Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Creative collaborators

There are a number of ways artists can be "juiced" or inspired to create fine work.

Franz Schubert's was to be thrilled by nature. Walking or riding through a forest, taking a leisurely paddle across a lake or simply watching birds fly and sing would send his brilliant mind into action, "hearing" the music he composed.

Johann Strauss wrote phenomenal music dedicated to cities and rivers and meadows and other beautiful works created by humans and God.

The inspiration to create can take many forms: a person or a pet; a flower or a plant; a spiritual guide or a talisman; a favorite place or even a very breath of life itself.

Those specifically identified sources of artistic inspiration are generally called a muse.

Innumerable famous painters believed their lovers were their muse; in some cases they claim that a sexual component of a muse-ment is necessary because it replicates the origin of life. This, in turn, imitates the gestation and birth of art.

While there might well be a human with whom one has a sexual relationship who is the primary inspiration for an artist of any craft, too often sexual relationships fade, then disappear. The artists then feel they must continue to find more muses or, they believe, their work will suffer.

The idea of having a muse is a psychological game we all play with ourselves. It's fun and exciting. But an artist who believes that something outside himself or herself influences inspiration for work is at the mercy of a muse.

If one depends on their art/craft for a living, this can get dicey. We can't sit around hoping that someone or something will excite us enough to work - or do our very best work, exceeding all we've accomplished before.

So those who choose a constantly renewable resource as a muse can do very well for their entire working life. A forest, a river, the sky, one's own breath.

Those whose human muses who are sure to be with them forever are also blessed - a devoted spouse, a true friend.

I'm not comparing myself to any great artist, but I have more than one muse - including a person that I only recently realized *is* my human muse. I expect my anthropoid muse to be in my life for as long as we both are alive and beyond. My other muses include my pets, my home, music, drawing, painting, burning candles, live performances, singing, dinner with friends, my breath, my spirituality, the universe, a good massage, and last but not least, nature.

In short, it doesn't take much to inspire me.

I write every day and enjoy it, even when I'm having difficulty figuring out a character, plot. location or story issue. I'm very fortunate that way, and give thanks for it every day. Many writers - including some fine, gifted writers - do not enjoy the process. Some suffer mightily at the sight of a blank screen or piece of paper.

That's one level of creating - whether it's writing, painting, directing, composing, drawing or singing - getting started.

Another level is that of working with a creative collaborator.

This can be a coach, a teacher, a mentor, a knowledgeable spouse or friend, or someone with whom you work who has a significant and special insight into your heart, mind and work.

This person is someone who pushes you to dig deeper, research more, toil harder, reach higher and do better than you ever thought possible - while never doing the work for you. He or she does not even hint at what he or she believes you "should" write, say, do.

My creative collaborator is our literally famous producer, Larry Estes.

He has a way of asking questions about my scripts that make me do whatever it takes to figure out the answers that will make a character's motives laser clear, the character's psychological profile perfect, the character's behavior more believable and the dialogue more true to life.

Larry has never dealt with me in a way that makes me feel I've let him down or not met his expectations. Perhaps it's because he knows how very dedicated I am and how hard I work.

But he does always wonder - "why" something happens or doesn't happened and "how" this could be the outcome, given the circumstances that occurred on page 3?

A little background:

Larry has produced or been part of a production team for more than 80 independent films, many of them memorable award winners (sex, lies and videotape, gas food lodging and so many more). Over the past few decades he's worked with the likes of Steven Soderbergh and a legion of other notable writers, directors, actors - most of whom you'd know on sight or by name.

When I told him I was going to THE L-WORD wrap party? He says, "Say 'hi' to Jennifer Beals ..." as well as one of the directors on the show, and on it goes.

You'd never know it by his demeanor or his attitude. Like me, he's totally down to earth and all about the work. I think we even dress alike. Actually, this is not a good thing and our costumer Rebecca Luke is determined to change that by outfitting me in real clothes that make me look *good!*

Larry likes to find people whose stage in their craft is developed enough that he can consider producing their work, and, hopefully, artists with whom he has fun working. The two too seldom go hand in hand.

Debbie, his wife of nearly 30 years is the love of his life (as he is hers); he understands what a rare and sensational phenomenon this is, so isn't one to need or seek other sources of happiness.

I'm happy to say, however, that we have fun!

The joy of my life since I started working with him (less than a year ago) is to *blow him away!* I *live* to surprise the heck out of him by exceeding every expectation he has for me writing, directing and producing.

The look on his face, the exclamation of his voice, the blizzard blink of his eyes, the shaking of his head, the smile and the breath of disbelief is exhilarating!

Another thing - he doesn't let me "get away" with anything. I try to plug in a "sort of" scene until I can come back and do it right. Um, no. He catches the pseudo scene and, instead of asking, "what the hell is this??" Instead asks, "How would this work?" "Why is she doing this here?" "I'm having trouble following your logic, here."

Yeah, yeah. OK. Then I do it not only "right" but better than anything he thought he'd read on the page.

At least that what he says - and I'm doing the Snoopy dance! Oh, joy!

If you travel around Los Angeles with him, Larry has approximately 2,398 stories of famous people with whom he's worked HERE (as you pass a building) and had dinner at her house THERE (as you pass a lovely home) and THIS IS WHERE (some great film he green-lit or worked on) was made (as you pass what used to be a studio building or low road location).

With Larry's feedback (anyone else who has feedback now goes through him because he's got the knack for asking me just the right questions), I just finished the official white script for THE LONELY GOATHERD.

Now I'm underway, as you know, Gentle Reader, to write the best and most unusual screenplay I've ever written, SPARE CHANGE. I could be intimidated, especially because every one's expectations of it - including mine - are so high, and the lead actors are amazing.

But with Larry as my creative collaborator, and all those muses I told you about? It's just a matter of using the typical formula for writing: place butt in seat, fingers on keys, head in research and background work, keep mind open to receive whatever the universe wants to offer up, and fill up blank screens and paper pages (I tend to write on anything that's nearby).

How lucky am I?

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  • At 9:38 PM, Blogger The Entertainment Corner said…

    Glad everything is progressing nicely on all three of your current creative endeavors.

  • At 6:25 PM, Blogger cp said…

    Thanks so much.

    You are a sweetheart, Mireille! You know, for ages I thought your last name letter "M" in your SIG stood for that of one of my favorite French chanteuses - Mireile Matthieu! Ooolala! Elle est formidable!


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