Many relationships are peppered with blaming. Artists’ relationships are no different. Consider the following coaching session from my creativity coaching practice.

Jake, a would-be filmmaker in his early thirties, came to see me.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m good. I’m pushing along with my film—it’s getting there. It’s my wife … she has the problem.”

“What’s that?”

“The film is going to cost … a lot. And we’re spending our own money on it. The money we’d saved as a down payment for a house.”

“She isn’t on board with that idea?”

“She hates it. We’ve had hellacious fights.”

“I don’t think I’d be too happy either!” I laughed. “But you seem to have made up your mind. About the film versus your relationship.”

“No! It isn’t like that at all–”

“You’re not holding the film as more important than the relationship?”

“No!” he said excitedly. “If she could just see where this will lead … how good this will be for both of us.”

I nodded. “You want her to change her mind and get on board with an open heart?”


“While you’re spending the down payment for the house she wants.”

He bit his lip.

“Did she save that money?” I said.

He didn’t reply. “Part of it came from a small inheritance I got!” he finally blurted out. “This film could win an Academy Award!”

It’s hard not to be self-interested—or selfish. With the proliferation of reality shows, we are getting a very nice education in the grandiosity and selfishness of some people, whether they are celebrity hairdressers, chefs, or real estate agents. Arrogant, narcissistic, defensive, combative—we are getting an eyeful. It was going to be interesting to see to what extent Jake had a conscience and some character.

“You’ve tried to find outside funding?” I said.

He shook his head. “That’s way too hard! We have the money and we have credit cards and I can borrow more from my parents if need be—I can keep it all right inside our family and get the film done without having to go around begging.”


He made a face. “That’s what it feels like!”

“You’ve tried it?”

“No.” He hesitated. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“So it seems easier to spend the down payment money than investigate funding?”

“I don’t feel like you’re really on my side,” he said, shifting uneasily.

“Why? Because I think your wife’s concerns also matter?”

He got up abruptly and walked around the room. Finally he sat back down.

“I don’t think you understand the upside of this project. Everybody I tell about the concept loves it.”

“So tell me,” I said. “How much of the movie is made?”

“I have a rough draft of the script. A rough draft of most of the script—half at least.”

I nodded. “But you’ve already spent a lot of money?”

“On equipment. You need the right equipment. And I paid to have an original score composed—that’s been a mess! And I hired someone to scout locations … there are a lot of expenses before you can actually get started!”

I nodded. “Absolutely. But I’m trying to understand your approach to this. Why commission an original score when money is tight?”

He threw up his hands. “I could hear just the right music in my head. But the composer I hired didn’t really get it.”

I took a breath.

“Okay,” I said. “Let me make sure I’m getting this right. Are you saying that you’re having problems making this movie or are you just having problems getting your wife’s buy-in?”

He shook his head. “Well, it’s very complicated making a movie and this is my first one. And I got off on the wrong foot with the composer and with this editor I hired to look at my partial script … and I was supposed to get better tech support on the equipment I bought, that’s been kind of a nightmare … but I just wish my wife was in this with me. She keeps nagging me and I can’t concentrate on getting the script finished.”

“A lot of relationship problems,” I said.

He shrugged. “I just need people to do what they say. That’s all.”

“Your wife said that she would support you in this?”

“She did! In the beginning. I told her about my dream when we first met and she was all gung-ho for it. Then some years passed while I was working on the script … and she changed her tune. She was all for it in the beginning!”

“Things changed.”

“My dream didn’t!”

We continued on in this vein. I renewed my wonder about the possibility and reasonableness of hunting for outside funding—not interested. I wondered if it made sense not to spend more money until he had a viable script ready—not possible. I wondered if there was any way his wife could get her house and he could get his film—no. I put on the table the question of whether he had entered into clear agreements with the composer, the location scout, the editor, the tech support people—of course he had. Everything was fine, if only his wife would second the motion.

Some of the silences grew very long. He had less and less to say—he knew what I was thinking. He knew that I was thinking that he had the problem. He couldn’t wait to leave. Finally our time was up and he got his wish. We did not set up a second appointment.

I didn’t expect that I would ever see Jake again. I had confronted him too much. Years ago I worked with court-mandated clients who had to return even after I confronted them—but no court had sent Jake to see me. Unlike those court-mandated clients, Jake was free to make his movie and disrespect his wife. I didn’t expect that I would ever see Jake again—or his movie.

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