Tag Archives: Writing

The Heart: Writer Megan Feldman Bettencourt

Triumph of the Heart book cover.jpg

I first learned of Megan Feldman Bettencourt and her book, Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World, on The One You Feed (an excellent podcast). Shortly after, we connected on Twitter, I read Megan’s book, and then we “met” on Skype for an interview.

I love all of my podcast episodes equally, however I will say that I think my talk with Megan might be of the greatest general interest to creatives and aspiring creatives — as a sort of all-encompassing group — than any I have released so far.

The reason for this is because this episode is about Megan’s experience, research, and reporting on not only forgiveness but personal and professional redemption. My own journey in these terms over the past few years, which has been well-documented on this site, has not only led me to a productive place, but also a happier and more fulfilled place. This pattern itself has engendered better, more connected work.

Just some of what we covered:

  • Megan Feldman cr MaryLynn Gillaspie Photography (1)How an early childhood experience in writing about trauma led Megan to the realization that she could connect with and help other people through writing
  • How Megan’s early work reporting on things like war, poverty, addiction and other issues laid the groundwork for Triumph of the Heart
  • How the story of Azim Khamisa, who had forgiven the murderer of his only son, inspired Megan to both write her book and embark on her own journeys in forgiveness
  • Approaching forgiveness from a place disassociated from religious dogma or contemporary judgements about weakness
  • The commonalities between forgiveness and mindfulness (simple but not easy)
  • How listening to others share about the impact that our actions have had on them can allow us to stop causing pain for others due to our own personal issues

I’d love for you to listen, and please feel free to let Megan and/or me know what you think about the talk. You can find Megan’s book here. As I say more than once in the episode, I highly recommend you check it out.

As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creatives on iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.

 

F*cking Do It: Actor/Writer Bodine Boling

BodineBolingHow about that? F*cking do it. Asterisk for the sake of not triggering any filters or blockers or whatever the kids call the buzz-killing censorship algorithms these days.

I digress. This week’s Coffee with Creatives episode is with the multi-talented Bodine Boling, whose film Movement + Location is currently in release in Los Angeles (after a week-long theatrical run in NYC) and available on several VOD channels.

We had a great talk about the travails of writing and producing a low-budget independent film. Subtopics included:

  • MAL_onset1How varying production experiences can help improve your work in other areas
  • How/why she wrote the script for Movement + Location seventeen times before shooting it
  • The importance of having a reward you can envision at the end of a long-term pursuit
  • How to deal with a shoot location burning down
  • Working with your spouse
  • The sometimes harsh and insane financial reality of making art

Check it out. If you dig what Bodine has to say, take a look at Movement + Location. If you liked this episode, please share it on Twitter or Facebook!

This episode is also on iTunes.

Dirty Roots: Coffee with Creatives Q&A Episode

I have tried to A your Qs...

As detailed in my previous post, this week’s episode of Coffee with Creatives is an experiment. It’s been busy lately, with The Confession and The Videoblogs both taking up a lot of my time. It wasn’t possible to prep an interview episode for this week. Still, it’s important to me to keep providing useful content on creative productivity.

So, here we are, instead. The idea for this Q&A-style episode came to me last weekend, when I received some questions about making short films on Twitter. After answering on YouTube at that time, I decided to try a Q&A episode of the podcast as well. I crowdsourced some additional questions over the week, and recorded my answers yesterday.

Both the audio from the YouTube video and my new recorded answers are included in the episode. Here are the questions that I tried to answer:

  • What’s the right length for a short film script? What genre should it be?
  • Does the creative mind ever stop and rest?
  • When writing a story, what would be your advice on how to show a trait or theme, as opposed to explaining the same to the audience?
  • How do you know when you’re being hypercritical or when you’re just not into a story anymore?
  • How do you get past the self-criticism phase of writing?
  • What is your process for creating a new story?

Please let me know if this sort of stuff is at all helpful, if I could do anything different, or if you have any follow-up questions.

Thanks for listening. If you’re enjoying the show, please consider making a small ongoing contribution to help me keep it going.

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Coffee with Creatives: Send Questions!

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 9.57.33 AMI’m running an experimental episode of Coffee with Creatives this week, which will take the form of an informal Q&A on topics related to creative productivity. There’s a frequent and understandable overlap between this overarching topic (which acts as the backbone of the show) and filmmaking and writing (my vocations) — so I’ll answer some questions about these subjects as well.

We’ll see how the episode goes. If it does well enough, and/or there seems to be a demand for an occasional Q&A segment, I’ll build it into future plans.

So, please send any questions I might be able to answer. If you have any questions you aren’t sure I can answer, ask anyway. I’ll try to source them out for you, whether by reaching out to previous guests, tapping my network, or going hunting.

Feel free to leave your questions here, in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve copied samples of what has come in so far below.

Please send your questions by 10PM on Thursday, 9/17.

