Anti-procrastination. If there is such a thing, it’s distracting yourself in a way that makes you want to get back to work. My anti-procrastination is reading interviews with creative people. I read a lot of these in 2013 and tried to take something away from each one. Here are my favorites.
Martin Scorsese: “I’m Not A Cool And Quiet Person” – The Talks
“I find when I make a movie that I never realize what is really involved. When we were shooting Raging Bull me and my producer would say, “This is crazy! How did we get here?” But if we thought that at the beginning, we never would’ve started.”
Starting anything is the hardest part, apparently even for Martin Scorsese. The trick for me in starting a new project is to start before a previous project ends, that way you never “start” or “stop,” you just keep going.
Dennis Hopper: “I Thought I Had Power” – The Talks
“I lost a lot of work and a lot of opportunities because of the drugs and alcohol. It was certainly a wasted time in my opinion. I didn’t think of my life as being bad when I was using and drinking, I just thought it was out of control.”
Dennis Hopper probably should have died before he did. (For some reason, this interview didn’t surface until 2013, three years after he died.) While Hopper called his drug use “wasted time,” I doubt he would have lived any differently if he had the choice. If he did, he wouldn’t have been Dennis Hopper.
Breaking Bad’s Peter Gould Talks ‘Granite State’ – Vulture
“One of the things that Vince [Gilligan] really instilled in us was to, instead of constantly introducing new things, look back at all the elements that we already have on the shelf. What can we mine from the things that we’ve already established? It’s one of the things that helps the show have a feeling of unity.”
There’s nothing I can say about "Breaking Bad" that hasn’t already been said, but this is excellent writing advice, television or otherwise. Breaking Bad achieved perfect unity, and it did so by revisiting old ideas in new episodes. The final shot of the final episode completed the loop.
Woody Allen: What I’ve Learned – Esquire
The best you can do to get through life is distraction. Love works as a distraction. And work works as a distraction. You can distract yourself a billion different ways. But the key is to distract yourself."
Woody Allen isn’t saying anything here he hasn’t said in any of his films, but it’s nice to have someone encourage distraction when you’re actively distracting yourself from working. Thanks, Woody Allen.
Behind Kanye’s Mask – The New York Times
"I’ve been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past ten years. You have like, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Nicolas Ghesquière, Anna Wintour, David Stern. I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.”
Kanye is like caffeine. Ultimately, what he says might not be good for for you, but it’s temporarily energizing.
In Conversation: Steven Soderbergh – Vulture
"On the few occasions where I’ve talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, 'What are the stories you want people to tell about you?' Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then–Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998’s] Out of Sight after I’d had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he’d see me was when we screened the movie. If I’m an asshole, then I don’t get that job. Character counts.”
Don’t be a dick. Okay, Kanye?
Aziz Ansari gets candid about love: “elusive and sadly ephemeral” – The AV Club
"You know when you meet someone and you feel like you had a decent connection, and then you text them and never hear back? That’s what I’m writing about. Dealing with weird problems that only this generation of people has encountered. Getting a text message and thinking, “Okay, does that mean they are really busy, or are they blowing me off?” Not hearing back from someone you’re interested in, and then seeing them post a photo of a pizza on Instagram. Isn’t that kind of a rude thing to do? Shouldn’t we respect each other a little more than that? Everyone’s been through some version of that shit, and it’s very interesting to me."
What I like about Aziz in this interview is that he doesn’t sound like an actor or comedian; he sounds like a thoughtful guy with the same concerns and insecurities as a non-celebrity. It’s also nice to hear that even high-profile people have the same texting anxieties as everyone else. (“Do you think maybe she didn’t get my text?”)
Interviews: Judd Apatow – Pitchfork
“Many years ago, Ben Stiller and I wrote a movie for the Rolling Stones—this was back in 1993 or so. They wanted to do a concert film where there was a storyline going on in between the songs, so Ben and I wrote a script. We had to pitch the movie to all of the Rolling Stones, so they could decide whether they wanted to do it or not. Can you imagine something more terrifying than looking Keith Richards in the eye and pitching a movie that goofed on his band? [laughs] But they approved the idea. [The film was eventually shelved by Universal Pictures.]”
Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller, and The Rolling Stones failed at making something together. Considering their track records, this is surprising and also comforting. Also, this is a weird piece of music/movie trivia you can mention to your comedy nerd friends or music nerd friends that they probably don’t know. Just don’t tell them you read it on Pitchfork.
Casey Affleck Should Be More Famous – The New York Times Magazine
“'That sort of performing-as-yourself aspect of it, I wasn’t good at it. I’m not above it—there are people who are peers who have basically built a whole career out of it, and I wish that I could make a better living doing this and I didn’t have to go job to job.'”
Unlike his brother Ben or friend Matt, Casey Affleck doesn’t play the fame game. His career has suffered because of it. What’s cool is he doesn’t seem to care.
Julie Delpy Explains Before Midnight, Feminism, and Onscreen Nudity – GQ
"Though if Celene and Jesse had met now, at twenty-two, they probably would have just friended each other on Facebook.”
I don’t think enough people talk about how technology has changed storytelling, besides your friend that says things like, “Cell phones would have ruined every John Hughes movie!” I’m glad Facebook wasn’t around when Julie Delpy made Before Sunrise.
Actor Bruce Dern Gets Up Close And Personal In 'Nebraska' – NPR
“Take risks. If you're going to take roles, go out on the edge of the cliff and take roles other people don't seem to do or want to do or have passed on for whatever reason, and do it.”
In the 1972 film The Cowboys, Bruce Dern’s character shoots John Wayne’s character in the back. In this interview with Terry Gross, Dern says Wayne told him, "America will hate you for this." Dern replied, "Yeah, but they'll love me in Berkeley." That's why Bruce took risks; he played anti-heroes or outright villains, people who were confused and angry and sick, and attempted to humanized them.
Alex J. Mann is a writer, director and comedian living in New York City. He’s written for Nickelodeon, The Morning News, CollegeHumor and National Lampoon. You can check out his comedy projects here and follow him on Twitter here.