A thought to remember when we wake up each morning and confront anew that dastardly dragon:
Resistance comes second.
Resistance is the shadow, the tree is the Dream.
The Dream comes first. The dream of whatever work or enterprise or endeavor you and I are called to.
Resistance is the shadow cast by that dream.
Resistance is the equal-and-opposite-reaction of nature to the New Thing that you and I are called to bring forth out of nothing.
There would be no Resistance without the Dream. The Dream comes first. Resistance follows.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Resistance’s strength is equal to the power of the Dream. Big Resistance = Big Dream. No Resistance = no dream.
So if you wake up tomorrow morning overwhelmed with fear, dread, and negative energy, that’s a good sign. The massive shadow that you’re experiencing is being cast by an equally massive tree—the tree of your dream, your vision, your calling.
The negative implies the positive. The more daunting the negative, the more brilliant the positive.
Resistance has no power of its own. It’s a shadow, nothing more. As soon as we learn to look past the shadow to the Dream that has cast it, the shadow loses all power over us.
Steven Pressfield, June 5, 2013
“How Jason Hall Went From Struggling Actor To Hot Screenwriter With AMERICAN SNIPER And Two More Big Deals Coming” by Mike Fleming Jr.
How Jason Hall Went From Struggling Actor To Hot Screenwriter With ‘American Sniper’ And Two More Big Deals Coming
By MIKE FLEMING JR | Tuesday June 4, 2013
EXCLUSIVE: Jason Hall was marked an A-list screenwriter the moment DreamWorks and Warner Bros joined forces after Steven Spielberg agreed to direct Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, based on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Not surprisingly, both studios want more from Hall. Warner Bros has just closed a blind script deal with him, and I’ve learned that DreamWorks is in early talks to have Hall adapt the upcoming David Finkel book Thank You For Your Service, about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder syndrome that is becoming a major issue for vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s something Spielberg likes as a potential project down the line, though that is all early days.
I sought out Hall because I find it instructive to see how a guy with one screen credit (2009′s Spread) and another coming (an adaption of the Joseph Finder novel Paranoia) gets white-hot so quickly. Every writer’s trajectory is different, but there’s a common thread: there is no such thing as an overnight success screenwriter. It’s years of struggle to find a voice, and then maybe a lucky break. Hall came to Hollywood to be an actor, and only found his way to screenwriting because things were going so badly. “I did TV parts in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and other shows, playing the bad guy or the MacGuffin bad guy, with the half-baked mustache,” Hall told me. “I would read these terrible movie scripts, and I couldn’t get auditions. I thought, maybe I could write a terrible script for myself, but they wouldn’t even let me audition when I did that. My first script, I remember this funny lawyer telling me I was getting more than Ben and Matt did at the beginning. This producer says, I know you want to act in this, but what if I told you Milos Forman wanted to direct this, with someone else?” Still in full actor mode, Hall was direct: “I remember being in the lobby of The Four Seasons, and saying a little too loud, ‘Milos Forman can go fuck himself!’ So that went away, and then I wrote another script about a blind wrestler. I wrestled since I was a kid, and there are these great blind wrestlers who compete up to nationals. I’ve wrestled them, and you have to keep your hands on them at all times, and if you separate the ref blows the whistle and connects you again. Some of these guys are really good. So I’m ready to play this blind wrestler, and John Dahl is interested and says to me, this is perfect for Matt Damon. And I said, ‘Matt Damon can go fuck himself!’ And that went away.”Things turned for Hall when he finally took to heart some advice from his reps at CAA and Management 360. His writing was getting really good, they said, but his acting dreams were killing him. “I wrote another one, and it was autobiographical, and when they said, ‘Keanu Reeves would be perfect for this, I swallowed hard and said, ‘Keanu Reeves can…Keanu Reeves sounds like a great idea. It was much smoother sailing after that.”
Ashton Kutcher starred in that film, Spread, and helped extinguish Hall’s acting dream for good. “I wanted a little part, but Ashton says, I don’t think you’re good looking enough,” he said. Ultimately, Hall came to grips that he was not going to be the second coming of Sly Stallone, who famously held onto Rocky until allowed to play the fighter. “When they put me on camera, I come off a bit angry looking, like there’s something wrong,” he says now, looking back. “I’d say, maybe I have too many thoughts in my head, and they would say, ‘just stop thinking and act.’ I couldn’t.”
He continued honing his voice as a writer on projects that didn’t happen, building currency at Warner Bros: there was a movie about pioneering rock DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, a Grand Theft Auto movie for Eminem. Then came the big break.
