How La La Land Inspires Writers and Artists

Have you seen La La Land? You should. It will inspire you. Here’s why:

Writers and artists can be sensitive people, right? We tack our work up on the wall for everyone to judge and hope someone, anyone, even if they’re in the back of the room, gets what we were trying to do. It’s hard when we hear whispers and a few giggles. It’s all the H words; humbling, humiliating, horrifying and hell. So why do we keep doing it? Because of all the P words. It’s our passion. The potential to reach the precipitous peak of all our pleasurable dreams by perseverance would be pure paradise. Okay, so I’m pushing it.

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La La Land is a vibrant musical film. It shows how Hollywood can suck hope from a person unless they’re willing to take a risk and persevere through all those H words.

The following paragraph includes SPOILERS: I watched Mia, played by Emma Stone, appear in front of stoney-faced production heads while she auditioned her heart out. Time after time, she faced rejections. Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, sells out to play his piano just about anywhere, even though his heart belongs to jazz. The odds are against them.

Three things really hit me:

A teacher at Icon Collective Music Production School recently told my son, Kelly, all artists face horrible rejection at some point. Most give up. Successful artists persevere, take risks, and follow their passion no matter what happens.

The second takeaway? Support. Surrounding yourself with people who “get what you’re trying to do,” is imperative. We have to make the effort to find them. All it takes is one.

The last message I got from the movie was about sacrifice and choices.  Sometimes we have to choose what’s uncomfortable in order to grow as an artist. Following a passion may not be convenient and can be isolating. Most of us won’t be faced with the choices Mia and Sebastian had to make, but I think the message in the ending was clear.

SPOILER ALERT! They chose their passion over passion. Watch the movie and you’ll see what I mean.

End of spoilers.

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The irony of La La Land? It took all those P words and six years in order to make this film, according to writer and director, Damian Chazelle. No one believed a musical would make any money. He said this while accepting awards on stage at the Golden Globes. His film took seven of them, including Best Picture. He embodied his film’s message. He dedicated his first award “to all the musical theater geeks out there.”

Watching this movie after posting about my failed resolutions really hit me.

As a writer, rejections pile up. Writing books, screenplays, and blog posts take most of my free time. I’ve already faced cancer and freaked out over how short life can be. I asked myself point blank. “Is this really how I want to spend the rest of it?”

In that moment, I wondered what life would have been like if I hadn’t started writing almost six years ago. No books. No screenplays. No blogging communities or conferences or writer friends. There are other ways I could create, after all, I graduated in art, but it comes down to passion. I couldn’t imagine that alternate universe. I love writing. I can’t give it up.

So bring it on, H words! I will continue to ignore the whispers and giggles. It’s part of the process of following my passion. I’ll reach that precipitous peak, someday.

Have you seen La La Land? What’s your passion? Do you eat popcorn with or without butter?

I Fear it’s Time

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October is fright fest movie month. Even though vampires, witches, zombies and ghosts don’t exist (Wait. I believe in ghosts!), many of us will sit on the edge of our seats, spellbound with pulses racing. We will be held tight by the tension created in these movies.

220px-The_Birds_original_posterForeshadowing is a literary device used also in film, to hint at a future event. The creak of a floorboard, the rustle of the wind, or the banging of a shutter is often followed by a shadowy figure inside the house.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Melanie Daniels (played by Tippy Hedron), enters a pet shop. The canaries go wild. It won’t be long before other cute little birds become predators with outstretched wings, talons, and pecking beaks. Continue reading

And the Winner Is…

Oscar 1 Academy AwardsSo you have been nominated for the Academy Award. Thoughts of your acceptance speech have run through your head a couple thousand times, admit it! Your biggest fear is that you will forget someone. Face the hard truth. You’ll get up there and fail because you refused to write it down, for fear of jinxing yourself. You are a superstitious lot.

Your dream comes true and you win The Oscar:

First you feign shock. You let tears well-up in your eyes while demurring to the others in your category – even though you are secretly so completely stoked to beat out a couple of them. Then you will look out at the adoring faces in the crowd and rattle off the names of your producer, director, actors, etc.

You’ll thank your parents with the overused standby, “Because without them, well, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” –insert tired chuckle from crowd–  followed by other significant supporters in your life.

Without boring everyone with a list of the obvious, I thought I would help remind you of the one person you should thank, but so often is overlooked. No, it is not your 2nd grade teacher. Continue reading

Do You Think It’s Wonderful?

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When you think about how many films you have viewed during your lifetime, have you ever wondered why some remain timeless? They can be watched over and over again without losing their impact.

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my favorites. Somehow this Christmas tale produced and directed by Frank Capra has kept its relevance every year since it was released in 1947. It still is #1 on the American Movie Institute’s list of most inspirational films. The movie is based on a short story written in 1939 by Philip Van Doren Stern called The Christmas Gift.

I am about to start on my last rewrite of my novel and examined this movie in a completely different way. Not as a movie-goer, but as a writer. I  discovered its magic and why it has left audiences spellbound for the last 66 years. Continue reading