Brianne Hogan with Creative Screenwriting sat down with Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell to discuss their project, Claire in Motion, as well as how directors can learn from their actors, and their writing process.
Amazon’s new show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has been a huge hit this season. The show created by Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman – Palladino picked up two Golden Globes at the 2018 ceremony: one for Best Musical or Comedy Series and a second for its leading lady, Rachel Brosnahan, for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series. So we weren’t alone, or crazy for that matter, for falling head over heels for this show. Go watch it. It really is marvelous.
I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t watched it yet. But the show is about a woman in 1950s New York who begins pursuing a career in stand up comedy after her picture-perfect life gets turned upside down. I found that Mrs. Maisel’s story has some valuable lessons for anyone trying to pursue their dreams, especially in a creative field.
Sometimes life takes unexpected turns when every plan you ever made falls apart. Sometimes you realize what your dreams are later in life or that you should chase that fantasy you thought was only a pipe dream. Sometimes, your eyes are opened to a gift you never realized you had. It’s okay when that happens. Go for it. Will it be difficult? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yep. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
The fear of failure is a fear worth confronting. Will you experience failures? ABSOLUTELY. Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will you hear the word “No”? Yes. Lots of people, powerful and influential people, will tell you no. Sometimes the material you come up with just doesn’t work. Sometimes you don’t like the material you created. Fear of failure of a very legitimate fear and it can cripple you. But it can also empower and strengthen you. Failure and mistakes are how you learn. You also have to acknowledge the fact that you failed. Think about a diamond. It’s a rock, a hunk of carbon to be exact. It’s made of the same stuff as the graphite in your pencils. (See the connection?) Diamonds are not only one of the most beautiful gems, they are also one of the strongest. But what did that hunk of carbon experience that separates it from the pencil graphite? It’s experienced more heat and more pressure for a longer period of time. So the next time you mess something up, get rejected, totally bomb, or something doesn’t happen in the time frame that you think it should happen, (looking at you fellow 29 and 30 – year olds) Remember that you are a diamond undergoing the necessary heat, pressure, and time and you are one step closer to becoming that drop-dead gorgeous diamond. You will get there. Now go get your pencil graphite and make something 🙂
Plan and prepare. Spontaneity is great, but preparation is greater. A lot of people who are not me are great improvisers. They can come up with material on the fly. It seems that some people have this coveted superpower of the creative gods and others don’t. Some people can whip up Shakespearean levels of perfection in seconds. It’s infuriating. But is it really that spontaneous? Nope. Creatives spend lots of time creating, bombing, and creating some more until their work shines like diamonds. Spontaneity is great. It can make your work feel exciting as your creative energy bursts. But sometimes, like a secretary on a pre-QWERTY typewriter, the gears can jam. You can get stuck and flop on your face, or your butt, or both. You need to plan and prepare your material. It may be difficult to do at first. I struggle with prep work myself. My head refuses to produce anything until the last possible moment. But the more you prepare and organize your thoughts and outline your plans, the more it will benefit your work. This is much easier said than done. Preparation leads to better work. Better work leads to boosted confidence. Boosted confidence leads to more opportunities. Having more opportunities leads to success. This is the “pressure” piece of the diamond-making equation.
Be your truest self and go with your gut. This sounds cliché, but it’s true. Lots of well-intentioned people will give you lots of well-intentioned advice on how to pursue your work. They will give you lots of do’s a don’ts. At the end of the day, the work is yours. You have a unique voice that deserves to be heard. Like the Miles Davis quote goes, “you have to play a lot of other people’s stuff before you start sounding like yourself”. You will have to learn the craft, the business of the craft, and what material already exists as you begin creating your own. Take notes of your life’s experiences. Carry a notebook so you can do so. But by being your truest self, you ultimately become your best self and can carve out your place in the creative world by showcasing your unique perspective. If you study notable people’s careers, you will notice this pattern. This is the “time” piece of the diamond-making equation.
