I Will Read (Watch) This Again: Michael Caine on Acting For Film, plus Beating Creative Blocks

Came across a blog post today from Stage 32 featuring a couple of videos that might be of interest to creative types that might want to download them into their brain (see what I did there? A truly terrible attempt at a joke. That’s what you call a first draft, and would cut in editing.)

The first video is a unicorn for me, something I knew existed but has been hard to find. I’ve only ever seen ten minutes of it and was amazed by it: Michael Caine on Acting For Film. THE Michael Caine, teaching actors film techniques, filmed for a British production quite a few years ago. Caught part of it on PBS when I was younger, and even though I am not focused on the acting field, the techniques he displays and his passion for the work are inspiring.

PLUS: It’s easily adapted to directing tips, to screenwriting and storytelling. It would even help you if you are just taking a meeting. Caine advises you to “pick an eye”, and shows why.

But if I’m talking to you, and I don’t blink,
and I just keep on going, and I don’t blink….

He goes into methods for holding focus, grabbing attention, and simple tricks to hit your mark, demonstrating everything. Filmmakers: send this link to your actors. He’s not teaching for stage, but he makes comparisons and you can see those differences yourself and find things that would help whatever your venue, like being smaller or bigger with your performance without upstaging.

I’m not going to delve too far into it, because there’s so much here you will find different things than I do.

The second video is from Actualized.org, covering techniques on How To Overcome Creative Blocks and Writer’s Block. Even if you have writer’s block and you watch it and it doesn’t help you, you can tell yourself you were trying to be productive for thirty minutes and feel better about yourself, right? (I guarantee that’s not in the video, nor is it the best tip ever. But we all do it!)

This clip is a little more valuable than that, though. (Spoiler alert: it starts with commitment.)

Click here for the Stage 32 blog post with the videos

Just do it. No apologies to Nike. Why would you steal such a powerful statement and apply it only to shoes?


P.S. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Michael Caine:


Overcoming Creative Blocks is here:

P.P.S.  I successfully broke my writing addiction when I was younger (don’t do it!) but I still write (just a little less obsessively). Which was probably a mistake. I’ll talk about that another time.

But I always said I never got writer’s block. This is true in one common perception of the term: I don’t run out of ideas. But I do block myself from writing when I should, and that’s an even more insidious issue that I will be addressing with help from sources like this one.

I Will Read (Watch) This Again: Michael Caine on Acting For Film, plus Beating Creative Blocks was originally published on Creative Uploads


Capture Creativity Quick

So one of the difference between successful people and — let’s say less successful people? — isn’t the ideas. It’s sharing them. It takes a lot of work, but we can take the first step very easily.

If your goal is producing creative content, jokes, stories, music, art, whatever…. the trick is to capture the inspiration when you have it even if you can’t devote time to it when it first arrives. It doesn’t have to be finished; you are writing a note to your future self. It can be a sketch or fragment, it just needs to last long enough that you can work on it more, or remember enough to build on it, even years later!

I’m going to talk about musical creativity, but this works for all sorts of inspirations. ’80s pop star John (Cougar) Mellencamp wrote the lyrics to one of his hit songs on the shower door with soap. Who knows how many books and businesses have been built on the backs of bar napkins? I’ve chanted things to myself all day while avoiding just writing them down, kept a notepad by my bed — though now I’ll actually write notes to myself on my phone with a stylus –- which may or may not be better than my previous habit of just getting up for an hour in the middle of the night to write whatever song started when my head hit the pillow.

Countless songwriters have sung into tape recorders over the ages or scribbled down notes . With my first camera capable phone, I would record one-handed the melody that had come to me in 15 second video clips. Sometimes, like this example, I angle my iPad on my music stand so that I can see where my fingers were later.

The improvement on this is that now as soon as I’ve come up with the fragment of a song on any instrument, I turn on the electric piano and record the phrase and following improvisation via MIDI direct into a computer. (GarageBand on iPad works pretty good too in a pinch.) Not only does this give me the exact notes I played in the very improvisation I am building on, but it means that I can edit them, fixing glitches in my spontaneous phrasing, or creating a complete arrangement on top of the original sketch and eventually moving the first take out of the mix completely.

So much easier than my early attempts with cassette tapes. Heck, I once spoke the first chapter or so of a book I never wrote into a cassette recorder while hiking, that’s hilarious to listen to. (You don’t know if I’m pausing because I needed to breathe or I didn’t know what to say next.)

Anyway, my point is this applies to anything that you want to capture organically and move into the future as a more polished product. You don’t need to rely on your memory, and you certainly don’t need the conceit that if you forget it later, it wasn’t that good an idea. Don’t be a baby: write it down or capture it, and let your future self figure out that sometimes it’s crap and sometimes it’s not.

And if you end up with too many fragments of stuff to get to, oh darn why is that a problem? Learn to filter through it and work on your favorite thing until you have something done, then climb back on the pile and see what’s next.


