the gravity of values and time

Opens wide Nov 7

Last night, I was very fortunate to attend the SAG-AFTRA screening of INTERSTELLAR at the IMAX Chinese Theater. Don’t worry – absolutely no spoilers here. If you like Chris Nolan’s work, you’ll enjoy the movie.

One note: there was a Q&A after with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain. McConaughey told us they did not use green screen – Nolan had sets built, which is pretty astonishing looking back on the movie. I think the entire audience assumed it was green screen. It is definitely worth seeing in IMAX.

My big takeaway? Chris Nolan has respect for his audience. He doesn’t preach, he doesn’t condescend – he trusts the intelligence of the audience. I love that in any artist. He presents multiple viewpoints with clarity.

I’ve been considered this in light of the differences between film and television. The time constraints are very different – the actors in Interstellar had months to work on their characters. Chris and Jonathan Nolan did not need to turn the script out in days or weeks, but Jonathan Nolan does have those constraints on Person of Interest. Perhaps this is more about considering time in a new way – it is important when you as an artist explore other viewpoint with intellectual and emotional honesty. That’s missing in a number of shows on network television and in some movies, both in drama and comedy.

A small example: in comedy, funny and sad go together, but if there is a persistent undercurrent of bitterness – not a bitter character, but infused in the work, it wears on the audience. It’s not where most people want to stay. Is this another way of saying play to your audience? No. Just respect them and layer your work.

seriously, how could I not include a picture of this man?

What do I mean about considering time in a new way? Take time out to explore your own value system. Seriously. Get away from your normal routine. Go on retreat. Shake things up. Know your values and take a serious look at a few other systems, especially ones that you are genuinely unfamiliar with or for which you have strong negative feelings. Once you are clear and have enough information to refrain from proselytizing, your work will be deeper and richer – we all know when an artist has respect for us. You may not hit it every time, but if your intention respects us, we love you for it.

Writing & Improv #1

Monsters & MermaidsQuite possibly the first in a sporadic series….

This year, I returned to acting. I studied theater in college and worked both sides of the camera when I came to Hollywood. This time around, a remarkable number of things fell into place. I rejoined SAG-AFTRA and started meeting amazing people. Much of it led me to improv – specifically at IO West in Hollywood – which has been an amazing, thrilling, challenging and super fun experience.

One of the “enemies” of good improv is plot. How’s that for a novelist and screenwriter? Challenging, to understate the case. The task in improv is to kill plot. What???! You’re asking a writer to forget all about plot?


And I look forward to seeing how playing with improv impacts my writing from here on.

In addition to class, nine of us have formed a troupe, Monsters & Mermaids. We performed our first public show last Saturday as part of the L.A. Indie Improv Festival. It went well and we had a blast doing it.

the evidence... at Oh My Ribs!
the evidence… at Oh My Ribs!

Here are some of our notes from rehearsals:

  • Begin with who are you, where you are and what you want
  • Let your imagination do the work
  • Have a specific “want” at the beginning of each scene
  • Create the physical environment to ground the scene
  • Be specific and rich with details of both character and the environment
  • Think about what your character does, why they do it and how they do it
  • Establish the character’s agenda before the story; let the characters and their relationships develop first.

Hmmm, not so different from writing when it comes down to it.

Huge shoutouts to Dave Hill and Aaron Krebs for their coaching, plus their brilliant shows at IO, and to Gavin Leighton for taking great notes during rehearsals.