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The Creative Shift with Dan Blank

Dan Blank interviews writers and artists who have taken the leap from merely dabbling with their creative vision, to becoming successful doers whose work has a positive impact on others.
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The Creative Shift with Dan Blank
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Now displaying: August, 2017
Aug 24, 2017

Today I am speaking with actor Jason Liles. 

If you are thinking, "Dan, I'm a writer, what do I care about this actor friend of yours?" I encourage you to listen to what Jason shares. This is not only a wonderful story of success, but he shares specific tactics that I think every writer and creative professional NEEDS to use if they hope to find success. Here are some highlights:

  • How he got one of his biggest roles via cold calling: “I got Death Note by calling a [creature] shop that someone recommended. They said they were too busy, call back in a couple months. Then the next week, on a Saturday, they called and asked what my availability was for the next four months, and if I could come in Monday morning. They had no idea who I was the week before. I said I was definitely free, because I was working at Outback Steakhouse full time when this happened. I had no idea [that Death Note] was going on when I stopped by.”
  • He dealt with anxiety and panic attacks in middle school, high school and college. He actually had to leave college because of the the anxiety. Seeing how his entire line of work is about performing in front of an audience, this was astounding to me.
  • How a director of theater program at a big school told Jason flat out, “You are too tall for film. Forget about it.” How did he move ahead after such bad advice? He went to Broadway shows, waited outside the stage door and ask world famous actors such as Jame Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush, Jeff Daniels, and others: “Am I too tall for film?” Every one of them said, “Not at all. Just do it.” As it turns out, Jason’s height is a primary factor that is getting him so many of his roles.
  • How he is able to spot and approach famous actors on the street and ask them for advice. An example, “Bryan Cranston talked for about 20 minutes giving me advice when I bumped into him in Central Park with his wife, because he knew I was a young actor.” He has done this with Michael Fassbender, Daniel Day Lewis, and others as well. To me, this was a reminder to use the opportunities that are all around you. Jason didn’t have any special access, and he didn’t let himself be constrained by perceived “rules” that you can’t approach people and ask them a question.
  • His first job was as a stand-in. Later on this, same company got him his his spot in Men in Black III as well as his first commercial. I can imagine Jason saying “no” to a stand-in role because it is too small. But if he had, he never would have gotten Men in Black III, never would have established his relationships with people who were critical to future roles in his career.
  • Why he says that more people need to get involved in the business side of their creative profession. How, in his field, you can be an amazing actor who never gets work, because you never learn about how to make the right connections. Or vice versa, you can be a mediocre actor who always gets work because you understand how the business operates.
  • How he developed relationships in the film industry with this strategy: “I would do anything to get experience: student films, non-paying plays — anything.”
  • The thing that made all the difference for him: “The biggest thing that I did was to get to know people in the creature shops. Sometimes, the creature shops would be responsible for identifying the actor to play specific roles. Getting to know them, I can bypass producers, casting directors, and others. I learned who all the shops are, and keep in touch with them.”

Thank you to Jason for taking the time to share your story and advice. You can find Jason in the following places:

Instagram

IMDB

Thanks!

-Dan

Aug 17, 2017

Today I want to recommend that you become completely obsessed with Dani Shapiro's work. Why? Because she talks about the emotional side of the creative process in a way that I think every writer and artist needs to hear. 

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Dani was recently Oprah Winfrey’s guest on”Super Soul Sunday.” 

In the conversation, we dig into so much, including:

  • It is difficult for many people to give themselves permission to be called a “writer.”
  • How many writers can feel held captive by their own “inner censor,” which keeps shifting, morphing, and changing as your career progresses.
  • How she engages with others in-person and online, even though she is an introvert.
  • How she has been “practicing the word “no.” And not attaching the word “sorry” to it. I’m learning about what it means to set a boundary.”
  • Why she encourages writers to find a “rhythm and ritual” to write, because without them, “The space [to write] will not magically appear. If I don’t make the space to get the writing done, then the rest of it doesn’t work at all.”
  • Why an internet connection can be so corrosive to one’s writing: “The instrument on which we are composing can, with one click, take you completely elsewhere. Before you even know what you have done. That is what is so insidious about it. With the flick of your index finger, you can be somewhere else. Most writers I know struggle with it.”
  • Why “Waiting for inspiration is a surefire way to ensure work does not get done. I think inspiration is a fallacy. The number of times I have sat down feeling completely uninspired and then had a good day’s work probably equal the number of time when I sat down thinking “I’ve got it!” then had to undo everything that I did in that state. We are very often not the best judges of when we will do good work. A rhythm establishes a way of taking that question off the table.”
  • Why she concludes: “It is a great gift, and it carries with it real risks, to live a creative life.”

Author Jon Acuff says this: “One of the cheapest, fastest ways to change your life is to read a book.” I strongly encourage you to read Dani’s book, Still Writing. Listen to the podcast. If you are wondering, “Gee Dan, how can I break through what is holding me back with my creative work,” I think you and your work will be changed by what she shares.

 

Aug 3, 2017

Samantha Hahn is a Brooklyn-based illustrator, creative director, and author. If you are someone who wants to pursue your creative vision, while also earning a living and raising a family, then you have to listen to what Samantha shares.

I was blown away by how she balanced so many practical aspects of developing her career and working within the marketplace, along with the ways that she stays inspired and nurtures her personal and creative needs.

When I researched her background in preparing for the interview, I realized why: growing up, her mother was a commercial artist, and her father worked in the music industry. It’s as if her childhood had been an apprenticeship at the crux of creativity and commerce. There is so much to learn from her experience!

As I went through the recording of our conversation, I kept coming back to these two quotes from Samantha — how they balance two critical sides of what it means to be a creative professional:

  • “Nurturing the artist inside you is an essential part of the creative process.”
  • “There is always this fear that you are standing on a precipice, and that any moment, you can completely fall off. I don’t want to be driven by fear, but to be a commercial artist, there does need to be that hustle attitude. If you don’t have a constant output of work, the industry is a moving freight train, and it is going to pass you by.”

Ooomph. Listening to Samantha is like taking a masterclass in developing your career and your artistic vision.

You can find Samantha in the following places:
samanthahahn.com
samanthahahncreative.com
Instagram
Pinterest
Her books:

Note: this interview was recorded a little while back, so her kids are a bit older now, and she has been focusing more of her attention on her creative direction work in addition to illustration.

You can find Dan Blank at WeGrowMedia.com and @DanBlank on Twitter and Instagram

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