Filmmaking In Action

I never went to film school. Instead, my career, like all careers, followed a path that seems coherent only in retrospect. Early on, when I found myself supervising movies as a studio executive, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. Only later did I discover how the narrative alchemy of sound and image arose from layers of collaboration and hands-on craft. My process of discovery came from working on 30 movies, and from finding a way to put all the pieces together, which is the story of Filmmaking in Action.

Four years ago, the folks at Macmillan Learning asked me and my co-authors, Barry S. Weiss and Michael Goldman, to create the definitive college textbook on filmmaking. As we took up the challenge, I looked back over my 25 years in the business to see what I could draw on, and where I still needed to educate myself.

In addition to film and media students, I also hoped the book would become a great resource for independent filmmakers, a community I love and have been serving for more than a decade. Essentially, I wanted this to be the book I wish I’d had when I began my career in motion pictures.

At the outset, we approached the trade organizations and guilds and asked for their help. They all said: It’s about time! We’ve been waiting for a vessel into which we could pour the legacy of our knowledge, and share it with the next generation of filmmakers and media artists.

Humbled and motivated, we pushed ahead. The project was now supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the people who give you the Oscars), the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild, the Editors Guild, the American Society of Cinematographers, the Visual Effects Society and the Previsualization Society. We drew on their resources and experts, and I learned a ton.

Then came the process of translating all that information into something readable and useful. Some of the chapters, like those on writing and directing flowed more easily. Other, more technical, chapters, like those on camera and lighting—crafts I appreciate but have never practiced—were harder to achieve. Our book went through three full drafts, with significant revisions along the way, aided by two dozen generous professors who wanted to ensure their students got the best learning materials.

Perhaps most exciting is the digital ecosystem that comes with the book. We shot 21 videos with people who normally stay behind the camera. In each, they share stories of films they have worked on, and how their wisdom and work-process can be useful for indie filmmakers and students. The movie community is generous, and everyone we asked to do a video said yes. Some are emerging filmmakers, and others are Academy Award-winners, like editor William Goldenberg. As a taste of what’s in store, here is his video:

Most of my career has been spent as a producer. A producer needs to have a general understanding of every step in the filmmaking process. Instead of a single chapter on producing, we decided to address what a producer does in every chapter; thus producing became one of the threads tying the project together.

We developed other big themes, too:

  • Storytelling. Every element of every scene needs to advance the story.
  • Collaboration. Because no movie is made alone.
  • Problem-solving. Because when Plan B fails, you need a Plan C.

Like that list above, we didn’t stick to dense paragraphs. We’ve confettied the book with:

  • action steps
  • insider secrets
  • business smarts
  • tech tips
  • and emergency check-lists

…all wrapped up in great design. To see more about the book, go to and you can even explore a chapter.

Students and their teachers tell us Filmmaking in Action is invaluable. But what if you’re not a student? If you’re an independent filmmaker, it will be the most expensive book you’ve ever bought, and you will probably think I’m crazy even talking to you about it.

Instead—consider Filmmaking in Action as much more than a book. It’s a full-access pass to the movie-making universe, a physical book and a digital master class, informed by experts who have devoted years to the craft, and I believe it’s the best all-in-one resource you can find. When you compare it to the workshops, seminars, coffees, meals and other things you spend money on, in order to increase your skills, I believe it is one of best investments you can make in your career.

While working on Filmmaking in Action, I have learned a few things about the academic publishing world. One is that it is staffed by consummately intelligent, creative and caring people. Another is that they have to navigate scores of government regulations, which include that they have to sell the book in pieces as well as whole. Which means it is easy to order the wrong Filmmaking in Action on Amazon, and end up missing the video master classes!

Believe me, you want to get it with the full digital component. To make sure you do, order it from this link: That way you will get everything we put into it. (If Amazon says they don’t have it in stock, don’t be alarmed and order it anyway. They keep getting more in, but they don’t always update their listing. Please order from the Amazon link so you get the right edition.)

In my own way, I now realize I did go to film school. It just took me 25 years of figuring it out. Then Filmmaking in Action came along, and it became my capstone project.

Top image from The Hurt Locker (2009). This Academy Award-winning film is among the many contemporary movies used as examples in Filmmaking in Action. Paul Ottoson, its sound designer, shot a special video for our project’s digital component about how he builds explosion sounds. Photo courtesy Summit Entertainment.