It started when Dan Loeb, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Third Point (who lately has been viewed a potential player in a possible sale of Sony Entertainment assets) was looking to help out his friend Chris Kyle, the sniper who had just come home in 2009 with the most confirmed kills in U.S. military history. He told Hall about him and it sounded like a good enough movie subject that Hall headed to Texas, where former killing machine Kyle ran seminars on guns and hunting. “It was a weekend course, you got brush-up training in firearms, you went hunting, and you drank a lot of beer,” he said. “It was Kyle, 50 cops, and me. I’d never been to Texas and I’m dropped into this room with a sniper and 50 of his closest Ranger friends. I didn’t drink like they did, and while I talked to Chris a bit, the vibe was, I don’t trust this kid. I thought, why isn’t he talking to me? I only realized until later why. He’s a sniper, man, and they sit back and they wait.”
The moment Kyle waited for occurred when one of the cops got tired of Hall, and they locked up and went at it. Hall, who in high school wrestled as high as the 189-pound weight class, knew how to handle big strong guys. “Me and this cop got into it, and I threw him in a headlock and took him to the ground.” Hall found out later that’s how these guys prove themselves. “Chris warmed to me after I threw his friend in the headlock, and it was like, ‘maybe he’s not so bad.’” They began spending time together, including a hunting trip where Hall watched Kyle connect with his wife and a son who was also going hunting. Kyle was still trying to shut off the switch that made him the country’s most accomplished sniper, and it wasn’t easy. “Chris had just gotten out of four deployments in Iraq, and you could see the transition happening, as he struggled to get his life and his head back. And when his kid and his wife showed up, I could just see a light go on. And I knew there was a movie there. I saw a man who was a father and a husband, someone I hadn’t seen the night before. I didn’t understand until then how these guys felt, trying to return to society and their families, after being fueled with this intense patriotism as they did the things they did.”
Hall thought he’d continue this crash course in father-son bonding on that hunting trip, but learned different. Kyle put him in an empty duck blind, alone, giving him a gun and a walkie-talkie, and leaving him there five hours. “I didn’t see a duck or a deer, only an armadillo and when I radioed Chris, he said, no, you can’t shoot that,” Hall recalled. “They were only 200 yards away from me, and took down three deers, with his son getting one of them. The whole time, I didn’t see a damn thing.”
By then, Hall had been well into the planning of the project with producers Andrew Lazar, Cooper and Peter Morgan, the latter of whom was there at the meeting with Loeb when Kyle’s name first surfaced. Cooper had just set up his company, 22 & Indiana Pictures, at Warner Bros, and American Sniper became his first producing project there. The studio also bought rights for an autobiography that came together after Hall had begun his research, and went on to become a bestseller. “We pitched it to Warner Bros and had an outline. I wrote it in about eight weeks, gave it to Andrew Lazar on a Friday, and the following day, I get a call from Chris’s buddy, Dauber, telling me that Chris had just been murdered. I’d spent eight weeks inside this guy’s head, and just like that he was gone.”
While in Iraq as a Navy SEAL who accumulated 160 confirmed kills out of 255 estimated total kills, Kyle was so good at his deadly job that he was called the “Devil Of Ramadi” by Iraqi insurgents who placed an escalating bounty on his head. Kyle reportedly had survived being shot twice and being in the middle of six IED attacks. But back home, he had no chance when he and a friend were killed at a Texas shooting range by a 25-year old Marine they were helping through PTSD. The Marine allegedly snapped and turned the gun on them.
Hall would not speak on the specifics of that tragedy, but was not surprised that such a hard man like Kyle would lend support to a fellow vet. “There was a side to Chris that surprised me at first,” he said. “He was this super generous humble guy who could be so loving with his time, taking in every underdog he came across. It was hard to believe this generous kind father had also been one of the most effective killers the military has ever seen.”
At that point, the priority for Hall, Cooper, Lazar and Morgan was doing justice to Kyle’s legacy. Hall attended the funeral, and, after getting into another brawl with another Kyle pal who didn’t appreciate an interloper trying to gather information, Hall bonded with the fallen soldier’s SEAL pals. “It was late, I wasn’t drinking like they were, and they didn’t trust me when I told them I was just here to tell Chris’ story,” Hall said. “So once again, there I am, wrestling a guy on the pavement. I did alright, and then it was like, `Here’s my phone number.’ Through them, and especially Chris’ wife Taya, I discovered more of the human side of Chris, and how much he struggled to come back. Taya was grieving, I needed to hear more stories about Chris, and she opened up her life.”
