Posts Tagged ‘Tim Ferriss’

“I just kept working,..You just have to keep your nose to the grindstone.”
NFL football player Austin Reiter

My favorite story coming out of Super Bowl LVI was regarding Austin Reiter.  He was cut by the Cleveland Browns in 2018. When he played for the Browns during the 2017 season they did not win a single game (0-16). And the year before that the Browns were 1-15, meaning over a two year period Reiter’s team record was 1-31.

The 2016 and 2017 Browns became the first NFL franchise to have back to back seasons of losing 15 or more games each season. Even though your partly hampered by an injury,  if you’re cut after not even starting for from arguably the worst team in NFL history you may be at the end of the line.

“Reiter didn’t have much of a pedigree to argue. He was a two-star recruit out of high school before signing with South Florida. Washington drafted him in 2014, but not until the seventh round. He then spent his entire time in Washington on the practice squad. Obviously no one in Cleveland thought much of him.”
Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports 

But Reiter, as Wetzel points out in his article,  wasn’t at the end of the line. He was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs for the 2018 season where he even started four games and signed a two -year contract at the end of the season. Then he started every game for the Chiefs this season as offensive center and is now a Super Bowl winner.

It’s rare to see that kind of life reversal in such a short time. And while I don’t know how Reiter delt with the various transitions he’s faced in his life, here are few words from the head of Disney who I heard on a podcast today describe his style of leadership and outlook on life.

I talk about optimism often, but I want to make sure that people understand what that means. I think it’s important to be a realist. So I’m not one of these that think everything will work out fine all the time. But I do believe that making sure that the possibility of something working out fine is very apparent—is right there. Instead of the opposite, this will never work out, or there’s no way we’ll accomplish this, or there’s no way we can do this. 

It’s being able to be persistent. Really working hard. Trying hard to get something done or accomplished, instead of immediately concluding that, well, this can’t happen, or this won’t happen. That’s in part aimed at being productive. At getting things done. But I think it also applies to outlook on life, or aspects of your life. 

If you look at everything through a dark and gloomy lens, I think it becomes a deterrent to having the energy to be happy, or having the energy for things to actually workout right.  It creates a negative energy as opposed to the opposite. I think you need a positive energy for your life to be positive.”
Bob Iger—Chairman and CEO of Disney
The Tim Ferriss Show 

Scott W. Smith

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“I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.” 
Marie Kondō,
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingHard Drive_3428.jpg

This week I’m doing a little winter cleaning. Starting the process of condensing 30+ hard drives of videos and photos over the years down to one 4T hard drive. A greatest hits if you will. And the best of the best will also be stored on 1T in the cloud.

Something I’ve put off for years because it’s an overwhelming task with no billable hours. But I have a plan and Anne Lamott’s “bird by bird” theory (that she learned from her father) that’s keeping me sane.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”
Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life  

So I’m taking this hard drive by hard drive. I just finished going through my first drive so it feels good to get out of the gate.

I think the “bird by bird” concept is simple and profound. Whether it’s cleaning your house, writing a script, or editing a project.  The following quote has helped me get get rid of many books, movies, items, and clothes this year:

“Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn’t that image spellbinding? For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be?” 
Marie Kondō

If you need a jolt to kick start some organization in your life check out the podcast interview Tim Ferriss did with tidying master Marie Kondo. 

Scott W. Smith


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The thing I try to instill in students is like the only thing you have to offer is you. Your individual stories, your individual perception, your individual humanity, and figuring out a way to communicate that humanity to humanity at large—that’s the beauty of cinema once again, that you can have a six-year-old Iranian girl, or a 90-year-old British gentleman, and you can have an equal emotional experience if the filmmaker does their job right to it.

