Psych Central

Filmmaker Alan Ball is a writer, producer and director of films including Towelhead and American Beauty, and TV series Six Feet Under, and True Blood.

He refers to an earlier television show (“Oh, Grow Up”) as “an abject failure” – because it had been “totally manufactured to appeal to as many demographics as it possibly could.”

In an interview, he was asked about the religious right’s likely offense over both “True Blood” and “Towelhead.”

Ball replied:

“I don’t really care what they think. You know what? Yeah, this stuff punches emotional buttons and some people are going to be able to see beyond that and some won’t.

“My approach is to try to do work that I would really be entertained and moved by, and that’s all I know how to do. I’ve been successful writing things that I have fun making.”

Accomplished creative visionaries often talk about these ideas of doing creative work you are truly passionate about, and not censoring yourself in the process.

In my post How much do you censor yourself and your art?, I quote psychologist Eric Maisel about the artist’s relationship to society.

“Most of us would be quick to say that we are free to think just about anything and to express ourselves in any way we see fit. In reality, artists do a lot of measuring, somewhere just out of conscious awareness, about what is safe or seemly to reveal and what is unsafe or unseemly.”

In another interview, Ball spoke of another level of distortion of creative writing, about how with some TV shows, like sitcoms, “the work just gets rewritten and shredded until it goes in front of the camera, because that’s just what the process is. You have to develop a healthy detachment from it.

“I longed for the chance to write something that I was deeply invested in, and that — plus my anger and rage at my working situation — just sort of channeled into American Beauty.”

He also talked about one of my favorite scenes in the movie: the character Ricky videotapes a plastic bag “dancing” in the breeze.

Ball says he actually had an encounter with a plastic bag: “I didn’t have a video camera, like Ricky does. But it was a very intense and very real moment. There’s a Buddhist notion of the miraculous within the mundane, and I think we certainly live in a culture that encourages us not to look for that.

“I do like, though, that Ricky says, ‘Video’s a poor excuse, but it helps me remember.’ Because it’s not the video he’s focused on; it’s the experience itself. He’s very connected to the world around him.”

To finish up, here is a related quote by Jungian Analyst and writer Marion Woodman:

“The creative process shrivels in the absence of continual dialogue with the soul. And creativity is what makes life worth living.”



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    Last reviewed: 7 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Eby, D. (2010). Alan Ball on Creating for Fun. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 16, 2014, from



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