No Excuses: Filmmaker Tom DeNucci

image7I’ve known Tom DeNucci for a long time. It was great to finally get him on Coffee with Creatives, and he does not disappoint in this latest episode of the podcast.

If I took one thing away from our talk, it’s…the power of action. No matter what you’re trying to do as a creative, if you keep moving forward, with a parallel focus on learning through experience (and from mistakes) — you’ll grow. And results will come.

Other topics that come up in my talk with Tom include:

  • His involvement (and appearance) in the Martin Scorcese produced film Bleed for This
  • Starting as a background actor, and watching everything everyone does on set
  • The crucial importance of attention to detail
  • Digging in as a regional filmmaker, in spite of stereotypes and challenges
  • Getting your movies (or creations) seen
  • The benefits of keeping up a rotation of projects and goals.

You can find Tom on Twitter. Bleed for This is currently in theaters.

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

It’s Absurd That We Die: Filmmaker Josh Seftel

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Josh Seftel applied for a grant to make a film about toxic mold. He got the grant and made the film. After it developed a bit of a cult following, he started getting calls from Hollywood. Eventually, he would go on to work with talent like Ben Kingsley, Marisa Tomei and John Cusack.

On a separate day, he ran into an old friend on the street. Three years later, the film that resulted from that chance meeting would grace the front page of The New York Times web site.

Josh and I talk about all this and more on the latest episode of Coffee with Creatives. Head on over to iTunes to hear about:

  • Why Josh skipped on medical school to make films and produce stories, eventually leading him to work with such outlets as HBO, PBS and This American Life
  • The importance of gaining and nurturing a network across disciplines — and how that helped land his short documentary, The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano, on the home page of The New York Times
  • How and why Morgan Spurlock got involved with The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano
  • Working in a morgue during college, and his longtime affinity for dark things
  • The benefits of getting up early
  • The importance of finding a mentor, and the one crucial thing you you should do in parallel while working for or with that mentor

Great talk. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You can find Josh on Twitter. His site can be found here. To watch The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano, catch it on Vimeo.

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

How Can I Help? Composer/Producer Simon Taufique on Coffee With Creatives

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Simon Taufique loved music, but didn’t have the full training or the opportunity to pursue the craft — until a convergence of circumstances led him to just take the leap. He eventually began to specialize in composing for film.

Before long, Simon’s additional predilections — for working collaboratively, helping others to achieve a shared vision, and for leveraging strategy to the benefit of any one project — drove him to begin taking on producing responsibilities. As part of his philosophy of asking “How Can I Help?” he now produces films so that he can help collaborators pursue their combined vision, including his own contributions to the score.

Simon’s biggest project to date, Imperium, finds him working with A-list talent like Daniel Radcliffe and Toni Collette. We had a great conversation on this episode of Coffee With Creatives.

Topics covered include:

  • How Simon was inspired by friend M. Night Shyamalan to be creative by any means necessary
  • How his start in tech allowed him to make enough money to escape the 9-5 and focus more squarely on creative pursuits
  • How and why September 11th became a personal turning point for Simon creatively
  • The indie ethos — focusing on positioning and strategy, and figuring out a way to get it done
  • How and why careerist decision-making can be a wrong-headed approach in the long term
  • Owning the creativity, but letting go of the results
  • Making challenges and boundaries work for you
  • The benefits and importance of decisiveness
  • The obvious and less-obvious advantages of working with A-list talent
  • Relieving professional and career pressure by creating constantly

That’s a ton of good and useful stuff. Imperium is available on most digital video platforms, and you can follow Simon on Twitter here.

 

Finally, I have two announcements to make, which are also covered in this episode of the podcast.

The first is that Coffee With Creatives now has over 5,000 listeners! Hooray, us! In celebration, I am giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

For a chance to win the gift card, send an email to me through this site and include a screenshot of either: 1) An iTunes review of the podcast, written by you, or 2) A social media post, written by you, in which you link to this or another favorite episode. A winner will be chosen randomly from all those who write in. Or maybe I’ll decide to award the review or share that most strikes my fancy. Only time will tell.

Also, I will be participating in a Live Director’s Commentary for my film, The Videoblogs, on October 9th. The event is virtual, and is being presented by the nsavides podcast (and its host, Nick Savides). Producer Jenna Edwards is also participating, and there are over $500+ in prizes being offered to participants. So, get on it!