For me it would be a ballerina [Black Swan] and a wrestler [The Wrestler]—can I make you feel in their blood and their pain. That’s the goal. Because that’s one of the great things cinema does—is to bring us into other human experiences.”
Screenwriter/Director Darren Aronofsky  (mother!
Podcast interview with Tim Ferriss (At 53 minute mark when Ferriss asked Aronofsky about advice for filmmakers who don’t fit in the widget factory )

Related posts:
The Greatest [Cinematic] Invention of the 2oth Century (According to Darren Aronofsky)
40 Days of Emotions

Scott W. Smith

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Jennifer Lawrence in mother!

The following excerpt was pulled from a two hour podcast interview with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky as he talked about his film mother! (and the creative process and more) with Tim Ferriss.

Tim: What do you want the experience of your audience to be, or what do you want them to take away from any one of your films?

Darren: I guess I start off with the first rule of filmmaking is to never bore an audience. That is the worst feeling and experience when I’m watching a movie and my mind is wandering and looking at the colors splatter across the screen. I think you always want to engage an audience, not just visually, not just through sound, but emotionally. So I think that’s number one, to just give people an engaging emotional experience for two hours—whatever your running time is. And on top of that hopefully this you can layer in some ideas so that when people leave the theater people it’s not like 15 minutes later “What did we watch?” I don’t want to be the McDonald’s of movies where it’s just the wrapper all that’s left over. I want me to be thinking a bit and talking about it….You want to have an impact. In today’s landscape a lot of things are disposable. 

Tim: You mentioned emotional engagement— what are some of the ingredients that help create that?

Darren: It starts with the greatest invention of the 20th century that’s overlooked—which is the close-up. That’s the great thing about cinema —that you can stick a camera right in the face of Paul Newman—on those beautiful blue eyes. And you can go right into his soul, and when you you project it months later to an audience, or years later—potentially centuries later— you are anonymous in that audience, yet you can feel the empathy….In a movie, via the close-up,  you can be unconscious and fully be  in Paul Newman’s head. Even though you don’t know  exactly what he’s thinking, you can sort of study him and steal that thought. And that to me that’s the greatness of cinema.”


Paul Newman in The Sting

P.S. Looking forward to seeing mother! tonight.

Related posts:
“Don’t Bore the Audience!” (Richard Walter)
Stop Making Soul-less Movies 
Hollywood Hacks & Shipwrecks
“Winter’s Bone” (Debra Granik)

Scott W. Smith

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“I write in layers. so there’s the first draft, second draft, but somewhere near the end—the final layer, I look at every word I use and I think is there a word that will work on an emotional level…something that’ll keep you awake that means exactly the same thing? So here’s an example, if I said to the audience, say one of the two words—they both mean about the same—that’s the funnier one.  Which is funnier pull or yank?
Dilbert creator Scott Adams
Interview on The Tim Ferriss Show

Adams says that people choose yank over pull because yank has what he calls as “two levels of funniness built into the word”—the “y” and the “k.”

“So I will consciously make a choice to get rid of a more accurate word to put in a word that has more of a programing control. You want people to have an experience because that’s what they’re going to remember. They’re not going to remember what word choice you use.”
Scott Adams

Bonus #1: From his blog post Writing Funny  Adams says what he looks for in topics is “at least one of the essential elements of humor”:


Bonus #2: The Day You Became a Better Writer blog post by Scott Adams.

Bonus #3:

Scott W. Smith

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I think the American psychologist Maslow said if your only tool is a hammer you view every problem as a nail. And I would flip that and say that the geniuses have very limited toolsets—they have a hammer. And their genius is in looking for nails. That’s their genius, right? They have a very limited skill set but they master it and apply it incredibly well. I’m reminded of the movie The Karate Kid. Wax on wax off. Sand the floor. And then he had that crane-kicky move. And he won the California State Championship on the basis of those three. I’m goofing here on The Karate Kid, but it illustrates a profound point to master a few skills well, and then look for domains when you can apply those skills, and stay out of everything else. Warren Buffett does the same thing with his investing.
Adam Robinson @IAmAdamRobinson
Podcast Interview with Tim Ferriss;
Lessons from Warren Buffett, Bobby Fischer, and Other Outliers
(Starting at 31:09)

It’s doesn’t take much to apply that to successful screenwriters, directors, actors, editors, etc.

