Have you ever been in a place where nothing is going right creatively? Do you ever feel like you are standing in your own way? Me too. Today’s guest is author Jeff Leisawitz who wrote Not F*ing Around— the No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground. This little pack is quite a punch.
I wanted to have Jeff on the show to drop some knowledge bombs to wake up the tribe a bit. To help you get out of your own way; to get you out of any creative rut.
About the book: Can’t quite get your creative juices flowing? The day job sucking your soul? Fizzled out before you put the finishing touches on your amazing creation? With relentless positivity, full-on authenticity, and a punk rock thunder spirit, author Jeff Leisawitz pulls back the curtain on the creative process and reminds us that we are all creative SuperStars.
It’s time to get off the couch and get on the path. It’s time to tap into the cosmic heartbeat that thumps in your chest and shines from your soul. It’s time to get NFA!
As the guy behind Electron Love Theory, Jeff fused interviews with Seattle’s WTO demonstrators into electronic music, garnering more than a quarter-million downloads worldwide. Jeff has released five studio albums and has landed thousands of music placements in film, TV, and multimedia for clients like HBO, MTV, Discovery, Microsoft, NBC, and many others.
As the founding writer for Seattle’s taste-making alternative rock station 107.7 The End, he chronicled the alternative grunge scene in the 90s.
After training as a Life Coach and practicing NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Re-Patterning) Jeff landed a gig as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific Lutheran University— teaching college students to rock. (Seriously)
When creative businesses, schools, and organizations like Brown Paper Tickets, Tacoma School of the Arts, Gage Academy of Art, Northwest Film Forum, and others need to amp up the creativity, Jeff leads workshops and events to fire up the creative spirit and empower people to tap into their true potential.
Enjoy my conversation with Jeff Leisawitz.
Alex Ferrari 0:28
Now I know all of us have problems getting our creative dreams off the ground. And we always struggle with our own demons, or obstacles that we throw in front of ourselves or obstacles that are thrown in front of us trying to just go down the journey go down the path to get to where we want to be, wherever that might be in our careers in our just life journeys. And today's guest, Jeff Leisawitz wrote a book to help you with that part of your journey. It's called no effing around the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground. And I had a chance to read this little book and it is just plumb full of amazing little stories, guides, things that to just kind of help you. And it's kind of like a reference book that you can go back to again and again. And again, when you're feeling down. Or if something comes up against you. It really helps you break through a lot of that creative bs that that we put in front of ourselves, I had to deal with that for 20 odd years of just constantly getting in my own way. And this book hopefully will help you get out of your own way to make your dreams and your creative dreams come true and your professional dreams come true as well. So this episode, me and Jeff really dive into the book go over a lot of the tips and techniques that he came up with to help creatives just get out of their own way and also just be able to achieve those goals that they're going after. So without any further ado, here is my conversation with Jeff Leisawitz. I'd like to welcome the show, JJeff Leisawitz. Man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.
Jeff Leisawitz 3:36
Hey, thank you, I'm happy to be here.
Alex Ferrari 3:39
So you've written this wonderful book, called no effing around the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground. And I wanted to have you on the show. Because I think everybody in the tribe listening definitely can help have to get a little bit of assistance in that they get in their creative dreams off off the ground, myself included. So why did you decide to write the book in the first place?
Jeff Leisawitz 4:05
Well, I wrote this book, really by accident. I was minding my own business going to the coffee shop on a weekend morning as I often do, to do some writing, whether it's on a screenplay or journaling, or poetry, or just whatever. And I just wrote this piece, which was, you know, sort of this empowerment kind of stuff. And when I was done, I was like, geez, this is pretty good. Maybe I should write a book. Why not? I've never read a book before. Let's do it. So I wrote an outline, you know, shortly thereafter and then busted the thing out. But it wasn't until after I wrote it, that I realized why this was such an important piece for me and hopefully for the world as well. And that is because on one hand, I'm this big creative. I've spent my whole life as a musician, as a writer, as a filmmaker, as a photographer, all That kind of stuff. But on the other hand, I'm also really big into empowerment empowering people. So everything from being a summer camp counselor with the arts and crafts program to teaching songwriting to college students now, I also am a life coach, right practicing life life, life coach stuff, and something called NLP Neuro Linguistic repatterning, which is sort of fringy philosophy, psychology practice, where you help people untangle their subconscious blocks, so they can move forward and make better choices around their worlds and you know, the things that are sort of built in with them. So this book really put both of these pieces of myself together in the same place and seems to be working.
Alex Ferrari 5:51
Now, why do people get in their own way, specifically in the creative world, because I know I'm, I'm definitely a victim of that.
Jeff Leisawitz 6:00
People get in their own way as creatives for about a zillion reasons. But I believe it all comes down to our psychology, because the way we think, both consciously and unconsciously, seriously affects and maybe even totally affects everything we do. So if you have a belief system that was sort of programmed into your brain, when you were a kid, right about not taking risks, okay, and that's in there. And that's, that's your thing. And now it's time for you to take a risk in your creative life, guess what, you're probably not going to do it. On the flip side, if you were programmed with an idea that says, Take every risk possible, anything goes, right, maybe you sneak money out of your mom's retirement account, to make the film in black and white. Right, right. Right, because hey, any risk goes, both of these strategies are really not that helpful. Both are too extreme. So if you can understand where you're coming from, and the forces that are driving you, as a creative, you will then be much better able to make better choices.
