How To Be Productive: Understanding Time, Work and Creativity by Dr. Ken Atchity

Film Courage: One of your many books Ken is WRITE TIME? And in the forward you say that the world can be divided into two people, productive people and non-productive people. And you say that productive people have a love affair with time. I’ve love to know what makes someone on the right side of time and what make someone where time is their enemy?

Dr. Ken Atchity, Author/Producer: Well that’s a very good question put in a very intelligent way that makes it hard to get a handle on it because time is…time doesn’t really exist. Time is a human construct, we created time. Squirrels and chipmunks don’t have much idea of time. They know that the sun rises and the sun goes down and they know that it rains but they don’t think the way that we do and they don’t keep track of their birthdays for example, only humans do that. And it’s unfortunate because you’re only as old as you think you are. And that’s the way a squirrel looks at it and nobody is arguing with the squirrel about it but humans know better.

Some people look at time as the enemy and some people look at it as a friend. There is an old Spanish saying that is “There is more time than life,” which I always thought was a wonderful way of looking at it because that is what a productive person would say “there is more time than life.” And another Spanish or Italian saying says that “Life is short, but wide.” And that’s another way of productively looking at it. Like people say “How can you do as much stuff as you do?” Well that’s because that’s what I do. I don’t do anything else. And I used to give classes on time management and do a lot of studies on it, in fact WRITE TIME is filled with time management theories. And one of the things I noticed about people was they had no idea where their time went. And they go “I don’t know where you find all the time.” And I would say “I don’t know where you lose it.”

I mean we all have the same amount of time and they go “How much time do we have by the way? How much time is in a week?” And 2 out of 10 people can ask the question right off the top of their heads because they’ve never really multiplied 25 by 7 and realized exactly how many hours there are in a week.

Everybody has the same amount of time. So what I would do in a time management class at UCLA or elsewhere is I would say let’s chart your time this week. I just want you to make a chart of what you do with your time and let’s come in and talk about it next week when we come back together. And they would come back in and that was before I asked them how many hours there were in a week I would wait for the third week to ask that question.

And some people would come in with 98-hour weeks and some people would come in with 62-hour weeks and nobody seem to agree in general how many hours there were in a week because the hours they gave me didn’t add up, they didn’t make sense. They’d say “I sleep six hours a day.” But it turned out in the third week of analysis that instead of 6 hours a day they were actually sleeping 10 hours. They just were telling themselves they were sleeping 6 hours a day.

How much time do you spend talking on the telephone? Most people thought they maybe spent 15 minutes a day, when in fact it might be an hour a day. And watching television (of course). Some people said they were only watching an hour a day when they were actually watching three hours a day.

But a productive person knows exactly how long it takes to do something. Like when I write a screenplay or a book, I can tell you how many hours it takes to do it and so I know that I can get it done in a certain amount of time. Agatha Christie apparently wrote as many as 10 books a year. She had to use four or five pen names because she just kept writing. When you think about it writing is a function of how fast you type. Because I always say (in my writing book including that one) if you’re making a rule not to sit down to write if you don’t know what you’re going to write then you’ll never waste any time and you’ll never have writer’s block. So simply don’t sit down until you know what you’re going to write. It’s just a matter of how fast can you type. So it’s better to be walking along the beach thinking about the structure of your story then it is to be wasting a lot of time sitting in front of the computer typing stuff and throwing it away and all that stuff. Just figure it all out in your head. “Well what if I forget it?” Well guess what? If you forget it that’s probably good. You are forgetting forgettable things? You won’t forget it when it starts getting really good. Because then it will do what Faulkner said, it will start haunting you and you won’t be able to forget it and then you’ll just write it down.

William Saroyan was asked once how long it took him to write the Human Comedy because somebody had told the journalist it had took him three days and he said “No, it took me all my life to write it. It just took me a few days to type it out.”…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

The last surviving member of the Babe Ruth Household by Jery Amernic

The oldest person I ever interviewed was Helge Ingstad, the famed Norwegian explorer who discovered the old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. That put to rest Christopher Columbus discovering America since the Vikings had beat him by 500 years. Ingstad was 100 years old when I met up with him at his home just outside Oslo, and he would pass away the following year.


But of all the people I have ever interviewed the one who lived the longest was Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth. Julia, who passed away last week at the age of 102, was the last remaining member of the Ruth household.

She was a neat lady with a razor-sharp memory, keen sense of humor, and passion, especially where it concerned the man she called Daddy.

