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01/22/2002 - WRITER-DIRECTOR-EDITOR-ACTORS
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WRITER-DIRECTOR-EDITOR-ACTORS

Dear Friends,

We've all heard the story of the ambitious young college graduate who works his or her way up from the mailroom to eventually become the head of the company. Somewhere in the story, there is always the quote: "I learned the business from the ground up."

I think this lesson of learning every aspect of a business applies equally to writers. Sometime, writers get too focused in on their part of the process, and they inadvertently hold their script back in the process.

For instance, I've already said that knowing more about directing and editing is truly vital to writing. In fact, I will reiterate that I believe every writer should try to make films, even if it's just on a video camera. Heck, even if it's just a 30-second commercial spoof.

But allow me to add another aspect to the mix - acting. Being a generally introspective bunch, writers don't often expose themselves to the acting side of the business. But I think they should. Not only does it help one's ability to pitch, it also provides insight into the dialogue process. When you have to memorize a few 10-line speeches, I guarantee you'll feel the pain of the actors, and perhaps make sure the next time around that any 10-line (or more) speeches are either so compelling that they're highlights of the script - or they're trimmed down.

I've been compelled to act in a few things I wrote back in college. And I've done some improv here and there - which helped immensely with my pitching skills. I also dated an actress for a year-and-a-half. And while I can't exactly suggest that everyone do the latter - in fact, I can expressly warn against it - I can say that getting up on stage and performing has given me extra insight into my writing, and into the overall process. And I wasn't exactly great at acting, either.

Often, we think of what the actors do as magical - but the fact is, it's often a matter of hard work, craft, some natural talent, and making the most of what's on the page. But try a community college beginning acting class. Write some plays for a small community theater and act in them. When you see different actors play the same parts - or you try to play the parts yourself - I think you'll find lessons for your own writing. Plus, you'll probably end up having some fun, no matter how averse you once were to getting on stage.

Triple-Hyphenate,

Grady

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