Alex Ferrari 7:25
Now, how can you discover what you love to do? Because I know a lot of people listening, you know, they listened to the podcast, because obviously they want to be a filmmaker, or screenwriter, or some sort of creative, but but how do you know what you love to do? There's so many different things you can do even within the film industry, there's 1000 different jobs. How do you find that thing that it that makes it I gotta do this for the rest of my life?
Jeff Leisawitz 7:50
Well, the the biggest way to dig into that is to keep asking questions. And the question that at the end of the day is always Why, why why why. But before we even get to that, take a look at what you love. Right? If it's, you know, for talking about making films, what do you love about films? Is it the story? Is it the way the character emotes on screen? Is it the special effects? Is that the sound, right? I mean, this is pretty obvious, but it's going to drive you towards what you love. If you if you love experiencing it, you're then going to love creating it or working with it or something like that. So really just taking a look around. And then the next question is why? Why do you want to write a story? And what kind of stories do you want to write? There's a concept out there called make your mess, your message, right? What is your pain? What is your What is your tragedy? What is your, you know, the difficulties that you've had in life? And then create a story from that if you're a screenwriter, right, or director things like this. So those are ways to start digging in, you know, another way might be to look at what you do want, like aspects around the sort of job or career path? Would you want to work alone? Do you want to work with people, right? Huge difference, and that's going to separate you from you know, separate these jobs in huge ways.
Alex Ferrari 9:34
Also, I would also throw in there, ask yourself why you want to do something even if you find something you think you love. Ask yourself why do you want to do it? Because are you doing it for money? Are you doing it for fame? Are you doing it for Fortune? What what's what's the purpose? Would you do it if you weren't getting paid? You know, that's, that's always a great if you could do if you can answer them like I would do this and if I and I get paid, I'll be happy.
Jeff Leisawitz 9:58
That is absolutely True. Because if you are being driven by something that is not true to your heart, in any career, it doesn't even matter if it's creative, it can be anything. If your head and your heart are not aligned, you will never be able to take action that is that is balanced and focused. And it will never get as far as you would like it to go. If you were just doing it for the money. You know, that's not a it's not a real good driver. And hopefully there should be something else in there when we all got to get paid. And you know, of course,
Alex Ferrari 10:37
I guess you're on course, of course. Yeah.
Jeff Leisawitz 10:40
But it's not the only factor. And you know, fame. Like what is fame? And you know, the question, like you said, is why? Why do you want fame? Because guess what, when you get it, if you get it, it's not going to be what you think it is, I promise you that
Alex Ferrari 10:55
I just had the pleasure of doing a pre screening of the new movie coming out called the last movie star, I'm going to be having the director on soon, which is starring Burt Reynolds. And it is a story about basically a washed up actor, who was at one point, the biggest movie star in the world. And it is heartbreaking to watch, but rennels, for everybody who doesn't know on, you know, for all the millennials out there who doesn't know, Burt Reynolds was Burt Reynolds was basically Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt thrown together. And he was the number one star in the world for probably like six to 10 years, making the most money out of all of them. And you know, he's fallen on hard times. And you know, he's kind of fallen off. But the movie was brilliant. But the one thing I loved about watching that is, when you're talking about fame, it doesn't get more famous than Burt Reynolds at the point of his peak, like he was the biggest star in the world. But at the end, does it matter? What did you do with your life? Were you happy?
Jeff Leisawitz 12:03
Exactly what are you contributing? And what you know, what do you How are you healing? through your creative work? I mean, it's a huge part of my book, and my workshops and stuff like that, you know, sort of the the main theme of what I've got going on over here is using our creativity, our creativity, to be seen, expressed and healed. Right. So what do I mean by that to be seen? Well, you know, as we're running around in the world, it's easy to become anonymous, right? It's just people everywhere. So there's that piece, but then the next piece is like, Okay, what about your inner circles, your friends, your family, your you know, significant others, co workers, people like that? Did they see you and understand you? Yes, hopefully somewhat a little bit maybe. Right? But do they fully see you and understand you. So if you can use creativity, to you know, create something, whatever it is song movie piece of writing, whatever, it's a new way to be seen. The second piece is to be expressed. So what do I mean by that? It means to go from the potential to the actual. So the potential is, you know, the dancer who knows all the moves, but she's sitting in the corner, on the day, you know, on the dance floor is right there. And the music's playing in that moment, she has just potential. But as soon as she gets up there and actually does it, that's when she becomes actualized as a dancer. So once you're seen and expressed, then the healing comes in. Right. So a lot of creativity, a lot of films, a lot of books, a lot of stories, especially are, you know, away, to have a catharsis create a catharsis for yourself? What are my tragedies, what are my struggles, all this kind of stuff? You get it out there for the world, but it's even more than that. Right? That's the sort of obvious healing. But there's also a healing, I believe that goes on. When, you know, if you write a love song, right, sure. Where's the healing in that? Well, the healing and the love song is all the loneliness that preceded the celebration of that song. Okay. So when you're seeing expressed and heal through your creativity, something really cool happens. You give a gift to the world. That's your film. That's your screenplay. That's whatever you're up to. And then here's the even cooler part because it comes around in a circle. When you when you're seeing expressed and healed and you give your gift to the world, and by that I don't mean you know, a major release of your film or this or that. I mean, it can be a small thing, right? It can be a poem to your your friend or your girlfriend or something. Right. But when you do this, you become the gift, right? Because you show Others in the world that they can be seen, expressed and healed. And this is freakin huge. If we all did this with this kind of intention, the world would rise in a way that would be huge.
