Mentorless: Story Fabricator Nathalie Sejean

nathalie-sejean-photo-by-gizem-evcinWell, kids, for anyone who missed the news — this is the last episode of Coffee With Creatives. At least, it’s the last one for now. I have decided, after much deliberation, to put the show on indefinite hiatus.

But I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect guest to bring to you for this occasion.

Nathalie Sejean is a champion of creative entrepreneurialism. She provides indispensable service to creatives, via her newsletter (Sunday Interestingness) and site (Mentorless.com), and is currently in development on her first feature film (In Five Years).

Check out our talk to hear Nathalie testify to the power of:

  • Turning to books at an early age (and, later, to bookselling) to jumpstart her interest in learning and storytelling
  • The advantages of building a skill set, while avoiding perfectionism, by moving from experiment to experiment
  • Leveraging daily creative challenges to source and iterate ideas over time
  • Showing your work, and why this is a crucial action
  • Keeping yourself accountable and taking continuous action — while staying humble
  • Fostering virtual communities
  • Transforming virtual relationships into real life meetings
  • Repetition, and how it serves not only output but quality and growth
  • An effectively employed and genuinely considered newsletter

I’m glad to be ending this endeavor on a high note by sharing this episode with you. Definitely follow Nathalie on Twitter, and sign up for her email list. You won’t be disappointed.

As for me, I am going quiet for a while. But you’ll hear from me soon. It will be a growl from a mountain.

Thank you for your listenership and readership. If you want to stay in touch, reach out anytime. Or sign up for my email list. I’ll likely keep active there, for now.

You can also listen to Coffee with Creatives on iTunes.


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker 
of hopeful stories for complex people. My first film, The Videoblogs, about mental health in the age of tech, is available on iTunes. I’m currently working on my next film and also a novel. Once per month or so, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this special group here. Thanks for reading.

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.

How to Move Your Career or Project Forward Right Now

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Greetings, Fellow Creatives! Today’s episode of the podcast is a bit of a clip show, but I think it will be very useful to longtime listeners as well as anyone new to Coffee with Creatives.

As many of you may know, I try to make a point of asking guests on Coffee with Creatives for actionable advice for anyone who is just starting out, or perhaps feeling stuck with any one project or in the career, or who is just generally on the look out for practices and tactics that might help them create and keep on creating.

That’s the goal of the show at large, and in this episode you’ll hear from some of my more popular guests in terms of:

  • One piece of advice they would offer to help you generate and realize your vision,
  • Getting your work made and/or seen,
  • Moving through fear,
  • The benefits of mindfulness,
  • And other important methods that go hand-in-hand with creating professionally.

If you enjoy this episode, here’s the full list — in order — of guests whose longer interviews are excerpted. I’ll be back in a few weeks with a new full-length interview.

Please consider sharing this episode on Twitter or Facebook if you get something out of it.

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

joshua-seftel-and-john-cusack

 

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.

Doing It.

we-are-happiest-and-most-effective-when-the-doing-comes-first

 

I’m feeling a bit run-down so I’m going to keep things short for today. I’ve now written here every day this month. It feels good. I might keep it up. Full list of posts below.

Prior to this experiment, on most weeks, I would write about four or five times per week. That’s a pretty good average — but this feels better.

At first, though I did initially need a break from screenwriting, it worried me — that I was directing energy towards these essays (and I use that term loosely) instead of the script of the day.

But then I adjusted, and soon I was doing both. We make time for what’s important, if and when we’re able to gather the courage and keep up the momentum needed to turn daily to what’s important.

It’s not always easy, though. That’s what I’ve liked about this practice.

By getting up early, and writing and publishing first thing, I accomplish something important. I communicate with those following this site and my work. I get some thoughts out of my head. Some of those thoughts lead to new thoughts.

It’s work, but it’s work I love.

I don’t love it every day. On some day’s, it’s tough. On others, it’s fun(ny).

This came up in my talk with Simon Taufique on Coffee With Creatives, and with other guests as well — it’s about the doing. The doing is what we love. Do strategy, forethought, planning have their places? Yes. But it’s about that balance.

We are happiest and most effective when the doing comes first. And, yes, that can be applied to love and sex as well. Thanks for reading!

This is part thirty 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

Day 22: The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

Day 23: How to Be Better: Perspective and Self-Compassion

Day 24: Still The Finger, Silence The Vlog

Day 25: A Light Chill Wind in Early Fall

Day 26: The Case for An Open Heart

Day 27: How Can I Help? CWC Interview (Composer/Producer Simon Taufique)

Day 28: The Dangers of “The Project Wheel”

Day 29: Why It’s Essential to MOVE YOUR DAMN BUS

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

simon

 

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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Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

skepticism-is-the-sadism-of-embittered-souls

 

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.

You Just Have to Listen: Actor/Producer/Writer Rebecca De Ornelas

VB-Screengrab-RoofCrying2

Full disclosure — I am President of The Rebecca De Ornelas Fan Club. I would probably hold this title even if I weren’t married to her.

But, honestly, this is a full-on, serious, peer-to-peer interview, like all the rest on Coffee with Creatives. If you’ve seen the work Rebecca and I produce together, you know we don’t mess around or play favorites. If anything, we might hold each other to higher standards than others who we don’t know as intimately.

That’s one way in which we grow as creatives, to speak for myself, at least. We choose partners, professional or otherwise, who inspire and challenge us.

In this most recent episode of the podcast, I talk to Rebecca about acting (and producing, and writing) in both artistic and career terms. There’s a reason Rebecca is the first person I go to with any questions about my own work, process, and, often, just about life in general. She knows her shit. Now you can get a peek at the approach and expertise she brings to each of our collaborations, and to her additional work in theater, and as a writer.

Topics we hit upon in our conversation include:

  • The importance of listening, to the process of creating a compelling character
  • Stumbling into acting after years as a dancer
  • Deciding to stop something, even if you’re good at it
  • Undoing prior training that’s no longer serving you
  • Why young actors don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything
  • How meditation has saved her life, and changed her work
  • Why she likes getting older
  • Combatting feelings of inadequacy, and the advice a friend gave her that has helped in this respect

Have at it, kids. If you enjoy what Rebecca has to say, why not check her out as Margaret in The Videoblogs. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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

Keep Your Artist Alive: Actor Phoebe Allegra

Phoebe as "Vee" in The Videoblogs.
Phoebe as “Vee” in The Videoblogs.

I have had the pleasure of working closely with Phoebe Allegra. If you haven’t already seen her in The Videoblogs, you’re in for a treat with this episode of Coffee With Creatives.

Among other things, this conversation touches upon:

  • The daily work of building a character
  • The importance of honesty on an off screen
  • Acting as a way to escape, and/or experience new and different aspects of life
  • Choosing NYC over LA
  • Parsing industry feedback
  • Separating your self-worth from career highs (or lows)
  • Approaching racial and gender identity from a place of honor

We definitely dig way in on all those subjects in our talk. Phoebe works hard and has a great attitude. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Enjoy. You can find Phoebe on Twitter here.

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