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Saturday 3 July 2010

Advice, Instinct & Penguins - Reconnecting with who I am.

“When I get logical, and I don't trust my instincts - that's when I get in trouble.”
-Angelina Jolie

Advice is a dangerous thing. I say this, having spent most of the last year writing this blog, which; by and large, is a place where I give advice. That's kind of the reason I stopped. Advice can be great, and motivational - but also, it can be a huge problem. When you give advice, you are stating your belief systems, you are claiming to know how the world works.

When a successful writer says "you need to be disciplined," a less successful writer is likely to listen. That less successful writer might thrive on chaos and spontaneity. They'll spend the next five years battling that, because they look up to the successful writer. Likewise, a young film director might be about to make a feature film in his house with his friends which could be the next 'Paranormal Activity', but then he reads an article on the internet by a successful producer who says "you're wasting your time if you make a film for less than a million dollars, and nobody wants to see another horror film set in a house." So it doesn't get made.

I really liked Dawson's Creek. Loved it. Still watch it to this day. But there's a big part of me that says "dude, you're lame, stop watching that cheesy shit!" I get annoyed at myself for watching it. Why? The stigma of watching it is based on the notion that it's too cheesy, too soap operatic, too predictable, too touchy feely, not edgy enough. So then I spend months annoyed at myself for watching cheesy bullshit that nobody else relates to; and I keep trying to watch the things people recommend to me, and in the process, get further and further away from the show that resonated with me. Why do I do this? Because of values held by other people.

When I look at me as a writer, and a director; do I want to be influenced by the things that truly resonate with me or do I want to be influenced by the things I've learned to love because filmmaker's, critics and society think they are the right choices? When I look at my biggest influences; Charlie Chaplin, Billy Wilder, Bruce Springsteen and Woody Allen - I see people who were ruthless at following their own instincts and beliefs.

I can do one of two things. I can follow my heart and follow my deeply held interests and passions (after-all, those were the things that got me interested in this line of work), or I can learn what is marketable and what isn't, I can write based on a 22 step procedure I was told about and I can listen to the research that says nobody will want to see my film about a bunch of penguins who take over the Vatican.

In case there's any mystery here, I am going for the first option. I have spent recent times completely and utterly reconnecting with all the things that excite and inspire me. Be they Dawson's Creek, Nora Ephron flicks or Tom Hanks movies from the eighties. What is important to me is to do what feels right, and feels important, to me. Cowering in the corner with my passion for Bruce Springsteen music and my love for films with Jack Lemmon standing around awkwardly and Jimmy Stewart winning a girl over isn't good enough. Those passions shouldn't be hidden or oppressed. Ever.

Advice, if it is useful to you, is great. But I think advice should make you feel warm and supported. If someone says "You will never be cast in a leading role" or "You're more of a sitcom writer than a feature film writer," you should only accept the advice if you believe it, if it speaks to the very essence of who you are and what you believe. And, of course; the same goes for everything I'm saying here. If believing in what I'm saying means you're going to feel conflicted or oppressed or polarized in any way, then my advice is not for you.

The only way I am ever going to be happy is to be creative on my terms. To write what I want to write, and then do everything in my power to make it happen. The more I celebrate my uniqueness, my passion, my influences, and my beliefs, the better I am going to do and the more likely audiences will respond to it. If they can re-boot Spiderman, I can reboot myself; and it's starting today.

What this means for this blog, I don't know. I have a big edge against me spouting off advice on how to write or direct or even how to make a good tea, because it's so subjective. I would hate to harm anyone's creativity or beliefs. So right now, I'm searching for some new paradigm, some new way of being useful and relevant. I am doing this whilst gearing up to direct a feature film later this year; so I am not sure how often I'll be blogging in the near future.

Did that make any sense?


  1. It makes perfect sense and I for one am thrilled for you and your future projects.

    "I see people who were ruthless at following their own instincts and beliefs."

    This is so true. Being yourself and accepting that what feels right to you is what you should be doing is half the battle in life. If anyone can be themself and thrive in this world, it's you. You're one of a kind, Kid, and we all know it.

  2. I've actually felt this recently, too. I realized that I have too many people's opinions in my head and I feel like I have a responsibility to try and follow them. But what I really need to do is figure out what works for ME.

    But I don't think you need to feel bad about doling out advice. It's up to each of us to learn what advice we should follow and tune out what we don't agree with. Advice is definitely not all bad.

    And I, for one, would totally see a movie about penguins taking over the Vatican.

  3. hehehe... sometimes i like advices.. so i can weight out the differences. but sometimes... TOO much advices can get pretty annoying :/

  4. Your advice about not listening to advice is good advice. I think maybe taking nuggets of everything and feeding it into your own instincts could be the way to go. Throw away the rubbish and keep the sage-like stuff.

  5. Sure does make sense. Here's my advice (!) —GO FOR IT.