Alex Ferrari 15:17
You know, and one thing as I gotten older in life, I've noticed this with films, going back to features, that when you when you see a movie by a filmmaker or group of collaborators, who truly love what they are doing, who truly have an amazing intention, it spills off the screen, it spills off the screen. But it does, but when you watch something like and I've bashed this movie enough, but I'll bash it again, the Justice League, you watch that, and you can see people in it who want to, but the box is not, you know, the the, the car is not really well put together to go on the journey. You know, and it's just this, this Hollywood, like, flashy stuff. And we've seen it a million times, you know, with all the transformer movies, you know, all that kind of stuff, you can tell that it's not coming with the right intention. But you watch a movie like Black Panther, and it spills off the screen, the intention of that movie is you know, it's it literally, and audiences can pick it up.
Jeff Leisawitz 16:28
I totally agree with that there is a you know, I believe almost like a metaphysical energy that is imbued or infused into our creations. So an example I like to use on that is, you know, your basic pop star. Right, you put them up there, and yeah, they can sing. Yeah, the song has a hook. It sounds good.
Alex Ferrari 16:50
It's already He's good looking. Yeah, sure.
Jeff Leisawitz 16:52
Exactly. And you might even like it, and you might even like it for, you know, a minute or a week or a month, but then it disappears. Yep. And then you've got a song like Aretha Franklin going Ari SP CT. Mm hmm.
Alex Ferrari 17:06
And you can feel that oh, my God, can you that song? Oh, God, you can feel like almost any song by YouTube.
Jeff Leisawitz 17:15
Exactly. It's because they're coming from the heart. They're coming from real truth. And they're tapped into it. And that is what audiences always respond to.
Alex Ferrari 17:27
I think also, I know we're going off track a little bit, but I think we're still on topic is, as as filmmakers, as storytellers, if we can if we can tap into truth, and authenticity, because in today's world, there's so much Bs, there's so much fake news, if you will, fake this or fake that, or, you know, people putting out these fake lives on Instagram that like, Look, my life is perfect. Or on Snapchat, when you know, and I know, it's not one, but when you put something that's truth out there, people so so can feel it, and are drawn to it because they want authenticity in their stories. They want truth, they want to feel something from the artist, not something that's manufactured truth, because manufacture truth might have worked in the past, but people are so savvy now. And that's why Hollywood's having such a tough time. You know, they're having a really tough time. You know, unless they're able to tap into some of those real truth. And I'm not saying you can't have a fun movie and have truth. Like, again, Black Panther, I saw it was wonderful, so much fun to watch. But you could just see it spilling off the screen authenticity of that movie of Ryan coogler, who wrote it and directed it. It was amazing. It was amazing. But would you agree with that?
Jeff Leisawitz 18:49
I totally, totally agree with that. And I believe there is a major paradigm shift coming and actually underway right now. With artists and thinkers and business and all this stuff, because you're right, people are sick of the crap. They're sick of corporate, you know, agendas, they're sick of just just things without any soul or truth or that's
Alex Ferrari 19:15
Why artisan foods and artisan crafts and you know, in you know, they don't want to buy a table that was made in China, they want to make it they want to know who made their table, you know? Exactly, it's to an extreme I mean, I don't want to get hipster on everybody but but but artisan food like understanding where food comes from where organic food comes from, as opposed to McDonald's. That's why McDonald's is having such a an all these fast food places are having such a tough time because the world is changing and they're being left behind in their wake. And people want that authenticity in their food, in their in their entertainment in their books. You know, you can go back there's certain books you go read 1984 tomorrow today and it's still gonna ring true. Right gonna threw in another 50 years, maybe a little too true.
Jeff Leisawitz 20:03
And this is a huge opportunity for us as independent creators. Right? We have tools now, obviously with, you know, cameras and all kinds of computers and the internet and podcasts and all this stuff, right. As well as distribution that, you know, we've never seen before, you know, so we can tell powerful stories without spending $100 million to do it. Oh, yeah. Right. Absolutely. So that is a key piece that, you know, I think filmmakers really need to hear it's like, Yeah, it's great to have the production values and all that kind of stuff. But what's really going to drive the story is a great story and actors who care, right?
