Writer, Actor, and filmmmaker Shauna Johannesen discusses ways to get your weird on.

Shauna Johannesen is an award-winning writer, actor, and filmmaker who believes that stories matter. Her plays have been produced across Western Canada and the short film she wrote, “Bedbugs: A Musical Love Story,” garnered numerous accolades on the festival circuit. Her newest short film “Trying,” an edgy comedy about ‘What to Expect when You’re NOT Expecting,’ is her directorial debut and hits festivals this fall.

About the speaker

Shauna Johannesen is an award-winning writer, actor, and filmmaker who believes that stories matter. Her plays have been produced across Western Canada and the short film she wrote, “Bedbugs: A Musical Love Story,” garnered numerous accolades on the festival circuit. Her newest short film “Trying,” an edgy comedy about ‘What to Expect when You’re NOT Expecting,’ is her directorial debut and hits festivals this fall.

Shauna’s most recent play, a family drama called “Common Grace,” premiered in 2016 at Pacific Theatre, and she serves as the Playwrights’ Guild Representative for BC Mainland. As an actor, Shauna works regularly on stage and screen, appearing on shows like Motive, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Little Pink House, and Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever.

Originally from Edmonton, Shauna has a BA in English and Theatre from Calvin College in Michigan, and an MA in English Language and Culture from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and co-creator, composer James Danderfer.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I don’t always think of creativity explicitly. Every time I write or act or direct I’m being creative, and I feel that I work very much in an extremely creative field and constantly draw on my own creativity, but I don’t search for creativity or worry about it. I search for truth. Truthfulness can be elusive. It can be tough to embody. It can look different than you thought it would - on the stage, on film, or on the page. It can be downright weird. But I suppose I think of creativity as the space and freedom to find truth, to express truth and to perhaps reflect truth in new but authentic ways. To do that I often have to quiet expectations, judgments, preconceived ideas, and worries that I’m not doing something well enough, intelligently enough, or efficiently enough. I have to be willing to be bad. To be wrong. To look stupid. And then sometimes truth appears. So, maybe creativity is just space to let that happen.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration? I find my best creative inspiration in real life. Usually in real people. Almost everything I write starts with a personal story I heard from someone or a line of dialogue someone actually said that surprised me or seems totally different than how I think I would behave or respond.

I also get a lot of inspiration from bad films, bad acting, and bad theatre. It makes me feel less intimidated and I think “I could do something not worse than that.”

Walking, running, meditating, being in sacred spaces, writing morning pages, sitting for a long time in front of my blank computer - these all have the power to help make room for creativity. And actually, that’s all it ever really needs. I guess that and for you to just keep working.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person? No one is waiting for you or will do it for you. But also, there’s no reason the next great idea or TV show or film role or play can’t be yours.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?

Erica Sigurdson - she’s a fantastic local comedian.

What keeps you awake at night?

The possible meaninglessness of life. (This is actually what I wrote on my my Creative Mornings Name tag at one of the first events I went to…)

When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?

First I try to procrastinate. After I eat a snack and check all my email, surf social media, and do some laundry (so concrete! so productive! so easy!) I try to find a way out of my deadline. When I can’t, I look at some of the things I have pinned to the cork-board by my desk.

“Begin Anywhere” - John Cage

That is awesome advice. Also, I read Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” which is pinned there, and recite the first line over and over. I often repeat it before I go onstage as well, or on set, or while I sit stuck at my computer. It’s my mantra: “You do not have to be good. You do not have to be good. You do not have to be good.”

Wild Geese - by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

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