Creativity on SeaDream’s Ultra Luxury Mega Yacht

April 24, 2018

Thank you, SeaDream Yacht Club , for inviting me as your guest speaker across the Atlantic. It was an honor to share insights about creative writing to a fully engaged audience. We may have created fantastic stories in our interactive creativity workshop, but you helped us all create cherished memories of the sweet life. Thank you for that!

Cartoonist and writer Steven Fischer with Captain Torbjørn Lund aboard SeaDream I, April 2018.

 

Steven Fischer presents lectures and workshops on creativity and cartoon storytelling aboard SeaDream I during their April 2018 Transatlantic crossing.

Steven Fischer (bottom of frame) presents lectures on creativity and cartoon storytelling aboard SeaDream I, April 2018.

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Baltimore Homecoming!

March 15, 2018

Thank you, Baltimore Homecoming, for the delicious invitation to participate in 2018’s inaugural homecoming. It’s an honor and a real treat! I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

 

 

The Importance of Going Within

March 13, 2018

Winnetka Living recently published this article by Steven Fischer on creativity.

A Writer’s Journal – Creativity and Screenplays

February 15, 2018

Recently, someone asked me for a personal example of what a writer goes through to write a script for TV or for the cinema. In answering the question I re-discovered these excerpts from a production diary I kept while writing and directing Urban Paradise (originally called The National Arboretum) for Maryland Public Television/PBS. The 8-minute movie was a segment for the Emmy-winning series Outdoors’ Maryland, a narration-driven look at Maryland’s outdoor life. It premiered June 21, 2011.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about how one writer tackles the challenges of creating a new story.

~Steven Fischer

 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The script for The National Arboretum, like most scripts, is the result of many months of questioning and exploring and deliberating.

When I was first introduced to the Arboretum in October 2010 and given a tour by Gardens Unit Leader Scott Aker, the immediate impression was how motherly the public garden was. But it was more than just the garden’s obvious relationship to Mother Nature. I could not define it completely, nor could I shake the interpretation, so I continued to explore it as the project developed. As I collected facts, stories, and relevant information for the script, everyone I interviewed about the arboretum agreed that there was a connection between the arboretum and something matronly. With that encouragement I established “motherhood” as the central theme, basing all my creative decisions about scenes, stories, photography, lighting, narration, and perspective around motherhood and all things motherhood represented to me: strength, dignity, protection, nurture, beauty, unconditional love, etc.

This was a tremendous help in writing the script, but the process, as always, was a labor of trial and error, questioning and experimenting with answers. I was still at the beginning of a long journey.

In my early research of arboretums I discovered the writing of Laura Barton. Laura is an English writer on staff at The Guardian. Her work, especially on the Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury, England, was instantly inspiring. She is a natural writer and clearly in love with words. Her poetic description of Westonbirt, cut to the thoughtful cinematography of Felix Clay, influenced the poetic direction I intuitively wanted to go.

For further influence  I returned to two sources that never fail: Charlotte Brontë and Shelby Foote. Passages from Jane Eyre always leave me breathless while Foote’s mastery of the historical narrative is a model – and the early versions of the Arboretum script were filled with many stories from its very interesting history.

As time went on and I began collecting on-camera interviews and editing the beauty shots of the gardens, it became apparent that the original structure I had wanted to follow (interweaving history and stories with the research unit, the social value of the arboretum, and beauty shots) was producing a work much longer than the 8-minute run time we were assigned.

I also needed to keep in mind what would best serve the Outdoors’ Maryland series. The answer was: a focused piece on facts, the research unit, and the social value of the Arboretum. So I honed the script to meet that framework keeping in mind that every word of narration must reflect the central theme of motherhood. It was a matter of working and re-working the script.

Then there was a little matter of the ending. I could not find one of any real significance. The frustration was agonizing.

2.

At this point the structure was established and I had the sequence on the research unit next-to-last in the segment. To jump from the research unit to an ending that wrapped up everything was jarring and felt uncomfortable. It also didn’t make any sense.

We were now in January, 2011. The deadline was approaching fast, and a suitable ending was still elusive.

On a walk one January day, I pondered the problem of how to end the script when I asked suddenly an unexpected question: “What is the ideal ending?” That simple question sparked an inner response that stimulated the imagination!

