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Reader Question: What to do when you feel out of touch with your creative energy?

A question from Julian Edmund:

Scott, I’ve been reading your blog. I’ve been feeling out of touch with my creative energy as of late.Tell me, does this happen to you at all?

And how do you get through it?

Julian, that is a great question and I’m sure the entire GITS community (myself included) appreciates you having the honesty and courage to ask it.

In answer to your question, do I ever feel out of touch my creative energy: The answer is a decided yes. Sometimes writing is the last thing in the world I want to do.

Anything. Else. But. Writing. Please!

How to get through it?

First, consider this. You know how when you’re standing at the end of a long line, say at the post office or grocery store? Then when someone gets in line behind you, you feel better? It’s not like your wait is going to be any shorter, rather it’s a comfort knowing someone else is going to suffer like you? Well, there’s a certain amount of comfort that can be found in realizing that virtually all writers, indeed, all creative types suffer from occasional bouts of ennui.

In other words, feeling down in the dumps creatively is not unique to you or me.

Personally a great resource in this regard is a book called “Songwriters on Songwriting.” [I've written songs since I was 14]. When I read an interview with Paul Simon, Carole King, or Burt Bacharach, and learn that they have periods of time where they simply can’t write a decent song, even moments where they think they’ve actually lost their creativity, it makes me realize we’re all in the same boat.

I’ll bet if you go through the dozens of interviews with writers I’ve got archived on this site, you’ll find plenty of them who say the same thing.

So first thing: Really try to absorb the fact that all creative types suffer through periods of inspirational malaise.

A second thing I’ll do is ‘rattle my cage.’ This can take many shapes — anything from reversing my writing schedule (instead of writing at night, which is my natural instinct, I’ll write in the morning), go for a weekend away to commune with nature, or blind typing before every writing session — but the idea is to shake up my routine and by doing so hopefully break me out of my doldrums.

I wrote about this as a “Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work”: Get Un-Comforatble.

A third thing is to watch some great movies. Or read great scripts. Or lose myself in a great book. For me, there’s nothing more inspirational than seeing or reading a great story well told. It’s uplifting spiritually and creatively.

Be sure not to overlook an obvious consideration: Do you have a strong emotional connection to the story you’re writing? The simple fact that a writer feels a strong resonance with a story is usually enough to help pull them through tough creative times. If you’re not feeling inspired, Julian, perhaps it’s because you’re really not all that into the story you’ve chosen. Why not explore writing another story?

GITS readers, what say ye? Do you ever go into a creative funk? If so, how do you deal with it? Let’s see if we can’t come up with some solutions for Julian — and anybody else who might be flagging creatively just now.

[Originally posted July 10, 2010]

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Interview: Justin Kremer (2012 Black List) — Part 4

No matter what other good things happen to screenwriter Justin Kremer, he will always have this fact as part of his personal history: His script “McCarthy” was the first one to generate enough interest in the new Black List script-hosting site to land the ‘new’ writer representation — with CAA and Madhouse Entertainment no less. The heat generated off that resulted in “McCarthy” circulating rapidly around Hollywood, leading to it making the 2012 Black List.

Justin was kind enough to do an interview and we had an extensive conversation. Today in Part 4, Justin shares insights into his first experiences of making the rounds in Hollywood and yet another reason why screenwriters should be reading scripts:

Scott:  Eventually you meet with a bunch of managers and agents?

Justin:  Yep.

Scott:  What were the key elements of the script they were responding to when you were having these conversations?

Justin:  Yeah, I think the the Kennedys of it all was something that people were really surprised by, as was I. As a whole, it seemed like people just responded to a new take on someone they thought they knew so much about, which was what attracted me to the material.

The agency and managerial process was overwhelming and gratifying, because you get to meet so many amazing people who are so kind and intelligent. It’s definitely tough to navigate when you’ve never been in that position before.

Scott:  Who did you settle on in terms of your representation?

Justin:  I ended up signing with CAA ‑‑ Matt Rosen, Jon Cassir, and Ali Trustman, and Madhouse Entertainment on the managerial side with Adam Kolbrenner and Chris Cook.

Scott:  The next thing, you make the 2012 Black List. You already talked about it a little bit. Let’s roll that out a little bit more. Where were you when you found out and what was your immediate reaction?

Justin:  I was on the LIRR, on the train… about to go through a tunnel. I got to the train station. My train was at 12:30, and it takes a half hour to get to the station, so I was like, “All right. I don’t want to be on the road when the list starts getting announced.” I woke up early, got to the station, and sat in my car for a half hour updating the Twitter app on my phone every three seconds.

Every minute felt like the longest minute of my life. Time passed. I had to get on the train. It was, like, 12:30. The first 30 or so scripts had been announced. I think it was around 12:50 or so ‑‑ just when I was about to get into Penn Station and my cell reception was going to cut out ‑‑ that I saw a notification pop up on Twitter. I was amazed.

Scott:  That’s funny. Franklin just started that this year where he was announcing the scripts, before the full list went out, on Twitter. I was following him trying to accumulate them all, updating them on my blog. While we were doing that, you were on Long Island and watching all this. Right?

Justin:  Oh yeah. I could not get off the phone.

