Write What You Know - Bite Me!
“Write what you know.” Writers hear it over and over and over again. And if you’re a new writer it’s probably the most frustrating thing you’ll ever hear.
Write what you know implies that you have to be living or have lived a spectacularly exciting, tragic or privileged life. Write what you know implies that if you aren’t a mass murderer (Silence of the Lambs) , a swash buckling billionaire (Ironman) or a hooker with a heart of gold (Pretty Woman) that you aren’t capable of writing a compelling screenplay.
Let me suggest to you to instead WRITE THE FEELINGS YOU KNOW!
Have you ever known real disappointment, love, jealously or crippling fear? These are the feeling that will unearth the story that lies with in you.
Can you remember your teenage years where you felt misunderstood and isolated? That could be Napoleon Dynamite or Carrie or American Pie.
Looking for love in your life? That could be 40 Year Old Virgin, Bridget Jones Diary or 500 Days of Summer.
Ever felt like a stranger adjusting to new surroundings? That could be E.T. or Shawshank Redemption or Austin Powers.
Think about your favorite movies and remember what emotions were brought up when you saw them. THAT IS WHAT WE WRITE!!
What emotions do you want to explore? Share them with me and I’ll give you some examples.
Are you running around, crossing items off your ever-growing to-do list, feeling like a chicken with her head cut off, and wondering what the heck it’s all for? It’s a very common experience, most especially for freelancers (which all artists are).
The problem is we often confuse being busy with being effective. We think if we can just keep up the frantic pace, then everything will pay off in a big way. But it turns out that most of what we focus on is not the game changing work we hope it to be.
Being busy is about being reactive, tending to every day minutia rather than honing in on big vision stuff. Being busy is about chasing every opportunity – or perceived opportunity – without evaluating how it fits into your master plan.
For actors, this can look like:
- Mass mailing every single agent in town with your generic headshot and resume; rather than focusing on the top 5 agents who are right for your career right now, and building a relationship with consistent marketing directed to them personally
- Submitting to every Actors Access notice; rather than making 1 bold phone call to a big casting office for a job you’re perfect for
For writers, this can be:
- Handing out your business card to everyone at every networking event, hoping someone will call you; rather than getting the business cards of people you want to work with and starting an email campaign to stay in touch every few months
- Repeatedly deleting and rewriting the first act of your script; rather than finishing it and holding a table read to get some perspective on where it works and where it doesn’t
One of the reasons being busy is so attractive is because there is an immediate sense of gratification. Checking off your to-do list every day feels productive. Also, busy tasks don’t make us vulnerable. Getting a “no” from a casting director is harder than the non-answer of Actors Access. Having your script read aloud and hearing where it falls flat can be painful. But without taking these risks, how will you truly grow?
I invite you to step off the hamster wheel for a weekend getaway with me in the Hudson Valley this June. I’ve organized a vision-clarifying, gremlin-crushing, goal-setting retreat in nature, where we will stop the busy-making and reevaluate what you are doing and why. Check out the full details here: tinyurl.com/cm4aRetreat
Bonus for Red Wall Productions family: Get $100 off the registration fee if you can tell me what TV show Roz guest-starred on with Edie Falco.
Sam Garland is a Creative Career Coach who helps actors, writers, and filmmakers take charge of their journeys and uplevel their careers in powerful ways. You can get more tools, tips, and inspiration at www.cm4a.com.
Check out the three ways to figure out if you're good at acting.
New update! Jessica Pimentel of "Orange is the New Black" guest stars! Darbi and I catch up and throw some fun bloopers on the end. Check it out!
Catherine Chadwick stops by to talk about her role in the film "The Normal Heart" and the steps she took to make it happen. Check it out!
Darbi gets on the horn with voice-over SUPERSTAR, Joe Cipriano, to discuss his career and new book, “Living On Air.” New Yorkers, you can meet Joe, hear him read from his book and get a book signed on Monday, December 9th. The event starts at 6pmat Pranna (79 Madison Avenue at 28th). Darbi will be there so introduce yourself if you see her!