The ideal ending, I reminded myself, thinking back to earlier ideas, was either a poetic line that made the audience feel good or a line that wrapped up the whole motherhood theme. The rest of that day was spent experimenting with those ideas. That session helped define the arboretum in human terms: the personality of the place, its usefulness to society, its qualities, etc. This led to a memory of lines spoken to me by Dr. Griesbach, a former Arboretum staff member I interview weeks before. I asked: “If the Arboretum was a person, how would you describe her?” Griesbach gave one of the best answers: She has many personalities: flaunty and gregarious like the Bonsai, refined and shy as the Asian garden…

The line had potential for the ending. I recorded a scratch track of it and, not fitting as well at the end as I imagined, found a useful place for it in the middle (which later had to be removed for time’s sake). But adding that line forced me to move a couple of other sequences around and that rearrangement, after living with it four more weeks, led to a discovery that has become the ending.

While in conversation with Dr. Margaret Pooler, head of the research unit, I mentioned that the Arboretum seemed to me a grandmother people go to for a hug. Pooler was struck by the line and commented on its sweetness. I agreed. It was a moment of epiphany. That was the line! That could be the final line of narration. I wasn’t sure how exactly, but I knew it was an important piece of the puzzle.

3.

The original line ending the script ran something like, The National Arboretum provides sanctuary for human and plant life alike. She might very well be the nation’s grandmother, offering those inner comforts that make visitors feel loved.

When I recorded the scratch track and played it back it sounded like, “love” instead of “loved”, so I amended the script, preferring the misinterpretation. Removing this one letter may not seem like a big deal, but it re-positioned my mindset for the next discovery that was about to come.

As the next couple of days went by I began thinking more in terms of the beauty of nature and the beauty of truth. This led me to the work of the poet Keats and then to my well-read edition of Philosophies of Art & Beauty edited by Albert Hofstadter and Richard Kuhns. The volume collects writings from all the major thinkers, from Plato to Heidegger, each answering the questions what is art? and what is beauty? As I read Ficino’s contribution I came across the second chapter of his treatise on Plato’s Symposium. The chapter title read: How Divine Beauty Inspires Love. That did it.

“Inspires love.” What a turn of words! That was the ending; the ending wasn’t “inner comforts that make visitors feel love”, but inner comforts that inspire love.

All of this came about in the past couple of days, exactly one month to the day I took that walk in January and posed that simple question to myself.

Tony Calder

January 5, 2018

In loving memory of Tony Calder who died 2 January 2018.

Film director Steven Fischer (far left) with record executive, producer, promoter and manager Tony Calder (far right) and Lauren Lorenzo and Steve Melendez in London, 2014.

Tony Calder’s work with #TheBeatles, #MarianneFaithfull, and the #RollingStones made for a storied career. I had the pleasure of working with him while directing a movie in London a few years ago. The photo is from one of our working lunches.

Thank you for your kindness, Tony, and our meaningful conversations.

Steven Fischer’s Sketchbook

December 15, 2017

Some illustrations from the sketchbook of Steven Fischer

Chalkboard drawing for Rocky Run Tap & Grill restaurant chain. copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Studies of male. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Studies of cafe patrons. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Invented man. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Invented woman. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Feet study. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Invented lady. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Study of child. Copyright Steven Fischer. stevenfischer.net

Cartoon Storytelling for Adults of All Ages at Northwestern University

November 30, 2017

Learn the basics of cartooning, storytelling, and creativity. Participants use cartooning to create original characters and personal stories. This course is ideal for anyone interested in the art of cartooning, learning effective visual communication skills, and those interested in taking their creativity to the next level. Our objective is to create and complete and original story with original characters. Make sure your pencils are sharpened; you’ll be drawing a lot!

Six weeks starting January 23, 2018!   Click here for details and sign up!

Call Me Giant

November 17, 2017

Join us January 25, 2018 at Northwestern University’s Norris Center for an intense acting and character creation experience! Click here for details and sign up.

 

Director Steven Fischer leads actors through exercises for Call Me Giant, part of an actor’s intensive character creation experience at McCormick Auditorium, Evanston, Illinois. Photo by Jeff Sweeton.

 

Director Steven Fischer leads acting exercises at McCormick Auditorium in Evanston, Illinois, as part of an actor’s intensive character creation experience. Photo by Jeff Sweeton.

 

Film director, cartoonist Steven Fischer guides actors at McCormick Auditorium in Evanston, Illinois part of an actor’s intensive character creation experience. Photo by Susan Zielinski.

I am Max

November 13, 2017

I am Max is the latest production from Director Edward Porembny and Producers Steven Fischer, Edward Porembny, Daniel Markowicz, and Olivier Gal.

Click here to watch the 2-minute teaser.

 

“The Best Cartoon Class.” Cartoon Creativity workshop reviews!

