This week Becky Murdoch continues talking with Shun Lee, actor, writer, and President & Creative Director of The Greenhouse.
Q: How has your perspective changed since you moved tOhollywood?
A: I think my perspective has changed at least on one level: To begin to see how very complex the artist is. The commercial side tOhollywood doesn’t always allow an artist to be everything he or she wants to be. It creates a really difficult environment to try to be who you were created to be as an artist.
What I’ve been doing as an artist and in mentoring other people, is to push them to find their own voice and push them to be the artist they were created to be, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the most commercial up front.
I think some of the greatest works of art became commercial after the fact and not because someone thought ahead of time “Oh, this is going to sell.” They decided ”I’m going to create this because this is what’s inside of me” and later it was found to be an amazing piece of art. So my perception of Hollywood has changed because first I thought I would come into a place where people just loved being artists. And some of them do. But the arts and entertainment aren’t necessarily the same thing, even though they should be.
There was definitely a shift in my understanding of not only what Hollywood is, but what Hollywood can be. The film industry has its roots in vaudeville, and the people of vaudeville were in it for shock value and novelty. I realized instead of novelty and shock value, we could approach the film industry from a different standard: of truth, beauty, and redemption. And encouraging one another to approach it that way as well. That’s not necessarily a voice we hear very often in Hollywood. So, our job through The Greenhouse — and as artists in general — is to encourage people to begin to see their creativity through something more substantial than the vaudevillian lens of shock value and novelty.
One of the beauties of The Greenhouse is that we find people that long to create things of truth, beauty, and redemption. I’m not saying things that are lighthearted — sometimes they are, and sometimes they’re not. I’m not even saying things that are religious or fit to a particular doctrine. I think the kinds of people that are at The Greenhouse are by and large the people that want to ask and wrestle with the difficult questions that face our world today. They want to tell stories that point us toward truth, beauty, and redemption because they really are in the midst of it — even if they don’t end up in the story themselves. It’s the thought that there is something much larger in the world than what shows up on the silver screen, our television, or YouTube. There is a much larger world to be discovered, and I increasingly believe that artists are not there to give the answers but to ask the questions for a culture that is hungry to feel again. Hungry to ask questions that they are not allowed to ask because they are seen as prohibited by culture. There are just too many questions to ignore, and I think that’s our responsibility as The Greenhouse,and media professionals in general: To ask those questions.
Q: What are you reading, watching & listening to?
A: Right now I am reading A Curious Mind by Brain Grazer, who is with Imagine Entertainment with Ron Howard. He talks about how cultivating a personality of curiosity in yourself can really open up the world to see things that you wouldn’t necessarily see in your day-to-day life and how that has worked for him as a creative person. I’m enjoying that quite a bit.
I’m also reading a book by Michael Hyatt called Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World. It’s not only about marketing yourself but how to create a WOW experience for those around you in everything you do. How do you inspire people? Why is that some things make people congregate and other things are just ho-hum? I’m a huge fan of Tom Clancy, and I’m reading one of his right now, Threat Vector. I usually have a couple nonfiction and a fiction going on at any one time.
Back when I was in junior high school, I was the fan of a guy named Steve Taylor who is just a wonderful lyricist and rock musician. He was also the director of (the movie) Blue Like Jazz. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit, just a wonderful guy. He came out with a new album last fall called Goliath and that has turned into one of my favorite albums over the last 12 months. The other album that I can’t get enough of is Fading West by Switchfoot. So much depth in those lyrics.
I’ve gone to watching old M.A.S.H. reruns and realizing how brilliantly that show was written. It has traces of Catch-22 and Joseph Heller, and it was just wonderfully well-written. I’ve been enjoying that.
Guilty pleasure: Every once in a while I watch an episode of Scrubs. It’s like eating cotton candy; its sugar and not nourishing you in any way, but sometimes you indulge just for the fun of it.
I go through phases of what I watch. I’m working on a novel and see that what I write is directly influenced but what I’m watching and what I listen to so — except for Scrubs — I’ll tend to watch a lot of a particular genre just to keep myself in that particular vein. There are times I’ll watch darker stuff just because I’m writing darker stuff. I shouldn’t admit this but I watch romantic comedies because I’ll be in the part of the book where that type of story needs to come out. I watch a ton of movies. What’s that movie that was set in a youth rehab center? Short Term 12. It’s a film that comes across as simple but has so many layers to it. And it’s summertime right now, so I’ve watched the usual handful of summer blockbusters.
Read Part 1 of this interview.