Lego’s Rejection of Ai Weiwei

Here’s a Sunroof Proposal

When Lego rejects Ai Weiwei, something is amiss. The iconic Danish company has rejected the dissident Chinese artist’s request to purchase a bulk order of Legos, and the news has caused backlash against the company and stirred grassroots organizing. In Katharine Schwab’s Atlantic article “Ai Weiwei Versus Lego”, she notes that supporters are expressing outrage that Ai is being, as they see it, censored by the Lego company, which has recently announced they’ll be building a LEGOLAND in China. As Schwab reports, the company specifically noted they “cannot approve the use of Legos for political works,” though they have since told commenters on Lego social media they are rejecting this because they cannot fulfill every direct bulk order.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Looking past the politics for a moment, what’s really interesting to me is the energy regular people worldwide are putting into supporting the artist, who is preparing a piece to be installed in the National Gallery of Victoria (in Melbourne, Australia).  Schwab reveals there are already several drop off locations established—including through the sunroof of a parked car—and the Twitter hashtags #legogate and #legoforaiweiwei are trending. Tweets show children mailing packages of Lego from what appear to be their own collections for the effort. The response is completely astounding, and deservedly so.

Do this thought experiment: Imagine with me a world in which a bold artist with a vision and dedication to her craft has such a lifeline. What if any brave artist could raise such a response for the resources she needs to complete a project that couldn’t be realized without her? What would the world that supported artists at this level look like?

This project is sure to be a brilliant addition to Ai’s body of work. And people who participate in the cause can feel they have contributed to a worthy effort, as so many agree with the political statements Ai makes with his work. And then, it is my hope that we can keep this sunroof open—the one Ai used as his first Lego drop—and repurpose the idea by helping more art enter the world.

How could we continue this level of support for other artists?

Lego image courtesy of Kenny Louie, via the Creative Commons share license.

Ai Weiwei image courtesy of Hafenbar, via the Creative Commons share license.

The Dream Job as Nightmare

Can someone effectively produce work with a focus on a passion? I can attest that it can be done. How do you strike the right balance–so that you have the focus to perform consistently and the time to restore your reserves? The answer requires a bit of soul searching, such as the kind Willow Belden did for her recent Quartz piece, “What to Do When Your Dream Job Makes You Miserable“. 

As she begins her story, her tone is full of promise: “This spring, I created my dream job. At least, I’m sure that’s the way it looks. It’s a job that blurs the line between work and play—a job where the things I do for fun, like hiking and cycling, can happen ‘on the clock.'” And then she reveals her reality: “And yet no position has ever left me more emotionally drained.”

Many of us wish we could do something we love as a day-job, and Belden somewhat ruefully applies our cultural logic: “It should have been perfect. I had found a way to create a career out of my passion—to meld my training as a journalist with my love for the wild. I was following the advice we always hear: do what you love; love what you do.”

So what went wrong? Belden pinpoints the mistake of using a vacation as source material for a work project, during which her careful preparations seem to become snare she set for herself. Rather than a sense of freedom and discovery she enjoyed in non-work travel, she finds herself plodding along under the weight of the project. In creating a narrative out of lived events, she is essentially living her experiences more than once. Add in the preparations, and the “experience” seems become burdensome, and maybe even dull. 

As she reports, “I was getting good ‘tape,’ as we radio nerds call it. But the more audio I gathered, the more my excitement for the bike tour faded. What had once seemed a thrilling adventure—a time to escape the real world and rejuvenate in the woods—was now a chore. I realized with a sinking feeling that this trip wouldn’t be a break from work; it would be round-the-clock work.”

As soon as she stepped back from the “work” perspective, her interest and excitement returned. Under poor conditions, she decides to end the trip early, and has a unique adventure that she finds rejuvenating. And isn’t that the point of downtime?

Some takeaways from Belden’s story: 

  1. Doing what you love for work still has to count as work. Reasonable work-life balance should still include some downtime that’s work-free–even if you’re doing what you love.
  2. A full-time passion project isn’t for everyone. A side project or time-limited engagement may be a great way to test the waters and see if you’re ready–preferably before you set out to swim the channel.  

Your dreams about work just came true, and you can dedicate yourself to your passion project. Now what?


The Laws of Creativity: You Don’t Need to Be a Genius

In his article “You can learn to be creative, if you’re willing to embarrass yourself” for Quartz, James Clear begins with this premise: Our understanding of groundbreaking ideas is often propelled by storytelling in which a centrally organizing epiphany drives a brilliant creative accomplishment. Don’t be fooled. You don’t have to be a genius to create a top-notch discovery, invention or creation.