Related quote:
“Swing your swing. Not some idea of a swing. Not a swing you saw on TV. Not that swing you wish you had. No, swing your swing.”
Golf legend Arnold Palmer

And a little bonus hammer-themed folk music written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. The Peter, Paul and Mary version became a top #10 hit in 1962.


Scott W. Smith

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“I would have these script readings for Don’t Think Twice at my house to workshop the film script the way that I workshop my standup…and I would say at the beginning of the reading, ‘the script might be bad, but at the end, we’re all going to eat pizza.’”
Writer/Director Mike Birbiglia

In Mike Birbiglia’s podcast interview with Tim Ferriss he explains his writing process from gathering ideas to writing, and re-writing his screenplays. When writing he schedules three hours each morning to write in a coffee shop (but may write for five if the writing is flowing). He encourages writing in a trance where you don’t think consciously what you’re putting on the page.

Back at home he has a cork board wall full of 3″X5″ notes cards which has scene ideas, pieces of dialogue, and what he calls mind writing quotes. Inspirational sayings by well-known writers.

Here’s an edited version of his exchange with Ferriss about what he does after he has a draft completed:

Mike Birbiglia: I always urge screenwriters, or anyone who needs feedback on their work, to just invite people to something where you give them something, give them food, give them ice cream, give them pizza, and try and solicit their feedback. Because I think feedback is the most valuable thing you can have for your writing.

Tim Ferriss: Can you explain how you workshop the material? At what point do you invite your friends over and ply them with pizza? How rough is it when you give it to them?

Mike Birbiglia: Probably about two month in. I started writing [Don’t Think Twice] two years ago at the end of April, and then June 10 I had people over. I prefaced it by saving, “It might not be good”and “thanks for coming.” I had ten or 12 of those at my house. They ended up being some of the most fun parts of the process entirely. Because there’s really no stakes to showing your friends your work. It feels like there’s stakes—I was very nervous. But there’s something communal about it, there’s something fun about it.

Tim Ferriss: Do you do a table read? Do people take roles or do they all read in silence and give you feedback? How does it work?

Mike Birbiglia:I have them read it aloud. Like I’d have my assistant at the time Greg would read the screen directions and I would assign parts and I would highlight the script for people. We’d read it a loud, and then we’d eat pizza and just kind of talk about what it made us feel like. The director of my one person shows is this guy named Seth Barrish, this really brilliant theater director. He always does this thing dramaturgically—I will pitch him what my idea is and then he says back to me, “Well, what I get from that is this…” and it’s a non-judgmental way of interfacing with a collaborator. In other words, he reads the script and then says “Well, what I get from that is it’s a group of friends and one of them gets more successful than the others and they’re all trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives.” If he says that back to me and I say, “Well, no, it’s more than that, it’s actually about this, this, this, and this.” And he says, “Well, that’s not what I got from it.” It’s actually helpful to the process. I think one of the most important things about the writing process is that people are getting what you’re intending.…What I’m doing essentially in my little shabby apartment in Brooklyn is basically what they’re doing on the hundred million dollar level in Hollywood. It’s “development” in Hollywood where they develop these screenplay for years and years and years with all of these executives giving notes. I don’t want executive giving notes to me, I want writers giving notes to me. And I want actors to give notes. I want collaborators who actually do the things I like and who I aspire to be like. And I invite over writers who are way better than me….We read it start to finish like a table read for a sitcom or a movie. And then at the end we kind of adjourn. Some fiery discussions start. A lot of people give their thoughts and they really conflict with other people’s thoughts. And those people fight with each other, and I listen to that. It’s really helpful.

Note: It helps, as in Birbiglia’s case, if some of your friends are Brian Koeppelman (Billions), Michael Weber (500 Days of Summer), and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie). But do what you can, where you are, with the friends you have.

