Category Archives: Process
Doug Richardson posted an interesting article on his blog this week called The Sex Factor. (If you haven’t read it, check it out, then come back here.) Now you may find it offensive, but he warns you of the content up front. I’m not condoning the behavior presented in the article, but I get it. And what the execs in the article are actually discussing is sales and marketing.
These are the decisions that fall on the business side of, well, this business. As writers (or actors) we aren’t always as tuned in to what this world entails. The fact that someone would use sex appeal as a decision-maker may not sound right (or be right), but it is a fact in a medium where people pay money to see attractive actors on the screen. Sex sells. It always has, it always will. But, it’s not the only thing that sells. And it’s not the only thing that goes into an executive’s decision-making.
Few of us have ever managed the multi-million dollar budgets or had our jobs on the line for the decisions we make with that amount of money. Just this week, Disney’s film chief, Rich Ross, resigned over the $200 million dollar loss on the John Carter film. The stakes are high when you are managing budgets and divisions in this realm.
What can we learn from Doug’s recounting in his post? Sales and marketability are key determining factors in the decision to buy, produce and hire in the film/TV industry. The judgements levied at actors over physical appeal may not be fair; but they exist, if for no other reason that when actors present themselves for casting, they are marketing their talent and their “physical presence” – in energy, looks, mannerisms, voice, and how they relate to other actors on screen.
Which brings us back to marketing. Emmy-award winning writer-producer Erik Bork posted on this topic today in Scriptmag in his article “Sending Queries to Literary Managers about a Screenplay.” This is well worth your time in reading. Erik reminds us that the industry is hungry – always has been and always will be – for marketable material.
Marketable material. That’s solid, saleable scripts and actors who can deliver and carry the weight and risk of hundreds of millions of dollars.
So I say before we all jump up and down in outrage at the “sex factor” – we might try to walk in the shoes of the executive responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of stockholders’ money.
And we should probably write well, too.
Screenwriters, when was the last time you really thought about the person who will act out your Story?
Have you considered the emotional, spiritual and mental aspects that will impact an actor who embodies a character you create? We can’t leave these people out of the equation when we’re writing, folks. We have to remember that, ultimately, we are writing for them.
And they are people. We need to see them as such.
To often we fall prey to seeing A-list actors through the alienating veil of “celebrity” and forget that they are human beings. We see them for what we stand to gain from having them attached to our work, and do not see them as creative professionals as human and vulnerable as we are. We forget that they are co-creators of our stories. It’s their skill, their creative spirit, their insight that brings our characters to life.
But it’s more than that.
We use words to write our Stories. An actor has to use his or her body, heart and spirit to physically and emotionally portray our words. We need to be mindful of what it is we are asking them to do and be as human beings, for our stories.
I write drama that involves difficult scenes of human suffering. Scenes that force me to get up from my chair and walk away because it touches me that deeply. Scenes that are tough on characters. Scenes I know will be tough on actors.
I write mindful of what it is I’m asking an actor to experience. I wonder about the spiritual toll it will take on their soul. I consider how acting out violence or suffering will change them. How embodying a character will affect their energy, their spirit, their feelings about life, their world, their loved ones.
You can argue that acting is make-believe. I don’t buy it. Acting, done well, goes deeper than that in the actor. There is a part of the actor that will always carry the character.
Don’t ever lose respect for actors.
Honor them as human beings when you script their work. Be mindful of them as human beings first, actors second.
Not only will it be beneficial for the actor, it will deepen your characters’ human qualities.
5 Ways to Respect Actors in Your Script
1. Be mindful of the human spirit no matter what genre you’re writing.
2. Consider how the Story will affect an actor’s heart, spirit and mind.
3. When writing scenes, put yourself in the actor’s (not the character’s) place. What do you feel?
4. Be aware of the physical toll your Story requires.
5. Give actor’s breathing room in the script. Chances are your characters need it, too.
It’s very easy in our social media-pressured world to feel that we must be present online in order to matter. Or sell. Or not be left behind. After all, everyone is online, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, instagraming, right? Community is good. For the human spirit. But is it good for creativity? Particularly, your project?
We live in a fast-paced world where information is passed quickly from one to another. This can be wonderful for promotion. But I don’t think it’s very helpful for actually getting work done. And by work, I mean art.
Creativity is largely a spiritual endeavor. Spirit requires quiet. Listening. Contemplation and receiving.You have to be able to hear it in your spirit before it will flow from you into your work. And if you are constantly distracted and pressured to be elsewhere (i.e. online), your work will suffer or simply, not get done.
What is the point of being an artist if you are not making art?
