SHOCKING! What SCARED Hollywood From MEANINGFUL to More DARK & CYNICAL Storytelling with Matt Williams

Matt Williams is best known as the creator and executive producer of the hit series Roseanne and the co-creator and executive producer of Home Improvement, one of the most successful programs in television history. Williams joined The Cosby Show during its premiere season and worked as a writer/producer on the show for three subsequent seasons, during which time his work was honored with Emmy and Humanitas nominations, as well as sharing a Peabody Award for outstanding achievement in television writing. He also served as co-creator of the Cosby spin-off, A Different World.


In 1989, Williams formed Wind Dancer Production Group with principals Carmen Finestra and David McFadzean. Under the Wind Dancer banner, Williams co-created and executive produced Home Improvement, Carol & Company, starring Carol Burnette, Buddies with Dave Chappelle, Thunder Alley, Soul Man and Costello. Once again, his work received Emmy and Humanitas nominations, as well as winning numerous People’s Choice Awards.

In film, Williams produced and directed Where The Heart Is, starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd. He produced Nancy Meyer’s romantic comedy What Women Want with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt; executive produced the critically acclaimed drama Firelight with Sophie Marceau and served as co-writer and producer of Disney’s award-winning Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Most recently, Williams co-wrote, produced, and directed Walker Payne, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film stars Jason Patric, San Shepard, Drea de Matteo, KaDee Strickland and Bruce Dern.

Please enjoy my conversation with Matt Williams.

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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 348

Matt Williams 0:00
I don't want to die with all these stories living inside. And then that got me thinking. When a writer dies, what happens to all the untold stories? Do they float back up and join that spirit ether? And then does another writer snag a character word and start channeling that story? What happens to those stories that were released when the person's spirit left their body?

Alex Ferrari 0:36
I like to welcome to the show, Matt Williams. How you doing Matt?

Matt Williams 0:39
I'm doing well. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:41
Thank you so much for coming on the show. My friend. I'm truly looking forward to this conversation as you are in the film industry have been in there for a few years now. It's done a couple of cool things along the way. But you are also a very spiritual person, and likes to it has a new book out talking about spirituality from a comic perspective, which is also another wonderful area I'd love to dive into. And I think it's going to be a really great conversation. So thanks for being on the show.

Matt Williams 1:09
I'm thrilled to be here.

Alex Ferrari 1:11
So can you tell the audience a little bit about your a few things that you've done in the industry that few things they might have heard of over the years that that you've done in the industry, and as what you did?

Matt Williams 1:22
Well, I'm old enough, I can wind the clock back here, Alex. I was a playwright, Director actor in New York City. And I knew I wanted to write and the first show I wrote on was the Cosby Show. That was my first job in television. And I did that for three years and worked my way up to producer, I left that show. Well, I also co created a different world with a common pedestrian, John Marcus. And then I left that show to create Roseanne the series and then after Roseanne, I signed a deal at Disney, and did a number of series. But the most popular one and the most fun one, to be honest, was home improvement with Mr. Tim Allen. And then along the way, I did some movies, I did some big studio films like what women want, and some independent films. Along the way, I directed where the heart is, and, and produced a number of other movies. So I've done a lot. I'm old enough, I've done a lot of things.

Alex Ferrari 2:27
As they say you have some shrapnel and you've been around the block.

Matt Williams 2:30
I've been, I've been around.

Alex Ferrari 2:32
That's fantastic. So it's really interesting, because in Hollywood, and I'd love to hear your point of view about this. I'm not sure how it was in, you know, the 80s and 90s coming up. But you know, from my time in Hollywood, I've been in Nollywood, almost 30 years, working in multiple different arenas, you know, from, even from the big people I've worked with spirituality is kind of almost taboo in a way that people don't actively talk about spirituality. And it's not being religious or anything like that. It's just talking about God or the universe or things like that. I think it's opening up a little bit, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Did you find that as well in your world? Yeah.

Matt Williams 3:15
Oh, of course, of course. But I think you've already hit on it. I think as soon as you use the word spirituality, some people hear religious dogma. They think of religious organizations that are patriarchal and hierarchical and are designed to control and manipulate right, as opposed to spiritual, everything we do have spiritual. Everyone who creates is spiritual. We co create constantly with the Ultimate Creator, and you can label that Ultimate Creator, whatever you want. Yahweh God, Goddess, Buddha, I don't care what label you slap on that divine force that created the entire universe and animates the entire universe. And we are part of that energy. And so whether you're writing a poem, or making a movie, or a short film or a TV show, that it's all to me, anyway, it's always a spiritual process always.

