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What’s on Your Nightstand?

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Recently in my zombie scrolling of Instagram during a late night breastfeeding session, I found myself watching a segment called “what’s in Drew Barrymore’s bag” and I have to admit that I actually found it illuminating.

Ms. Barrymore pulled out each item and used it as a context to talk about her life and its day-to-day struggles and victories.  I rolled over and stared at my nightstand and took inventory.  Like a purse, our nightstands are both representations of our best and most ‘real talk’ selves.  There are the books we aim to read because they will help us achieve our filmmaking, parenting, or self-care goals.  There’s the lotion we forget to use as often as we need to (or as often as our TV sitcom Doppelganger does).  There’s the notebook that actually does capture our best ideas and inspired musings.  For some of us there’s a toy or kid’s water bottle to remind us of the late night visitor who will never let us fully clock out.  I have a funny habit of leaving the book on my nightstand that I am most inspired by at the moment – not necessarily the one I am reading currently.  As if I am production designing my first waking moment.  This leads me to a question I pose to you all –

What’s on your nightstand in 2019?

What is the stuff of your dreams – what do you want to see as you’re floating into dreamland and what do you want to fill your mind with as inspiration when you first wake each morning?

I’m proposing that we be purposeful in our art direction of that little space.  Be conscious of what we feed our subconscious.  I am an avid reader.  If you aren’t, I challenge you to pick a book that will feed you with some inspiration or continuing education and leave it on your nightstand in 2019 and see what happens.  My goal is to read a book a month at minimum that inspires me or feeds my filmmaking.  (If you take the challenge, please hashtag #nightstandreading.)

It is so easy to get lost on your phone in the news – both global and personal, or to zone out on a show or movie as you put yourself to bed, but reading an actual book will feed you in a different way.   It proclaims to the world that, despite your impossibly busy schedule, you are not too busy to feed your dreams.

I will share with you a few of my favorites that I’ve revisited and a few I have on the docket.


GMorning, GNight! little pep talks for me and you by Lin-Manuel Miranda

“Good Morning.  Do not get stuck in the comments section of life today.  Make, Do, Create the things.  Let others tussle it out.  Vamos!”

BRAZEN, Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

A graphic novel.  “I hope these broad stroke portaits will inspire you to further explore and research these remarkable human lives for yourself.”

Hope for Film, by Ted Hope

Ted Hope continually inspires me on the topic of what makes a good creative producer and keeps me aspiring to be more like him.

The Visual Story, by Bruce Block

I was fortunate to take Bruce Block’s course at USC’s film school.  This book is a must re-visit any time you are about to make a film.

In the Blink of an Eye, by Walter Murch

“I believe that one of the secret engines that allows cinema to work, and have the marvelous power over us that it does, is the fact that for thousands of years we have spent eight hours every night in a ‘cinematic’ dream-state, and so are familiar with this version of reality.”

The Negative, Ansel Adams

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

A Sense of Direction, by William Ball

Every rehearsal will be joyfully productive with this tool.  It makes you want to get on your feet and work a scene.

Waiting for the Punch, by Marc Maron

The WTF podcast was instrumental in inspiring me to make my first post-baby feature.  Marc Maron speaks to creative in a way that makes you realize there is no one way to get from A to B in this industry.  This book is a compilation that is perfect for meditation.

Shoot from the Heart, Successful Filmmaking from a Sundance Rebel, by Diane Bell

It doesn’t matter if you read this book or not.  You buy it because, Diane Bell.

On Writing, by Stephen King

I dare you to not feel inspired to write after reading a chapter, any chapter.

Stage Performance, by Livingston Taylor

A slim volume that boosts your confidence the night before an audition.  You’re gonna kill it in the morning (and yes, that Taylor family…sweet baby James’ brother)

The Plays of Anton Chekov

Because perfection.

Sweet dreams, friends.  May your nightstands inspire productive days in 2019.

Jen Prince

About Jen Prince

JEN PRINCE (Producer, Director, Editor)- Jen Prince is an independent producer who hails from south Texas, where her love for music, theatre, movies and tableside guacamole began. Jen produced and co-edited the indie feature QUALITY PROBLEMS (Chris Mulkey, Mo Gaffney, Brooke Purdy), available on VOD, winner of Best Independent Spirit Feature at Sedona Film Festival, Best Feature at Women Texas Film Festival and Hell's Half Mile Festival, among other awards and critical acclaim. Jen recently produced the feature AND THEN THERE WAS EVE, (Tania Nolan, Karan Soni, Mary Holland, Rachel Crowl) together with Jhennifer Webberley (Metamorfic Productions), winner of a Jury Award at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival. She produced the micro budget award-winning indie- road feature, EVE OF UNDERSTANDING (Bellamy Young, Rebecca Lowman), distributed through Vanguard Cinema and screened at over twenty festivals worldwide. Jen is currently in pre-production on her feature directorial debut, MILES UNDERWATER (2018), which received a Hometown Heroes grant from the Duplass Brothers/Seed&Spark, teaming up again with the Metamorfic filmmakers who created Quality Problems. She is a graduate of the MFA Film Production Program at USC. She received her BFA in Acting and a BA in Liberal Arts in the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Jen has also worked in post-production television. Credits include the Emmy Awards, The Contender (Mark Burnett Prods), and The Amazing Race (CBS). Jen is a mother of four boys and loves trying to keep up with them and, at times, watching the grass grow.