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

 

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The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

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I have come to enjoy and depend upon routine. This is not a bad thing — but I have learned to be careful with it. All dependencies can benefit from periodic inquiry, if not disruption, I think.

Right now, at this moment, I’m starting in on this post later in the morning that I otherwise usually have over the last three weeks. I overslept a bit. This annoyed me. I carried that annoyance through to this moment.

But I have to let it go.

Because I just “wasted” a few more minutes in paralysis — because conditions weren’t perfect. Or safely comfortable. I couldn’t get moving. There were false starts. Some dumb nervous blinking occurred.

It helps to turn the problem against itself. Here I am, admitting that routine can be dangerous — not only to productivity but to creativity.

The unhelpful reaction was when I started thinking. Now is not the time for thinking. I just made that point yesterday.

It’s a dance, isn’t it?

On the one hand, the routine of waking up early every day, and writing here, has made me happier, has benefitted readers (people have written in to me, I’m not making that up!) and has increased traffic to this site.

These are all clear benefits. But they aren’t the purpose of it all, are they?

The purpose is expression.

While the fact of publishing here and then sharing with you is nearly as crucial, there’s no way for it to be causally as important so long as each post depends on the creative impulse for its existence in the first place.

That is why I keep up on writing here. Why I produce the podcast. This is about championing creative expression — and conversation. Sometimes, I worry about getting too meta-textual. That seems a fair thing to worry about and protect against.

But I’m still creating, directly, during the day. It’s my hope that these posts, and each episode of Coffee With Creatives, helps you to more often do the same. An additional hope is that, together, we can share in the joys and the pains that come along the way.

And I’m not just talking to artists. Everyone is creative. Life is creative. I believe we could use a bit more creativity, a bit more spiritual verve, in our daily lives.

So, here we are. Routinely imperfect but showing up anyway.

This is part twenty-two of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

Day 20: All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

Day 21: Why I’m Writing and Publishing, First Thing Every Morning

Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

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Often, the correct course of action is not one that we wish to take.

We resist. Understandably so, in many cases. A course of action suggests change. Change can be (often is) scary. There’s more certainty in what is known.

There is also more pain and sadness, in my experience, in ignoring the call for change. More general disquiet.

Dissatisfaction. Resentment. Anger. And yet, it often takes much suffering, and/or one big sign of the need for change, for many of us to finally take that action.

This is okay. It has to be, I think, if we are to at all improve at narrowing down this cycle.

Growth, obviously, comes up often on the podcast. I had a nice talk about gaining experience, about the importance of forward motion and learning, with the guest for this week’s coming episode. And when Leah Bonnema came on the show, she similarly stressed the importance of “going to work every day”.

All of this to say, I still have room to improve. We all do. Good work begins with the small stuff. I think I’ve been showing up in this way for a long time.

But the big, risky actions? Those can be difficult. But, to again echo a guest on Coffee with Creatives (Laura Goode) I think much of this seeming bigness is illusion. Smoke and mirrors and words both smooth and stinging.

When we choose to make art, which invariably also does cost money, we do not do so thinking of the money first and the art second. But when you aren’t an artist, or acting completely as one within a financial or social transaction, certain additional realities must be dealt with one way or another.

Despite my general practicality, and the cautiousness with which I usually ration my optimism, it surprised me, in recent months, to find myself being misled by various third-party partners, as we went about completing The Videoblogs.

Perhaps this was naive. To again echo Laura, who found it far easier to raise extra money to finish her film after it was accepted to the Tribeca Film Festival — the truth is that most people are conditioned to seek pre-sanctioned, external validation before they commit their full energy to something.

That’s not necessarily unfair. It’s a difficult time for commitment. There is, seemingly, a never-ending stream of options, sometimes even flowing back and forth in time, vying for our attention and resources.

And, so, as storytellers, we have to prove ourselves. Constantly. In order to provide evidence that we are worth The Risk — of money or time.

Still, I think that’s mostly garbage. It’s short-sighted, and arguably cowardly.

It seems to me that, out of fear, we have defanged true risk in our society. We’ve broken it down into pieces, seeking to understand and control as much of as we can — because we’re desperately afraid of failing.

I know I have done this. But I’m growing weary of it. The deconstruction destroys the construction, in a way.

Should we be smart? Prudent? Strategic? In taking a realistic view of the aforementioned market saturation (for content especially) — I would have to say yes.