Taking the example of Newton and the discovery of the Laws of Gravity, Clear points out that Newton worked with the concepts for the Laws of Gravity for around 20 years before publishing. That’s more than the “eureka” moment we usually imagine when we think of Newton, and it proves it has always taken a lot more than a great idea to ship.

In fact, as Clear found in his research, “As long as you meet a threshold of intelligence, then brilliant creative work is well within your reach. In the words of researchers from a 2013 study, ‘we obtained evidence that once the intelligence threshold is met, personality factors become more predictive for creativity.'”

What does that mean for those of us who feel we don’t have everything we need to create? According to Clear, our personality traits are the drivers for our success in doing creative work and thus for the laws of creativity. Namely, we can adopt those traits that are compatible to reaching our creative goals.

As Clear defines them: 

  1. Adopt a “growth mindset”–if we imagine we are plastic, and therefore capable of change and growth, we in fact are. 
  2. Let go of the fear of embarrassment—without this fear, we overcome an internal obstacle to doing deep creative work. 

In my experience—including decades spent working with the brightest in filmmaking—I can attest that it’s true. The people who have achieved the most aren’t necessarily the most obvious successes. What they share is a willingness to labor in their craft, ship their best work, and respond to their audience in order to improve their next creative cycle.

I challenge you to set a goal. What will you ship?

Click here to see my related post about what actress Mindy Kaling says about hard work. 


Kansas City Choir Boy: Love and Inspiration

Originally published in Cultural Weekly on October 21, 2015.

Love lost and inspiration found hover like the angel of death over Kansas City Choir Boy, an intricate one-hour operetta with music and lyrics by Todd Almond and starring Almond, Courtney Love and a troupe of sirens and musicians. In less time than it takes most performances to set their wheels in motion, Kansas City Choir Boy navigates the entire course of a relationship. It’s theatre not to be missed.

The story is simple. A musician (Almond), holed up in a Midwestern motel room, sees a TV news report that Athena, a former lover (Love), was murdered in New York. He spirals to a fantasia of remembrance, playing through their courtship, love-play, and Athena’s decision to find her fortune in the big city.

Yet, under Kevin Newbury’s careful and sure direction, this simple thread creates a complex web. Almond’s songs are musically adventuresome, and his lyrics match them; they are filled with well-worked references and call-backs to fire, stars and light, imagery that is mirrored in Victoria “Vita” Tzykun’s LED-rich set design.

Almond is immediately likable and relatable as a performer. He is tall and handsome and unprepossessing, and he moves with unselfconscious ease. Love has never been better. Her rounded, grounded portrayal of Athena is the center of the operetta’s wheel. Her husky voice holds melody perfectly, and gives earthy realism to her stately bearing. More than anything else, you sense that Almond and Love are having fun on stage: they enjoy being performers.

Kansas City Choir Boy details its love story in a way that brings to mind the central scene of Godard’s Contempt, in which Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot enact the beginning, middle and end of their relationship in a single walk through the unfinished doorways of their house, clad in sheets that make them look like Greek gods. “I love you totally, tenderly, tragically,” Piccoli says in that film. “When I say I want to fade away, I think you misunderstand,” sings Love, over and over, at Kansas City Choir Boy’s climax.

Thanks to Beth Morrison and Beth Morrison Projects for producing the show and bringing it on tour. It is hard to produce theatre that strays from the mainstream, but that’s the theatre that most needs support and is most rewarding. Kansas City Choir Boy is especially rewarding, and this is a show lucky theatre-goers will remember for a long time to come.

Kansas City Choir Boy plays through November 15. Tickets are available online at, by calling CTG Audience Services at (213) 628-2772, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles) or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office two hours prior to performances. The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA 90232. Ample free parking and restaurants are adjacent.

Top image: Todd Almond and Courtney Love in “Kansas City Choir Boy” at the Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Carrie the Musical: Better Than Blood

Originally published in Cultural Weekly on October 14, 2015.

Carrie The Musical is an invigorating revival of a show that succeeds because of its newfound intimacy. Staged in an immersive environment by Brady Schwind – the fabulously rococo Los Angeles Theatre has been transformed into a high school stage within a stage – Carrie brings the audience into the action with a mix of bravado and theme-park ride.

Stephen King’s well-known novel, on which the play is based, tells the story of a bullied teenage girl, entrapped by her mother’s religious dogma of sin and salvation, whose telekinetic powers wreak vengeance on her tormenters. King’s power in horror has always been that he allows the inside to come outside, and he will take his readers to places we hope can’t be real, but are. Children die. Abuse is rampant. Blood can come from everywhere.

