Today we’d like to introduce you to Ian Mark.
Ian, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
On the bus back to Boston from NYU for spring break my freshman year, I sat with my laptop open and my phone pinging every few minutes with friends informing me their spring breaks were either already over or not starting for another week. With the daunting prospect of spending six days in Newton with no one to see and boredom already creeping in, I put my phone away and started typing. I figured it was as good a time as any to put the crazy idea I could write a novel to bed once and for all, if only just to get the characters and themes that had been baking for months in my subconscious out of my head.
So I wrote. And wrote. For six days I churned out 10,000 words a day until I finished Love from Amanda to Zoey with just hours to spare before the bus back to New York swept me up again. Most of the time everything went pretty smoothly: 2,000 words before I got up, 2,000 after I showered, 2,000 after breakfast, 2,000 after lunch, 2,000 before dinner. I’d think about what should happen and try to make it appear on the screen in front of me.
Then there were the moments I will never forget— when the words came freely and rapidly, demanding to be released onto the screen in front of me, bursting through the only channel they had to existence: my fingers. They moved so fast my conscious awareness of them fell slightly behind their appearance on the screen in front of me and it felt not like I was writing but like I was reading sentences seconds after someone else wrote them. This feeling, of all the parts of my mind working in unison to pull something out of my subconscious as smoothly as humanly possible, of my fingers pitter-pattering across the keys with a rhythm all their own, and of reading sentence after sentence without second-guessing a comma, let alone a whole word, is almost indescribable. If it were a drug sold on the streets it’d be called Pure Creation.
I chase that feeling every time I write. I don’t get there every day but when I do all the distractions and nonsense in my life drops away and I am fully absorbed and present in each moment. I had already discovered improv which offers its own group version of the drug— a more fragile, more difficult to achieve state of nirvana that requires everyone in the scene buying in and working together without agenda or ego to build something funny and real out of nothing. Improv led me to acting, which requires the ability to lose yourself completely in someone else’s identity; to eviscerate your ego without touching what makes you real and authentic. Improv and acting introduce collaborative elements to my art that the words don’t need but I could not live without. These are the feelings that drive me to create.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My happiness depends on creative fulfillment— when I am writing or acting or improvising I am almost always joyful and energetic, bursting with ideas and jokes, embracing the positives and brushing the negatives in life off my shoulder with ease. I write fiction, direct, produce and perform improv, act in comedies and dramas on television and the web but what I am always doing really is chasing happiness. People talk about wanting to be happy all the time with this mindset of “oh if I get this, or I do that, or I succeed at work, or if she calls me back, or if he asks me to move in, or if they all get what they deserve, I’ll be happy.” Happiness is not a state of being— it is fleeting, ephemeral by nature. It’s not an endpoint to reach after years of sacrifice or the beginning to a perfect wonderful life without conflict and stress. It is a choice made day after day to frame your life in a way that inspires you to continue, to pursue the things you want without dismissing what you already have, and to allow yourself joy even while horrific things happen in the world around you. By choosing to create in as many forms as possible, I choose happiness.
Love from Amanda to Zoey illuminates the influence of our preconceptions on what we believe has happened and will happen. The protagonist Zach Johnston suffers from RomCom Syndrome— he wants so badly to meet The One, to find the perfect relationship that will melt away all his flaws and emotional trauma, to have that meet-cute moment he’ll one day toast to at his wedding, that his entire life has been warped by these expectations proffered to him by romantic comedies on television and film. When we first meet him, he’s obtained everything pop culture has told him to— a high paying job in the greatest city in the world with a beautiful girlfriend and friends who admire and love him. Yet he’s deeply unhappy, unable and unwilling to cope with the loss of his best friend only months before and resentful of Amanda for failing the RomCom Syndrome test of absolute magic every moment forever. His pride in his own confidence, intelligence, and worldview cannot be reconciled with the deep well of loneliness, grief, and visceral anger within him. He pushes that cognitive dissonance down deeper with alcohol, weed, hallucinogens and more alcohol until he cannot contain his misery any longer.
When his vulnerability and gaps in emotional intelligence can no longer be denied, Zach begins to grasp the flaws in living his life like it’s a movie and waiting for The One to solve him. He feels utterly alone and desperate to find love and just finally be happy. He’s sick of looking for reasons not to fall in love and at this nadir when he would do anything to meet his future wife and is struggling for reasons to continue, in walks Zoey Mclemore— clever, funny, inquisitive, surprising Zoey with green eyes that make Zach forget how to speak every time he looks at her…
Faced with the dilemma of “finding” The One when he most needed to, Zach and the reader must choose what to believe— Is this a love story for the ages, worthy of the pop culture zeitgeist that has shaped Zach’s mind for years? Or has his RomCom Syndrome warped a rebound fling with red flags galore into something that it is most decidedly not?.
