Today, Jim Winter, my former playwriting professor in my MFA program at University of New Orleans, stops by to talk about his creative process. I first “met” Jim in one of the online writing workshops with the program (as it was low residency) and then actually met him during my semester abroad in 2012 in Edinburgh. He also advised me on my thesis for my play, The Snow Globe, and he was one of my favorite professors in grad school. Definitely in my top five writing mentors! I learned so much from him about theatre, playwriting, and art in general so I’m so excited to have him stop by and talk creativity for you all.
So here you go, everyone, an interview with Jim Winter!
What is your main form of creative expression?
That’s a hard question to answer. My three primary forms of creative expression are acting, directing, and script writing. I go through phases where one is more at the forefront than the others. Right now, I’d say directing is the main one.
Do you work as an artist/creative full-time or do you have a different day job?
I am fortunate in that I am an Associate Professor of Theatre. I go to work in a theatre every day, where I teach acting, directing, and script writing. I continue to do all three professionally as well but I am an educator first.
How long have you been creating music/books/plays/films/etc.?
For as long as I can remember. As a child, I was always writing or making “movies” with my toys. Certainly by the time I was halfway through high school I was fully committed to studying theatre.
How do you handle the pressures of creativity being your job?
I think for me the hardest aspect is finding the balance between being a good educator and still maintaining a fair amount of professional activity and engagement. I want to be in the classroom and rehearsal space with my students, but sometimes I have to take days or even weeks away from that to act in a film, workshop a play, or guest direct. The flip side is if I don’t remain engaged professionally, the educator in me suffers because I am not staying current or sharp.
Do you engage in any additional creative hobbies? Are there any you’d like to try?
I do some other types of creative writing just for fun from time to time. I also like photography, though I’d hardly call what I do with a camera artistry. Honestly, most of my true hobbies take me away from creativity. I like hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, and just being in nature.
Who are some other artists and creatives that inspire you to create?
Roger Waters has always been a huge inspiration. Tilda Swinton. Sam Shepard (his early playwriting, at least, like when he was writing plays on Tootsie Roll wrappers in Greenwich Village). David Bowie. Paul Thomas Anderson. Cate Blanchette. Gary Oldman. And of course, my mentor, Phil Karnell.
Why do you create?
I go mad if I don’t. I’m already mad and I tend to create in a mad frenzy, but I’ll go hopelessly and uselessly insane if I don’t engage in creative activity on an almost daily basis. I’m good for a few days off here and there but that’s about it.
What advice do you have for other creatives?
Be fearless. Self-censorship and half measures are your kryptonite. Observe your inspirations at work, if you can. If not, at least study their methods. I never learned much from the creative work itself, it has been the study of the process, the artist at work, that has been my greatest guide.
What are you working on now?
I’m crazy and so are my wonderful colleagues. They allowed me to direct my own stage adaptation of Dracula. We are exactly two weeks from opening night as I write this. I re-imagined Dracula and Van Helsing as women. In my Dracula, the women are not mere victims. We are also doing the entire production in grayscale so it will look like a black and white horror movie come to life.
Where can people find you and your work?
I teach and direct at Southeastern Louisiana University. But you can find my work almost anywhere if you look for it. Go on Amazon and look for a 2016 film titled “The Beast.” I have a large supporting role in it. Hint: look for the guy in the safari costume.
Thanks for letting me pick your brain, Jim! Your version of Dracula sounds amazing. Bring it to Atlanta!