WORKAHOLIC // JOAN SCHECKEL

As Hollywood gets ready for its big night on Sunday, we’re spotlighting a true visionary in the film industry who inspires us everyday with her intense focus and passion.  Joan Scheckel and her Filmmaking Labs are known throughout Hollywood and the international film world as the crucial force behind the most exciting films being made today.  Over the past decade, Scheckelʼs work as a writer, director, actor, consultant and teacher has contributed to the development of over 384 films, more than half of which are made or are in the works. The released films have subsequently earned 573 award nominations, 329 awards, including major wins at the Academy Awards, Cannes, Independent Spirit Awards, BAFTA, Cesar Awards, Producers’ Guild of America, Writers’ Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Berlin, Toronto, and Sundance. Indie film is alive and well and we are honored to have her take part in our Workaholic series.

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Who are you and what do you do?

I am a writer, director, actor, teacher, and catalyst.  I work in all capacities to create, catalyze and support authentic vision and real feeling in cinema through stories that connect us.

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Where is your work space?
www.6608lexington.com  in Los Angeles. Take a peek, better yet, come by!

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How did you get to where you are now?
With passion, commitment, and vision.  I love to push boundaries and create change.

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What made you turn to this direction?

As a singer and an actress I viscerally experienced the transformative power of story.

A performer has the privilege of awakening feeling in an audience, of stirring the heart. I take this relationship very seriously, and so eventually, I was compelled to look deeply into the creation of story and how it holds meaning.  I wanted to explore how the whole EVENT, story performance direction, unite to inspire feeling and truth.

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Was this always your dream job?
Well, yes.  In that I believe in the work of dreams. 

How much of the week is work, how much is play?

All of it is both!  My work is very playful, since I put movies on their feet in workshops, and I also teach filmmakers how to literally embody what they envision. It’s fun!  This approach is considered really radical, oddly.  But I just think of what kids do, all day long they strive to embody meaning through their play.

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How do you find your inspiration?
I listen.

How important is your work, and do you feel it defines you?
Work is ENERGY, by it’s definition.  I love the vitality that comes from it, in myself, and others. Work can never define the self, but what I do comes from the deep center of who I am. 

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What has been the most exciting thing you have done with your work, and what is a dream situation you’d like to find yourself in?
To have developed my own technique, a development process that has influenced and supported almost 400 films (including Little Miss Sunshine, Whale Rider, Arbitrage, Snow White and the Huntsman, Anvil Story of Anvil, Beginners). 

This took a decade of total poverty, risk and concentration. 

It’s amazing to step back and see how the dream I’ve had since childhood  -to connect people to feeling through stories – has become real in so many movies. Meeting the Dali Lama as a result of a film I co – wrote with Niki Caro was the moment I finally could perceive this.  My dream situation is to have a permanent home to house and support all the activities of the Joan Scheckel Filmmaking Labs. Thinktanks, parties, screenings, readings, workshops, rehearsals…I want to share it ALL with you!   Right now it’s just me and one (brilliant!) part time assistant. 

Now I’m looking to forge new partnerships and build out the infrastructure so we can exponentially support creativity in our culture.  Contact me!

How do you define your personal style, work and clothing, etc.?
Simple sensual for day, aka dress to move.  The work is really physical.  And I love sexy and surprising at night. I love to feel the elegance, authenticity and theatricality of a piece someone really thought about making… pleasure and beauty. That’s key.

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Do you listen to music during your workday? 
Yes.  I was an opera singer first, so music, the structure of music, is a constant. Bach for organizing, funk and a good groove for dancing.  Every film I work on ends up with a rhythmic score, that’s part of the technique.  The theme is expressed through the structural rhythm of the screenplay.  Just like a composer has to do it.  For Little Miss Sunshine I listened constantly to the last movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. It’s incredible how he keeps winding you up!

What’s something someone may not know about you?
I can’t read maps. I like to roll down the windows and just ask people, even on the freeway!

Anything else you would like to say or for us to know?
I believe this is our Renaissance. Go for it. www.joanscheckel.com

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— Elizabeth Baudouin

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