Wednesday, December 23, 2015

If You See Something, Say Something: Three Ways to Turn Your Life Into Awesome Content

Guest Blogger: Christie Maturo

Your life is a rich source of content.

That’s true year-round but especially this time of year. So if you haven’t mined your world for content in a while, there’s no better time than now to look at what’s around you. For example...

This caught my eye in the grocery store.

Really? A pack of pre-cooked bacon as a Christmas gift?

That started a chain reaction of questions: Who would give that?
Who would want to GET that? What if you wrapped it and left it under tree but the family had a hungry pet?

As quickly as that, a piece of original content began to take shape.

“Deliberately observing your life” and thinking about what you see is the genesis of great, original content.  

Forbes’ Jessica Hagy (@JessicaHagy) describes the process with this graphic:

Those of you who were at A&O&B’s 2015 Pre-CRS conference met via Skype my daughter Christie who is a Second City alum. At the time she was living in Chicago doing TV commercials and she spoke to us about the art of working with a partner.

She’s since moved to Texas where she’s a Professor of Theatre at Midwestern State University and is also currently co-writing and co-starring in the new web comedy series “Hey You It’s Me.”

 As an actor, sketch comedy writer and Professor, I asked Christie to author a guest blog and share her thoughts and experiences about turning what you see into content you can use on the air.

"Whenever I see or hear something funny, I always imagine, “What if this happened to me?”

I find things are funnier when you put yourself in an awkward or embarrassing situation. It takes the pressure off of anyone else and it is never hurtful or offensive if you are making yourself the butt of the joke.  

For example, what if my boyfriend gave me this pre-cooked bacon for Christmas. I’m a vegetarian! 

Does he not know me at all? Did he even buy this? Did he hire someone to shop for me? 

Is he secretly dating a carnivore? Is this some sort of sign for our future that he expects me in the kitchen cooking his lazy ass bacon every morning!?

Then I let the ideas run wild to further develop the story.

This would definitely lead to a fight. Would we break up? Would I shove the bacon in his pockets and sic the dogs on him?

How would I retell this story of the end of our relationship? To my mom? To my best girlfriends? To my therapist?

When I experience something that is unusual, I imagine all the ways it could have gotten even weirder.

True story: I went on audition the other week where the director was floored that someone who’s been on national television showed up to audition for him. Everything I told him about myself was astonishing to him.

When I think about retelling the story, I imagine what could have made this even weirder.

What if he cried at the top of my audition because he was so happy that anyone took his audition seriously enough to show up? Then I imagined him apologizing and pulling himself together and telling me to continue. 

I’d ask him if he would like a resume and headshot and he again bursts in to uncontrollable sobs. He pulls himself together, 

I begin to read for him but he starts again weeping so loudly I have to stop auditioning. We sit on the floor where he cries and pours his heart out. In the end, I leave with whatever part I want :)

Listening is just as important as seeing or experiencing things.

In a similar way, I use conversations and other peoples' stories as jumping off points.

For example, I had a friend tell me that she broke up with her boyfriend two weeks ago and just this past weekend, he shows up at her door and proposes with a stuffed Minion. He used the excuse of bringing her over his Star Wars DVDs because they had recently discussed how she had never seen them. She’s a biology professor and he thought as a self-respecting nerd, she needed to watch the movies.  

Again, what if this happened to me?

I could switch that to he brought me the movie “Waiting for Guffman” because it is about community theatre. 

Or maybe he made me a mix tape of show tunes, or bought me a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets and attempted to read them to me.

The minion is priceless. I might use that, or change it to something even more inappropriate to me.
Like maybe he brings me a stuffed Darth Vader even though he knows I hate outer space movies. 

And, since they sell Star Wars stuff everywhere, I’m convinced he picked it up at a gas station on the way to my house.

As you observe what’s around you, run through as many possibilities as you can of how it would be if what you're seeing or hearing happened to you and then imagine how weird this thing could get. 

Review your ideas and pick the ones where you can paint the most interesting stories."

With holiday get-togethers, end of year celebrations, and relatives, this time of the year provides plenty of low-hanging fruit just waiting to be turned into great content. 

Love to hear what you come up with.

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