Alex Ferrari 20:54
Exactly, and not actors who want the biggest, the biggest trailer, it's about the story and about getting into the weeds and exposing themselves, not physically, but emotionally and spiritually on that screen. That's why when you watch Meryl Streep, god damn man every time because she knows how to do Daniel Day. Like, every single time, they just know how to tap into that truth. Without question. Mm hmm. It's pretty insane. It's pretty insane. So let me ask you, you suggest people fail fast? I agree with you. And I understand what you're saying. But can you explain it to the audience? why people should fail and fail fast?
Jeff Leisawitz 21:41
People should fail fast, because failure is an absolutely necessary step to success. Okay. I have talked to the hundreds of success, like very successful people in different fields. And they all say the same thing. Thank goodness for failure. Right? So here's the deal. failure. First of all, it First of all, it's looking at it in such a way that it's not you are a failure, it is I failed, right? And there's a very big difference. And that goes back to the psychology again, right? If you identify yourself as a failure, that's not good. And you really got to work on that. But when you look at it as I failed in this particular, you know, event, or or creation, or whatever you're going for, that's fine, right? You separate it, you deal with the pain of it, perhaps. And then you step back and you're like, what can I learn from this? Okay, here's what went wrong. Here's what could be optimized. Here's what could be better. Here's what could be cheaper, or here's what I want to spend more money on, you know, whatever, just ask a million questions, because remember, the better the questions that you ask, the better the answers you're gonna get.
Alex Ferrari 23:04
Right? It's like, a question like, why did I suck at this? Not a good question. Not a good question. Exactly. It's gonna Yeah, as opposed to like, what can I learn from this situation to make myself be a better filmmaker or person? Exactly. better question.
Jeff Leisawitz 23:21
Exactly. So you know, my philosophy of fail fast is you get it together, the best you can you get in the car, you you step on the gas, you crash into the wall, you step back, you learn what you can learn, you get in the car, and you step on the gas again, and hopefully you go a little bit further this time.
Alex Ferrari 23:40
You know, the funny thing is that with that mentality, I've done that so many times in my life where I just get in the car and just drive to see what happens. And I've crashed multiple times. Like as you as you should. Exactly. And then with my latest film, I actually got in the car, and just put the gas to the floor. And I didn't crash, which was very odd. I was like, Oh, my God, it's things are things are happening. Let's go. It was a fast trip, but I got it done. And I think well, I wouldn't have been able to do that unless I crashed a million times before. And I could just weave and dive through the obstacles that I knew were coming. Right, but you need to fail. And I would say not only fail fast, fail often. Yes, absolutely. as well. Now, are there any tips on how on how to handle the world just slapping you're kicking your ass on your journey because reality in the world always comes in and just slaps you across the face. It happened to me in my early 20s. And anytime I see someone young or even someone older, who's got a complete chip on their shoulder or completely arrogant, I'm like, I don't care who you are. It will happen at one point or another. The world will come crashing down on you Some sometimes bigger than, then than you expect, what do you? What kind of advice? Can you give people on how to handle that first slap across the face? From the world?
Jeff Leisawitz 25:13
Sure. Well, the first, the first thing I would consider is not taking it personally. Okay. Yeah, I mean, that sounds pretty basic, but it's true, because as creators, you know, somewhere within us, we believe that our creations and our projects are us in a way that is different from the way an accountant might think of this and accountants screws something up, ooh, you know, sorry, you know, that's my bad or whatever. But it's not like it's their baby, right? It's not their child, right. But creatives tend to believe that what they are creating is them. So you must separate this conceptually in your head. Right. And that is going to give you a lot more distance, and a lot more breathing room, from the pain that the world will definitely give to you at one time or another. And really, really, a lot of the time. You know, if you're going for it, you're gonna get way more rejections than success and failures than successes. In any of us. You know, when I was in college, and I was getting ready to graduate, you know, I've got all my creative dreams and stuff. And my advisor sits me down, and she says, you know, if you're going to be an artist, get ready for 97%, pain and rejection. And I was like, You gotta be kidding me. And now it's like, yeah, I maybe pick that up to 98 and a half percent. It's like, there's a lot. So there's the one piece. The other piece is sort of what we talked about before, which is process and product, right? If you genuinely and deeply love doing the thing that you are doing, there is a gift to bear. As opposed to, I got to make a ton of money. I got to be famous. I've got to win some award, like like the ego stuff. Right? So if you genuinely love writing screenplays, hey, of course, it's great to sell one, of course, it's great to produce one and go for it. And I'm totally down with that. And you're going to have a lot more longevity and a lot more health, in your hearts and being you get value simply out of doing it.
Alex Ferrari 27:47
Absolutely. And yeah, so much more. Because that kind of lessons, that's a great decimal great advice. Because if you love doing it, regardless of what the outcome is, which is one thing I've always said is don't attach outcome to whatever you're creating as much as little as possible, because that's when you really get hurt. And that's when those slaps really, really hurt. Without question. Now, can you discuss the two major motivating forces that guide most of every decision that we make, which is avoiding fear, and gaining love of one way, shape, or form or love of something?