P.S. This is the way that Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles) also work, as I wrote in the 2009 post  The Francis Ford Coppola Way (Tip #29). And #86 on William Akers’ reasons why Your Screenplay Sucks! is you haven’t done a table read.

Scott W. Smith


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“If you want to perform five minutes of good comedy, write what you think is three hours of great comedy.”
Comedian/writer/director Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk with Me)
Interview with Tim Ferriss

P.S. One excellant documentary that shows Birbiglia’s quote in action is Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld’s love letter to comedy.

Related Link:
Jerry Seinfeld Interview: How to Write a Joke
Seinfeld on What Drives Comedy

Related posts:
‘Art is Work’—Milton Glaser
Frank Gehry on Creativity 
Stephen King’s Double Wide Trailer (Could be subtitled “Writing is Work.”)
Billy Wilder on Writing “(Writing) is blood, sweat, and tears, believe me. ”
Art & Fear
Off-Screen Quote #15 (Edgar Degas)
Screenwriter’s Work Ethic (tip #2)
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)

Scott W. Smith

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“Only emotion endures.”
Ezra Pound
A Retrospect

Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News are two James L. Brooks films that I can just watch over and over again…I strive to make movies like those where you’re laughing and you’re crying. That’s what all of it is for; It’s to experience the range of emotions within and hour and a half or two hours.”
Writer/Director Mike Birbiglia (Don’t Think Twice)
Interview on The Tim Ferriss Show

Check out the Don’t Think Twice website to see when the movie will be playing in your area. Select theaters with include Q&A with cast and/or crew including Mike Birbiglia tonight and tomorrow in Los Angeles. I’ll look forward to seeing it in Central Florida at the Enzian in August.

Related posts:
“It’s all about emotions”—Jamusz Kaminsky
Pity, Fear, Catharsis
Del Close & Emotional Discovery
James L. Brooks on Chayefsky
40 Days of Emotions (The longest single sting of posts on this blog.)

P.S. The posts Finding Authentic Emotions (Part 1) and Part 2 touch on how Alex Blumberg found the emotional core of an interview he did with artist Ann Rea on the CreativeLive class Power Your Podcast with Storytelling.I just watched that class again online and I think Alex’s pre-interview and interview with Rea (and the finished edited results) are the best example discovering and capturing the creative process/emotions in real time that I’ve ever seen. (And a gamble that could have gone wrong in several places since it was recorded live.)

Alex learned a lot about storytelling from Ira Glass when the two worked together producing This American Life. Ira is also one of the producers of Don’t Think Twice.  (Read the post Ira Glass on Storytelling.) 

Scott W. Smith

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Here’s the good news about bad ideas & writing poorly:

“Write. Write poorly. Continue writing poorly. Write poorly until it’s not bad anymore, and then you’ll have something you can use. People who have trouble coming up with good ideas—if they’re telling you the truth—will tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas—if they’re telling you the truth—will say they have even more bad ideas. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas, the goal is to get bad ideas. ‘Cause once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”
Author & speaker Seth Godin
The Tim Ferriss Show podcast interview 

P.S. Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow had a hand in me launching this blog. How do you stand out from the crowd? That was the basic question he asked. And the title is a reference to  when you’re driving down the road and see brown cow after brown cow how they all blend together. But if there’s a purple cow in the field it will stand out. So that in part was how I came up with the title “Screenwriting from Iowa.” (It helped that I lived in Iowa at the time—a state which has more cows than people.) If you want a good metaphor for your screenplay, make it a purple cow. (You know, like what Diablo Cody did with her Oscar-winning Juno screenplay.)  “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”Seth Godin 

Related posts:
Where Do Good Ideas Come From? (A+B=C)
A Perfect Bad Idea (& Oscar-winner)
Creativity & Milking Cows
The Advantage of Boredom
Filmmaking Quote #7 “If you wait until the right time to have a child you’ll die childless, and I think film making is very much the same thing. You just have to take the plunge and just start shooting something even if it’s bad…Pick up a camera. Shoot something.”—James Cameron
The Best Idea Wins 

Scott W. Smith

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