Questions for Next Episode of Coffee with Creatives

  • What’s the right length for a short film script? What genre should it be?
  • Does the creative mind ever stop and rest?
  • When writing a story, what would be your advice on how to show a trait or theme, as opposed to explaining the same to the audience?
  • How do you know when you’re being hypercritical or when you’re just not into a story anymore?
  • How do you get past the self-criticism phase of writing?

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Lost in Stories: Writer/Actor Vanessa Shealy

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 4.46.02 PM

Today’s Coffee with Creatives interview is with hyphenate Vanessa Shealy, a Writer and Actor (and Producer) fresh off a successful (but still ongoing!) Kickstarter for her co-created indie comic, Couri Vine.

We had a great conversation about:

  • Falling into acting as a release11828619_10153272990012284_7680790401937617824_n
  • Getting lost in stories (in a good way)
  • Dreams as composite maps of experience
  • The usefulness of having something to prove
  • Preparing to enter a new medium
  • Imbuing superpowers with character, just as often as you go about doing the opposite

If you enjoy what Vanessa has to say, and want to grab yourself a copy of Couri Vine, head over to the Kickstarter page for the project. You can also find Vanessa on Twitter.

This episode is also on iTunes.

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Not Dead Yet: Ten Years of Filmmaking

CWC_Patreon_01Today marks the ten year anniversary of the beginning of a near-death experience I had when I was a student in college. For a long time, it was hard for me to talk about that period of my life. Since around the time when I wrote this essay, however, I’ve been able to do a better job of discussing both what happened, and how it has affected me.

In the intervening years since writing that post, I’ve gotten to the point wherein I can talk even more openly, in person, about what happened — without becoming re-traumatized. Years of therapy, the natural erosion of pain via time, and the process of carefully opening up about it, more often, in trusted company over the years, has led me to a place where I can (gratefully) say that.

But something else happened ten years ago, too. Immediately after.

At the time, it was perhaps not the healthiest (sole) reaction to the fears I felt after my hospitalization, but, regardless — today I have come to view it as one of the two best things to have ever happened to me.

I started making films.

As soon as I was (somewhat) recovered from the experience, I began stumbling down a winding and staggered artistic path that continues to this day. Today’s bonus episode of the podcast, among other topics, is meant to explore this journey a bit.

The reasons I decided to talk about the relationship between my work and this incident in my life are many.

  • I wanted to take a life-affirming view of the anniversary of my illness, to focus on the ten years of (hard-won) health and happiness experienced since that time, that I can now identify as essential to my growth as an artist and a person — rather than the first five to seven years of prior intense dread.
  • I have come to view what happened to me not with fear, but with gratitude. I feel a discussion of my evolution to this point of view could potentially be helpful to others who might be struggling as I was at that age (early twenties). It wasn’t just the one thing that happened, which kept me somewhat blocked as an artist, and definitely struggling harder than I needed to struggle, for many years. Arguably, all the experience did was force some stuff to the surface sooner.
  • It seemed a good way to close the book on the lingering anxieties I still sometimes feel when I think about how it felt at that time to be so unsure of tomorrow — despite that fact that we NEVER know what tomorrow is going to bring

So, here’s that episode.

And I realize that my mention of how stumbling into my life as a filmmaker was one of the two best things that’s ever happened to me might naturally lead to questions seeking to identify the other.

Well, she is the guest host for this bonus episode of the podcast. I hope you like it and thank you for listening.

This episode is also available on iTunes.

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Do Not Crash Into The Closed Bridge

Today's pages written at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Today’s pages written at Kresge Court (Detroit Institute of Arts).

I pulled up to a closed bridge this morning while working on the new script and thought I would share how I addressed the situation, because I would have liked to have known this was possible earlier in my career.

The below is nothing revelatory. It’s obvious. When you run into a closed bridge — whether there are signposts to lead you or not — you take a detour.

What happened is that I got the idea of where to send my characters next (as I often do) while running around living life. Except, this time, I neglected to write down the idea.

That rarely happens, but it did happen, this time. Always take the moment to write a note. I find that the act of getting it out onto paper or into an email increases the likelihood that I’ll remember it. But, often, especially as I get older and my head gets more crowded and less sharp — if I don’t write it down there’s a decent chance I will forget.

When something like this does happen, the best thing to do, I’ve found, is to (gently) work through it.

In the past, I would have gotten angry and/or depressed. I still did, today, to a degree. But I know it doesn’t pay to crash your car into the closed bridge. I felt the feelings and I accepted them and thought about where to go next.

Here’s what I specifically did to get to the other side of the bridge (the scene).

Within the document, I just started typing, as I normally would, except instead of forcing anything or not respecting the emotional block at hand — I addressed the situation directly.

Where was I sending them next? I knew but the information has slipped from my mind. I can’t remember. Was ____ not around? Did he have something to do? Or was I sending _____ to ____. I think I was sending her to _____. Next time I will take the note, but for now this is a good enough response. I forgive myself for forgetting, and for not taking the note. It’s okay. I will eventually be led to where I am intended to be led. So shall the story, under my direction.

It worked. I don’t even know if I am right about where I was planning to go. As evidenced by the above, I obviously don’t believe it matters. I just went there. The story moves on, and I with it.

