Sending The Elevator Down

I recently met with a talented actor and friend to help them with his business plan-or DOIN’ as we call it at the Richard Lawson Studios. DOIN’ stands for Declaration of Independence. We only focused on his raison d’être (which literally means your reason for existence. Your reason for being.) In other words, purpose. What is your purpose as an artist and as a person? Why are you pursuing this particular career and not another one like law, medicine, etc.? We only focused on this part because the raison d’être is the engine that drives everything. It colors and influences everything that comes after it in your business plan.

It was great to hear his raison d’être and then ask the next question so that it could be a little more specific and personal to him. What he had already written down was great! I just asked questions to help him take it to a higher level of specificity and personal resonance.

And there was one part in his raison d’être that really struck me. He mentioned “sending down the elevator” to others when he reaches a certain level of success. “Sending down the elevator” meaning that he’s reached a high level of success and now wants to give back to others in the same way people have supported him in his journey. He wants to pay it forward to others who are just starting out, who need direction or help, etc. He took the elevator up to the top and now wants to send it down to others and help them make it to the top as well.

It’s interesting because I’ve heard this similar desire in others who have shared their raison d’être with me before. They too want to help and inspire others. And what I told my friend is that he can send the elevator down NOW. Through small, simple, meaningful actions of GIVE, he can help others now.

Now, as he becomes more famous or wealthy, his sphere of influence and give will increase. But he can take actions now. He loved that perspective and it opened up his eyes to the fact that he can give now. He’s excited in what he can do now to help others and I can’t wait to check in with him to see what actions he’s taking.

So, you don’t have to wait until you “make it” or become famous or rich in order to send the elevator down. Your raison d’être exists in you now. That’s what drives you every day to be who and what you are. So give now.

For those of you at home experiencing a similar situation as my friend, here are some simple, doable actions of give that I’m going to quickly throw out as they pop into my head:

Offer to help someone do their first scene in scene study class.

Offer to help someone with their film shoot by being a production assistant or first assistant director or running craft services, etc.

Support someone by attending their comedy showcase.

Help someone out with their audition.

Be a buddy or mentor to a new student in class and show them the ropes, the ins and outs.

Offer to help someone out at their headshot session.

Share someone’s weekly blog entries with your contacts and on your social media 🙂 🙂 🙂

Introduce someone to your agent or manager.

Introduce someone to your friends.

Volunteer at a shelter.

Donate money or time to charities.

Donate money to a fundraising campaign to help bring a person’s passion project to life.

Offer to listen and provide helpful advice.

If you see an opportunity for someone, let them know about it.

Go to the movies with someone.

Take someone out to lunch.

Share someone’s weekly blog entries with your contacts and on your social media 🙂 🙂 🙂

Write someone a note of thanks and appreciation.

Do research for someone in a particular area they need help with.

Donate items to someone’s yard sale.

If someone is looking to repaint or redecorate their room, offer help.

If someone needs help moving out of their old place and into their new one, offer help.

What other ways can you think of to pay it forward and give? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Writer Whore?

I love James Franco. He and I have a special connection and relationship. Our chemistry is undeniable. I’m about to start the third draft of my screenplay where James is the antagonist. By the way, I finally have a title for it! But I won’t reveal the title until I finish this third draft and register it with the WGA and the U.S. Copyright.

Every time I read James Franco’s dialogue, I blush. I become giddy. When I read his dialogue, I hear his voice and I see him looking at me with an irresistible twinkle in his dark brown eyes. At 5’7", 167.5 lbs and 10 inches…….in shoe size…….he is my muse for this particular script. We love each other and I always thought we would be together forever.

But lately, something strange is happening. I find myself sneaking out at different hours of the day and I don’t want James to know about it. And to a certain degree, I don’t want the other characters in the feature film to know about it either. But James in particular because he is my favorite.

What am I doing at these different hours? I’m writing a new series set in NYC! And I feel guilty because I’m falling in love with the new characters in it. I feel like I’m cheating on James Franco. I invested all this time into James and now I’m investing time into these new characters. And like James, one character has emerged as my favorite and he might end up being the break out character of the series. He is scraggly, skinny, unkempt, rocks dental braces and looks like his brain is a little fried. I love writing dialogue for him and breathing life into him.