Portions of my lengthy interview with her when I spent an afternoon at her home are up on under Babe Ruth Legacy interviews. And as they say on CNN, it’s worth a listen.

Babe Ruth was a big part of Julia’s life until his death in 1948 when she was 32, and her insights into the kind of person he was are precious. She told me about the fun-loving, outgoing Babe who adored kids, who never had a chance to be one himself, and who just had this uncanny knack for doing everything he did … well.

He would wake her up at 5 a.m. when she was a young girl to join him for breakfast. Just the two of them. He taught her how to dance. He gave her his blood when she was in hospital and needed a transfusion. He gave her away when she got married. And, said Julia, “he would never fail to keep a promise.”

Maybe the funniest part of my time with her was when we were talking about the incredible value of Babe Ruth-signed baseballs, and the fact she didn’t possess any of those baseballs herself.

“The only signature I ever got was on a check,” she said, and then laughed.

You can tell a lot about people by their laugh. Julia’s laugh was one that said she enjoyed life, she enjoyed people, and she certainly liked having fun.

I am so glad I got to meet her.

A Dark Mirror | Dennis Palumbo with Barry Kibrick

A great interview with Dennis Palumbo and Barry Kibrick about how good crime fiction both reflects and reveals the society in which it is set. From Conan Doyle to Raymond Chandler to Gillian Flynn. 

CinemaBlend Update on The Meg 2

What's Happening with The Meg 2?

One of 2018’s most successful movies was the Jason Statham giant shark movie The Meg. The film made over $500 million worldwide, making a sequel a no brainer, but we haven’t heard much about where The Meg 2 stands since then, other than the fact that it’s in the works. Well, at the press junket for Pet Sematary in Austin, CinemaBlend's own Sean O'Connell asked producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura for some insight about what’s happening with The Meg 2. He responded:

When we first heard that The Meg 2 was actually happening, it was said that the sequel was in the very early stages and while it is still early and we are a ways off from a release date, it sounds like there is work being done. As Lorenzo di Bonaventura told Sean, they are currently working on a script for the film and seemingly taking their time to get that right before moving forward.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura did seem to hedge things a bit with “you never know,” seemingly not wanting to commit to anything firm on The Meg 2 until there is a script. There doesn’t seem to be a major rush and the focus at the moment is on getting that script and having it be good before the sequel moves to the next stage of development. But, it's encouraging to hear that the script is the primary driver of what happens next.

The other thing that Lorenzo di Bonaventura expressed to Sean was gratitude about the first film’s success and that the audience last summer really embraced The Meg and what it was going for. I think when the film was announced and we began to see trailers for it, the tone wasn’t entirely clear.

Some initially thought that The Meg was going to take a more serious approach than it ultimately did, but audiences, especially those internationally, really embraced it and showed up to have fun with a ridiculous giant shark movie that didn’t take itself seriously. Lorenzo di Bonaventura seems happy that the quintessential summer movie connected in that way.

What’s interesting about this is that although the silly approach worked at the box office, it didn’t work for everyone. Some people would have preferred the bloodier, R-rated cut that director Jon Turteltaub teased. One person who seemed to lament the gorier, adult film The Meg could have been is actually the film’s star Jason Statham.

As far as where a sequel could go, The Meg is based on a series of novels by Steve Alten and that could provide a pathway forward for the franchise. The sequels up the ante even more, introducing more creatures long though extinct that could delight summer audiences. Director Jon Turteltaub just wants to make sure that the franchise doesn’t turn into one with successively worse sequels where everything gets bigger, not better.

Read more at Cinemablend

Ismael Martín Venegas Interviews Lila French. Promising auteur filmmaker.

Tell me a little about yourself, Lila. (Where do you get the taste for cinema, your cinematographic influences…).

I grew up in New Orleans, studied Computer Science at MIT, later studied acting in Los Angeles, and a few years ago moved to Spain. As a kid, I always liked performing (plays, dancing, reading aloud in class, whatever), so my initial interest in film came from a desire to perform and a curiosity about what the actors were doing. In my adult years, after having studied acting, my life took a more spiritual turn. Yoga, meditation, and my journey as a human became more important, so my taste in films kind of followed. I like stories about personal growth, and stories where the characters express humanity, and I admire actors who can do that in a genuine way (like Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project”, for example). I don’t like movies that make me feel bad for no reason, but I can definitely appreciate good “feel bad” movies with a bottom line. “Loveless”, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, is one. That movie makes me sad every time I think about it, but it’s because it so unapologetically expressed how poisonous the inability to express love can be, which is a powerful point to make.