P.S. For the record I often use S-Note on my aging Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for writing things down, and I love Evernote but now that it is free for only two devices at a time, I am trying desperately to use Microsoft OneNote which I find much more cumbersome and harder to search. It seems like OneNote wants you to have everything local before you can search, where Evernote searches in the cloud so you can pull down what you are looking for.

I really wish there was a reasonably priced plan for Evernote that gave me more devices but the tiny amount of monthly bandwidth that I really use. The upgraded plans are still too much of a stretch for the mostly casual user.

Capture Creativity Quick was originally published on Creative Uploads

I’ll Read This Again: Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 10 Tips For Screenwriters

The writers of “The Lego Movie” (and others, including the upcoming “Han Solo”) gave a talk for BAFTA’s Screenwriters’ Lecture master class, which is online in its entirety.

Creative upload stage curtain theater movie lights

I’m posting this partly to bookmark it so I can watch that video when I have time and focus, but meanwhile, here is a nice list-length summary of some things to think about the next time you are writing a script or story long enough to need sharply defined characters.*

Highlights for me: Make the story your own; it’s always about relationships; get and use feedback; and after using a positive creative experience phase you should use a critical phase to vet what you have created to make sure everything has a reason to stay in the script.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 10 Tips For Screenwriters: Learn Their Tricks of the Trade


(Link via Indiewire. )


* And you should always have sharply defined characters, even if the definition is that they are dull. So it’s a trick that I said it any other way.

I’ll Read This Again: Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 10 Tips For Screenwriters was originally published on Creative Uploads

Storm In A Teacup

I always liked the phrase “Storm In A Teacup.” It’s British, but the Americanized version is a “tempest in a teapot”, which aside from being alliterative would allow for a slightly larger storm, or perhaps a copy of that Shakespeare play. I don’t know why it’s changed, we have teacups, too.

In any case it’s about making a bigger deal of something than you should, but instead I imagine a tiny tornado twisting its way around the rim of the china, as if stirred by a spoon suddenly removed, the leaves at the bottom of the cup stirred up and swirling as the brewing process makes it darker and darker.

I suppose that changes the meaning. And who minds a quick storm now and then, as long as it’s small and passes quickly? It brings a little excitement, maybe makes you dizzy? creative uploads writing teacup ride carnival

If not recommended for life, use that feeling in your writing. Great for conflict and potential resolution. What’s important to one character isn’t always perceived the same as another: was the response too big, too small, pointless, funny, sympathy-inducing? Or were they just interested in some tea with sugar?


P.S. I enjoy wordplay. And I enjoy the screeching halt when you suddenly stop. Contrast is good in writing.

P.P.S.  Songwriter Stephen Bishop wrote a song using this phrase, though it’s called “Madge.”  Here’s a nice cover of it on YouTube.  Bishop is more famous for things like “On and On”, “It Might Be You” (from “Tootsie”) and “Save It for a Rainy Day.” He also wrote and sang “Animal House.” So there’s that.

Here’s his own performance of Madge even though this musical P.S. diversion has little to do with the start of this post, it’s another tangent in how to use words to tell a story, right?

Storm In A Teacup was originally published on Creative Uploads

Musing Is Its Own Muse

I haven’t written a poem in quite a while. Decided to take a nap today and while pondering a great many things, one started to come to me, and I decided to fight to a draw and write down a couple of lines then sleep while I had time, and the poem won.

Here it is. Still working on the title though, so a victory for procrastination!

When wearily I lay down to rest

When wearily I lay down to rest

The answers to the universe come to me

The secret of life just about to be revealed

A peaceful moment brings a sense of clarity 

History dwelled upon uncovers hidden truths

Like a dream everything is in my power, possible,

Has been unknowingly under my control for ages

And the instructions for the machinery are all clear

It isn’t just imagination but understanding, for I am awake

Foolish insecurities vanish into confidence

And everything is so pleasantly obvious

And comfortable 

And comforting 

And peaceful

That just as 

I am ready

To wake up,

I sleep.


P.S. The spark not just of inspiration but of action here was a realization that almost the only thing that ever pulled me out of bed when I have ideas at these moments is music. I can and have written notes to myself on paper or my phone or my pad over the years, though not often enough, but when a song comes to me * and grows beyond a verse into a chorus, I’d feel like I needed to rescue that moment from oblivion; so I would arise and go to a piano or guitar or just my songbook and often end up sketching out an entire song in fifteen minutes to an hour, usually with chords included. “Who needs sleep?” but also “who can sleep?” with a song stuck on your head.

Still, why music? A simple matter of two against one (words and music vs. sleepy/lazy me). Plus I always love music, but don’t always love having songs stuck in my head.

* “A song comes to me.” What an arrogant, incomplete and inaccurate description of a multi-faceted process with its myriad of possible avenues of inspiration. Sometimes it’s a flash, from stray thought or deliberate one, and sometimes it takes years, literally, for the shape to  even start resembling a song. Yeah, but songs come to me. And being able to recognize them in all their forms is pretty great.

Also this gives me the idea for a song….

Musing Is Its Own Muse was originally published on Creative Uploads