Are they other ways to address a similar situation? Yes. But few are as gentle. And when you’re sitting there alone, with the difficult and lonely job of storytelling — I’d propose that many other forms of barreling through, in a situation like this — it can be waste of energy to fight or rely on brute force.

I hope all that helps.

Are You Suffering from Script Head?

There's only one way to treat Script Head.

There’s only one way to treat Script Head.

Sent this to my email list earlier this week but thought it would also make a good blog post.

It started several weeks ago — a creeping anxiety that left me cranky, oft-distracted, and generally a little difficult to be around. I think it was easier for others to be around me, because these days I have good tools for ensuring things don’t get that bad. But — especially whilst walking around with myself — I was bothering me.

Of course, I obsessed over this a little bit. I thought and thought about what could be wrong. Tried on a few different reasons and excuses. None worked.

Then, eventually, it occurred to me that perhaps something was rattling around in my head, outside of my awareness. There was one idea that I had been toying with a bit, that seemed to be calling for attention but hadn’t yet quite formed into anything graspable.

Also, I was already working on something (a new short story, coming soon) and was determined to finish it before starting something else. You can’t grasp something that isn’t there yet, right?

Contrarily, though, you can’t stop some stories from asserting themselves, either.

Invariably, despite my plans, the something else broke out anyway. It happened once I stopped obsessing. Once I stopped working. It wasn’t until I acknowledged the weakness of my position (anxious without a clear path to reprieve) that I realized that the thing to do was to let go and focus on the mundane.

I did dishes. I ran a bath — yes, in the summer. I stayed off my phone, and away from other inputs.

That’s when the idea I had been batting around turned into “a thing”. I felt characters come to life within the thing. I scratched out notes until I felt I had a sense of who they were going to be, and what was going to happen to them. Later, it would dawn on me that, before all that, I had just been suffering from my latest case of Script Head.

That seems to be how it goes for me, lately. The good stuff arranges itself, on its own, as I go about my life. It comes out when it’s ready, then it asserts itself with discomfort. That’s okay. It was mild discomfort this time. I’m a more prepared and willing vessel than I used to be.

So I’ve started a new script. It feels special. Like an arrival at a place where I didn’t know I was headed over the past few years. I’m excited to write the first draft.

Stories are never more beautiful and perfect than when they begin to assert themselves towards their first form. What makes it onto the screen or the paper — even with that first draft — it doesn’t measure up to the feeling of being there for the genesis.

Handling raw story material truly is a privilege.

Coffee with Creatives: Learn By Doing

chrisToday’s episode of Coffee with Creatives is with Writer/Director Chris Bell. Here at mdibiasio.com, we really like Writer/Directors named Bell.

Chris is a talented and hard-working filmmaker who I met on Twitter. In this episode, we talk at length about how important it is as a creative to:

  • Have a sense of purpose
  • Build a body of work
  • Treat your artistic endeavor as an inevitability
  • Stay true to your path, even when facing challenging odds

Chris’s first film, The Winds That Scatter, recently won Best International No Budget Feature Film at the Korea Indie and Expat Film Festival. It has also played at the Madrid International Film Festival and at the Northside Film Festival, where it premiered. You can find the film on Facebook here, and/or follow Chris on Twitter.

This episode is also available on iTunes.

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Coffee with Creatives: Boy Turns Into Dog

Edward_PomerantzEdward Pomerantz taught me screenwriting.

I took his workshop two or three times while working through the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University when I was there. Eddie helped me adapt my first published short story into what would become my first film, Over Easy. That film wouldn’t have been a success, and I may not have “caught the bug” after making it, if I didn’t spend an entire semester workshopping the adaptation with Eddie and my classmates. His passion for writing and, more than that, about authentic storytelling, is infectious. I was very glad that he agreed to come on the podcast.

This episode was a pleasure to record. Eddie has had a long and varied career as a screenwriter, novelist, playwright, and teacher. He also recently directed his first film, La Comida, which has so far played at four film festivals.

Topics we cover in the conversation include:

  • The necessity of having a clear reason for telling each story you sit down to write
  • The importance of only taking writing assignments you can make your own
  • The parallel importance of not looking down at an assignment that can be made your own with a little thought and consideration
  • Why Eddie believes Robert McKee ruined screenwriting
  • The differences between writing something and directing something
  • Listening to the needs of the story, rather than trying to force something to happen
  • “Keeping the ball in the air” as long and as effectively as possible
  • Bringing an element of danger into your work
  • And much, much more

Beatriz De La Cruz stars in La Comida, a funny and poignant short Written and Directed by Eddie.

Beatriz De La Cruz (La Comida)

It’s basically a crash course in how to leave it all on the table, in service of whatever it is that your story needs. I hope you like the interview.

Please feel free to drop a note in the comments if you have anything to add, or have any follow-up questions you’d like to ask.

You can find more about Eddie at his site: http://edwardpomerantz.com/.

Coffee with Creatives is also available on iTunes.