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Words about words, brands, names and naming, and the creative process.

#sparkchamber 070918 — Lisa Vasconcellos

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Today, #sparkchamber welcomes screenwriter, producer, art director, photographer, daughter, friend, traveler, citizen of the world, and consumer of good wine Lisa Vasconcellos. Born in California and raised in Madrid, Spain, Lisa brings a unique and culturally-varied perspective to her work. She has traveled in over 40 countries around the world, speaks fluent Spanish, and is proficient in French and Italian.

Earning a BFA in Film with an emphasis in Screenwriting from San Francisco State University, Lisa has spent the past 10 years as a union art director on critically acclaimed studio and indie films such as Peter Berg’s Deepwater HorizonHands of Stone with Robert De Niro, and Oliver Stone’s Savages,  as well as TV series For the People, and Better Off Ted to name a few.

Her introduction to feature-film art directing came about in the art department of the now five-time Oscar-nominated production designer, John Myhre, working on some once-in-a-lifetime projects including Memoirs of a Geisha — which received the Oscar for Art Direction, and Dreamgirls and Nine — both Oscar nominees for Art Direction. Before that, her Hollywood career began as an indie film producer’s assistant, where she worked on the award-winning family film Shiloh Season, for which she received the credit of Associate Producer.

Although writing took a back burner to art direction for many years, it was always top of mind. Lisa found that art directing offered her a greater understanding of production and budget needs, as well as character development through setting and story, making her a more creative, efficient, and production-friendly writer. She has now come back to writing in earnest, recently completing her fourth original feature-film screenplay. Her screenplays have garnered interest and praise from producers in Los Angeles and London, as well as the interest of world-renowned Oscar- and Golden-Globe-nominated actors.

Lisa happily continues art directing, while writing and working on setting up her projects. Follow along on Twitter.

1.] Where do ideas come from?

Ideas come from just about anywhere. A story on the news, a comment from my father, an untold story in history, observations of own life. You just never know. But when the kernel pops and I can’t stop thinking about it, that’s when I know I have something significant, something worth pursuing. Something I need to pursue.

I will add that music is something that often gives me continued inspiration while in the process. It might not have inspired the process, but when a song comes to mind that synchs with what I’m writing, it becomes a major way for me to stay connected to it, reconnect to it, and keep it real when I am away from the computer. Music helps me process the details while in the process. And then in the end, I have a soundtrack already!

Sometimes the best ideas come when I’m driving long distance. Sometimes it’s significant details of the story or the characters that I work out during those long periods on an open road. Top down, NO music, no calls …. just me and the kernels, working it out. I might play the songs once or twice, but then it’s quiet for hours on end and things percolate.

Long drives are very productive for me. I live in California, so those long drives can be 6 or 12 hours in one day. I’m often most productive creatively behind the wheel on those days. I love it.

2.] What is the itch you are scratching?

Seriously, not sure where the itch comes from. I know the moment it started though. Like so many filmmakers [I don’t know why but that term sounds pretentious to me] of my generation, it goes back to a particular film. As the end credits rolled when I first saw Star Wars in 1977 [I was 10] all I could think was, “I want to do that.” Granted, I didn’t really know what “that” meant at the time, I just knew I wanted to do it. Now that I am doing “that,” I know that it’s about wanting to take people on a journey, tell a story, feel an emotion. I don’t know where wanting to do that comes from though. Maybe it’s that I hope to share with others the magic that I feel when the lights go down, the popcorn if fresh, and those first images come up out of the darkness and fill the theater with light and sound and emotion and take me someplace I’ve never been; bring me into the lives of people I’ve never known, and help me to understand their stories and their lives better. Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. There is nothing like the journey of emotion and place that a motion picture can take us on. Maybe I want to share that experience of my 10-year-old self, and the magic of going to a “galaxy far, far away,” or the romance of riding a sleigh across the frozen steppes of Russia with Zhivago, or the intrigue of getting out of Casablanca in time, or the hilarity of a Young Frankenstein trying to animate his monster. I guess it’s that.

3.] Early bird or night owl, tortoise or hare?

Night owl for sure. Tortoise to start, for sure. I let the kernels germinate for a long time. I don’t pressure myself and I don’t push myself. That doesn’t work for me. I often don’t write anything at all for a long time. Maybe some bullet points so I don’t forget, but that’s typically it. I get comfortable with the kernel [the idea/story/characters], get to know them and understand what they are in my head before proceeding. When I know all of that, then I’m often the hare and it all just flows. Not that there aren’t stumbling blocks and slow periods within that, there are. But mostly I let it go and finish before I start dissecting it in round two. I do typically review what I wrote the night before though. That helps get me back to the place I need to be to proceed, and I listen to music as well.

4.] How do you know when you are done?

I know I’m done when I type: FADE OUT. I pretty much always know the end before I even begin. It’s getting to the end that is the task, the end itself is not.