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  • Shawn Maus

Barenaked Ladies ask me...




The band, Barenaked Ladies, has a song “If I Had a Million Dollars.” I just had a writing prompt ask basically the same question, “If you woke up tomorrow and everything was free what would you do?” And, I’ve been asked multiple time in interviews, on those little personality tests an HR department or Facebook sometimes ask, “If you were given a million (or a billion, or insert any amount here) what would you do?’ You know what I’m talking about: “if money were not object…”

So, today I thought a bit more about that before doing my writing prompt.

My standard answer is “I’d make a movie.”


Now, digging deeper I honestly have to admit that I’m not sure what kind of movie I would make. Would I do one of my own scripts? I do have a superstition that writers shouldn’t make their own movies as a director because one can’t separate the so-called wheat from the chaff. As a writer you want to see every glorious, compelling, sparkling bit of exposition, dialogue, and bits of your writer ego make it to the final film. But, as a director you need to make some hard choices about what’s really working in the material (especially once you get to the editing room), and sometimes that means the writer’s work has to be cut. How else do you think so many scenes were shot, yet ended up on the cutting room floor.


So, that leaves me with making someone else script. Does that mean I’m a producer? Or do I direct? Another dilemma. While I’m trained as a film director, I’ve been years out of practice. I’ve spent a lot of time in theatre so the proscenium has become my wide shot. I’m unsure if I can capture things in that little rectangle of the camera. Not to mention the cinematography that’s needed to get the light right and not “burn daylight” (as I constantly nag my friend Dan when where shooting!)


But the truth is making movies is in my DNA. My great-aunt left home to go write for Sid Cesar’s Your Show of Shows. She actually met my great-uncle, had kids, and never really wrote on the show.


Recently, I’ve been working Job Search Reboot and Doug Arthur at Transform Consulting to help me figure out and land my next position. This question came up again. Again, I my answer was “I’d make a movie.” I’m anything if not consistent.


So that’s why I had to stop and ponder today’s writing prompt and why I had to dig a little deeper.

“I’d make a movie” is always my answer. My family history has linked it to my DNA. I have self-doubt. I have creative anxiety.

So why don’t I just make a movie? Practice makes perfect, right? And even though I have thousands of dollars in “Hollywood” or “professional” gear, I’m afraid it all comes down to story. Do I have a good enough story?

Well, as my writing teacher Ellen Sandler says,”Give yourself permission to write badly.” To that I would add “just shoot it.”


I don’t really need all of the fancy equipment. My iPhone can do it all. I just need a few apps, a gamble and quality sound (which I have more than enough equipment for and can just get a couple of adapters to make it connect to the iPhone or record to my Tascam). I’m sure I can find some friends to help me.

So then, what is my answer to “If I had a million dollars…”?


For right now, it’s singing along to the Barenaked Ladies!

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