I started The Pasadonuts Improv Livestream because I wanted to share with the world the joy and exuberance I feel every week improvising with a bunch of talented people I really like and respect. I hope the passion and energy I put into my work shines through. I want readers and viewers consuming my work to feel semblances of the cornucopia of qualia I feel producing it.
What do you know now that you wished you had learned earlier?
Learn to improvise. Life is improv is life. The ability to process information quickly and build something with the people around you without negating them or hesitating is a skill that will help you every day of your life. It makes my writing better, it makes my acting better, and it makes me better. Everyone speaks everyday but a lot of people go years without listening. Writing, acting, improv: these are all about communication. How do I make neurons fire in your brain with as much fidelity as possible to the ones firing in mine?
To learn language, a child watches his elders and peers to link the sounds he hears with objects, actions, ideas, and other concepts integral to communication. With his voice he tests his theories— he points at a round object and says “ball.” His parents smile and nod. The learning is subconscious, all he needs is an environment that stimulates— if people speak, he will learn.
Art is a language. Whatever form your expression takes you cannot speak until you see. Consumption shapes your vision— I read 1,000 novels before I wrote Love from Amanda to Zoey. Consciously I read to enjoy and relax. Subconsciously, the language of the novel became clearer and clearer— how to structure, where to start, how to transition, when to use dialogue, how rhythm evokes emotional responses almost as much as the words themselves, and countless other nuances some of which I could not even elucidate. As my vision sharpened I searched for my voice; I borrowed from other writers, imitating Vonnegut then Hemingway then Fitzgerald before moving past imitation to combination. My style includes elements of these writers and so many more but the unique combinations and experiments make it mine alone. I discovered how to write my way by writing.
I watched endless hours of television and film before I picked up a camera or sat in front of one. I may have been vegging out but parts of me were learning how to frame a two shot and what color does for mis en scene. Consuming the art form you love will fill you with a strong sense of what’s good and what’s shit— there will be a lot of shit. You cannot articulate fully until you know what has been done because your art is in conversation with the art that preceded it. You cannot shape your vision without consumption and you cannot find your voice without production.
I excluded from the above the legendary, genre-defining home videos Mario Tavolieri and I made in my basement after soccer in the 4th grade. We had unbelievable amounts of fun writing and editing with frenetic energy. I never want to lose that burst of excitement and thrill I felt making those. They were terrible. They were also motivated solely by the joy of creating. Don’t let the pursuit of money and success detract from your enjoyment of the art itself. When you put money first and the art second you will suffer. Forget about your self-narrative, the path you plan to follow and the lens through which you remember your past. Such rigidity will only cause unnecessary frustration and impatience. Your future cannot be controlled but you can always keep making better art.
Understand that profit is not validation. Rely on your inner senses, honed by years of consumption, to judge your own production. Learn from your mistakes. Listen to the feedback you get no matter who it is from: they have taken the time to consume your work and want to help you, even if they know nothing and waste your time they have done you a kindness. Don’t be afraid to do what everyone tells you not to. Always remember that the end product is yours and no one will ever know it as intimately or care about it as strongly as you do. Listen, listen, listen. Most importantly, buy my book.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Love from Amanda to Zoey ebooks and print copies can be bought from Simon & Schuster on Amazon.: https://amzn.to/2ji9dDV
To support the book even further write a review on Amazon. This increases the chances of people finding it when they search for books on there. Sharing and liking on social media and Goodreads helps too. Novels these days need strong word of mouth support to find their entire audience.
The first 4 chapters are available for free on my website ianmark.ptnt.com
The Pasadonuts Improv Livestream happens every week at 2:30 pm on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday on our YouTube channel Pasadonuts Improv: https://bit.ly/2k7GyCj
Subscribe to our channel and like us on Facebook @Pasadonuts to never miss a show! You’ll be notified when we schedule our stream and when we go live. All past episodes (over 20!) are available to watch as well.
For more about our talented cast check out IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7808936/
- Website: ianmark.ptnt.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ian.mark.528
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheRealIanMark
- Other: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1iyRMgs-tQgIHwlc23DePw
The Pasadonuts, SImon & Schuster/Omnific, Natalee Phillips, Benji Stinson