But to only lean on these preparations, to give them so much disproportionate weight, and to thus unsteady and rob the counter-balancing power of the risky idea at the core of an enterprise — this to me is folly.

A real risk costs much, and yet nothing. It reveals no certain answers in terms of prudence and strategy, instead promising growth and experience, if faithfully executed. It is deeply personal. It draws its power from sources we can barely identify of explain.

Inspiration. Passion. Faith. With these sources of power, a true risk becomes easy to make. If and when we remember to believe in the risking itself, and not only outcomes.

A risk is a story. We need to protect our stories. Their true worth is not measured by intermediaries.

Intermediaries have far less power than they’d have us believe. It can become difficult to remember this, as they massage messaging and make promises or suggest futures that they have no real influence over.

They are struggling for survival as much as we are, if not more so. They likely feel just as frightened or desperate. And I pity them, somewhat, for that — because they aren’t dealing in pure stories. As a rule, they must mitigate risk. To do this, they must find, be shown, or invent evidence. We’ve seen, in this country, how badly that can backfire.

Whereas we, the storytellers, might find flashes of solace — in the knowledge that we are attempting true change.

This is part nineteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

 

Struggles and Wonders, and Dying in a Chair (Day 1 of 30)

This is part one of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds.

Thirty posts in thirty days. I can do this.
Thirty posts in thirty days. I can do this. YOU can do this.

Yesterday, I floated the idea of running an experiment here, wherein I would post to the site for thirty straight days. Just to see what happens. So, here we are.

Perhaps it’s not mad science but, then again, I’m writing this at 5:30AM — which if you know me is in fact a minor miracle.

Which thus leads me to an interesting topic of discussion. Let’s talk about time, and sacrifice.

Clearly, I am proceeding with the experiment. We’ll see how it goes. But the decision wasn’t completely uncomplicated.

I couldn’t see where to fit it in, between the every day responsibilities of keeping up with my screenwriting, of working to pay the rent, of running the podcast, and of taking care of myself and of being a social human being and a good husband.

On the other hand, it wasn’t that complicated. I simply decided I was going to do it. I decided to make it work, and to keep it manageable — because it felt like a good idea.

There’s a part of me that’s surprised I got out of bed this morning, to write this. But there’s another part that isn’t. If anything is going to get me out of bed, it’s the prospect of not only writing, but of writing and being read.

I’ve been working on an essay lately, about the deeper motivations behind the decision to make The Videoblogs. I’ve also been asked about these same motivations in interviews. To sum them up — it’s always about feeling less alone, or more together in my loneliness. More connected to others (like you) who are also going about life, trying to make sense of its struggles and wonders.

So, here we are. Me, a writer, writing. You, a reader, maybe reading. I don’t know how this is going to go. I’m sure I’ll want to quit along the way. Don’t let me. Because this is what it’s all about, I think.

This is not an impossible task. By the end of it, perhaps we’ll both be glad we tried it out. I wasn’t sure I was going to find the spiritual capital to start in on this. It sounds relatively simple and doable, in theory, but already it’s requiring a bit more from me. I believe, in today’s increasingly busy and noisy environment, we really need to think about when and whether to make that extra investment in time and money.

Or, rather, perhaps, we need to not think. Perhaps it’s more useful to feel an idea out. And that’s why I’m here, writing early, and trading some snooze for the opportunity to commiserate with you. It took me a full minute to remember the word “commiserate”. Still on my first cup of tea.

The truth is that I’ve been feeling a bit…depleted…since wrapping up the majority of the work on the film. I think that’s normal. But I’m less sure that it’s a good idea to continue to hang back from public work while I continue to work on some “next level” projects. I did need a break. I’ve taken one. I’ll continue to take my time in terms of taking on a new film production — maybe.

But I want to keep up the connection.

So, this morning, I woke up to my alarm. I remembered why it was set so early. Despite this, I immediately decided to “do it later”. I reset the alarm.

But I was already awake. I peed and drank some water and got back into bed and tried to snooze but it was already over.

The mind was already turning. I had a vision of an old man, dying peacefully in his sleep, seated in a chair. Probably it was a lingering vision from my dreams.

It wasn’t a scary vision. For me, who has feared worse, it was actually quite nice. I thought it would be perfect, to go that way. Perhaps not surrounded, but in the midst of loved ones. To go quietly, with a smile — because I had done justice to the privilege of being alive, for the duration of my heres and nows.

