By B. O’Malley
This weekend, I was able to interview author, screenwriter, filmmaker, and musician Jeff Leisawitz, who helps filmmakers, screenwriters, and other creative people find their creative voice and inspiration, and get on track towards pursuing their goals. His book, Not F*ing Around— The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground (available here) has been called “a motivating kick in the ass,” amongst other good things.
Nothing short of inspiring creative people by imbuing them with practical, real-world workflows, mindsets, and habits? That’s what Jeff does. So I wanted to know a little bit more about what makes a guy like that tick, so I could take away whatever I could, and apply it to my own creative life, and to my work. So I asked:
Q: Jeff, your mission is all about inspiring and empowering creative individuals. What is the most common bit of wisdom, career advice, or inspiration you find yourself giving to screenwriters in particular, when it comes to getting them inspired, or to keep them inspired creatively?
LEISAWITZ: The biggest piece of advice I can give to a screenwriter or any creative type, is to know what exactly is driving you. If you’re writing a story or singing a song or painting a picture and you don’t know why you’re doing it, you can’t fully access all of your energy, truth, emotion and intelligence.
For instance, my screenplay, PANACEA’S DREAM, is about a scientist and shaman who invent a pill that cures any illness. The pill works. But they don’t know why it works.
Thematically, this story is all about the duality between faith and science. This topic has been stirring around my head and heart for decades. By understanding that this screenplay is really a fictional expression of a deep question that I cannot resolve, it energizes the narrative and gives it life. Because it means something to me. This is key. Your art, your stories, have to matter to you. If not, the’ll always be flat and lifeless on some level.
Why are you writing what you’re writing? If it’s for money, that’s not a great answer. If it’s to explore the nuances of relationships, to finding our power, to overcoming a specific type of adversity, or something like that, then you’re on the right track.
Keep asking ‘why.’
Q: When you offer that wisdom or advice, what’s the most common “pushback” response you receive from screenwriters, or the most common excuse they give for resisting your advice or wisdom?