Jeff Leisawitz 28:26
Absolutely, those are the true, the two forces that will guide everything, we are either moving towards love, or avoiding fear, and you know, in pain, and you know, those kinds of things. So, it's really critical to, again, ask yourself questions. What are you doing? And why are you doing it? Right, and if you're moving towards love, and there are reasons to move away from fear, and again, conflict and pain and all that, I mean, there's definitely a purpose there. But to use these powers, and these motivators in such a way, that helps you, you know, move towards the truth of who you are and what your expression is. And if you do that, the outcome might not be exactly what you thought it you wanted. But it will still be valuable for you. I mean, I'm sitting here now talking about this book and all this stuff, you know, around empowering creatives, guess what, up until, you know, two years ago, I had no idea this was like really my mission. You know, I want to be a rock star and a filmmaker and all this stuff. And I you know, I still love all that stuff. But again, I was attaching this huge outcome to these endeavors. Now, it's like, Hey, you know what, I'm going out here. I'm doing my thing. And, you know, hopefully people will get some value out of it.
Alex Ferrari 30:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And same exact same thing for me. Three years ago, I had no idea that I was going to be doing this, interviewing people like you doing a podcast, doing a website, doing all this kind of stuff. And if you would have told me, oh, you would have shot to feature films, and you, you know, have this podcast and, you know, in this community you've built up and helping people, I would have never would have never believed it. So it but when you find it, you're like, Oh, this feels good. I'm gonna keep doing, I'm gonna keep doing this.
Jeff Leisawitz 30:40
Okay. And, and again, I believe that's the alignment of our head and our heart and our action.
Alex Ferrari 30:48
Yes. Yes, without question. Because I mean, I've been I know, you've been on projects like this too, but you're on a project, you're doing it for the money, or you're doing it for something other than what really you should be doing it for. And it never turns out, right? It always becomes painful, it always becomes stressful. It always is. It's a car crash car. Hey, man, I've crashed that car plenty of times. And it's tough sometimes, because you want to take them, you know, sometimes a gig is a gig. And you got to do it for the money sometimes. And don't get me wrong, I've done that millions of times.
Jeff Leisawitz 31:27
And that, and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we move forward in our lives, you know, the question is ask the questions of what can drive you towards sustainability, you know, as you know, making a living or whatever? And also, what, why do you want to do the thing that you want to do? Because that is going to make a huge difference. And again, you know, we're sort of talking about this in terms of, like career stuff, like, but it doesn't have to be, you can make films on the weekends for the hell of it. You can write screenplays, because you like writing screenplays and not even worry about selling it or making things right. It's just, you know, again, it comes down to the process and the product, what are you trying to do? Why are you doing it?
Alex Ferrari 32:18
And it's never too late. That's the other big thing I love to preach is like, Look, if you're 50 if you're 60 and you want to start writing screenplays start writing screenplays. Sure, that was a Julia Child's was 6465 when she started. Oh, wow. Yeah. And the colonel from KFC. I think he was like 70 when he opened up his first KFC. That's a good piece of trivia. I like that, you know, like these guys started late in life, it there's no reason why age should stop you. You know, and a lot of ways as you get older, you have a lot more tools in those toolbox to get started, as opposed to a 20 year old getting started. In the exam field. Would you agree? Yeah, absolutely. Now, how do you handle that wonderful little voice in your head? That tells you you're not good enough? Why are you even bothering doing this year? You have no talent? Look at you. How do you handle that guy?
Jeff Leisawitz 33:20
I call that little voice in our heads the IQ or the inner critic, right? You've sort of heard that before. And it is true that if the IQ gets loud enough, or talks long enough, it will kill any creative dream that comes across your your heart. Right? So how do we deal with this thing? Well, first of all, we have to realize that it's actually there for a reason. Okay? The reason is outdated, outmoded, whatever, but the reason is to keep you safe. Okay? So, you know, you go back, you know, 10,000 years or whatever, it's to keep you safe from the tiger and you know, all those kinds of things. But now, the world is a lot different. We're not faced generally, with that many physical threats. Now, what's more emotional threats, or possibly financial threats? Right? Are we fitting into the group? Are we you know, are is our ego balanced and healthy or not? Things like that. So, first, by acknowledging that IQ, you know, the, your inner critic, is there for a reason and to honor it for that, right? Actually lessens its power. Right? Then, you sort of you can get into meditations I do this in my workshops and my you know, stuff like this meditations where you go in, you go into your mind, you go into your heart, and you'll be like, Okay, again, thank you for your service, but you are not needed here. And I've got various exercises where you can essentially turn down the volume on what the IQ says and how it says it. by loving the EQ and letting it go, you take away its power. And that is tremendous. Because if it's too loud, it is going to screw you up. And we've all had it.
Alex Ferrari 35:24
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, my IQ is Mike was on full blown. He was full blown. But eventually you kind of you kind of wrangle them down. It's, it's that little voice, I always tell people the story, the little voice, like, Look, the little voice in your head is the is your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. We all we all had a dinner. And then we're stuffed because we ate this huge dinner. And all of a sudden, dessert tray comes out. And you want to like, Alright, let me just have a piece of cheesecake. It just looks too good. And that little voice inside of you is telling you. Yeah, I just had the cheesecake going, you'll go to the gym a little bit more, you'll you'll burn it off. Don't worry about it. That night, when you get home and you take your clothes off in front of the mirror, that same voice goes to you fat pig. Why did you eat that cheesecake? You've got to control that voice? Because if not, they will control you. Exactly. Exactly. Now, there's a there's a chapter in your book that says say yes. And agree to whatever is in front of you. Can you explain a little bit of that? Sure.
