Friday 9 October 2009

What projects are you working on?

I've had a great week, meeting lots of interesting people and finding out about their projects, so I wanted to bring that energy to the blog. It's a chance to open things up to all of you, to learn a bit more about you and the projects you're working on. Whether you're working on a script, or a book, or on losing weight, or on world peace--- please share.

1. What are you working on?
2. Why is it important to you?

Look forward to finding out.

Care to share?

Tuesday 6 October 2009

The Flames Of My Wasted Life.

I was sixteen years old, and everyone was saying "You've got to do A Levels. If you don't do A Levels, you won't get anywhere with your life." And even then, I knew it was strange, because people who had done A Levels were being told, "You have to do a degree. If you don't do a degree, you won't get anywhere with your life." Which is weird, because now they say to people "If you don't have a Masters Degree, you won't get anywhere with your life." Of course, I never knew where it was I was meant to be getting with my life. Certainly, nobody took seriously the notion that I wanted to be a Film Director. But then, that's fine, because at the time - I didn't take it seriously either. In our school systems, there is no support for creativity. I say that without hesitation. I was actively talked out of my writing interest in school. Nobody had ever sat me down and said "create something; it's brilliant when people create things." It was always, "Your Science homework is due tomorrow. Get it done."

I wasn't good at science. I wasn't much good at anything. But I did stay on to do 'A Levels.' But don't get excited-- I only stayed for two weeks. I don't even remember the subjects I chose. One of them was Media Studies, that thing where you sit there making stuff up like "The green coloring of Buzz Lightyear is a metaphor for the decay of society and is symbolic of aubergines." So, I knew deep inside that A Levels were not for me. And then everyone was saying, "well, you gotta get a job, you gotta earn some money, you gotta make a living." So I got a job as an office junior for a Quantity Surveying company. I didn't know what Quantity Surveying was (I still don't), but I forged ahead with my little job and the most depressing period of my life. Don't get me wrong, I've had years that were much tougher, where life really threw curve balls - but being 17 was tough because I had a terrible job, no goals, and nothing seemed to be on the horizon. And there were no girls. Well, I'm sure there were, just not in my life.

I remember in a very exact way that I went to a lot of gigs when I was 17. I guess it was a survival thing. Depressing, awful job by day, but gigs by night. I would love to pretend I was some cool rock kid, but I was seeing acts like Vonda Shepard, John Mayer, Ryan Adams, etc-- it was all Americana-ish, alt-rock blandity. But I don't mean to put it down - this is something I am learning to stand up for more, it's the music I love. I make no apologies. Anyways, the music became this incredibly important thing to me. It offered an alternative world to the one of moving boxes from storage space to storage space, and talking boring office talk to colleagues. I guess day by day it would build up and build up - my deep interest in music. I think I'm only realising the relevance of music to my life then, as I think about it now, many years later.

Somewhere inside of me, this feeling was bubbling up. The feeling that I wanted to do something with my life. I wanted to be a writer. A film director. Even then, I was aware that you don't make great films by moving boxes around storage units, but I didn't seem to possess the power or will to make the change. It was like a trigger was missing, some little thing that would put my life into gear, to give me perspective.

And then two things happened. One is because of Bruce Springsteen, and one is because of Counting Crows. But somewhere within those two events; the thing that was bubbling up finally came to fruition, the alchemy of my situation, my dreams, and my love for music. Here's how I remember it.

Bruce Springsteen announced a one off gig at Wembley Arena. And I guess I should tell you, I absolutely loved Bruce Springsteen. 'Thunder Road' was fast becoming my favorite song, and 'Born To Run' felt just like the bubbling, bubbling that'd been firing up inside of me. And 'Dancing In The Dark' was gaining in relevance.

I get up in the evening
and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help
- Bruce Springsteen - Dancing In The Dark

So, I really wanted to go see The Boss live. But no-one would come with me. I asked all my friends. The collective response was, "the Born in the USA guy? No thanks." I made a very important decision. I decided to go by myself. Which shouldn't be a big deal, but for the lonely, worried little me, it was a big deal. It was confirmation that I was pathetic. This was supported by the build up to the event - culminating on me getting the train to the concert and feeling like a complete outsider. I didn't relate to my friends and I didn't really know why I was listening to Springsteen rather than, I dunno, whatever was popular at the time. So I was really miserable. I remember sitting in my seat, alone, at Wembley Arena. And I just felt--- so separated from everything, from everyone I knew. These things are so painful when you're 17.

And then Springsteen came on stage. And the music started.

