Today we welcome Alex Goldberg, a playwright and recent transplant to southern California from New York. I worked with Alex in 2012 on the L.A. production of his play, “It Is Done”, which was recently named one of the best productions in L.A. for 2012 by the Huffington Post. Alex takes some time here to talk about his creative life.
Alright, so let’s start by talking about what you’re up to these days.
My wife and I recently relocated to Los Angeles, so naturally I’m writing more film and TV scripts. In addition to those projects I am also researching and outlining a new play, set in the near future in the Empire State Building. Also, my play IT IS DONE, which had successful productions in New York in 2011 and Hollywood in 2012, is being developed into a motion picture and I am currently negotiating rights to the play in other cities across the country.
Sounds like a lot going on, which is great. Now, have you always been interested in writing?
I stopped acting to focus solely on writing. Until that time I had been splitting my time between acting and writing. Nearly a decade ago I had an extremely busy eight month period in New York, where I co-wrote a musical that opened, and acted in four off-off Broadway plays. At the end of that period I was the lead in one of the plays. We had a matinee show after a typical New York winter night of crappy weather, and there were only three people in the audience. Instead of asking the cast to vote if we should perform, the producers asked the two leads if we wanted to go on. We chose to cancel the show, and the rest of the cast was very disappointed. Even though they all had small to supporting parts, all these people were seasoned actors in their 40s and 50s, and they couldn’t wait for the next time to be on stage. I was half their age and had half their passion for performing; I just wanted to be home and writing. From that point on I stopped going to auditions and focused completely on writing. I still get onstage occasionally to perform comedy, but for the most part that aspect of my career is behind me, and I’ve never looked back.
Were you “bitten by the bug” at any early age?
In first grade I directed a play with my fellow classmates, and starred in it. In third grade I wrote my first play, MOVIE MONSTERS COME ALIVE, and we performed it in class after a week of rehearsal (the script was 2 pages). I was hooked.
It sounds like it! Did you actively pursue the field then?
I did not actively pursue it until after college. I was active in my high school theater, but I did not choose my college based on theatrical desires. However, I immediately fell into a great program at Skidmore, and spent all my available time at the theater. Upon graduation, I actively pursued.
Tell me a little more about your early experience.
I studied theater at Skidmore College. Split my focus between acting and directing, and started to explore writing again. After college after a brief stint in NYC to perform in an off-off-Broadway production of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD I ran out of money and returned to my hometown (Washington D.C. area) and instantly started saving money to return to New York. It took 18 months. During that time I acted in a lot of theater, wrote plays and screenplays, and worked first as an intern and then as an associate producer in production houses. I learned to direct on camera by making industrials, military videos, and corporate documentaries. Then I moved back to New York and started working as an independent film P.A., writing and directing my own short films, and acting.
Were you encouraged/supported by your parents/family in your career choice?
My family is very supportive my writing career and I couldn’t do it without them. However, my mother jokes that when my brother and I were kids she took us to the movies and the theater, and now that we are both writers and directors she wishes she took us to the courthouse instead!
Was there a teacher that inspired or influenced you?
Right before I did this interview I was thinking fondly of Ralph Ciancio, a writing professor in college. He was a former circus gymnast who became an English professor, a Nabokov scholar, cherubic, easy to laugh and destroyed me with my grades. But I kept coming back; he was brilliant and made my writing immensely better. I don’t think I ever got higher than a C+ the first two classes I took with him, but finally wound up with a B. Three times the charm. There were plenty of other good teachers and mentors, but he was on my mind.
Have you had the benefit of being mentored?
When I was an intern in the video department at a PR firm in Washington D.C. I was given a tremendous opportunity. I was the only intern, and there were four directors. Each had a specific skill that set them apart from the others: one was a great writer, one was a visual artist, one was an extremely talented leader with both crew members and talent, and one knew how to make clients and other producers feel like they were in charge of everything – all great skills to learn.
Indeed they are – so now walk me through a “typical” day when you’re in your creative zone.
On a productive day I’m up and writing by 8am. By lunch time if I’ve managed to get in an equal balance of writing, networking, and exercise, then I’ve had a successful morning.
Alright, so it’s lunchtime and we’re looking in the fridge – what do we see?
Lots of kale. Not because we are super healthy, but because we are avoiding eating kale. Also, salsa. Dark chocolate. A few beers (for me) and a bottle of white wine (for my wife). Zevia soda, because it’s “healthier” than regular soda, as I don’t drink coffee but still crave the caffeine.
Zevia, huh? I’ll have to try that – and then how does the rest of the day go?
The afternoon is more of the same, but usually as the day goes on my actual writing productivity decreases. So I continue with busy work.
Given the numerous steps to creating and polishing a script, is there a part of that process that you dislike doing?
The least favorite part of writing is outlining. I come from an improvisational background and like to let my characters create the world for me. In the past I would just write, but that creates more problems in the rewrite process. Now, the tighter and more complete the outline and research, the better the script.
Has current technology enabled you to do your job more creatively?
Absolutely. Dramaturgy and research is instant. If I need to fact check, find a street, come up with the most appropriate character name based on their age and where they are from, then the internet will give me the answer in seconds. As long as I don’t stop to check my email or Facebook…
Facebook: Killer of Productivity… Alright, a couple final questions. Aside from your creative field, what else are you passionate about?
Baseball. Music. Inane trivia. You want me to be your trivia lifeline. My wife and my brother and I have a trivia team named “Two Bros and a Bra.” We have won three straight trivia nights at a local bar. Don’t mess with us.
And what qualities should someone possess to be successful in your line of work?
Self discipline. You have to be a self starter if you want to be a writer. Writing must be treated like any other day job. Most people have days when they don’t want to go to work, but they still have to go in. Even if I don’t want to write today, I still have to go to work.
Very true. Alex, I appreciate you taking the time to share your creative life with us. Thanks so much!
To keep up with Alex, please visit his website here.