Not everyone will understand what you’re doing.Go for it anyway. Especially if your heart, your head, and your gut are all in the same place. Some people will tear you down, insult you, laugh at you and your ideas, and constantly demand justification as to why you’re pursuing the career you’re pursuing and it often comes from the people closest to you. You will want to quit and, for a period of time, you just might. Please keep going. Keep working. Channel your inner Dory and just keep swimming. Use the things that excite you, make you curious, or make you furious. Those aspects of you are what make your worldview unique and worthy of sharing. One now-famous example is when Lin-Manuel Miranda first introduced his early Hamilton material at a White House event (a poetry slam hosted by the Obamas, I believe). He began with saying something to the effect of “this is about someone who embodies hip-hop: Alexander Hamilton.” The audience literally laughed at him. Just shy of a decade later, he’s gotten the last laugh as that material from the poetry slam has grown into a Broadway smash hit. Excellent proof of what you can accomplish if you just keep working at what you are genuinely passionate about. It will feel like you are the only person in your corner; it’s because you are. You will have to be the only person standing in your corner to prove to others that your corner is worth standing in. This is the “heat” piece of the diamond-making equation.
Contrary to popular belief the creative life is not for the faint of heart. It takes a tremendous amount of work, mistakes, determination, and vulnerability to find your voice and learn how to use it. You are capable of becoming a diamond, but you will have to endure the heat, the pressure, and the time. Keep going and you will get there.
Lauren Sapala with Screenwriting U Magazine discusses the importance of taking a creative risk. She includes an activity that writers can use to help them overcome fears and anxieties about the possible outcome of their work. Once you can overcome those, then the magic can happen 🙂
If you grew up in the United States, there’s no way you made it out of high school without reading one of Jane Yolen’s books. If you teach young children, there’s no way you’ve never seen her name on a book cover. The prolific writer offers advice, encouragement, and motivation to just WRITE THE DAMN BOOK! Happy writing, friends.
When most people think of Jim Carrey, they think of actor known for his goofy, zany roles such as Dr. Seuss’s Grinch or Ace Ventura. Well, the actor recently released a mini documentary on Vimeo that revealed a completely different side of himself and an astonishingly amazing talent: painting. The video went viral as people were amazed and surprised at the hidden artistic talent and the pearls of wisdom that he shared.
What I admired about this was not only the incredible artistic talent, but the ability of Mr. Carrey to channel whatever emotions or experiences he had – sometimes dark and painful – into something bright, beautiful, and worth sharing. Internal battles are the hardest to fight and I’m so happy that he was able to find that healthy outlet in something that created the good kind of surprise in the world, the kind of surprise that makes people smile and say “have you seen this!?” as they can’t wait to share it with the world because it is just so darn amazing.
I guess the takeaway from this is that writers can do the same thing. Use the pain, love, joy, heartache, elation, whatever, and use it to create something that the world can’t help but notice and share.
Mr. Carrey, I sincerely hope brighter days are ahead for you right now. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible talent with the world and showing people that it CAN be done. You can take whatever darkness you see, hear, and feel in the world and turn it into light. Keep shining, sir. The world appreciates your light.
I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been running this blog page for Hollins University for a year now and I have yet to properly introduce myself. Where are my manners? Allow me to ameliorate this.
Name: Amanda Hobbs
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia, USA
How long at Hollins?I’ve been a graduate student in the summer graduate screenwriting & film studies program since 2015.
What made you chose this profession?Long story short, this place feels like the right place. This industry has given me more chances than others. I believe in following the yes’s. So this is where it’s lead me.