See you tomorrow. Let’s make the time for it. It doesn’t cost so much.

Keep Getting On Stage: Comedian Leah Bonnema

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This episode with Leah Bonnema marks several firsts for Coffee with Creatives. Leah was the first guest to bring eggs to her recording, and the first to decline to leave after the episode was over. She was also the first guest to asks listeners for new appliances and renovations to her apartment, kitchen and shower.

Leah’s funny, but she also works hard. I’m thrilled to share this conversation with you, after last month’s unexpected hiatus (I got busy). Here’s what we covered:

  • How audiences differ, and why it doesn’t completely matter
  • What to do when creativite work becomes a slog (get through it, go home, eat something)
  • The process and difficulty of working at night, and then using your days to get more work (and vice-versa)
  • How to let go when you find yourself obsessing too much about the business side of art-making
  • Making the decision to go full time as a comic
  • Giving everyone your pile of dicks
  • How and why to avoid comparing yourself to your peers
  • Why our society needs more of a certain type of murderer

To get more specificity on that last one, you’ll just have to listen. You can find Leah on Facebook and Twitter. Glad to be back producing the show. Thanks for listening!

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

 

Show What’s Inside: Musician Mike O’Malley

Mike02I met Mike O’Malley in a bar. I was having a Sunday afternoon pint, he was working his sweet musical magic. I liked that magic so much, that after putting some bread in his jar (always put bread in the jar when you like the music!) I decided right then and there to try to write him into The Videoblogs.

He agreed to the proposal, I became a fan, and recently I asked him to come on the show to talk music, songwriting, and:

  • The virtue of impatience, in the learning process
  • How awful men can be (combatting “bad masculinity”)
  • Getting attention on your terms
  • The taste of that first free burger, given in trade before a gig
  • Touring with six dudes in a sweaty van, or six sweaty dudes in a van
  • How anger can become a way of avoiding conflict (and growth)
  • Attending the craft (do the boring stuff)

Check out Mike’s music here. Look out for his upcoming Indiegogo campaign.

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

 

Laughing at Apocalypse: Kimberly Dilts

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I first heard about Actor/Writer/Producer (storyteller) Kimberly Dilts and her work when I stumbled upon a Film Specific interview with Kim and her husband about the Tugg tour for their film Angel’s Perch. We later connected on Twitter and struck up a fast (remote) friendship.

This interview gets personal — and quickly. Kim and I both open up about the struggles that sometimes come with creating, and/or being a creative. The physical toil. The mental. The spiritual. There is talk of only being able to move a toe while in the midst of a production (you’ll have to listen to find out whose toe).

Other topics we strike at in the conversation include:

  • The Vulnerability Wave
  • The difference between bootstrapping a project in your 30s, versus your 20s
  • How Kim fell into theatre, as a means of finding her tribe and following her broad curiosity
  • Turning to independent work as a result of frustration with the gatekeeper culture
  • Telling yourself yes
  • Learning through pain and running towards fear
  • And, appropriately, given the title of the episode — laughter as a means of coping with the world

Really enjoyed this talk. Check it out and be sure to let Kim and/or me know what you think on Twitter or right here. You can also follow Kim’s film Auld Lang Syne on Seed&Spark.

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

 

No Waiting: Filmmaker Christina Raia

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After a bit of a break, Coffee with Creatives is back and ready to inspire you in 2016. The first episode of the new year is with Filmmaker Christina Raia, who I first met on Twitter and then in person when Multiverse screened at Indieworks in NYC.

Christina is a prolific filmmaker with an intense work ethic. In addition to discussing the path that led to her first feature film Summit, we also discuss:

  • The many ways in which an artist can be boxed-in, in career terms, and how to help make sure that doesn’t happen
  • How we as artists change during, after, and across projects
  • Why she doesn’t like waiting before moving on to a new film or series
  • The experience of wondering if her $20,000 feature (Summit) would collapse entirely, during every day of its two-week production period
  • Learning to be vulnerable, and how that can help you (and any team members working with you) to, for instance, stick things out in sub-zero temperatures
  • In regards to her web series, Kelsey, how to achieve distribution success by reaching out to your base, or core audience

Great talk, hard-working, generous filmmaker. Summit is available now. You can find out more about Christina and her work on her site. Happy Creating! More great guests coming soon! If you enjoy our talk, please share it on Twitter or on Facebook.

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