Jeff Leisawitz 36:33
So years ago, I took an improv comedy class, I guess, right? And there's a bunch of different tenets about how to do improv comedy. One of them that really struck me was say yes, and, and what they meant by that was, you know, when you're improving a scene, you need to take whatever facts or information that everybody else is putting out there and assume it's true. So if somebody else says the aliens are coming down, and they're spaghetti all over the floor, right? You buy it. And then you move on, you know, okay, maybe we should feed the aliens, some spaghetti might be your, you know, what you do as an actor in there. Okay, if you don't accept that reality, the whole thing stops dead. Right? So I thought this was really a really smart way to think about the world. Because if you say yes, in your life, what that essentially means is I am accepting reality as it is as objectively as you can look at it. Okay, that's the first piece. Where are you? Really? What are your skills? Where do you want to go? What's your thing? Right? And then the second piece is, say yes. And blank. What can you add to what's already there? How can you create value? How can you move forward? How can you do all this kind of stuff? That is going to essentially step the scene up? Right? Just like it does an improv comedy? What's the scene in your life that you can step up? So you know, if, if, if the reality of your life is I can't afford a big fancy camera, but Jeez, I've got my iPhone. That's the Yes. Okay. And then, what's the end? Well, jeez, I know, a couple friends who are actors, and I have this little script. Let's bust this thing out. So now, you've accepted reality, and you've created value and move forward with that, which is a lot different from the mindset of, well, geez, I only have an iPhone and not even realizing you have an iPhone. I can't get up my $30,000 to do my scene. You know, I have to hire all these people and stuff like that. Sure. It's great if you have that, but that's not your reality. Right? Right. So by clearly looking at what is your reality, you can then step forward in more meaningful and powerful ways.
Alex Ferrari 39:11
That's a powerful really powerful statement. Honestly, it really is because I was caught in that or in that world for so long. of I can't make I can't make a move until everything's perfect. So I have the right camera, the right dp, the right cast the right store, like it froze me for 20 years, you know, till I finally just said, screw it. I'm tired. Wait, I'm just gonna and I actually just said, This is my reality. This is what I'm gonna go do.
Jeff Leisawitz 39:43
And that I mean, that's my exact story filmmaking wise to I was trying to sell my screenplays, you know, to Hollywood producers and stuff and like, you know, getting the bites but you know, no sales. And finally, like, screw this. I'm just making, I'm making short. I'm just doing it. I just did. Man, isn't it. It's amazing. It's also amazing. By the way, it's might be helpful for your listeners, I put that thing out. It's called mystic coffee. I put it out to tons and tons of film festivals. And I got shot down by every single one of them. And I was like, oh, man, wow, that's a major fail. Right, right. And then I get a call out of the clear blue from a company called Gaia TV. Sure, right. Conscious media is what they do and call themselves and they're like, somebody showed us your film from a film festival, you know, or, you know, a curator at a film festival or whatever. And we love it. We want to give you a 10 year non exclusive deal worldwide. Like, sure. Like Okay, now the films out there, it's making money and people are seeing it. So you don't ever know. The way it's gonna go.
Alex Ferrari 40:59
It's never the way you think mostly. It's rarely the way it's it's rarely that way. And it's generally sometimes it's better. A lot of times I find it's better than what you imagined. Or at least different. At least different at least definitely different without without question. Yeah. It the whole Oh, by the way, I don't know if you knew this or not Steven Soderbergh just made this his latest film on an iPhone. Really, purely because, you know, obviously, Steven, because you in on whatever he wants, right? He decided to go on an iPhone, I watched the trailer of it, I was like, looks pretty good.
Jeff Leisawitz 41:37
And I'm sure I would love to hear his, you know, his reasoning for doing that.
Alex Ferrari 41:43
I think he just, I think he's one of those guys. He's like, he's never gonna make a movie for a studio again. He's done with that. So he, he just said that he's going to be doing his movies the way he wants to make them, and just go out and shoot them. And just, he doesn't care. And because he's got the clout of who he is, actors will come and work for him. And, and he's gonna just do his movies. And I think he wanted to, I think he wanted to prove that it can be done, which is a lot of stuff that he's done is like, I'm just gonna prove that it could get done. Right, you know, and he's just gonna do it. And it looked pretty good. You know, I mean, if you watch tangerine, which is Shawn Baker's beautiful movie, shot on the iPhone, it looked great. It was like, remarkably great. Did you see his latest movie Florida project? I have not. Oh, such right. We completely, completely snubz he should have been should have been an Oscar nominated film, without question. But anyway, um, so let me ask you, what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?