Favorite films/directors/writers/scores/composers/costume designers? Favorite films: Chicago, A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, just about any Disney film, The Princess Bride, Invictus, Long Strange Trip, Midnight in Paris, The Dark Knight, Charlie Wilson’s War, Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen… Directors: Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, Susanna Bier… Writers: Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino… Composers: Michael Giacchino, John Williams … Costume Designers: Colleen Atwood, Alexandra Byrne, Jenny Beavan
Goals for this blog:To reach as many people as possible and be a valuable tool for as many people as possible. I strive to include articles about multiple aspects such as filmmaking and production, the atmosphere and culture of the industry, women and minorities in the industry, and perspectives from the actor’s or director’s points of view. I seek out multiple – if seemingly unusual – sources for inspiration, creativity, and anything else I think could be of value to anyone working or hoping to work in the film industry. Since this page is sponsored by an actual living, breathing university, I also like to showcase the work of our students and professors in hopes that you will come spend time with us so you can become better at your craft and become a part of this incredible family of creatives and artists.
What genres do you like to write? Is there another genre or aspect of the industry you’d like to explore more? I’ll admit my brain tends to go into a Hallmark/Lifetime kind of place. But, I do have an incredible fascination with history. It’s really not as boring as people think. History is all about people and their stories. As far as the film industry goes, I want to learn about anything and everything I can get my hands on: writing, directing, acting, film scoring, or costume design. My skill set, however, is an entirely different discussion – ha ha. Anything can be learned if you’re willing to be a student.
Where do you find inspiration? History and real life stories fascinate me. I also find myself gravitating towards stories about women. Women have stories just as rich and compelling as anyone else. I’m not the sort to condone or resort to man-bashing; I think it’s neither necessary nor appropriate and contradicts the goals of gender equality. I just think women deserve to have the credit for their contributions, respect for the abilities of their brains, and deserve to have their stories shared and celebrated.
Tricks for sustaining/maintaining creativity? How do you fight creativity blocks? When I write, I like to lock myself in room with a big window, stick my earbuds in and listen to classical music (which is also not as boring as people think). The Beethoven station on Pandora does the trick for me. It’s nice to have something in your ear that will block out the outside world for a bit while also stimulating your brain enough to keep your attention. Whenever I find myself struggling to write, I realize that it’s time to take a break. The brain needs some rest. So I’ll find something else to do like go for a walk – fresh air does wonders, find a craft to do, read a book, or exercise. I like to think of it this way: when you hit a block, the creative fuel tank is empty. So in order to keep going, you need to refuel. I find it enormously helpful to go find something else to do because staring at a blank page all weekend accomplishes nothing. Go socialize, enjoy a meal with people, have conversations… I’m an introvert and I’m saying this. Yes, private time is important. But humans are social creatures and require interaction with other humans for a multitude of reasons. That’s neither an accident nor a fluke. Also, pick a writing time and defend it like mad – this is something I struggle with immensely.
Fun facts/favorites/interests/hobbies: Fun facts: I attended the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City for the first time this year and volunteered with the Richmond International Film Festival. Both wonderful experiences. Interests: outdoor activities, travelling, gardening, music, cooking/baking, crafts, reading
Bio: A little bit about me. I’m Amanda, your humble blogger. I grew up in Chesterfield, VA (just south of Richmond). I received my Associate’s in Arts degree from Richard Bland College, my Bachelor of Arts in History from Virginia Tech, and I’m currently working on my MFA at Hollins University. As far as my involvement with the film industry, I’m slowly but surely, making my way. I was an active member of the music community as a band student in high school and wanted to pursue a career as a music teacher, but eventually realized it wasn’t a good fit for me. However, I did become a sister of Tau Beta Sigma, the National Honorary Band Service Sorority. I considered pursuing a theatre major, but opted for history because I felt it would be more versatile, it was subject I was genuinely interested in, and I still thought I wanted to be a teacher. After teaching preschool for several years, spending a semester in a teacher licensure program, and not satisfied with where I was headed, I decided to take another direction and go after something that I really wanted. I came upon Hollins University after doing an online search for film programs in my home state of Virginia. I stewed over it for some time before applying, but once I did I never looked back. I’ve continued to pursue work in this industry because it’s given me opportunities that others wouldn’t. And, plus, there’s more than one way to be a teacher.