The payoff will be the movie, but an early one came after Spielberg read the script, and immediately declared he had found his next film. The pieces fit together perfectly, as Cooper had just turned in a career performance, getting Oscar-nominated for Silver Linings Playbook. Hall immediately called Kyle’s widow.
“That was the most fulfilling moment of all those years, letting Taya know someone great would be telling Chris’ story,” Hall said. “We have all felt a lot of pressure to do right by Chris and his family, because this movie will be a big part of how Chris’ kids remember him. Taya at first thought I was messing with her when I called, but then the tears flowed. The name Spielberg means the same to everybody.”
And that’s the back story on this overnight success.
If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t really want feedback – we say we do, we may even convince ourselves that brutal feedback would help us — but what we really want is praise. Don’t get me wrong, I know we all want to improve but praise would skip the awkward process of feedback. When feedback is given, we tend to have an emotional reaction – THE BITE – and it makes us defensive. We feel under attack — or why would we BITE, why would we get defensive, if we didn’t feel like we’re being attacked?
When you are given feedback – just write it down. One of my former teachers, renowned Scottish playwright Ann Marie di Mambro used to say ‘Shut up and write it down.’
Just write it down.
Then come back to it when your emotional reaction has diminished.
Now you can look at the notes and see what you make of the feedback – now the urge to BITE is no longer present. Some may be valuable, some may be practicably useless, but you will find more value with a cool head.
In receiving feedback, do as Brian Tracy insists: “Never complain, never explain. Resist the temptation to defend yourself or to make excuses.”
He’s dead right. Whoever is offering you feedback is giving you their opinion on what you did, explaining doesn’t change the feedback, it just demonstrates your resistance to it.
They will not suddenly say ‘Oh well, I thought that moment of your performance was fake and unnecessary, but now you’ve explain WHY you did it like that, I’ve changed my mind completely…” – isn’t going to happen.
If you manage to hold your BITE in, you might ask for clarification on certain notes, but only if you can do so without BITING.
Do this, and feedback time will be shorter and far less awkward, a lot more beneficial.
Acting Coach Scotland
TV Guide’s list of the 60 greatest comedies of all time! Click here to read the article: 60 GREATEST COMEDIES by Matt Roush.
Lesly’s fave excerpts from Lindsay M’s fave outtakes from the Meryl Streep interview on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’:
The interview took place right after Streep won an Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in IRON LADY.
On breathing: “That’s my way in, how to enter a character. I don’t think about voice being separate from the way you hold your head or the way you sit or the way you put on lipstick. It’s all a piece of a person and it’s all driven by conviction (in Thatcher’s case), in other characters it’s driven by insecurity/ fear. There is always a driver, all the physical manifestations and you need a way in.” Hers is usually the breath if she is portraying a known figure.
She reminisces on her father’s collection of Barbara Streisand records and how she knew, “every single song, breath, elision, swell, sang along with it, it was a way for me to get out the feeling of the song, a way to express.”
She studied opera, against her will at age 13. There she learned, “the importance of breath. Breathing from your back, there is room in the back, not just your diaphragm, you expand three dimensionally.”
She then spoke about the prosthetics she had to wear during filming of IRON LADY. “It’s not about fooling the audience, it’s all about fooling the other actors, because that’s hard — when you walk on set and it’s a big make up job, it makes it hard for them and I take my entire performance from them and if they don’t hate me or love me the way they are supposed to, then I am lost. I don’t have anything to go on because I can read that immediately [that they are not fooled into believing she is Margaret Thatcher] in their eyes. That is the WHOLE deal.”
In a commencement speech to Barnard, Streep reminisces on her high school years and how she felt she ‘acted’ her way to become a “likeable, popular girl’ by societal means. She said she studied Vogue, Mademoiselle, and the other pretty girls; what they wore, dressed, acted, spoke, and walked. It wasn’t natural for Streep, it may have been her first character.
“I wasn’t thinking about playing a role at all, I was thinking about getting ahead. I was always a kid who wanted to do well, get good grades, cheerleader. At Vassar, it was all girls, all of that fell away (the need to be liked/accepted by boys), (it was the) early 70’s, a classic consciousness raising time, people were earnestly talking about what is a woman, our capacity, what’s holding us back. I felt FREE, a thing emerge, and that was my actual personality, my actual voice. I realized I was funny, and I was allowed to be! I was allowed to be loud and obnoxious and made great friends who accepted me for all those things. It was an emergence. Something you hope for when a child goes off to college.”