I’ve seen in your IMDb profile that you’ve done various film projects with a style of their own. It’s admirable. What experiences have your work given you?.

I think I’ve learned to trust my instincts more. When doing something for the first time, it’s natural to have doubts, but many times I second-guessed creative choices, only to realize later that yes, the thing that I thought I wanted, I did indeed want. I still listen to the experts and people I’m collaborating with, but now without downplaying my own vision or opinion.

What do you think of today’s film industry? Do you think it considers emerging talent?.

Well, it’s becoming easier and less expensive to make films, so it’s easier for emerging talent to create their own projects and get in the game without having to wait for an invitation. Any film project still takes an immense effort, but if you have a story to tell, there are fewer obstacles to telling it. I like that things are moving this way, because it allows for more variety, and it enriches us as humans to hear stories from a variety of perspectives.

Even the figure of the male director or screenwriter predominates in most films. Do you think there is a change in the professional role and is the woman being better considered or not?.

Yes, I see more women and more variety in general in all areas of life (film, business, politics, …). I wish it would happen more quickly, but at least it’s happening. I see a lot of great and varied work at film festivals, so I think, little by little, stories about and/or by women, people of color, LGBTQ, and other previously underrepresented groups are making their way into the mainstream. The more we see variety on and off the screen, the more we lose our misconceptions of who should be doing what.

Tell me about your next projects.

I’m currently finishing a narrative short that I shot in Conil last year. It’s called “Winter in a Beach Town”, and it’s about the changing of seasons, literal and metaphorical, of course. I’m editing, working with the composer on the score, and with the colorist on the color. I’ve also written a narrative film, which I’d like to shoot after finishing “Winter”. It explores solitude and the need for others, and I plan to act in that one as well.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a screenwriter?.

I don’t feel qualified to give screenwriter-specific advice, but what I think is important in any creative endeavor is the following. When creating something, there always seems to be a pull to try to please an audience. I think if you do this, your work not only becomes inauthentic and watered down, it makes you care about the praise and criticism your work receives, which are really not important. The most important thing is to tell an authentic story in the precise way you know it to be. Make sure you’re communicating clearly, sure, but don’t aim to please. I find that if I create something that’s honest and authentic, and if I’ve done it to the best of my ability, I’m mostly immune to praise and criticism. I don’t care how it’s received, because I know what story I was trying to tell, and that that film/poem/painting/etc. tells it in the way I intended. It’s beautiful to see art that reveals the hidden depths and nuances of its creator(s). So, let’s do that.

Could you tell us a professional anecdote that was special to you?.

Before making the film “Birdbath”, I performed in the play, and at the end of the play’s run, something special happened. It was a Sunday afternoon in the aptly named Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles, and I was there in the theatre alone after the final performance, packing up my things. The skylights and doors were open, there was a nice breeze flowing through the room, and I took a moment to acknowledge having just completed a successful run of this play we had worked very hard to get done. I then left and began walking down the street to where my car was parked. I cut across the street at a random spot, and there at the base of a tree was a dead bird. And not just any bird, but a small bird with a bright orange and yellow body and black and white wings. “Birdbath” ends with a poem about a dead bird, written to my character as a gift by the male character, conveying the tragedy of her situation and beauty of her spirit. Seeing that particular dead bird—that particularly beautiful dead bird—that day, for me, was beyond coincidence and was a very special and unforgettable gift.


Read more

The Meg - VFX Breakdown By Imageworks

Check out previous article The Meg: How Imageworks Helped Make a Massive Megalodon 

Visual effects studios are constantly being asked to deliver more shots more quickly than ever before. It can be a major challenge to get effects out the door for review, work to final them, and then deal with inevitable changes. Which is why Sony Pictures Imageworks Visual Effects Supervisor Sue Rowe decided to tackle things slightly differently when she took on the challenge of helping to craft the third act of Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg, the tale of a previously undiscovered prehistoric giant shark, or megalodon.

“When the Production Supervisor Adrian De Wet and Visual Effects Producer Steve Garrad came to us, they knew this third act was going to be tricky because story points in the climax of a film are always developing, and they knew they would need a really powerful engine behind them to get that work done,” Rowe tells VFX Voice.

“So the deal we entered into at the beginning was, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you perhaps 400 shots, and we want you to turn them around really fast and then give them to editorial, and then we’re going to hone it down from there.’”

