Marvelous Lessons Creatives Can Learn from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 🙂
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

 

Story tricks from Spielberg’s BFG

Spielberg is an icon and a legend for good reason. Shanee Edwards with ScreenwritingU Magazine dissects the film to study seven story tricks screenwriters can use when creating children’s films.

Read the full article here: Spielberg gets all Spielbergian on The BFG: 7 great story tricks we learned from the cinematic giant

Hollins Grads at Work: Jared M. Gordon

More Hollins Grads on the move!! Alum Jared Gordon recently released his project Multiple Choice. Here’s what Jared had to say about his the project:

“Multiple Choice is about Helen, an overachiever who, on the day of a final exam, must decide between receiving the test answers or discovering the identity of a secret admirer… There was a lot I wanted to say with this. It ultimately came down to the theme of living life being more important than grades. I wanted to show a compelling reversal from a character who was grade-obsessed to a one who demonstrated a willingness to take risks. I was lucky to work with very talented students and fellow faculty members, and I’m very pleased with how it came out.”

You can see the full film on Vimeo. Congratulations Jared! We are so proud of you!

Now on Vimeo: Multiple Choice by Hollins Grad Jared M. Gordon

Hollins Grads at Work: Anna Fahr

One of our recent alumnae, Anna Fahr, has just released a teaser trailer for her newest project Places in Between. Anna began her script in our 507 level workshop (our intermediate level workshop), rewrote it in our advanced tutorial class (a one-on-one rewrite class with a professor), and pitched it during our annual pitch night. The teaser can be viewed on Vimeo now.

We are so proud of you, Anna!! This looks absolutely dazzling. We can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

View the teaser trailer here: Now on Vimeo: Teaser Trailer Places in Between by Hollins Grad, Anna Fahr

The Power of Vulnerability

2017 Sundance Screenwriting Fellow Edson Oda discusses vulnerability and how it can empower you creatively as writer and filmmaker.

Read the full article here: EXPLORING THE POWER OF VULNERABILITY IN SCREENWRITING

Lessons from Disney’s Zootopia

Ken Miyamoto from ScreenCraft breaks down the Disney film Zootopia to extract and discuss three big lessons for screenwriters to use in their stories.

Read full article here: Three Screenwriting Lessons that Disney’s “Zootopia” Can Teach Screenwriters

Learn How to Take Creative Risk

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 🙂

Read the full article here: Want to Be the Next Big Screenwriter? Why You’ve Got to Learn How to Take Creative Risk

Writing the Buddy-Cop Movie

Shanee Edwards uses the film The Nice Guys to provide five helpful screenwriting insight for writing a buddy-cop movie.

Read full article here: The Nice Guys: 5 Tips for writing a buddy-cop movie

Writing Cards

This is arguably one of the best things I’ve ever run into. One writer did something quite clever and brilliant, instead of asking for photos with the renowned creators they met, they collected pieces of advice written on a notecard. That collection of notecards has been compiled into a website full of words or wisdom, encouragement, and necessary butt-kickings from the creators of your favorite work. Read up and get inspired. And don’t forget to eat lunch 🙂

See full website here: Their Writing Cards

In the Moment with Viola Davis

This is a short little blip of a round table interview with several actors, but I think what Viola Davis says about acting can be just as true for writers: You have to get uncomfortable sometimes. As writers, you’re extracting the inner workings of your mind and your emotions, putting them on paper for display, and allowing other people dissect and critique it. That can be very scary and intimidating. At least for me it can be. But you have to give yourself permission to let that out – because it could be a brighter gem than you realized; and you can’t polish that gem if you never dig it up.

Viola Davis: “The Discomfort is the Comfort”