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  • Writer's pictureDustin Whitehead

A Shift in Film: The Rise of an Actor-Filmmaker

There is a shift happening in the television and film industry. It was happening before the pandemic somewhat, but the movie theaters closing for a year and a half really forced the change. The shift can be summarized by three exciting convergences. First, television shows are being released one season at a time rather than one episode a week. There isn’t one standard formula for this, studios are trying various models, everything from a four-part mini-series to a twenty-four-episode season. And films are going straight to streaming platforms, either on the same day that they go to the theater or skipping a theatrical release altogether. In addition, film and television are no longer primarily filmed in LA.

Dustin Whitehead on Set

Projects are being shot all over the United States. And perhaps the most exciting thing about the shift is the unique and genre-defying stories being told, most of them featuring and often created by an unknown (not famous) actor. This is where the industry and my journey overlap. I have branded myself as an “actor-filmmaker”, someone who is involved with the creation and execution of film and television projects both as a producer and an actor. This is an approach that would not have been possible in the early days of Hollywood, or even ten years ago, but is now celebrated by the film industry. This call for multifaceted actor-filmmakers is exciting to me. And I am answering the call both as an actor-filmmaker myself, and by training students as actor-filmmakers as well. The mission of Local Cinema Studios is “Advancing independent filmmaking by providing resources and guidance, bridging the gap from academia to industry, and cultivating innovative original work, in local communities.” This is a mission that I believe in, and I am very excited to be a part of. As Executive Director for LCS I am always looking for ways to shift the industry to be more inclusive and less hierarchical. I believe in opening the floor to the entire production team and truly listening. And if the team is too big for everyone to have a voice, then we need to build smaller teams. As a company so far, we have provided a lot of opportunities for students and recent graduates to get on set. And as we continue to expand and create more of these opportunities, I will be challenging myself to always look for new ways to approach this art form. Thinking of myself and my students as actor-filmmakers is one step towards what is possible for the industry in years to come. A younger me was nervous to give acting a shot. He was scared and self-conscious. He believed that talent is what brought success. He wondered if he had what it takes to be an actor. He was looking for shortcuts and road maps. He couldn’t connect the stories in his head to the opportunities to tell stories on stage and on screen. He was lost… If I could give some advice to that earlier version of myself, I would say the same thing I say to my students every semester. You are unique and your story is important. You need not reshape yourself for the industry. Instead, you should reshape the industry with the most honest and passionate version of yourself.

Read more about Dustin's journey here

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