I fall silent in this blog space for extended periods because I need to be quiet. I need to focus on the work.
Don’t be afraid to be offline. Your work will not suffer for it. You will not be forgotten. In fact, it is in the silence that you may do your very best work. And then gift it to the rest of us when you’re done.
Do what you need to do to give your work the attention it needs.
The online world can wait.
When we create we are directly connected to Source energy. Pure, undiluted, deep remembrance of who we are. When you are in the flow, your spirit doesn’t recognize the constraints of time. It’s free, fluid, energizing. It empowers you.
Your body and mind, however, get tired.
So how do you sustain yourself during long stretches of work? When you can’t set a project aside for a few days, when you must show up on set, when the deadline looms?
Basic Tips to Keep You Going ( we’ll explore more in-depth ones below):
- Recognize and acknowledge that you will get tired. Don’t waste energy insisting that you’re not.
- Take breaks. But don’t work through your break! Do something different, even for a few minutes. The change will give relief.
- Eat. Your body needs energy. Healthy energy.
- Drink water.
- Walk away, close your eyes, breathe.
- Go into your spirit.
Advanced Tips to Deal with What’s Really Going On
All of this is essential to well-being. But when you’ve been in the business long enough, you probably find that you run out of energy around specific issues.
A tough emotional scene. A character who won’t tell you what you need to know. An area that you need to express but just can’t get quite right.
Your body, mind AND spirit wear thin…and you have to find a way to work through it, because other people are counting on you. No one else can help you out of it. Here are some things to consider:
- It’s spiritual and it has to do with you. Our work is part us, part other. When we stumble up against it, it’s usually about us. So look inside. Your spirit isn’t always ready to embrace what you ask of it in your work. You may have your own issues with what you need to do. Recognize that it’s okay and separate yourself from the work. You are part of the work, but the work is not you. The work flows through you. Make an agreement with your spirit to let it flow through you.
- If you’re having a tough time or something touches you deeply. Stop. Let it touch you. Sometimes our deepest work comes out of our own emotional reaction to what we are creating.
- Remind yourself why your work matters. You do know it matters, right? You wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t. Work has to be meaningful to you before it can matter to anyone else. Remember why you are an artist. Why this project matters. The good that you do.
- Breathe, meditate, pray. Ask Source for help. You’ll get it.
When You Need to Walk Away
You may come to your work from a place that is unfocused, something has disturbed you, you’re off-center. It’s not the work at all, it’s your life or some unkindness you have experienced. You may not even know what’s bothering you, but you just can’t get into the work.
If walking away from the work is possible, do it. Tend to your spirit first. Refind your center. You and your colleagues will be grateful that you did.
If you can’t walk away, then acknowledge where this energy is coming from. You’re a person first, an artist second. Tend to your spirit.
Trust the Tides – It May Not Be You at All
You may be in a position working alone in your studio or at your computer. You know you should work. But you just can’t get into it. This is where you need to trust the ebb and flow of creative tides. Sometimes it’s not about you at all. Sometimes the work needs you to wait. Sometimes a character’s not ready. Sometimes the Universe needs time to give you a different thought. Learn to trust your creative energy and what it needs from you.
I’ve had times where illness, an unexpected delay, or lack of motivation has produced creative ideas and thoughts that would never have happened if I hadn’t been sidelined. So pay attention and look underneath.
Energy is about connection and staying balanced with rest, play and downtime. Listen to your spirit.
When you set out to do something you’ve never done before (and even when you start a new project in a media that you have done before) this is the question that raises its head.
Can you do it?
Unfailingly, I stumble on this question on every project. Usually midway through. When the first draft is solid and ready for revision. When revision is half-done. When I think I’ve got it just right and then something in me says: not yet.
This question disguises itself as a murky “there’s no way in hell I can do this” sensation followed by “who do I think I am?”
Ahh. These questions may have once caused me to slip under the silky waters of doubt.
Now I know they’re just part of the process. They mean I’m getting close. Close to achieving it. Close to doing it and doing it well. They mean I’m stretching, growing, gaining strength. Does it matter that this question appears in every project, even when I’ve done something many times over? Not at all.
Feeling uncertain about your ability to achieve your dream is a crossroads. You stop, you look all ways, you decide. Because you’re the only one who can decide if you can do it.
And you can.
And you decide that you can, over and over again. You choose to believe in yourself. In the Universe. In the project. In all the beautiful synchronicities that brought this project to you and you to this project – and all the talent, emotion and soul that you posses to pour into it.
Yes, you believe that you can. Because you know what? You are the only one who can.
No one else will ever be you. No one else will ever create what you will.
No one else can.