Sunday, November 18, 2007

Committed -- Robin

Recently, Eve and I saw the movie Across the Universe (at Jay’s constant urging) and I must say…I was blown away. It’s a movie set to Beatles songs, which makes it part musical, part regular movie, part one-very-long-tripped-out music video. I came away thinking not so much about the acting or the singing (though they were wonderful) but more about the person who came up with this strangely wonderful idea for a movie. I love that she stuck to her vision and made a truly unique piece of art. I think it was because the movie stayed committed to the concept and never held back that I felt so inspired when I left the theater. Bravo!

For me, being committed to an idea is what makes unusual ones work so well. For example, let’s talk about Stephen Colbert. When he was on The Daily Show, I loved him. He totally cracked me up. So when I heard he was going to start his own show, I thought, "Oh, no way. He could never follow The Daily Show!" And when I found out he was going to do the show as a persona, a character directly opposite of himself, I thought, "Oh, no way. He seriously can’t follow The Daily Show!" But dang, if he didn’t pull it off. He commits to his idea and never wavers from it. Sometimes he commits to his idea so much that it’s over the top, but that makes me love him even more.

Speaking of loving Stephen Colbert, I must admit that Eve and I have had the “Who would you date…Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart?” conversation (but who hasn’t!?) and we both came up with the same answer. But our reasoning got very technical, so join us for drinks someday and we’ll tell you! (Jay was very quiet in the back seat of the car during that conversation.)

Anyways, I also love it when I come across books that take an unusual idea and stay committed to it. For me, that book is Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini. I mean, it’s one thing for an author to think, “Hmm…I think I’ll write a book about how to turn a nerd into a popular guy.” But it’s absolutely brilliant to then create a realistic sci-fi book about a kid who swallows a computer chip and walks through his life with the voice of Keanu Reeves in his head telling him what to do and say in order to be cool. What an amazing idea. And Ned Vizzini stuck with it, never held back, and created a killer book.

So those are the people who have inspired me to stay committed to my ideas and not hold back. But wait! There’s one more inspiration…

Every single skit with Chris Farley on SNL. That dude can commit! (Sniff.)

Who else do you feel is “committed”?

- Robin


Natalie said...

I'll add Markus Zusak to your list. I heard him speak at the SCBWI Writers' Day in Munich a year ago--amazing author, amazing speaker. Before he even started writing THE BOOK THIEF, he thought about how he could make his story stand out from the gazillion other WWII/Holocaust stories already out there. He decided that the MC and narrator were what would make it different--the MC is a German, non-Jewish girl, and the narrator is Death himself (a human, often-witty version of Death). He wasn't sure how it would be received, but he didn't dwell too much on that--it was a story he wrote for his mom, actually--a German, non-Jewish woman who had lived in Nazi Germany as a young girl.

He also talked about and how he had to fight to get the format the way he wanted it (including the MC's drawings in the "book" she made for Max, the side snippets by Death, and even the font and spacing between the chapter beginnings and the place where the story part of each chapter begins). I'm glad he did--the format definitely adds another dimension to the story.

Great post, Robin!

david elzey said...

I'm probably going to spend the next week coming up with more people whose commitment I admire (especially since I'm having a brain freeze on writers) but I think for now I'm going to stick to the one standout -- Andy Kaufman.

The guy had so many characters he committed to -- Latka on Taxi, Tony Clifton the lounge singer, the woman-only wrestler, the elvis impersonator -- that no one really knew what he was like when he wasn't in some character mode. I saw him do a 2+ hour stand-up show when I was 16 and it was one of those performances where you spend the rest of your life marveling that you witnessed it to the point where you sometimes doubt it really happened.

I think about John Belushi as being equally committed at SNL.

What is it with comedians anyway? Does comedy force an individual to push that envelope of extremes, to floor the accelerator at the stale yellow light, so to speak? Is that the distinction between amusing and truly funny?

Hmmm. Thanks for itching my brain with this post.

Disco Mermaids said...

Natalie, absolutely, THE BOOK THIEF is a great example. I didn't realize Markus Zusak had such a hand in the details like the spacing and headings. That's fascinating!

And David, without a doubt, Andy Kaufman was the most committed comedian. I'm jealous you saw him in person! How cool!


Kelly Fineman said...

At the risk of stating the obvious, I'd add Jay Asher to your list. He committed to his idea in writing 13 Reasons Why, and boy does he commit to the outfits (and required persona needed to accompany same) that you guys sport at the LA Conference shindigs.

A lot of comedians come to mind in the commitment department, and it's interesting because most of them are intensely private people in real life, and many if not most of them were the awkward nerdy kid who could've used that computer chip when they were teens.

Heather said...

Tom Robbins is pretty much the most committed author I've ever read. And I hear tell that he writes a story from beginning to end - writing and editing sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter as he goes along until he is satisfied with the entire work. Still Life With Woodpecker is one of my favourites by him because he keeps stopping the story to go on about how much he hates his new electric typewriter compared to his old manual one. This guy takes the absolute absurd and makes it seem normal in every book he's ever written. Try him out! By the by, Jitterbug Perfume is my all time fave - several stories running at once along the same theme and all merging in the end - brilliant!

Disco Mermaids said...

Andy Goldsworthy blows my mind with his commitment. He's primarily known for his temporary and natural art pieces. Whether it's a collection of sticks or stones organized into a pattern that's then swept into the sea or a collection of giant snowballs placed throughout a city (as they melt, different materials appear), it's amazing. Check out his documentary, Rivers and Tides, to see what I'm talking about.

Artists that say, "I'm gonna try this even if no one appreciates it...but I hope people will," are my artistic heroes. And that certainly applies to Andy Kaufman.

- Jay

P.S. I'm definitely checking out Jitterbug Perfume.

Laini Taylor said...

I know what you mean! I think that's what I loved so much about this crazy Youtube video I swiped off Maureen Johnson's blog:

I think it's Kids in the Hall and it's total commitment to absurdity. Love it. Who else? How about Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock?

As for writing, it's funny you write about this today, because I was just thinking how with fantasy, so much of creating a believable, "disbelief-suspendable" fantasy world is: total commitment to the idea. You create the framework of your world and start filling it in, and idea begets idea and for me, I have to think about it as if it were real. Even if I'm writing a dialogue between a faerie and an imp, or a demon and the ambassador to Hell, I'm thinking: what would they really say? Does that make sense?

Laini Taylor said...

Oh and Jay: Andy Goldsworthy is AWESOME. I'm with you on that. Ooh. . . and I see another very good weird word verification word below and now it's all mine! Oh, okay, I'll share. It's "snanax". What kind of character would that be, and why do you guys always have the best word-verification words?

Anonymous said...

If you grooved with the movie Across the Universe then you will be even more blown away by the Cirque du Soleil show in vegas called LOVE(Beatle theme).
It's wowzers! And why is it when
I think committed I think you gotta be crazy? But what good artist isn't?

Colorado Writer said...

I just finished The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold.

All three of her books have given me the squirmy, uncomfortable, I-want-to-stop-looking-at-the-train wreck-but-I-can't feeling.

I'd say with this latest novel, she's committed.

Rita said...

That is the premise of Be More Chill?? I'm reading it tomorrow!!