What proceeded to happen was as near to a religious experience as I've ever had. I realized that I wasn't alone, I was with 12,000 of my closest friends. This wasn't just music, it a man who sang my dreams. His views on the world were the same as mine. There was a dream to be had and he was singin' it and chasin' it. I was truly transformed. I realized the reason I was there, at that gig, was because THAT WAS WHO I WAS. It is who I am. It is me. If everybody I knew who was going see Bruce Springsteen alone, and obsessing over his setlists and having this outrageously great experience, then I'd be just like everybody else. And being like everyone else wouldn't make me a very interesting writer. And it was like I GOT IT, right there, in that crap old tin of an arena.

I don't give a damn
For the same old played out scenes
I don't give a damn
For just the in betweens
Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul
I want control right now

Talk about a dream
Try to make it real
you wake up in the night
With a fear so real

Spend your life waiting
for a moment that just don't come
Well, don't waste your time waiting

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you've gotta pay
We'll keep pushin' till it's understood
and these badlands start treating us good

- Bruce Springsteen - Badlands

A week later; I was trying to figure out what that experience meant in relation to my career as a guy who re-alphabetizes an archiving system on a weekly basis. I remember very specifically being downstairs in the basement of the company I was working in. I was having a particularly hard time remembering the alphabet properly. Not because I'm dumb, but because I truly didn't give a shit.

Aside from Springsteen, my other obsession were Counting Crows. And this memory seems really cheesy now. But it happens to be true. I was down in the basement doing the archiving nonsense, moving 'N' nearer to 'B' and hiding 'L' just because I was a rebel. And the song 'A Murder Of One' by the Crows came into my head. And it really got a hold of me. I really began feeling the message of the song. I was enjoying it, it really felt alive. The words were really hitting me hard.

All your life is such a shame, shame, shame.
All your love is just a dream, dream, dream.
Open up your eyes.

You can see the flames, flames, flames of your wasted life.
You should be ashamed.
Yeah, you don't want to waste your life, baby.
You don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.
You don't wanna waste your life, baby.

You don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.
Oh, you don't wanna waste your life, now baby.

I said you don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.
Oh, you don't wanna waste your life, now baby.
Oh, you don't wanna, you don't wanna waste your life, now darlin.

Change, change, change.


- Counting Crows - A Murder Of One

It was the second of my transformations. It was so sudden. Shit, I really wish I had these epiphanies every day. It hit me that I am NOT an office junior, I am not someone who moves boxes around for a living. I had a burning desire in me to CHANGE. To be something. I fucking loved films; my obsessive watching them and thinking about them was for a reason. I couldn't deny it anymore, it was time to come out of the closet and declare, "I am a Writer! I am a Director!" - I didn't outwardly declare it like that, but I did tell myself, it was time to be confident in who I really was and to make it my life.

I handed in my resignation on a Tuesday. By the Friday, I was gone. And now I'm the Kid In The Front Row.

It takes a leap of faith to get things going
It takes a leap of faith you gotta show some guts
It takes a leap of faith to get things going
In your heart you must trust

Bruce Springsteen - Leap Of Faith

Care to share?

Sunday 4 October 2009

Please Watch! Ken Robinson On Creativity.

In terms of understanding and supporting creativity, in terms of education for the future generations, and in terms of standing up for what I believe in - this video, of Ken Robinson giving a speech, really says it all.

Care to share?

Something fascinating for all creative people.

Care to share?

Saturday 3 October 2009

A Lack Of Self-Confidence, And What We're Going To Do About It.

When I started out in filmmaking, I made many short films on zero-budgets. I was that guy who would go out and shoot with his camera and no crew. The films were, for the most part, pretty decent-- and I showed a lot of promise. I had always promoted the idea that films, especially short films, didn't need to cost much money; if any at all.

Fast-forward a few years, and I was still making short films with just me and a camera. The quality was improving somewhat, but I hadn't made the leaps I perhaps felt I could have done. Looking back it is very obvious why-- I wasn't doing everything I could be in terms of collaboration. I was still shooting myself, I didn't get a Director Of Photography. I would still handle the sound myself, rather than get people who knew what they were doing.

For years I have had the knowledge and contacts to be able to put a little crew together, but it hadn't happened. The reason being, that voice inside me that would tell me "you're not ready yet, maybe a couple more films.." or "No crew is going to take you seriously." It's very strange, but now I realise, not uncommon-- to have these two sides of your personality battling each other. On the one hand, there are times when I have lacked confidence, been unsure of how others perceive me. But at the same time, I have always had an unwavering belief in my abilities and knowing this certainty that, one day, my films will be loved by many people.

I have a lot of friends who are actors, and every single one of them has this same process at work. On the one hand, they've done all the courses and gone to all the auditions; they're like a powerhouse of ambition and self-belief. But there is also the flip side to this-- a deep insecurity; something telling you you're not quite good enough for the role, or that you're not quite ready. Strangely, sometimes as an actor you DO get the role. And then the actor feels like they've cheated the system. They're just worried that one day somebody will figure out that they weren't supposed to be there.