November 7, 2017

Hi, folks!

I am a two-time Emmy nominated writer/producer and cartoonist. My work includes character animation (I was mentored by the talented team at Bill Melendez Productions, creators of the classic Peanuts TV specials and films) and live action films (Freedom Dance with Golden Globe winner Mariska Hargitay and Old School New School with Emmy winner Brian Cox).

Years ago I compiled lessons I learned about character development, narrative structure, and storytelling, and began teaching classes in cartoon storytelling. (I also offer private tutor sessions in person and online.) My classes help participants of all ages explore within, using feelings and personal experience to create believable cartoon stories full of life, meaning, personal insight, and heart.

Here’s what participants are saying about some recent cartoon creativity workshops.

Waubonsee Community College, Sept 2017

(Steven) had a great, clear manner of voicing ideas, clearly very experienced, time here was well thought out and planned. Really engaging!

 

I enjoyed both the visual aspect and story aspect of the class, how it combines the two together.

 

Timing was perfect, not too short, not too long. Steven was easy to understand and listen to and FANTASTIC too! Nice was to start a Saturday morning.

 

Great presentation style. Covered areas I didn’t expect relating to cartooning. Would rate this instructor as Fantastic!

 

Loved the mix of theory and practice. Wasn’t expecting the creativity lessons, but they were fantastic. I didn’t really know what to expect, but was hoping to be inspired as a picture book author – and I was! Thank you for a very interesting experience.

 

I loved this course and I would love more…

 

Course was very helpful and inspirational.

****

Second City, Chicago, IL, Sept 17, 2016

I wanted to say that I really enjoyed taking your class and have already told others that they should have taken it as well

 

The exercises were very helpful – as someone who doesn’t come from a creative background I found them readily applicable, and I like the fact that they force me to lay down the groundwork first before getting into detail

Cartoonist Steven Fischer present cartoon storytelling at The Second City Training Center, Chicago.

****

Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, IL, Sept 10, 2016

I have never been to such an awesome workshop about art like this one. It was really neat connecting with the other artists and like-minded people. I always thought that I could not draw but you definitely proved me wrong!

 

I discovered I can draw and I didn’t know it!

 

He gets a 5-star review! Excellent.

 

Great basic understanding of cartoons for beginners.

 

Steven is very inspiring and encouraging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

****

Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, IL, March 2016

The best part about the course to me was the connectivity both in the overall arc of the lesson and the individualized attention we were given. [Steven] is very kind.

Well presented. Thought provoking!

 

I was very inspired

 

Different than what I expected, worked on story ideas and characters. It took a deeper dive into the creation of animated stories. Exercises were interesting.

 

Class was too short!

Steven Fischer presents cartoon storytelling!

****

University of Debrecen, Hungary, Fall 2014

I truly enjoyed your classes and feel honored that I have had the opportunity to attend them. -Barney B.

Cartoonist and Fulbright Award recipient Steven Fischer with friend and host Tibor Glant at University of Debrecen, Hungary, 2014.

 

Cartoonist and Fulbright Award recipient Steven Fischer presents Cartoon Storytelling at University of Debrecen, Hungary, 2014.

****

Northwestern University (Introduction to Cartoon Storytelling) 2014

I want to say thanks for teaching the class, I really enjoyed the past five Tuesdays!  -Thomas P.

 

I still do thank you for all the illustration skills you taught me! I’m still practicing and making artworks these days, too. 🙂 Have a great weekend! -Jae Y.

Cartoonist Steven Fischer presents cartoon storytelling!

****

Waubonsee Community College, September 2014

Thanks so much for coming out to Sugar Grove last evening to share your energy and passion for creating!   Thanks again! Thanks again Steven.  You really do have a unique approach to your work! -Kailyne W.

 

I just wanted to say thank you very much for taking the time to teach us some of your techniques for coming up with characters and story-lines. It was very helpful! As a writing TV major I’m always looking for ways to come up with ideas since inspiration can be so fickle sometimes. -Melinda H.

 

Very approachable. Hands-on creative and fun. Very interesting and inspiring.

 

[Steven] really presented ideas and techniques I hadn’t expected from the class.

 

[Steven] made the class very relatable and easy to understand for everyone. This made the class extremely fun and enjoyable.

 

I liked the abstract angle this course took.

 

The course provided me with thought-provoking information.

 

It really inspired a healthy environment for the creative thinking process.

 

Very good presenter/speaker. Very knowledgeable.

 

It was a great blend of information and activity. Very fun time.

 

I would highly recommend the course for anyone who wants to create a unique story.