This new character makes me laugh. He makes me smile. He makes me blush. I find myself reciting some of his lines out loud as if they were Shakespearean sonnets. I have a visual prototype of this character and I can look at it forever. His eyes are also dark brown and he looks at me with a twinkle in them. And don’t even get me started on another character who comes in at a very close second place. At four years old, audiences will fall in love with this adorably complex character.

OMG, I’m having a fucking affair behind James Franco’s back. I feel horrible. I’m betraying him. Should I come clean to him? What the fuck do I do? I’m a horrible person. Then it hits me: I’ve done this before. I was in love with the characters in a feature film titled Love Returned. It was all about them. And then, when I came up with the idea for the James Franco screenplay, I moved on from Love Returned. I’m a fucking writer whore. Oh God, a writer whore. Brand me with the scarlet letter.

A writer creates characters in a particular world for a certain period of time. A writer develops a very personal, intimate and long-lasting relationship with these characters from conception to completion. Sometimes, completion occurs when the project is released in the cinemas, or on TV, or online, or in bookstores, etc. Completion could also occur once awards season is over or once a project has run its course on the film festival circuit. And once that journey is complete, the writer moves on to a brand new set of characters and begins a whole new relationship with them. Or sometimes, like in my case, writers will be simultaneously managing multiple projects with different sets of characters and worlds. I’m having multiple affairs. Oh God, I’m a fucking writer whore jumping between the peeps in the James Franco screenplay and the peeps in the new series. And oh shit, I just remembered that I recently revisited a short film script and made changes to it as well.

But wait a minute, this is a common occurrence in the literary world. For example, JJ Abrams created the TV series, Alias. He was incredibly involved with Alias until he turned his attention to creating LOST. LOST became his new lover. And he kept that up until he created and/or executive produced other TV shows and movies. He’s just ONE of COUNTLESS examples.

I have written two feature films, two TV series, a short film and a non-fiction novel in the last few years. I was madly in love with the characters from the TV series, Chris/Tina, before I moved on to the amazing characters in the feature film, Love Returned. Then I moved on and fell in love with the characters in the short film. Then I moved on to the James Franco feature film. Now I’m falling in love with the characters in this new TV series. And each project has that one or two characters who become my favorites: Chris and Diego in Chris/Tina, Xavi and Jordan in Love Returned, Emilio in the short film, James and Laura in the feature film, Pito and Dominic in the new TV series.

But the amazing and cool thing is that whenever I re-visit any of these stories, I fall in love with the characters all over again. They are all part of my literary universe and life. They all are part of an artistic theme and arc. Baz Luhrmann has his Red Curtain Trilogy (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge) Krzysztof Kieslowski has his Three Colors Trilogy (Blue, White and Red) Quentin Tarantino wanted to combine Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained with a third film to create a Rewritten History Trilogy. Other writers have their own trilogies, arcs, series or themes. I feel like the body of work I have created falls under an arc. And they fall under the category of Urban Operas: Works that are cinematic, dramatic, musical, hard-hitting, real, impinging, tells it like it is, humorous.

Every character and world in each of my projects is connected to each other and they create something greater. The challenges Xavi experiences in Love Returned is no different than the challenges that Chris faces in Chris/Tina or the ones that Laura faces in the James Franco screenplay. These are human beings trying to survive and be the best that they can be against extraordinary circumstances and challenges. Even my non-fiction novel chronicles my own personal journey against a particular set of extraordinary circumstances and challenges during the summer of 2014.

I share something special with each character. Each one brings a new dynamic to the table. Sometimes a character in one project informs a character in another. Sometimes I recycle dialogue: I’ll take a paragraph or a monologue from one project and use it in another project and I’m amazed at how beautifully it still works.

Wow, maybe I’m not cheating after all! Maybe in this case it’s okay to be a whore. These characters and these worlds all take care of each other. They are part of an artistic whole. Part of the Urban Opera I’m weaving and conducting.

So now that I am aware of this, I don’t have to sneak around anymore. I don’t have to feel guilty anymore. I can embrace my whore. I can look James in his dark brown eyes and say, “Babe, I’m going to spend some time with the peeps at the new series. I’ll see you later tonight.” And vice versa, I’ll let the peeps at my new series know that I’ll be spending time with the peeps at the James Franco movie. I can tell Laura that I want to spend some time with Emilio and Jacob from the short film. And on and on and on.

I’m a writer whore and proud of it. Brand me with it.