This Carrie begins with blood, menstrual blood, visible manifestation of the inside coming out and a foreboding image of what’s to come. Emily Lopez, in a stellar performance as Carrie, has her first period in the high school gym shower, and the other girls, mean as mean girls can be, mock her. Carrie is meek and reserved, a mousey outsider who attracts torment. Her normally modest clothing and fundamentalist, Bible-induced attitudes, learned from her mother, only add fuel to the fire. Thanks to inventive staging, half of the audience is seated on risers that move throughout the show, at times backing away, at other times closing in to create a feeling of claustrophobia for Carrie, heightening the impact of her scenes.

The book has been modestly updated, in ways that sometimes work, sometimes don’t. All of the characters have cell phones, which didn’t exist in when the play premiered in 1988. It’s a nice touch that Carrie begins to shift her self-image when she looks at an iPhone selfie. But other attempts at updating don’t work: a throwaway line about gender fluidity falls flat.

The songs (music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, who collaborated on the classic 1984 film Footloose) function, often well, but none are memorable. They do not have the raw, nerve-touching aesthetic of today’s best stage musicals, and I wish they did. The music is well-rehearsed and perfectly performed, and Cricket S. Myers’ sound design is a model other LA theatres can learn from.

In contrast to the songs, the performances are memorable. The cast is energetic and committed. Kayla Parker as Sue Snell bravely frames the story; Valerie Rose Curiel, as Carrie’s main school antagonist Chris, is a tightly wound “perfect” cheerleader with sublime unrepentance. Other notable cast members are Jon Robert Hall and Ian Littleworth, who bring subtlety and strength to their roles.

Strongest in the cast is Misty Cotton as Carrie’s mother. With a mane of red hair and an Old Testament temperament, she preaches the gospel of Jesus and sin. Cotton’s performance is the center of the Carrie wheel: she is strong, passionate, convicted of her own brand of justice, and the cause of Carrie’s psychic trauma. The show would not work without her, and hers is a performance not to be missed. When Cotton, aghast at her daughter’s emergent sexuality, says that she wishes she had not had her, you can imagine that the subtext is “unsex me here.” Lady Macbeth has nothing on Carrie’s mom.

The Shakespeare analogy goes deeper, too. Some theatre pieces offer nothing but surprise; that’s what happens when you see a new play. But other theatre performs repetition compulsion. When we see Macbeth or A Winter’s Tale, we know exactly what is going to happen, and many of us even know the lines. Still we buy our tickets. There is pleasure in seeing an old story told again.

So it is with Carrie. In case anyone didn’t know the story with its over-determined set-pieces, audiences are greeted in the lobby by blood-splattered prom queens, and the magnificent Los Angeles Theatre is decked out in its vase subterranean ballrooms and vestibules with the detritus of high school gone wrong: creepy locker rooms, abandoned showers, a pig that has given its last.

The pleasure of an old story comes with the fusion of inevitability (Carrie must do what she does, and there will be blood) with surprise (how will the blood be spilled?).

In Carrie the Musical, spilled blood may be what gets patrons in the door, but it is the variegated performances, inventive staging and psychology that keep us there. As with any theme-park ride, be prepared to fasten your seatbelt.

Tickets on sale through November 15. Information here:

Top image: Emily Lopez, as Carrie (left) and Misty Cotton as Carrie’s mother, in Carrie the Musical. Photo by Jason Niedle.

How to Go Off-Script—and Win With Your Pitches and Persuasive Presentations

You’re up. It’s your turn to present, and the success of weeks or more of work rely on the outcome of this meeting. Do you fire up your Prezi and read closely from your notes, or do you take a chance and go off-script? If you want really great pitch advice, ask a performer. Better yet, ask an improviser, a performer whose content is unrehearsed, and whose craft is responding to other performers and the audience.

Alright, when given the chance to present your own work, you’re going to do at least a bit of preparation. Still, the improviser’s perspective can be an advantage; a glimpse at how being nimble can help you win your audience.

Joe Berkowitz gives us great insight in his article “7 Tips for Pitching Ideas, from World-Class Improviser Jason Mantzoukas” written last month for Co.Create.

As Berkowitz writes, “It turns out some of the same problems that plague improv performers—not reading the room, seeming rigid and overly rehearsed—are the same ones that sink great ideas during formal presentations. One person who will never have problems in either of those areas, though, is Jason Mantzoukas.”

