As a writer, producer, and director, Alan Yang has worked on hit shows including Parks and Recreation, The Good Place, Little America, Forever, and Master of None. While the end results have led to an Emmy win and heaps of critical accolades, getting there is always a process.
“I think there’s a point relatively early on in almost everything where I’m like, ‘Should I just quit this?'” Yang says in the latest episode of Fast Company‘s podcast Creative Conversation.
There are classic production hurdles such as figuring out how to build Uganda in New Jersey (Little America), but what Yang has been honing over the years is new approaches to storytelling.
Take, for example, Master of None‘s “New, I Love You” bottle episode, or the nearly five-minute shot of Dev (Aziz Ansari) by himself in the back of a cab of “The Dinner Party” episode while Soft Cell’s “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” plays in the background. There’s also the entire series of Forever that could only be described as experimental, with episodes having nearly zero dialogue or spanning 60 years in 30 minutes.
“You should be surprising yourself. You should be challenging yourself,” Yang says. “Playing within the bounds of what everything you’ve seen before has done, you can get somewhere with that. But I feel like it’s most exciting when you can show people something new and really surprise them.”
In this episode of Creative Conversation, Yang explains . . .
. . . why being creative isn’t something you hope for—you have to put a priority on it
“You make it a mission to say, ‘I want to make something that feels fresh, that feels original, that feels like something I’ve never seen before.’ And if you can do that in a way that also feels compelling and propulsive, then you’re really onto something.”
. . . how getting rejected by Jay Leno was a necessary wake-up call
“Some of my friends moved down and got jobs immediately. But I think for the vast majority of people, it takes a little bit of time to get your footing and get your bearings and meet the right people. But really all you should be doing at that point is just working and writing and writing and writing and writing your one million bad scripts so you can get one decent one.”
. . . why his Netflix movie Tigertail was a surprising lesson in leadership
“When someone tells you that all of the shoot days are useless, that is a time when it probably is natural to yell and scream and blame someone and throw your phone and start firing people, frankly. I treated it with as much calm as I could and said, ‘How do we cross the next bridge?'”