Savannah Betts, Actress, Writer, Producer & Musician
This week we’re introducing Savannah Betts, an actress based in Bristol, UK. Savannah is German-South African born and raised predominantly in Hong Kong, with a 6 year stint in Germany. After a damaging experience at drama school in Georgia she graduated from Northumbria University with a 1st Honours B.A. in Performance and is now a freelance performer. She currently works as a waitress to make ends meet whilst juggling her own creative projects such as producing and acting in short films, performing on stage and writing her own plays/screenplays.
In 1 sentence, what is the purpose of the work you do?
The purpose of my work is for me to express myself, to allow myself to be the only way I know how, and to help me make sense of the world around me with the hopes that people find similarities and comfort in the work I produce.
What book, film, YouTube video, radio program or podcast has most inspired you recently and how?
The 98% is a podcast made about, by, and for actors. It’s my actors therapy that helps me navigate my way through this complicated industry. It brings me comfort, makes me laugh, and inspires me to work harder.
When you feel a resistance to work or a bit down/tired, what helps you to renew your focus?
Resting. Rest has become so important to me now, and I value it just as much as I value working hard. I am someone who has perfected the art of pushing myself to my limits, and even sometimes breaking points. I’ve had to teach myself how to restrain myself, hold back, and remember that recharging, switching off, and resting is equally as important. If I’m down, tired or there is any resistance, I go do something else for an hour, a day, or a week (deadline depending). Because switching focus and changing perspective can be so refreshing and nourishing for my work, that when I come back to it I can approach it from a new angle.
Who do you go to for advice or to help you talk over your business/creative plans and ideas?
Friends, like minded people and fellow artists. I’ll soundboard most my ideas on anyone who will listen to be honest. I think you can often find out whether or not something will work quite well by mentioning it to a lot of different people and gauging their response. That’s not to say I make work based on other people’s opinions of it necessarily, but the responses can be informative to me as to how well I have actually thought out my idea, and how much more work/planning is left to do.
As a freelancer what do you struggle with the most and how do you manage that?
I massively struggle with making money and my ‘resting jobs’. I go through a cycle where I’m happy to work a basic bar job that pays my bills and work is easy, and then suddenly I am restless, unhappy with where I work and I feel stuck. It happens often, and I feel so torn between needing to pay my bills to live and making money to fund my acting career, as well as then working too much and not having enough time to invest in the career I actually want to pursue for the rest of my life.
It’s a constant struggle that I don’t have an answer as to how to manage it. But I keep trying. I shift things here and there, change jobs every 6+ plus months if I need to, and just try to look after myself as best as I can.
What is your greatest joy about the work you do?
Everything. I just love it. Creating something from nothing, or being a part of a project that has started as a concept and bringing it to life with like-minded individuals just as passionate as you are is just electrifying. I love it from start to finish.
Being able to do what you love for a living sometimes is so surreal that it just feels like a dream. And it motivates me so much. Getting even the smallest taste for it sometimes just fuels me for months. Knowing there’s a possibility to make a solid living by doing what I love, rather than doing something to just survive is enough to keep me going and push me forward.
If money were no obstacle and you could invest as much as you need into your business, what’s the biggest dream you have for your project?
For my stage production of Ohra, if money was no option, I would ensure that it was an international success touring throughout the UK and the USA. Sally and I would be able to jet set between Bristol and Chicago to workshop our ideas with different organisations like Mind or SupportLine, etc. It would have a West End production location, everyone would be paid well, we’d have an extensive R&D period, we’d have the most incredible set and team to work with, and we would be able to take it to numerous festivals, including Edinburgh, and market the hell out of it.
Can you tell us 3 main values that you live your life by and that inform how you work?
1) My feminism is a huge value that influences my life and how I shape my work. For instance, my web series, which is all about female friendship and putting parts of that relationship in the forefront that aren’t normally portrayed in everyday television, is also equipped with a predominantly female production team.
2) Self-Care. Maintaining and monitoring my mental health at all times, and under no circumstances putting myself at risk. My happiness and well being are far more important than making money.
3) I have a No Bullshit Policy. Communicating well and being punctual are the main things here. My biggest pet peeve is people who are late, and people who don’t communicate with me. Being able to rely on people is really important to me.
What kind of positive change are you aiming to make in the world through the work you do?
I think that’s a really big question, and the expectancy of that makes me feel quite anxious and overwhelmed to be honest. I don’t know if what I do is going to change the world in any profound way necessarily. As long as people can identify in/with my work in any small way to help find themselves, or understand themselves then that’s good enough for me. I’m looking to give comfort to those who feel not heard or inconsolable.
What does the word “creativity” mean to you?
To me it means, being you, expressing yourself, and sharing yourself with the rest of the world. Creativity is a way of people showing us who they are, that they are empathetic, that they have stories, that they too have pain or happiness or confusion. It’s a fun and enriching way of sharing parts of ourselves with other people that can help us find peace or identify with complete strangers across countries, cultures, language, age, experience, and class systems. It’s the freedom and permission to be your true self and share it with the world.
Do you have any lessons to share that you’ve learnt about being a freelancer / creative / small business owner that might help someone thinking of pursuing their own project?
I’m still learning a lot along the way, but my biggest advice would be to believe in yourself, and if there is something you want to try, just do it. If you don’t believe in yourself or your project, people around you won’t either.
You’re amazing. You have to give yourself permission to be amazing. And just start the thing. Starting something is always the hardest and scariest part, but if you really want to make it, there is absolutely no reason you can’t.
It doesn’t have to be incredible, and the first thing you ever do will probably be a bit shit, but you will learn so much from it and the next will be better, and so on and so forth. Just keep going.
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