Jeff Leisawitz 42:53
Well, basically what you just said, which is just do your thing and love what you're doing. If you're a screenwriter, write screenplays, put them out, you know, do whatever you got to do there with that kind of the business stuff. But write the screenplays for the right reasons, the reasons that matter to you. Same thing with the filmmaker, bust out your iPhone, or borrow your buddy's camera. I don't like just do it. However, you can do it. You're going to be moving forward, you're going to be getting better at your craft, you're going to be failing fast, and you're going to be getting better and you're going to be stepping closer towards your goal. And at the end of the day, if you love what you're doing, you're already winning.
Alex Ferrari 43:38
Amen. Yeah. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Jeff Leisawitz 43:52
I've read I've read a lot of books. I, the first one that the one that pops into my mind is Catcher in the Rye, which I turned on to probably as a maybe 12 or 13 year old was sitting in my parents bookshelf. And I read that book literally, every year from probably 13 to 25. I love that book so much. And then I stopped and then you know, maybe when I was sitting around 40 or so I read it again for the first time since then. And I was amazed at the difference of perspective that I had between being younger and being a little older. So what did I get out of that book? I think I related hugely to obviously it's a Holden Caulfield, the character specifically, in ways that he could see through the bullshit of the world. Half of this book was him looking at stuff and saying, like, Man, this school that I'm at, everybody's a phony, right? And here's the beauty in this little piece of the world over here that nobody's even looking at. Right? And over here, this is this is a bunch of crap. Right? So, you know, grown up, and even now still, I have the same mindset. I'm like, Where is the beauty? Where's the truth? And where is the nonsense? And let's get rid of the nonsense. Let's think, for ourselves. Please write, we are so inundated with media, with, you know, peer group, with advertising and marketing, with social with, you know, like educational institutions and government, like all this stuff, has a gigantic effect on us. And if you're not, if you don't have your filters up, this stuff will brainwash you. So, again, being more conscious and asking questions, why do I think I have to buy this expensive thing? Hmm. Is it because you really need it? Or is it because you've seen 40,000 ads for it?
Alex Ferrari 46:20
Great. If I if I if I may translate that for filmmakers? Do I really need to buy an Alexa? Or can the iPhone work? Or can a Blackmagic Pocket camera work? You know, or cheaper? You know that that whole gear, people buying gear again and again and again and again? Do you really need it? What do you what's the minimum thing you need to do your art?
Jeff Leisawitz 46:41
Exactly. And it can be an excuse? Oh, guys, I need I need all this expensive stuff in a huge budget to do my thing. Now, you know, you know, the freakin Beatles made Sergeant Pepper's with a four track. Right? So if they can do that, what can you do with all of this stuff? Most of which is so cheap and even free.
Alex Ferrari 47:09
Right! It's pretty, it's pretty remarkable. And for the kids in the audience, The Beatles were a band back in the signum joking. I just saw amazing documentary on how the Beatles changed the world and just completely changed my perspective on them the death before but I really loved them after I saw that document.
Jeff Leisawitz 47:30
I just saw that too. Isn't that good?
Alex Ferrari 47:31
Netflix and Netflix and amazing documentary? Right? Yeah. I didn't know that. They literally changed the music industry multiple times. Yeah, it's remarkable. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Jeff Leisawitz 47:52
Wow, well, I'm still learning it, I'm sure. But something recently came up. That is really pretty extraordinary for me. And this goes down into the psychology. So I was I was with some people. And I was saying, Hey, you know, my business or my book and my workshops. In some ways, it's going great. I'm getting out there. I've got clients, and you know, people showing up to the events and all this kind of stuff, fantastic. But it's really not getting as big as I would like it to be, I'm not having as much impact as I know, I could write. So there was sort of giving me advice or thoughts on it. And one person said, you're not confident, I'm like, wait a minute, I'm confident when I started, I was not confident, you know, of course, I'm starting a new thing. It's out of my comfort zone. Now I can talk about the stuff I know what I'm doing, et cetera, et cetera. So I really felt in my mind that I was confident. However, somebody else said to me, you're you are confident in your mind. But your heart is not fully ready to be seen. And I was like, Oh, my mind blown. And this has, you know, without getting too far into it, this has been sort of an issue under an undercurrent of my consciousness my whole life for various reasons. And so I took this little bit of wisdom, and I'm still doing this journaling on this, why is it that I'm not really ready to be seen? And how can I be seen and how would it feel to be seen because that's vulnerability, right? That's huge. You're putting yourself out there as any creative does. And then meditations around this stuff, again, using some of these NLP techniques that I know to re essentially rewire my subconscious and let me tell you Have something within days of this happening. And this was really just like two, three weeks ago, within days of this, I have gotten a ton of new clients, a ton of new opportunities to speak, and do my thing, and workshops, and all this stuff without changing my outward actions in any significant way. Amazing, isn't it? It's amazing. And, and that is why I really believe so deeply, that it's not just your head and your action in the world that will help Of course, you know, move you towards your goals, but it is the energy within you. And if you can unblock that, and move that forward. That is it will help you in tremendous ways.
