“This generation is not waiting for someone to read their spec script, and I love that.” — Joss Whedon
Writes interviewer Ari Karpel:
Few people get things done in as consistent and impressive a fashion as Joss Whedon. His Avengers was the rare superhero movie to break box office records as it garnered critical acclaim. And while he was editing that Marvel-Disney monster, he secretly shot a version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at his own house with friends from many of his previous movie and TV projects, including Clark Gregg (The Avengers), Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Amy Acker (Dollhouse), Fran Kranz (A Cabin in the Woods), and Alexis Denisof (Buffy). Meanwhile, he’s the man behind the much-anticipated Marvel TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., also starring Gregg.
As Much Ado hit theaters and kicked indie-film ass, Whedon sat down with Co.Create to lay out how he manages to juggle so many projects. His secret? Identifying concrete steps, friends, and tough love.
“Some people will disagree, but for me if I’ve written a meaty, delightful, wonderful bunch of scenes and now I have to do the hard, connective, dog’s body work of writing, when I finish the dog’s body work, I’ll have a screenplay that I already love. I used to write chronologically when I started, from beginning to end. Eventually I went, That’s absurd; my heart is in this one scene, therefore I must follow it.
‘‘Next actions’ [from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, which Whedon started to read but never finished] is one of the most important things that you can say in any endeavor.”
“I have a reward system. I am the monkey with the pellet and it’s so bad that I write almost everything in restaurants or cafes [so] that when I have an idea, I go and get chocolate. […] I’ll write it down and then get some chocolate. I have the idea, I get my pellet . . . I mean I’m terrible. I don’t put that on the list because that’s not advice. That’s something I’m seeking help for. It’s a vice and it’s different than advice. […] I could be better. I can make it work better and I’m trying to teach myself more discipline because when you have children and you are an artist, you already have more than fills a day. I would also like to have friends, hobbies, maybe read a book sometime.”
[F]ill the tanks, fill the tanks, fill the tanks. Constantly watch things and things you don’t [normally watch]. Step outside your viewing zone, your reading zone. It’s all fodder but if you only take from one thing then it’ll show.”
“I got two weeks every year, and in that vacation I read, in 14 days, 10 books. My wife and I saw like nine plays, and that’s all we did. We just filled the tanks.”
“I was never a games night guy, but at some point social interaction starts to freak me out. So when there’s a point, it’s easier for me to see the people I love and hang out and try to have fun.”
“I always enjoy conversation more if there is some substance to it […] Just having a silly time and laughing your butt off is . . . don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it, but yeah, I have a problem with pointlessness.”
“This comes from Kai, my wife […] She [quotes from] Rio Grande: ‘Get it done, Johnny Reb.’ It’s like, don’t make excuses. There aren’t any anymore. If you’re talking about it, you should be doing it.”
“I talked about Much Ado for 10 years and it was Kai who finally said, ‘What if instead of talking about it . . . ’ and I went, ‘What?’ Someone will always tell you that you can’t. One of the things that she delighted in was the fact that, apart from telling the people at Marvel so that they didn’t freak out when they found out that I was directing another movie [while we were in postproduction on The Avengers], we really didn’t tell anybody. It was just our little thing.”
“You get people like (actor-writer-comics Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher), who are younger and are content creators; they know that. They do it for themselves. Later on, they’ll be able to do it for somebody else and get paid more, but this generation is not waiting for someone to read their spec script, and I love that.”
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And enjoy the following scene from The Avengers, wherein The Hulk beats up Loki, because it’s hilarious and awesome and we should all take any excuse we can get to watch it: