- November 4th, 2010
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At each stage when I got lost and have been in the wilderness I have allowed the ideas of who I was and should be fall away and then another level of my purpose and clarity has emerged and put me on a path back to my real direction. Derek Rydall
Derek Rydall is an accomplished screenwriter, screenplay consultant, and script doctor. He’s the author of two books – “I Could’ve Written a Better Movie than That!: How to Make Six Figures as a Screenplay Consultant – Even if You’re Not a Screenwriter,” and “There’s No Business Like Soul Business: a Spiritual Path to Enlightened Screenwriting, Filmmaking, and Performing arts”. I have found his methods personally rewarding, and have been particularly inspired by him to write my biography, Getting Lost is Part of the Journey, in an authentic way. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Derek.
SB: In life the moments when you ‘get lost’ are the most important and hardest to work through. It seems to me that the same applies to writing.
DR: In my own journey I have had a lot of dark night of the soul moments and have come to appreciate that those moments of being lost are the darkness and the darkness is in fact the light. Interestingly it’s like the soil that we feed on. That darkness of that soil is the very substance that life comes from. The same is true about the darkness in our own lives, it’s important for our own soul, creatively.
SB: The process of writing has been an important part of my development. Everything I have ever written has added to my own development and understanding. Not just that writing is as you say, a virtual life, to reflect into. What is your first memory of writing and do you have any feelings about that process as a child, was it more honest and true?
DR: Some of my earliest experiences of writing were in a journal expressing my pain and emotions without any censoring whatsoever. What it had was absolute authenticity, the uncensored expression. What it didn’t have was any type of craft. Some people can get confused – that if you express yourself authentically without any structure that is good art. That is just not true. But when you combine that with good craft and you know how to combine that in a way that communicates then you have got a powerful piece of work, whether it’s writing, acting or even painting. My earliest memories of that are very authentic, but as I have gotten into the business there is certainly a challenge or balance needed, to craft things in the way to sell between holding stuff back that people feel might be too outrageous and letting myself go. My scriptwriting has rarely been truly as raw as my private life.
SB: This authenticity you talk about comes from people who have been lost in their lives. Was there a moment when you were lost?
DR: My life is about being lost with moments of – oh yeah I know where I am at. There’s a term called the success of approximation. There’s the example of an aeroplane. An aeroplane is off course 90% of the time. But because the computer uses the success of approximation by bringing it back constantly on course then it usually gets to where it is going on time. We think that we are supposed to be on course most of the time but that is not certainly true. If you are willing to grow and to live for a vision then you are on what I call the emerging or creative edge. I think you are off tilt most of the time but if you have a vision and a purpose it brings you back on track. That keeps you constantly growing. As the saying goes if you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space.
I had to let go of the ways I did things before and dig down into my own spirit and discover who I was and try to emerge as I am now. Specifically in terms of my creative work and profession that happened when I had a brush with death and I had to re-evaluate where I was going. I almost became a monk, a minister and then I became a writer instead. As a script consultant I was successful but felt empty. I had to completely lose all that to become more successful as a writer. And even then I had projects that never got turned into films and it was like suffering a still birth over and over again and then getting lost and finally becoming an author of books. At each stage when I got lost and have been in the wilderness experience and allow the ideas of who I was and should be fall away another level of my purpose and clarity has emerged and put me on a path back to my real direction.
SB: What has been interesting for me is the painful experience of going into yourself. How important is that time in terms of creation in writing?
You can’t put onto paper more than you are as a person. Derek Rydall
DR: The very best fiction is really not fiction it is autobiographical. If you have done the work and been connected to yourself, when you sit down to create a fictional piece usually the type of story you are connecting to will tend to be autobiographical. You can’t put onto paper more than you are as a person. If you aren’t connected to your emotions on paper it is going to be hollow. The most important thing that a writer can do is to really live life fully and be connected to their emotions.
SB: Making a movie is a collaborative work, in terms of the industry how would you advise people that have developed and optioned a script who are then confronted with changes from the producers and director? How can you stay true to your purpose?
DR: One of things I would advise people to do is to really master the ability to analyse story and to be able to articulate what works and how to make it better. My ability to articulate and understand story has allowed me to sit in a room and when the director comes in with all these news ideas I can be very diplomatic but be able to turn to the producers and make a well reasoned case of what is working and why. It becomes difficult for them to argue against that and they know I am not being a reactive writer. If people are seriously attracted to your work at the beginning trust that it resonates a part of them as well. We are all struggling with the same issues, in that way we are not unique so it is very likely that they were attracted because it plugged into that part of them. Look how their input might add dimensions, shades and tones to the piece so that more people relate to it and understand. Your goal is to communicate that to the most amount of people. Yes, it is a collaborative medium and these people are bringing their own piece in. If you look for that and try to support that it might improve it. And if you understand it you might be able to shape it so it stays consistent with the rest of the script.
SB: I wrote my book on the basis from today looking back into the past, showing that there is a repetitive process in life. I’ve always ended a situation in a battle of egos. This time I needed to pull away from trying to control the situation. How easy is it learn this process of change in your behaviour in terms of a script? How do you stand back and analyse a piece of work that you are close to?
DR: There is a reason why there is more than just one of us on the planet. Is it difficult to analyse our own lives. One of the best ways to analyse your life is to look out into the world and see how you react to it. Everything you have a negative attitude to is actually a reflection in beliefs in your own shadow that you have suppressed and are projecting onto the world. If there are things that piss you off, frustrate you or anger and revulse you, then you are projecting the personification of your own psyche. It is an incredible playground to see who you are by reacting to everybody else. That is a huge blessing if you are willing to acknowledge that is true.
Likewise everyone or everything that you envy, admire, respect, love, cherish, adore are also all reflections of your positive shadow and those parts of you don’t value or think are not worthy of being. All is who you are. We need other people to reflect back to us where we are at and who we believe we are. Whether it is therapist or a friend. Anybody can play that part because the reflection back to us is showing us who we are. And with our script it can be the same way. Anything in our story we are reacting to suggests there is something we should look a little deeper at or if anyone is giving us feedback and we have a strong reaction then that is an area to investigate because it is clearly pressing our buttons.
I am big proponent of getting feedback. Friends, family, professional consultants, readers, colleagues, what I call a 360 degrees feedback because we do have these cognitive blind spots. We just need to filter and analyse what is right for us.
SB: You are a proponent of Enlightened Entertainment. There is a plethora of books out there along those lines, and what could be seen as a movement in this direction. What role is technology playing in supporting the ideas of Enlightened Entertainment?
DR: Anybody with a computer or camera or even basic audio equipment can create their own entertainment, TV or radio station. That is becoming more and more common. Some of the people on youtube have bigger audiences that some TV shows and they are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in advertising and the potential to build a business around your creativity is available right now. People are hungering for answers and solutions to their pain and suffering to create a world for everyone so anything that taps into that is going to have an avenue. And the more it taps into that from a grounded standpoint like the work you are doing is going to be hopefully powerful and accepted. Someone I was talking to the other day started a podcast and have a half a million subscribers. Everybody has the opportunity to put their authentic voice out there.