Learn more about Joe at joecipriano.com
This post is about my work, people I work with and for, my life and how thankful I am for all of it.
It's all mixed up together. my family, my work, and my life reflect each other. Together they equal my art my reason for living, my calling.
A few months ago my husband told me I had to stop working on a project. Essentially he fired me.
It felt like a punch in the stomach. I didn't know what to do which way to go. Why to wake up in the morning. You see to me a story untold, unfinished, unborn is like a stillbirth. It's like that raisin in the sun that Lorraine Hansberry lamented. Does it explode? No it rots inside and that's far worse.
When I don't get to finish a project that I start (which has only happened to me once before) it feels like I've been dumped. Fired. Broken up with in the most humiliating of ways. Publicly disregarded. Rejected. A dangerous tailspin of deep depression is something that a responsible mother, wife, cannot afford to risk.
After much talk I saw that perhaps the husband was right and we should leave the project unfinished. But where did that leave me?
I was lost. LOST.
So I went on a quest to find out what we should do next.
And this is why I am thankful for my work and my clients because that is what got me through a very long period of not knowing.
I wanted to take some time off a sabbatical. A trip to nowhere. To stop and think. To meditate. Stretch, fast and renew. But that was a fantasy. And unrealistic one at that. I'm not Alice Walker, I'm Roz Coleman. I don't have a MacArthur Genius Grant.
I didn't stop. I slowed down.
What I did was take a class. And then another. I had already committed to doing a play and teaching a new acting class at NYU and continuing at SUNY Purchase. Other than that my husband supported my time to learn, listen, and not know. New clients and acting opportunities kept creeping into my life and I saw them as my teachers as my guides through this time.
The quote that culminated this time came last week while I was on set coaching a creative genius. Let's call him Prince (As in the artist who made Purple Rain) because I don't want to disclose his name but he is a director, actor, artist, musician on that level. As I observed him step into his greatness, using his own body as a canvas for his work. He was playing with his food between takes on set. The actress who is acting opposite him, who although is more experienced in acting is admittedly not as free as he is, jokingly said to him "don't play with your food." He replied in a serious tone "why everything in life is meant to be played with."
The work of the students.
More to come...
David Sabella-Mills joins me to discuss the art of using your proper voice! Check it out!
Meet my Niece Olivia Douglas.
This is her speech from 8th grade graduation. She's such an inspiration to me.
What's your story? WHy do you do what you do? When did you discover your passion? Share your spark story.
Here is Olivias...
In my new class, this is where I want my clients to get to: figuring out what they want to do, what they are compelled to do, and actually doing it. I directed this and helped created the material. Craig wrote it. It's just a sneak peak. There's more.
Meet Ilona Siac.
So I got this is my email. :-). A great way to start of the weekend. ROZ
Had a very lovely shoot this past weekend. Our client was very focused and professional, he had a very clear vision of his product and it's value, he'd been working on it for 40 years and I was grateful that he asked me to help him facilitate his vision.
I hired a very small efficient and respectful crew, we came up with a plan of action and we set it in motion. The only thing I was not in charge of was the on air talent, a friend of the client, whom he had known had taken many workshops with, was familiar with her temperament and her work ethic: they were good friends.
We got through the shoot pretty smoothly, I was able to help him communicate his teachings to the camera and with his friend as his assistant and demonstrator, I thought he was really able to bring to life the passion for his work and this technique that has taken him a life time to develop.
It was the first of a two-day shoot, we finished the day, no problem. We wrapped. He was gracious and thankful, as were we, and we set a call time for the following week.
The next day I'm on another shoot, I get an email from the client. It seems his friend, his on-camera assistant and demonstrator, that is in 75 percent of the shots, called and said she didn't feel comfortable and that she didn't want the footage to be used. EVER!