Alex Ferrari 50:52
And sometimes it takes a lifetime for people to understand that it does that they just they they die, bitter and angry, because they didn't achieve their goal. But a lot of it was like you just didn't find this one key inside of you to unlock that part that stopping you. Because at the end of the day, if you keep pushing forward. And obviously if you keep hitting the wall in the same place, and the walls not moving, you got to change your direction, change your attack, if you will, sure. But at a certain point, if you keep at it, you will have to make some sort of some sort of headway in, you know, look, if your goal is like, I need to win 10 Oscars, I'm like, this is not, this is not First of all, a horrible goal, to start the journey on. If that's if that's the only way you're doing it is to get 10 Oscars, that was the point. But I think that people do get so they see that thing inside of them, or they don't see that thing inside of them that stops them. Like me, it took me 20 years to get out of my own way. And once I got out of my own way, it was like a rocket ship. It just took off in a way. And it's only happened in the last three, three years or so. For me, and it was because I got on my own way. And I got a lot of these preconceived notions out of my head, you know, like, Oh, god, what is going to be my first movie, my first movie has to come out, it has to be Reservoir Dogs. Right? You know, it's got, it's got to take the world by storm. I'm like, No, dude, it does not. You could just make the movie. And if it's good, great. If it's not, you make another one. And so on. So it is it's sad. But anytime I see that in people, I always try to help as much as I can. Because I'm no expert by any stretch. But I always try to, like, look inside, what's stopping you? Because you've been doing this for 10 or 15 years? Do you agree? Like there's something there's something? It's more likely something inside of you?
Jeff Leisawitz 52:58
Exactly. It's it's always let me just say that it is always you to some extent, and usually, to a large extent, right. So again, that's what I do with my coaching. And that's what I do at these workshops is, you know, help people not only with the practical actions, because that's important too. But dig into the why unblock these pieces that are screwing us up, create different identities. Did you fail? Or are you a failure? Right? The all this kind of stuff? Are you ready to be seen Why or why not? Right? And if we get into that stuff, it changes. It just changes everything.
Alex Ferrari 53:40
Absolutely. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Jeff Leisawitz 53:44
Oh my. Well, gosh, three, I'm going to go with you know, it's so easy to say it but Pulp Fiction because I mean, that's just some great first Star Wars movie. You know, I feel connected with Luke.
Alex Ferrari 54:02
We all do. That's why it's why it's Star Wars.
Jeff Leisawitz 54:05
That's right. I sort of escaped my home planet and i've you know, believe in the forest. I'll turn that freakin scope off for that last, you know, killer shot.
Alex Ferrari 54:15
Yep, yep. Yep.
Jeff Leisawitz 54:18
What's another one I love? Well, I love contact.
Alex Ferrari 54:21
Oh, wow. Yeah, I love contact.
Jeff Leisawitz 54:24
No, I mean, that's essentially faith and, and science
Alex Ferrari 54:29
McConaughey and Foster had absolutely no chemistry but the movie was correct.
Jeff Leisawitz 54:33
Yes. I and one of my screenplays is thematically similar to that panaceas dream about a shaman, a scientist who invent a pill that cures any illness and it works. But they don't know why it works. And you know, when the scientist sister starts dying and the pill doesn't work for her. The scientist has to figure this out. Sounds Yeah, you Yeah. So, you know, I mean, I could list a bunch more movies, but
Alex Ferrari 55:05
No worries, no worries, threes good threes. Good. Now where can people find you?
Jeff Leisawitz 55:10
Right! best way is jeffleisawitz.com. Hopefully you can spell that right, or our show notes. And yeah, sign up, you know, for the newsletter, and you can have free chapters in my book. So that's cool. And then again, I do the coaching, and both creativity and business coaching, by the way, you know, branding, social media, all that kind of stuff, and online workshops. So you can be anywhere, and we can do this.
Alex Ferrari 55:40
Awesome, Jeff, man, thank you so much for dropping some beautiful knowledge bombs on the tribe today. I really appreciate it. I hope it inspires some people to ask the deeper questions on there.
Jeff Leisawitz 55:52
Alex Ferrari 55:52
And on their journey.
Jeff Leisawitz 55:53
Thank you. And again, if we can all do this be seen expressed and healed through our creativity, the world will become a better place as well.
Alex Ferrari 56:02
Absolutely, my friend, thank you so much.
Jeff Leisawitz 56:04
Alex Ferrari 56:06
I hope you enjoyed Jeff and I's conversation. I learned a lot from it. And I really want to thank Jeff so much for being on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe. So thank you, Jeff, so much. If you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/226 for the show notes there, you'll have links to the book, which I highly recommend you get to small little book, but it is just plumb full of great, great stuff to help you guys on your path. So please check it out. I also want to remind you that Suzanne Lyons, and my indie film producing masterclass is coming out April 9, if you want to get in early, please email [email protected] And you'll get on a list to get it a little earlier than everybody else. And maybe even a slight discount. And it's going to be $90. And, and for retail, and it's going to stay at that price. We're rarely ever going to have any specials. But if you email now and put yourself on the list, there will be a $15 discount. So please email at [email protected] And if you guys really want to understand indie film producing from someone who's been doing it for many, many years and has worked with big stars, and done budgets from $50,000 budgets, all the way up to $15 million budgets, understand all the legalities, all the paperwork that you're going to need contracts, all that kind of stuff releases all of that's included in the course that you can download as well. So [email protected] to get in early. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
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