to be open to connecting with the reader.

So, just for right now in this perfect moment, let’s not say to ourselves, “I’m not a(n)…”  Let’s instead embrace the possibility that we may have more than just one avenue of creativity open to us.  Better by far to say, “I’m not yet…” or “I could be…”

Because in an infinite universe, I want to believe in infinite potential.

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Ben Hopkin is the co-founder and Chief Creative Director of Off Our Meds Multimedia, LLC, which has a full slate of commercial, television and film projects. Ben started his career in entertainment at the age of 10, where he performed alongside his father in the opera Gianni Schicchi. Since then he has gone on to perform in theatre, television and film, often working with Tony and Emmy award-winning actors and directors. Ben is a graduate of the renowned Old Globe Theatre MFA program and was Director of the Acting Undergraduate and MFA programs at the New York Film Academy at Universal Studios for five years. As a director and producer, Ben has won awards for his work in television and his films have screened at festivals around the country. Some of his most recent projects include Too Many, which won in its category at the Cinema City International Film Festival, and Fraud Angels. Ben can also be found on Twitter as @ActingNoDrama, and teaches online acting classes to students around the world.

7 Responses to Acting. Writing. Creating.
  1. Boonies Chick
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    January 10, 2011 | 9:42 AM

    I sat here with my cup of coffee and got lost in the magic of this. You pulled me in from the first sentence and I wanted more, more, more.

    I was amazed to then hear that you saw yourself as inferior to writers. At the same time, I can totally relate! Whenever I watch an emotionally compelling (or funny) performance in a movie, I’m in awe. How do they do that? How does someone act? Where do they start? How do they make it feel so real?

    Your point about how our shared goal as creatives is to connect is eye-opening. And what better place to start than with the delightful discovery that we’re essentially doing the same thing? It’s hard to choose a favorite line, but I loved “Writers are storytellers. Actors are storytellers.” There’s a whole world in those two brief sentences.

  2. Lois
    January 10, 2011 | 2:24 PM

    I’ll never look at writing or acting the same way again. I loved your comparisons between the two. My favorite comparison was:

    As an actor, I connect to my partner onstage or in front of the camera, which allows me to be open to connecting with the audience. As the writer, you connect with your characters, your world, your voice… which allows you to be open to connecting with the reader.

    Sometimes I feel almost as if my characters are real, living, breathing people with an unbreakable connection to me.

    Thank you for sharing these words of inspiration!

    Lois

  3. Giulietta Nardone
    January 10, 2011 | 8:39 PM

    Hi Ben,

    Well, I adore the name of your company. What a worthy movement that would be!

    Love how you underscore the importance of connection. It’s why I write, to connect with myself and to others. I’ve done some acting too and really enjoyed it, especially when I so connected to the character that no one could see “me” in me.

    You see that with many beautiful actresses. You don’t see the character, you see them playing the character. I sometimes want to say, take a role where you don’t have to be beautiful and just go for it!

    It was a real turning point for Farrah Fawcett in The Burning Bed.

    The best thing to do is just muss yourself up and get into the character, almost shedding your physical facade.

    Great article

    Giulietta

  4. j
    January 11, 2011 | 12:02 PM

    Love this! It’s so easy for artists to feel daunted. We’ve chosen a hard (wonderful, amazing) road. I so needed to hear you remind me that the universe, and my potential is, in fact, infinite.

  5. Kelli
    January 11, 2011 | 3:32 PM

    Until I read this, I never stopped to think how much writers and actors have in common. You make a valid point, Ben. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  6. […] “Acting. Writing. Creating.” Ben Hopkin, guest blog on Fear of Writing: How a lifelong creative and accomplished actor overcame his fear of writing. […]

  7. ijezebelle
    January 17, 2012 | 11:11 AM

    ÿþF

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