Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Moves You to Make Art?

I'll never forget when the song Fallin’ Slowly, from the movie Once, won the Oscar for Best Original Song - up against three, count them,  three from Disney’s Enchanted.  Glen Hansard received the award with co-writer and co-star Markéta Irglová, gleefully shouting, before he was dragged away from the mic, “MAKE ART!” I wrote those words on a piece of paper and stuck it to my fridge. I hadn't seen Once yet, but did shortly after, and found it lovely. Four years later, (May 8, 2012, to be exact) I went to see the Broadway musical version of Once to find the dialogue had been changed, several compelling characters added, and the most exquisite movement and choreography employed, elevating Once from satisfying film to transcendent theatrical experience. The romance, too, had been kicked up just enough to make the ending unbearably bittersweet. I was sobbing like an idiot just before I leapt to my feet to applaud with the rest of the audience. The making of art, in this case, had been raised to a level I’m sure Hansard never imagined when he uttered his joyful admonition at the Academy Awards.

I’ve been an actor and/or writer my whole life - have rarely known a moment when I wasn’t involved in some creative pursuit. So, though I was inspired by Hansard’s utterance, I didn’t exactly need his permission.  I find inspiration for making art in art: film, theater, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and, of course, literature. Like many artists, the greatness of others fuels me. I’m set on fire by the writers I love: Luis Alberto Urrea, Audrey Niffenegger, George Eliot, Dickens, Neil Gaiman, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, and of course, (you just have to read my books to see the influence) Jane Austen.  I get energy from films like Midnight in Paris, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Moulin Rouge, Casablanca, Stranger than Fiction, 500 Days of Summer, and Becoming Jane,…which makes me think of actors whose performances move me: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Toni Collette, Colin Firth, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman.... I'm carried away by the music of Muse, The Decemberists, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Jack White, Beethoven, Chopin and Monk. When I go to a museum I seek to absorb the passion of Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Kandinsky, Monet, Caravaggio, Rodin, Pollack and Chagall...

After seeing Once, I stumbled out of the theater into the lights of Times Square, my world rocked. Perhaps those words, “Make art,” had pushed the originators of the film on to this finer incarnation, I thought, but couldn't help wonder exactly what was the source of their creative spark. So I put hands to keyboard to ask all those artistic souls out there:  What is your Once? Who is your Anne Hathaway, your Jane Austen, which is your Midnight in Paris, your Monk, your Monet? Is it something intangible that inspires you? Is it nature or pain, or joy or spirit? What moves you to MAKE art? 

Video of Hansard's acceptance speech: (don't worry, they called  Irglová back on stage later so she could make her own remarks)
And here's the full version of Fallin' Slowly:


  1. I couldn't really tell you. Sometimes its just a flash of....something. You know what I mean? A quick smile from a kid, The sun shining (the biggest motivator)a random thought and I run off to make art.

  2. Interesting question. Like you, it's when I see a film that moves or excites me, read an absorbing book that stays with me long after the final page, or listen to music that makes me want to stand up and applaud. In books, Harry Crews' 'The Gypsy's Curse' and 'The Gospel Singer' did it for me, along with Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Tom Waits and Eels always get me inspired when it comes to music. And the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was almost like a physical kick up the backside - 'Go out and make art!!' Great list, by the way.

  3. Beautiful comments, Ey and Ken, thank you!