Ethan Hawke: Access Your Subconscious to Achieve Creativity

Ethan Hawke: Access Your Subconscious to Achieve Creativity


When I first started trying to write – because
I came on writing as an actor and you realize very quickly that there’s a big difference
between being ambiguous and being vague. And being vague is out of focus, blurry, oh
yeah everything’s kind of true. In being ambiguous is a little bit more than
a Zen comb, you know, you’re ringing a bell towards a larger truth. And you’re guiding an audience to think
for themselves rather than dictating an answer. That to me is ambiguity at its finest. For example when I worked on Boyhood with
Richard Linklater there was a large component and I have no other word for it than what
I’ve read about in jazz. The beauty of jazz music is that there’s
no plan. There’s a plan. There’s an architecture. Let’s take something obvious like my favorite
things, right. John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things. If people know one jazz thing often they’ll
know that one. And he takes this famous song, da, da, da,
da, da, right. And they all start riffing on it and the musicians
start riffing on it and they find a new melody inside it. And it changes and it changes. And then mysteriously comes back around again
and spontaneity mixed with discipline and intelligence it evolves into something you
cannot plan that is more sophisticated and more interesting than something the intellectual
mind can plan. When you’re really being creative at your
best you’ve used your discipline to open up your subconscious. You know, Bob Dylan has a great quote where
he says, you know, I didn’t write that man. When somebody says you don’t have an idea
for a song. Mama’s in the basement mixing up medicine. I’m on the pavement – that’s not like
oh I got an idea for a song. Let me write the Subterranean Homesick Blues,
right. It doesn’t work like that. It works like you’ve got something to say
and then it’s an antenna that goes up, right. And some people I think mistakenly think somebody
is channeling God or something like that. In a way you’re channeling yourself and
you’re channeling your own questions and your own seeking which is deeply connected
to your own. We all have it. We all have an essence, a center that us. We have it the day we’re born. And when you can access it then you can access
the subconscious. And that’s going to be more powerful and
more true than anything your intellectual mind has to say. I want to write a screenplay and I’m going
to write an important screenplay about the election process in America. Because I have something to say about it. I think it’s fraudulent. I think it’s stupid and I’m going to write
a screenplay about a woman, you know, and you start working on it and you have this
idea about what the result of the screenplay supposed to be. And what it’s kind of like saying I want
to win the game. You can’t win the game by trying to win
the game. You have to play the game and you have to
play the game well and you have to play it moment by moment well. And oftentimes if you’re right action, right
thought, right motivation, right work ethic you’ll win the game. But you can’t try to win the game. You’re jumping over hurdles. It’s like my kids sometimes – well they
know it’s wrong to lie but they don’t know why. So because they don’t know why it’s wrong
to lie they still think that if they can get away with it then it might not be wrong. And if you know why you’re not supposed
to lie then you know that it doesn’t matter whether you get away with it or not. I find creativity at its best is not working
towards a result. Yes, when we do the Before trilogy sometimes
I did these three films Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight and we often jam
ourselves into position meaning oh shit, we’ve gotten these people to agree to finance the
movie. We’ve got to start on August 1st and we
only have 20 pages. Like that happens. So yeah we do have an agenda to finish this
thing. But Richard Linklater’s patience is incredible. I mean we started Before Sunrise with a scene
in the script that just said scene 63, the best scene in the movie. Then we go to 64. It literally said the best scene in the movie. Jesse and Celine take their relationship to
a new level we haven’t discovered yet. And then it moved on. And we started the movie not knowing what
that is. And it oftentimes people will come up to me
on the street and say to me hey, I love Before Sunrise. That scene where they pretend to call each
other and talk to their best friend. That’s the scene where they pretend to be
on the phone with each other. And, you know, that scene happened in a very
mysterious way. Julie had an idea and then Rick had an idea
and then I said an idea and all of a sudden the scene happened. It happened a couple of days before and Rick
has an unbelievable patience meter. It comes from playing baseball that you wait
for the right pitch and you don’t swing until you have to. And it creates an energy where Rick doesn’t
think he knows the right answer.

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