And, one day not long from now, my looks will go, they will discover I can't act and I will become some sad middle-aged woman who looks a bit like someone who was famous for a while.
-Anna Scott in 'Notting Hill'

My personality has never really been one that seeks approval. I am generally happy for people to think what they want of me, and I wear my terrible clothes and sit in my room listening to Springsteen records, I'm happy with myself. But when it comes to my creations, there has often been the need for approval. The notion of being 'discovered' or of getting money to make a project, is subject to somebodies approval. It is at the very heart of what we do. The battle to prove we are worthwhile.

Of course, the simplistic advice we get is "be more confident." But I think we need to go further than that. We need to be more confident, but without the need for anybody's approval. I know a novel writer who, upon publishing his first novel, absolutely blitzed everybody on Facebook, on emails, etc-- begging them to buy his book. "Read me! Love me! Help me!" I could totally understand it; it's a pattern that certainly isn't alien to me. What could be worse than putting your heart and soul into your book, only to have nobody to read it come the end? Well, a worse thing would be putting your heart and soul into a book, forcing everyone to check it out, and still having nobody to read it come the end.

I spend a lot of time talking to successful people. I always like to know what makes them tick. In the field of filmmaking, and in other circumstances. What I find in most cases, is that the achievement comes when you stop fighting, and just create instead. Just yesterday, I was speaking to a theatre writer who struggled for years fighting to get her projects made. Then, for a few years, she went and had some kids and lived her family life. Before she knew it, people were on the phone, practically begging her to do projects. Likewise, the novelist I spoke of now quietly writes his books and screenplays, and is finding less resistence from the systems he used to feel oppressed by.

Look at it like an arm wrestling fight. If you are fighting the other person, you're going to get a lot of resistance. But if you loosen up, the fight loosens, and before you know it you have the ease and the energy to push forward. I am not talking about giving up, I am talking about changing your relationship with what you are trying to achieve.

So far I've talked about two things - self-confidence, and fighting to achieve with your creative pursuits. They are linked more than you might imagine. When you are trying to 'make it' as a writer, actor, director, etc-- you are entering into a system whereby you're offering something up, and the system can say 'let's make it!", "you've got the role!" or "we're not interested," "you're no good."

But that system, and by system I mean, the industry, the people who say 'you're worth our time' or 'you're not worth our time' is exactly the same as the inner process going on in your mind. Your script, or your audition, is the same as that voice in your head saying "this is what I want to do with my life." And that person who can say "Sorry, your writing is crap" is exactly the same as that voice in your own head, that tells you "your writing sucks!"

So why do you expect people in the industry to love your script when a part of your very being is telling you that it sucks? The naysayers in the industry are just an extension of that part of yourself that tells you you're not good enough. That's probably why you hate them so much, because they remind you of you.

To really understand the person who has the power to reject you, you really need to understand the part of you that rejects yourself-- or at least, your work. Maybe there's some great wisdom in that voice. This, for me, is where the limitations of those 'positive thinking' books come into play, because they try to override your negative feelings, rather than learn from them.

I believe you become successful when you are ready for it. I have found throughout my life that where I am, professionally and personally, is directly related to where I am in my head. And as I've become more aware of this, things have really transformed. I think that most people who have reached their desired level of success will tell you they did it at a time when they finally figured something out about themselves.

Self-confidence can come temporarily from listening to positive-thinking-guru type stuff. But after a while, you need more than that. You really need to look at your inner critic, at your insecurities; and find out what motivates them. That voice telling you 'you suck!' - where does it come from? Why is it there? Why do you sometimes trust it more than the confident version of you? What can you learn from it? What positive things can you take from that inner critic?

I know that my inner critic is pretty strong-- it's always there and it knows what it wants to say. I actually admire those qualities. What a great thing to have, perserverance and definiteness. That's something that it is teaching me. I should be as strong as that negative voice in my head. Come to think of it, having perserverance and being definate are two things that will really help me excel even more with my career.

This is something we can all do, starting today. Build a new relationship with the thing that zaps at your confidence. For me, next time I have a meeting or interview; instead of nerves or feelings of lack, I'm going to have new found perservence and definiteness, something that was always in me. Afterall, who the FUCK is my inner critic? Why am I taking him so seriously? Why do I believe him? What gives me the right to talk to me in that way? I know what I am doing with my creativity; of that I am sure, and I am going to perservere. And this new certainty has come from engaging with my inner critic, and learning from it. When something is part of you, you can either fight it, or learn from it and work with it. The same goes for external systems, like producers, film studios, script analysts, etc! Fix the thing inside yourself, and then you're going to do much better out there. I'd love to know your thoughts.

Care to share?