Berkowitz goes on to describe Mantzoukas’s seven lessons in context with scenarios from his past pitches and performances. To paraphrase each of the lessons so vividly illustrated in the article:

  1. Use a fresh pitch for each situation.
  2. Be prepared to give the audience more of whatever they respond to.
  3. “Don’t just listen to your audience’s feedback; incorporate it.”
  4. If you can own up to losing your way, there’s a way to win your audience back.
  5. Bring a visual aid to make your vision clear.
  6. Meet your audience where they are; your content will resonate.
  7. Assert yourself when necessary.

This is a great list of ways to be more persuasive when speaking and presenting. As Berkowitz quotes Mantzoukas:

“…More than anything I want, when I walk out of that room, I want people to feel like we together just had this great meeting where we talked about this show that we’re all excited about. Rather than, ‘Oh, I just heard someone talk about something at me.’ I want it to have been more of a ‘with me’ conversation.”

Isn’t that what we all want when our Prezi ends? I encourage my readers and audiences to own their presentations, and I think these are really great examples of how to do that effectively, and win.

Why I Joined CreativeFuture

The Creativity Paradox: the creative work that brings us together is made by people who are often isolated and lonely.

Movies, TV shows, theatre, dance, visual art, music, books, news blogs–all the expressive arts are made to be experienced as a community. Even if you read a book or watch a webisode in the privacy of your tablet, the experience brings you into the community of the audience and allows you to share your reactions with others.

But the people who make these creative works labor alone, or at best, in tiny groups. Writers of all kinds—novelists, screenwriters, journalists—must do that most unhuman thing: staple our butts to the chair and force words through our fingers. Other kinds of artists, such as those who work in film and television, work in small and frequently transient groups.

There is a reason for this: creativity cannot be birthed in a crowd. Yet the side-effect is that creative people, because they labor alone, often feel alone.

In the United States, more than 5.5 million people work in creative pursuits. This is an immense number: more than the number of teachers, attorneys, and physicians in the US—combined. Yet, because we are so isolated in our work process, and largely separated from each other, we creative people do not see ourselves as a gigantic class, which, in fact, we are. And we are an important class, because creativity is the engine of our society. A rich culture lifts all of our lives.

For the past five years, I have devoted myself to forging opportunities for creative people to link together, to gain information to succeed more fully, and to express themselves with power and passion. As a reader of Cultural Weekly, you have been part of this experiment.

So when CreativeFuture asked me to join as their COO, it was a pleasure to say yes.

CreativeFuture is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the creative community. We hold the position of creative people in the public discourse; we believe that creative people deserve to lead sustainable lives and that piracy of our work diminishes our ability to do that. CreativeFuture moves with the same motive we have been expressing in these virtual pages, expanding our reach considerably.

Among CreativeFuture’s present and future plans are to mobilize and bind together the creative community through social action, information, and conversations; to enable curricula that expand education about creativity and creative rights beginning in kindergarten and continuing through college; and to love and appreciate our audiences for their support and reciprocity.

Bottom line: creative people have the right to determine how, when, and where their work should be shared. That is not always easy in the digital landscape.

The digital revolution has not realized all of its promises. Yes, it is easier to create and distribute work today, but, as Jeff Zucker quotably said in 2008, we have traded analog dollars for digital pennies. The studios and major publishers may have found a partial way through this maze – and now may be minting digital dimes instead of digital cents. But by and large, artists are only getting mills. (Trivia point: a mill is a tenth of a penny, and five-mill coins were minted in the US until 1857.)

While the digital ecosystem has up-shifted creation and distribution, it has down-shifted the possibilities for artists to lead sustainable lives. Piracy is a big factor, because when audiences become accustomed to getting work for free, the concept of creative value degrades. By the way, you should know that the sites from which work can be illegally downloaded for free are for-profit businesses – they make hundreds of millions of dollars a year in advertising revenue, so they are, in fact, making money off the hard work of artists who, in turn, are making no money at all.

Some technology-centered companies, like Amazon and Netflix, have been digital boons and have dramatically increased the opportunities for today’s storytellers. However, not all Silicon Valley-type enterprises are created equal. Many have attitudes toward artists that are very different. You can tell that by their language: they call our work “content.”