BAM!! DAMN!! KABLAM!!
Our client had no contract with his friend, no waiver, no agreement, nothing in writing, it was his friend, it never occurred to him that he would need it, until he did.
Now he's stuck and he's decided since this is his friend, he'll honor her wish. Does he have to?
Got emailed a question recently and I thought I'd share my response:
My name is Adam Carey and I'm a graduating Senior at NYU. My friend and creative partner Jo-Dean Seymour assisted Squeaky & Ashley on "Father's Day?," and because of her involvement there, we've been aware of Red Wall Productions and have become fans and followers of your show "Justice The Series" since November.
Jo-Dean and I have been working on a web series. We love "Justice" and we've created a comedic web series of our own called "Dorm Therapy." The show is all about college ResLife and what it's like to live with strangers. I was hoping that I could reach out to you and ask for a bit of advice: We're hitting a brick wall with the audience we're able to reach with the show. The first episode has over 2,000 views, but the next three have fewer and fewer.
I'm also curious to know if you have any tips for someone breaking into the industry of Film and TV? That's a broad one but I'd love to hear what you might have to share on the subject as we're both trying to start our careers!
Thank you so much! You can find the first episode of "Dorm Therapy here: http://youtu.be/7w6l7SQ0rzI and you can check out the facebook page here: facebook.com/DormTherapy
I hope all is well and I would love to hear whatever you might have to say!
Show-Runner, "Dorm Therapy" Web Series
NYU Class of 2013
I just watched all 4 episodes and I'm a FAN. Really really funny, very sophisticated, I really like the characters. Everyone feels very distinct and specific. The relationships feel authentic and they're really funny. The big picture issue for me is I'm not getting a sense of goal or importance. You definitely have the "office" kind of feel, but if you remember the office, each episode there was some sort of goal, like today we're doing inventory or today we're going on a sales call. Something that pulled us through the episode. I love the actress that plays Alice, funny, quirky pretty girl, very well played and drawn, burning her tongue on the cookies, freezing her underwear, very funny stuff. So if you assign her some tasks for future episodes, to get the gang together that would help with cohesiveness of the episodes. She did that a little with the milk and cookies and the dorm meeting,but I wasn't clear why she needed to do it. You have such great set ups with the girls who hate to leave their room and some of the others, I think you need to find a way to push the comedy even further, it all feels a little safe right now and some of it is very subtle. Which unfortunately will go over the heads of some people. But don't worry about that just keep working this voice, you'll find your audience.
As for increasing your audience, you should juice up your youtube channel, there are "annotations" where you can insert buttons in your videos which lead people to the next episode and the previous one and to your facebook page and your twitter page, right now it's just a title card, you need to provide links so people can press them before you lose them. I had to search for the next episode and most people don't have the brains or patience to do that.
Also I see you have a good sized cast, EVERYONE of your actors should be tweeting and face booking friends family relatives, strangers. Everyone at NYU should be watching this series and they should be tweeting and sharing. But you have to bombard them which is really obnoxious, but so what. Come up with contests or campaigns to increase viewership. You should be posting to "Collegehumor.com and funnyordie.com and mydamnchannel.com. You're gonna have to kick up the social media presence to get people watching and talking. People posted comments on your page and you didn't respond, you HAVE to respond, you have to engage.
As for tips on how to break in the industry, you're already in it. You're creating content. Creating content is the future. Not sure what your focus is (actor, director, producer, writer??) but any and all of those have to start creating content. You've already begun developing your voice and better to start now and take advantage of the resources that school affords you. Keep writing, keep shooting and keep cranking out these episodes. I think you guys have a really great voice, don't be deterred by the low numbers, people will find you, but you gotta start helping them.
I hope that was helpful.
Please note these are raw exercises. Look for what works. It's a collaborative process, creating a film. You don't have to have every skill. But I will argue you have the most important skills: acting & a history of contributing to stories. YOU CAN DO THIS if you chose to.