Alex Honnold: How I Climbed A 3,000-Foot Vertical Cliff - Without Ropes

Imagine being by yourself in the dead center of a 3,000-foot vertical cliff -- without a rope to catch you if you fall. For professional rock climber Alex Honnold, this dizzying scene marked the culmination of a decade-long dream. In a hair-raising talk, he tells the story of how he summited Yosemite's El Capitan, completing one of the most dangerous free solo climbs ever.

Alex Honnold is a professional rock climber whose audacious free-solo ascents of America's biggest cliffs have made him one of the world's most recognized climbers.

A Screenwriter's Life in the Waiting Room

How long can I wait?

Screenwriters ask me that all the time, becoming impatient and anxious that their script is taking so long to make it to the screen.

My answer surprises them:

Don’t wait at all.

Waiting is a massive waste of time and can lead to depression and/or existential despair, and who knows what else. Write something while you wait. Plant another seed, cultivate it, and train it to grow straight. And while it’s taking its sweet time to bud and then bloom, do something else. Start a new spec script!

Back in my own “waiting room” in the sixties, I reviewed a great book by Barry Stevens: Don’t Push the River, It Flows by Itself. I translated Stevens’ Zen advice to Hollywood where every project has its own clock and will happen when and only when that clock reaches the appointed hour. Other than keeping that project on track the best you can by responding when asked to or when appropriate, there’s nothing much you can do—other than financing it yourself (a serious option, by the way) to speed up that project’s clock. By the nature of things, the project clock is invisible, which means extra frustration for the creator—unless you refuse to wait.

Recently, I, and my dear producing partner Norman Stephens, produced a sweet little Christmas movie called Angels in the Snow. I had only been trying to get that movie produced for twenty years! I sold it to TNN once and came close to a deal at Hallmark another time. My client Steve Alten’s Meg is currently, after twenty-one years, shooting in New Zealand. What was I doing for the last twenty years? Writing twelve scripts and producing other films for television and cinema, managing hundreds of books, writing and publishing ten of my own, playing tennis, traveling, having a wonderful life. Not waiting.

Waiting makes writers neurotic. If I allowed myself to express my neurosis, as many writers have not yet learned not to do, I would drive those involved in making my or my clients’ stories into films crazy—and risk losing their support or return calls. The question I personally hate hearing the most, “What’s going on?” is one I have to force myself to refrain from asking. Your job, when it’s your turn to move your story forward, is to “get the ball out of your court” as efficiently, as well, and as soon as possible. Then, on that particular project, you have to wait for it to be returned to your court. Very few actual events requiring your help occur along the way, leaving a huge gap of dead time in between them, like super novae separated by vast time years of space. But it’s not dead time if you use it for something else creative.

If the glacial pace of the Hollywood creative business fills you with dread, you’re in the wrong business or you’re dealing with it the wrong way. Don’t wait. Do. As the great photographer Ansel Adams put it: “Start doing more. It’ll get rid of all those moods you’re having.”

Writer/producer/literary manager and former professor Ken Atchity’s most recent book for writers is Sell Your Story to Hollywood: Writer’s Pocket Guide to the Business of Show Business (to accompany his online course This article is adapted from that book.

Vincent Atchity Equitas Executive Director Interviewed on Wrongful Conviction

In this compelling interview, Vincent Atchity and Kelly Grimes join Jason Flom for a candid discussion about the criminal justice system and how it fails to support Americans with mental health challenges.

Vincent Atchity has served as Executive Director of The Equitas Project since 2015. Vincent is an advocate for public health and health equity, a population health management strategist, and a builder of communications bridges connecting communities and community partners with better health outcomes and more efficiently managed costs.

Kelly Grimes is a graduate of the Manhattan Mental Health Court, where CASES provides case management services, including treatment, planning and reporting on clients’ progress to the court. Kelly is now a certified peer specialist with CASES, as the peer specialist for the Manhattan Mental Health Court team. She has moved from being a client of the court to serving clients of the court.

The Equitas Project, an initiative of the David and Laura Merage Foundation, envisions an America rededicated to liberty and justice for all, where there is a commonly held expectation that jails and prisons should not continue to serve as the nation’s warehouses for people with unmet mental health needs. Equitas is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which promotes mental health awareness, and champions laws, policies, and practices that prioritize improved population health outcomes, sensible use of resources, and the decriminalization of mental illness. We are committed to disentangling mental health and criminal justice. To learn more about our work and mission, please visit, and follow us on Twitter @EquitasProject and Instagram. *This episode was edited by Conor Hall.