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2.18.04 Looking for Inspiration

I am always interested in reading or hearing about someone who takes their work seriously and applies real thought processes to the development of their craft. This is in contrast to the people who believe you "either have it or you don't" or who meander through life just "trusting their intuition." The worst, of course, are people who find themselves in positions of power and influence and who then decide to outsource the thinking process -- but that's another article.

When I was 12, my father scolded me for buying movie magazines. "Those people don't deserve to be put up on a pedestal." He probably wouldn't have had the same opinion if I'd been buying Sports Illustrated. All the practice hours athletes put in is visible. "Training" is an open and obvious part of their culture. With "movie stars" all you see is the final glossy product, along with the marketing glitz. The zines want to track their lives, as if their lives were movies too, as if the stars were characters acting out their own lives for us all to enjoy and gossip about.

That's why I love "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo. Actors -- big movie stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Tom Cruise, like 'em or not -- speak with great intelligence about their craft and how they made certain choices in their roles.

In the 1.19.04 issue of The New Yorker, there's an article about Larry David, the co-creator of "Seinfeld" and now the star of his own show on HBO. On the show, he plays himself and comes across as kind of a lazy rich guy who plays golf and has a lot of time on his hands. Maybe it's the myth we want to have about successful people.

In fact, he isn't a lazy rich guy at all. For all the power, influence, and money he made on "Seinfeld," he doesn't "outsource" a thing. He's diligently involved in every aspect of the show's production. The article describes the "ratty brown" idea notebook David carries everywhere with him and his process for turning those ideas into a detailed script outline of 7 or 8 pages ("he just sits down and sweats it out"). After the show is shot (multiple takes for every scene), Larry sits in the editing room studying the tape frame by frame. No detail is too subtle for him not to worry over. He takes a full two weeks to edit each half-hour episode.

When I'm working really hard and starting to feel like a drudge, it is inspiring to think that somewhere out in California, Larry David is not on the golf course but sitting in front of computer, just like me.

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