*Interesting side note, because it wasn’t until college did Streep really pursue acting, she started with musical theatre as a hobby…then to Yale for graduate school*
Streep tells an infamous story about her audition for the remake of KING KONG for an Italian director. “Dino said [to her] in Italian,” But this is so ugly, why do you bring me this?” I am sitting opposite him, sitting at a desk and his son is so kind and he said, “No dad, she is a wonderful actress.’ The son had seen me in something. I said, “I am very sorry I am not as beautiful as I should be, but you know, this is what you get.” I left and I was very upset. I didn’t show it.
When asked how interesting it was that after being told early in her career, [that her] face and body [were] not qualified for the role, she made it intentionally clear they knew that she understood them. Streep said, “They think actresses are stupid. He was speaking to his son in Italian. He had no idea I would understand, but I did. They think Americans are stupid too.”
Then she is asked some very personal questions about her first fiancé, who died of bone marrow [cancer], John Cazale, best known for his role as Fredo in the GODFATHER. They met on the set of THE DEERHUNTER. John taught her the importance of research.
“John used to be called 20 Questions by directors because he would always ask tons of questions. I learned from him that you couldn’t know enough about the character, the vision, what the director wants. Movie making is such a collaborative enterprise; actors get a lot of credit but its filtered through the director’s point of view. We read what is on the script and it shakes us in a way but the director may have completely different feelings, so John would always ask.”
She was then asked if she has been satisfied with the roles of women as she changed ages.
“Turning 40, I was offered three different witch roles in three different contexts. The world/the studios were saying, ‘We don’t know what to do with you.’ I remember being shocked when Bette Davis was 40-41 and did ALL ABOUT EVE and was considered an “over the hill” “washed up” actress, and Davis was only 50 when she did BABY JANE and other grotesque roles. For a long time in the movie business when a woman was attractive, fuckable, she had a career but after that they didn’t know what to do with you until you were a lioness in the winter, 70’s, Driving Miss Daisy. It’s crazy because in my opinion, the middle, the most vibrant years of a woman’s life [are] 40-60, and that has really changed, not for everyone, but for me it did! I think a big part of it was [that] being fuckable was not the first thing about me when I was younger. Cute goes away with age, but I was never cute.”
“What’s great about any work of art is what it implies. This Twyla Tharp video implies a lot. It implies habit—powerful, positive, professional habit. It implies will, dedication, love, devotion, commitment. It implies slaying the dragon of Resistance every morning. It implies an entire philosophy of life and art.”
… I’m staying at the Gran Hotel (http://www.ibizagranhotel.com/en/home). … As for the women in the elevator… They had skintight pants made of material that looked like leather, with glitter, and heels very high, but they were not twenty or even thirty, they were way past forty. People this age in America stay home. But here you go out.
And when you do… … bad bodies and unattractive people. Whoa! Save the hate mail. I’m just saying I live in Los Angeles, where how you look is more important than where you went to college, if you even did. It’s an outdoor/workout culture, where if you weren’t born beautiful, you’re doing everything in your power to appear so. Sure, some people get plastic surgery, but you’d be stunned what diet and exercise and makeup and a stylist can do.
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“There is really no prescription for creative work, I heard a writer say the other day that he sits down at the keyboard and the first thing he says to himself is ‘I don’t know.’” -Geoff Talbot
Kids come up to me and ask me all the time…
Kid: How do I get a “creative” career thing going like yours?
Hugh: Make something. Grab a piece of paper and a pen or whatever and get cracking…
Kid: What if it isn’t any good?
Hugh: Then you’re screwed.
Kid: Ok, what if it’s pretty good, but it’s still going to take me another twenty or thirty years before the world understands it?
Hugh: Then you’re slightly less screwed.
At that point, they’re already sick of asking me any more questions and so they move on, unhappy. Oh well…
The thing is, people think there’s some set of ideal conditions out there, floating independently in space, that somehow have be met, some magic fairy boxes that need to be ticked off, before you can go and “be creative”, whatever that means.
“I’ve got to quit my job, leave my wife, move to India and become an opium addict yada yada yada…” “I’ve got to drop out of college, move to New York and carry on a forbidden and tumultuous lesbian affair with a Japanese novelist twice my age yada yada yada…”
Actually, no. The way to be creative is to make stuff. You wake up in the morning, have some breakfast, hit the work bench and get on it with it.
Or not. Maybe you’d rather just hang out, light a joint and watch Star Trek reruns. Your call.
You can’t plan for creativity. You can only plan to do the work.
Whether it ends up being “creative” or not, is decided later. Long after you’ve finished the thing and moved on to something else.
That’s what I mean by it coming “after the fact.”
And so there we are.
-Hugh MacLeod, (http://gapingvoid.com/2012/01/29/fac/)