Scott:  How has it impacted you, being on the Black List?

Justin:  It was great. I actually went to LA the week before the announcement, which was the first time I had been there since I was a little kid, to take some meetings and meet my representation in person, since I’m all the way over here in New York. It was a fantastic trip.

I’m amazed by how wide the site’s reach is. I had heard from a couple production companies, before I had any representation, who had just read the script from the site. There just seemed to be so much goodwill towards what Franklin was doing. After the Black List announcement, it was incredible. I had an opportunity to meet with a few more companies. Hopefully, it will turn into even more good things.

Scott:  What’s the current status on “McCarthy”?

Justin:  We’re looking for the right team, whether it’s a producer or a director, or an actor, it’s about finding someone who’s passionate about the material. I know it’s not the most commercially exciting property, but at the end of the day I think it’s a compelling story.

Scott:  What projects are you working on currently?

Justin:  At the moment I’m actually in a fairly embryonic stage. I’m working on a treatment for a company based on an original idea that I pitched. Hopefully the stars will align there. I’m in the midst of basing out a new spec idea, and still scouring websites and books for interesting material.

I’m glad that all of the representation stuff has been settled because I can finally get back to doing what I love – just getting in there writing. That’s what the next few months will be all about.

Scott:  This first go‑around of those meetings, what are some of the things you’ve learned off that process?

Justin:  You know, I think my first meeting I was pretty nervous because I just didn’t know what to expect, but it quickly becomes comfortable and natural. Everyone treats you really well and you just need to tell them your story. Some meetings will be very brief, ultra professional half hours, and others, when you really connect with someone, will last a lot longer.

Generals aren’t nearly as daunting as I thought they would be because everyone’s so intelligent and sweet. You just need to give people a good idea of who you are and what you’re trying to do.

Scott:  What I’m hearing is two things. One, have a narrative, have your personal story in order, and two, be flexible because you never know which way the meeting is going to go. It could just be, as you say, a 30‑minute meet‑and‑greet or it could evolve into something more substantive where you’re actually batting around ideas at a creative level.

Justin:  You don’t even need to know exactly what you want to do next, because that’s what everyone will ask you when you’re on that first round of generals, “What’s next? What are you working on?”

It’s great to have ideas. That certainly helps, but you also just need to give them, I think, , a sense of who you are from a writer’s stance, who you admire and what kind of stuff you want to do.

There were a bunch of guys I talked about — guys that I admire so much — like Chris Terrio, Steve Zaillian, and John Logan. That gives people a tangible sense of what you’re aspiring to do as much as any idea might.

Scott:  That’s a really good point because that’s what they traffic in: scripts and movies by these other writers. So if you’re well versed in the content and material that screenwriters are producing nowadays, that’s a really good shorthand for the people you meet with on the other side, producers and studio execs, for them to be able to grasp your sensibilities.

Justin:  Exactly. There’s no one who knows those guys’ work better than these execs, and so to give them a really concrete example of what you’re striving to do, it really helps.

Scott:  Well, I’ve got to thank you for that because it gives me yet another way I can promote the importance of reading scripts. You can become familiar with current screenwriters, and that provides you not only with their talent, and how they write their various styles, their approaches, their voices or whatnot, but also enables you to have more of a base of communication with the people you’ll be meeting with at these general meetings and whatnot.

Justin:  Yeah.

Scott:  Thank you.

Justin:  I actually ended up sending execs writers’ scripts… writers that I’ve never met in my life and would have no idea who they were if I walked by them on the street — scripts that I loved, that we kind of connected about. The more you know about what’s out there, what the marketplace is like, the better. It only serves you well.

Please stop by comments to thank Justin for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Tomorrow in Part 5, Justin talks about some aspects of the screenwriting craft.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

Justin is repped by CAA and Madhouse Entertainment.

Twitter: @Kremsicles.

Why did 7 Best Picture nominated movies top $100M in B.O.?

That’s the focus point of a recent IndieWire article. Here are the seven movies with their cumulative worldwide box office:

Life of Pi: $580M

Les Miserables: $379M

Django Unchained: $369M

Lincoln: $236M

Argo: $205M

Silver Linings Playbook: $153M

Zero Dark Thirty: $102M

People are making a fuss about this because the situation is particularly unusual. There have been times in the last few years where none of the Best Picture nominees did much in the way of box office.

The article lists 6 reasons for the success of this group of films:

1. The studios were more aggressive about producing would-be contenders

2. More films came out later this year than usual

3. The earlier nomination announcements enhanced grosses

4. Less competition from other films

5. Longer period between nominations and the awards

6. Concentration of acting nominees among Best Picture contenders

All good points. But I’d like to think the biggest single reason is something the article tosses off in the lead paragraph: “the quality of the films.”

I can’t speak for Les Miserables as I haven’t seen it, but the other six films on the list are excellent movies. I would imagine much of their success has to do with BWOM: By Word Of Mouth, the best advertising a movie can have. Good movies tend to generate lots of BWOM. Emphasis on good.

So kudos to everyone involved with those movies with regard to their scheduling, marketing, and so forth. But special plaudits to the filmmakers themselves for creating such quality entertainment.