Sexy Panel With THE SESSIONS Filmmakers

I recently had the honor to interview a pair of truly inspiring filmmakers.  It was part of a day of panels put on by my friends and colleagues at Sherwood Oaks Experimental College.

Producer Judi Levine and writer/director Ben Lewin are the pioneering team (and power couple) behind the multi-award nominated and winning new movie: THE SESSIONS.

This remarkable, hilarious true-life film of a severely disabled, yet utterly disarming poet / journalist on a quest for a sexual experience may be one of my all-time favorites.  The actors pull you in completely – even the tiniest cameo performances ring with truth.  It tells a compelling story that is empowering and uplifting.  And what a fun emotional ride!

Unknown-1One of the highlights of the conversation was discussing with Ben his process of figuring out how to shoot the sex scenes.  At first he imagined all the clichés, but it dawned on him that he couldn’t really relate to what he referred to as”sexual Olympians” in Hollywood movies and TV.

So he decided to take an almost documentary-style approach to the awkward scenes between Mark O’Brien (played by brilliant John Hawkes) and Cheryl Cohen Greene (played by Helen Hunt – nominated for an Oscar for this role).  Their experience is so very real, funny and touching.

BenLewinLLandJudiLevineAs I said on the panel, I believe he has created not just a wonderful film, but a healing experience for an audience – it helps people feel more relaxed about their own sexuality and insecurities.

To me this is what the greatest filmmaking is all about – beyond providing a supremely entertaining experience, THE SESSIONS has the power to change the way you think about yourself and your own life.

– Laurie Lamson




Guest Post by Dinty W. Moore: Writing and Creativity as a Peculiar Crossroads

One of my favorite writing quotes of all time comes from Flannery O’Connor, well known for her sharp observations and refreshing honesty. “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet,” she said.  “His problem is to find that location.”

O’Connor manages in these two short sentences to say so much about the mystery, the dedication, and the frustration of writing, while also reassuring those of us who have temporarily lost our roadmap to creativity that this is normal, ongoing, and to be expected. The peculiar crossroads is indeed elusive, which is why artists are both crazed and exhilarated most of their days.
O’Connor was Catholic, of course, and may not take kindly to my equating her views with a central Buddhist concept, but that connection is something else I like about this quote.  And O’Connor, while spitting in my eye, would perhaps applaud me for having the courage to say what I mean.
So here goes:  I think O’Connor is also speaking here of enlightenment.
The Sanskrit word for enlightenment, bodhi, means “awakened.” For a long time, I held all of the common misperceptions that we in the West usually have about Buddhism – most of what we know of the tradition was often learned from New Yorker cartoons of a mystic sitting atop a mountain. One of those misperceptions is the persistent idea that enlightenment is the final goal of Buddhism; that once enlightenment was attained, the ethereal Buddhist sits, perhaps glowing and smiling at the lesser beings trudging along the path below.
That, of course, is utter nonsense. Enlightenment is of no use unless it is employed to better the world for all beings, and enlightenment—like any awakening—can come and go. Indeed, it can be very fleeting.
Writers who struggle with a poem, or story, or essay, for draft after draft after draft, may on occasion experience a smidgen of enlightenment. It is the moment that the perfect word, or precise action by a character, or the ideal phrasing of an idea, is revealed to the writer.
So often, this ideal phrase or line of dialogue is more of a discovery than an invention. It is often a flash of sorts, like the proverbial light bulb above the head depicted in cartoons. This flash of insight doesn’t come from thinking, from intellect, or from reason; it comes instead from a more mysterious part of our awareness. For that moment at least, it can seem as if time and place and eternity have somehow met.
Once a writer is fortunate enough to experience such a moment, however, she doesn’t stop.  Her job is to find that “peculiar crossroads” again, to somehow pinpoint the ever-shifting “location” where insight forms. And then, once the story or poem is finished, the search begins again.
Dinty W. Moore is a Now Write! Nonfiction contributor, and the author of The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, as well as the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. He also edited The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers. Moore has published essays and stories in many literary magazines and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. A professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, Moore has won many awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction. He edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction.


Writer’s Store Panel Feb. 3, 2011

There’s going to be a free Now Write! Screenwriting Panel at the Writer’s Store in Burbank on February 3, 2011 from 6:30-7:30pm.

Now Write! Screenwriting contributors to appear on the panel are Amy Holden Jones (MYSTIC PIZZA, BEETHOVEN), Christina Kim (Lost writer) and Michael Ajakwe, Jr. (Sister, Sister & Eve writer/director).

On hand to introduce the panelists will be Now Write! Screenwriting co-editor Laurie Lamson.

We’re planning an additional event with different panelists for Breaking Into Hollywood on March 16, also at the Writer’s Store.  Stay tuned.