Well, we do not make “content.” Content is about tonnage and volume: data that number-geeks can analyze. Content is about YouTube ingesting 300 hours of “content” per minute. But what the creative community makes is art: music and movies, television and books, games and architecture, dance and theatre.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom about traditional studios and publishing houses, they respect the artists and make contracts wherein creative rights are clearly defined and protected. I have been on both sides of the studio equation. I’ve had my rights and income safeguarded and I have had the pleasure of sending million-dollar checks to writers and directors because of box office bonuses and residuals. My current publisher, Macmillan, sends me quarterly royalty statements that are transparent and easy to follow – when they sell books I get money.

Let’s be clear and stand up for what we know to be true. Creative work has value because it manifests the culture in which we all live and breathe, and the better our culture is, the stronger and more human is our society.

I’m proud to become a member of the CreativeFuture family. I hope you will join us. Go or, even easier, text ICreate to 52886 and get a one-step sign up link. We will send you great stuff from time to time and your voice will be amplified along with others.

I look forward to continuing to serve you, members of the vibrant and extraordinary creative community.

Image: Courtesy of, By and Copyright Icy & Sot, street artists we have profiled in Cultural Weekly.

More evidence of the value of taking risk

Disruptive creativity often takes the contrarian course.

That’s the take-away from the publishing industry, as  Boris Kachka reports in this story from Vulture – click here to read

This little (nonprofit) publishing house-that-could has something that the manor houses can’t buy, which speaks to the value of taking risk.

As Kachka writes:

“I think of success as being able to say yes to something that doesn’t necessarily look like a commercial winner,” says Fiona McCrae, Graywolf’s publisher since 1994, over yogurt and decaf on one of her monthly visits to New York. “Knowing something is good and having to say no, that seems to me the bigger failure.” An affably owlish Brit, McCrae started out in London’s legendary literary Faber & Faber before transferring to its small American spinoff in Boston. Three years later, she heard that Graywolf’s founder was resigning.

McCrae stepped up to the plate. This idea–of investing in author development and backing sometimes experimental work–has helped elevate this small publisher to dizzying heights at a quantum pace. “Publishing just over 30 books a year, Graywolf has had authors win four NBCC awards, a National Book Award, two Pulitzers, and a Nobel Prize — all in the last six years.” McCrae and company’s vision and dedication have resulted in not only sales and happy authors, but in critical acclaim. This case study in creative innovation and disruption is worth following for Graywolf’s next move, and as a way to reflect on your own continuing business growth. What Graywolf has discovered in publishing, I have found true in many other businesses, from independent films to social impact start-ups. For example, since the 1970s Miramax has brought the unique voice of independent films to worldwide audiences. Similarly, U.K. publisher Bloomsbury picked up J.K. Rowling’s first book–after she had been rejected by 12 others.

Vision and the will to say ‘yes’ bring great creative works to life.

Mindy Kaling’s New Memoir “Why Not Me?” and Straight Talk about Hard Work

Mindy KalingOn flights between appearances, a first-person narrative can be a refreshing way to learn about a new perspective. After reading Megan Garber’s review of Mindy Kaling’s new memoir Why Not Me? in The Atlantic, it tops my list for my next trip. For me, the theme of Mindy Kaling’s book is the most important message for those preparing for a creative career. Mindy Kaling is sharing the not-so-secret, yet somehow ever-revolutionary truth that hard work is the way to success. I admire her unique brand and her message of encouragement to young creative people who seek out accomplished female role models.

As Megan Garber describes in her review of Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling says she has done the work to earn her confidence. In describing the preparation for a successful career, Garber quotes this passage of Kaling’s book: “I swear I’m not that Tiger Mom lady!” Kaling protests, just so we don’t get the wrong idea. “I don’t think you need to play the piano for 11 hours with no meals! Or only watch historical movies, then write reports on them for me to read and grade!” And yet “the truth is,” she notes, “I have never, ever met a highly confident and successful person who is not what a movie would call ‘a workaholic.’ We can’t have it both ways, and children should know that.”

This truly resonates with me, because as I emphasize with audiences at my own appearances about creative work, the only reason successful people achieve is because they have reached for even more. For my part, I have made over 30 films because I have tried to make 300. I believe Mindy Kaling has also known the particular satisfaction derived from working through the night in service to the vision of a spectacular project.

And as Mindy Kaling breaks it down: “People talk about confidence without ever bringing up hard work. That’s a mistake. I know I sound like some dour older spinster on Downton Abbey who has never felt a man’s touch and whose heart has turned to stone, but I don’t understand how you could have self-confidence if you don’t do the work.”

Congratulations, Mindy, I wish you and The Mindy Project all the best in your new home with Hulu!

Top photo courtesy of Mindy Kaling. Book cover courtesy of Penguin Random House.