By Matt Schantz (@Schantzman87)
Steve Harper is a man of so many talents, I think I could write a million words about how gifted this man is. Harper has worked on everything from screen to stage, been a mentor, been an creativity coach, writer, producer, director, and actor.
I was lucky enough to get to pick his mind about his brainchild “Send Me”, differences between the different acting mediums, and the most challenging times in his career.
Congratulations on all the success of your brain child, “Send Me”. Getting nearly 900k views on BET.com in a week span is no small feat. Were you taken aback by the amazing reception it got online?
I’m thrilled. By the time we ended the month (and our run on BET) we’d hit 1.66 million views. Now we’re on YouTube and the viewers keep coming. It’s really gratifying. There’s something surreal about having an idea and then people seeing it and appreciating it. What I’m most excited about is that the series is getting people talking. There’s some juicy dialogue happening around “Send Me” in person and online.
With your extensive background in penning many plays, short plays, short films and television episodes, which do you feel test you the most?
Every kind of writing has a particular learning curve to it. They’re all challenging and all fun. It’s like asking me the difference between eating pizza or eating ice cream (maybe I should have a healthier analogy). I’m really excited about making my web series and writing for TV. The chance to reach a large audience is quite an opportunity and quite a responsibility. The fact that people are inviting you into their living rooms makes it a unique experience.
What are some of the biggest difference in writing for television and for the stage?
Writing a play is a one-off. You’re going to set up characters and then put them through a single event (or a series of events). In TV you’re working with characters potentially for years – so there’s much more material to generate and many more story arcs. It’s also (usually) a team sport – which can be enjoyable and challenging. Since every team is different, part of the job is figuring out how to work together and what each person brings to the table.
Do you find it challenging trying to write for the character you portray (Peter) on “Send Me”, or does it come naturally?
I knew I wanted to play Peter, but I didn’t think of him as “my character” when I wrote it. I was just writing about a couple locked in a struggle and having a difference of opinion. It’s admittedly a strange argument about time travel and slavery, but an argument nonetheless. Since the casting came later, it was pretty easy to divorce myself from the idea that I’d be portraying him.
When you aren’t writing you are a creativity coach for aspiring writers.Can you give us a sense of what a creativity coach does? How you inspire young writers?
I work with people who are eager to write scripts, or who want to improve their writing or their career in the entertainment industry. It’s a natural extension of what I do. My parents are retired NYC school teachers. When I was discovering how to write, I had lots of false starts and challenging moments. Now, I’m grateful I can pass on some wisdom and guidance to my clients. I got certified by the Creativity Coaching Association in 2013 and I do one-on-one work with clients, read scripts, and teach workshops on the craft of it all. You can find out more on my website www.yourcreativelife.com. I think most writers want to be supported and validated. They want clear information and straightforward (yet kind) feedback. That’s what I provide and people appreciate it.
What has been the most difficult time of your career? Was it working your way through Yale, The A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard and the playwriting program at Juilliard? Or was it writing plays or working on television?
I think the hardest thing overall has been transitioning to the real world from school. I’ve had a fantastic education and am so grateful – and no school teaches you how to navigate being a professional artist. It’s also one of the reasons I love being a coach – there’s so much information left out of most training programs: how to get and work with an agent, how to maintain a creative career, how to stay sane and grateful. My best advice for any creative person is to lean into your community and if you don’t have one, find one. Don’t isolate. Reach out. Get and give support.