Periodically, we ask Pressbooks authors to share writing tips and inspiration. This week’s insights come from Catrine McGregor, a film and TV industry veteran and author of Acting Across America.
By Catrine McGregor
In 1999, I wrote a book called Acting Across America.
I am a film maker and screenwriter, so I have written most of my life, but I have never been a starry-eyed writer who had the next Great Gatsby in me. I never felt that indelible urge to have my novel read in every English class.
As a pragmatist, I wrote Acting Across America because of a void that needed to be filled in the niche market of ‘breaking into acting.’ By 1998, I had cast hundreds of movies, TV shows, IMAX movies, commercials and interactive video games all over the country. By default, I had learned all of the ins and outs of being cast, the trials and tribulations of getting legitimate representation, finding the right teachers with whom to train. I knew the answers and the public knew I had the answers. I was approached by aspiring actors everywhere I went. I didn’t want to leave someone hanging when they asked me, with stars in their eyes, how to become a successful actor, but I had nothing to refer them to. Answering that question while waiting for change at a deli is akin to answering the question ”How do I become President?”
So I sat down to write a book.
“They” say to write about what you know. I had that covered, but now my challenge was to condense the breadth of what I know about breaking into acting into a book that would provide relevant information in an interesting way.
I put on music that inspired me, I committed to sitting at my computer for several hours a day, and I gave myself a deadline. There were days when my writing literally started with blah, blah, blah. I had committed to writing, and by God, I was writing. As my fingers typed out those four letters over and over again, my mind got into a rhythm and it was never long before I was writing something coherent–then coherent and actually good. Many times, it felt like the writing was being channeled by the great Storyteller in the sky.
I started, as most non-fiction writers do, with a Table of Contents. I drew from all of those questions that aspiring actors had asked me for years and I consolidated them into an intelligent flow of knowledge. I kept a notebook with me at all times, and would stop in the middle of a grocery store to jot down something that I absolutely had to share, or a story that that fleshed out a point in a human way. The notes helped me fulfill my commitment to sharing relevant information, and the stories helped me fulfill my commitment to keeping the information interesting.
To further the quest for a fun non-fiction book chock-full of facts, I found an amazing young cartoonist who supplemented my stories with quirky cartoon characters who lightened up sometimes dry, but always important guidance.
I tell actors that if there is anything they would rather do than act, do that! Acting is a hard road to pursue, full of joy and tears, kudos and rejection. It takes a great passion to stay on the path to “success.” I put the word “success” in quotation marks, because only you can define your success. That message carries on to you, the writer. If you have a passion for writing, do so. And don’t let anyone but you define your success. Some of you will not be satisfied until you are on top of a Best Seller list, and others among you will be perfectly content journaling.
You define your happiness and success in every aspect of your life. Go be a successful writer.
Catrine McGregor is a long-time veteran of the film and TV industry, and has cast and produced over 400 projects. She has a passion for aspiring actors of all types, and is the founder of ReelGuru.com, a resource website and online magazine for actors. She is also the CEO of CatMac Entertainment, LLC.