Alex Ferrari 4:11
As it's true, and I you know, so funny, because I have like, writers, some Oscar winning writers, and other people have been on my shows, who when I started when I left, I mean, I didn't leave during the filmmaking stuff, but the filmmaking shows, but I'm focused more on next level soul now. And then I get a call from them. Like, can we just talk about spirituality, man, because I can't say anything around here. It's like, can we just talk about these near death experiences or what channelers are what? Or Yogananda like it's really fascinating. They say I can really can't express myself like that as much as as much as I would like. I think it's changing. I think it's changing.

Matt Williams 4:50
I think it is too, because, you know, even in the introduction of my book, I say I don't apologize. I said, I never told anyone in Hollywood I was a Christian. Instead, I would say I was a follower of Christ. Because I don't have an agenda. I'm not beating people over the head with the Bible and praising God. I'm trying to treat, treat everyone the way I want to be treated. It's so simple. Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself, right. And as I've gotten older, I start studying many of the Western traditions and religions around the world. And they're all saying the same thing. Be compassionate. Basically, don't be an asshole, just be nice to each other. Right? Right, pretty much. That's kind of the bottom line.

Alex Ferrari 5:35
Were there any spiritual texts or teachings that kind of really set you on the path of spirituality in general?

Matt Williams 5:41
Well, the quote that I kind of live by is perfect fear. Past, perfect love casts out fear because this industry, I think, everything in life, Elisabeth Kubler Ross, amongst others said there are only two driving forces in life, fear and love. Those are the two emotions that drive everything in life, every decision you make, everything you do is either driven by fear, love, and perfect love casts out fear. So I started thinking about that in Hollywood, and Hollywood is often run by fear in their job, right? If I came late Alex's movie I want to, and it doesn't go, I'm gonna get fired. i Oh, if I can't, so and so it's not going to have the opening boxer, oh, my God, this TV show is not going to get. So fear, fear, fear, fear. And I would feel that fear in meetings when I was out in Hollywood. And so I would very, I never told anyone this ever, Alex ever. But what I would do is before I went into those meetings, I would pray not to change the other person. But to kind of clear the air of fear, I would just surround everyone with white light and think, let there be cooperation, let harmony rain during this meeting, let us speak freely. And I'm kind of blessed the space, if nothing else, to get myself centered, so that I wasn't vibrating from that energy of fear. Anything I've ever created out of fear or competing, or wanting to prove something failed. Anytime it was inspired by love and guided by spirit, it succeeded beautifully. And I can see the difference when I've got a career. I'm 72 years old. So when I look back over my long career, I went, yep, that project was driven purely by ego. That one was because I was trying to please the studio. That one, this one came out of my heart. This came out of my soul, and it touched people. And so yes, there is that, that spiritual element, but love and fear are the two pistons that drive everything. And

Alex Ferrari 7:52
I couldn't agree with you more. I mean, that town is run so much by fear, at every level, that it takes sometimes a, a, a bowl or a juggernaut, like a James Cameron to show up or someone like that, who's, you know, wherever visionary or Chris Nolan or these kind of filmmakers who just have no fear their fear less, but because of their success, they're given the leeway, right? You know, they're given and they continue to have successes. But it's so fascinating. And I can imagine, I could probably guess which of your shows were the ones that came love, and a really pure play? Without question, so So how did how did having your personal beliefs or your spiritual journey influence the characters and storylines you created for television?

Matt Williams 8:45
Well, I don't know if it was the characters as much as the ground tone of the series. For instance, I'm gonna use home improvement as an example, David and Carmen and I created that. And we said before we even had a fully developed concept, we want to celebrate an American family. That was our starting point as we were conceived. And we said, also, we want to see, the father is here, no matter how goofy he is, he is the father and it's going to be the father that that people will want to hang around with. And we didn't even have a fully developed concept. We were playing with the idea of this father being possibly an insurance adjuster who goes to people's houses to sell insurance. That could be funny situation. And we, but we knew we wanted a wife and we knew we bought it three kids. And then Tim got into the mix. And of course, he brought the grunting the more power and we went, there's our dad. Here's the family we want to celebrate. This is the father we want to celebrate. And there was a conscious decision made to create a setting that was aspirational. We sat amongst ourselves, we want the audience to go, I want to sit on that couch with them. I want to pull up a chair at that table and be a part of the family. And I think that was that's the key to any successful series, but it was especially the key for home improvement.

Alex Ferrari 10:03
Yeah, Tim, the insurance man Taylor doesn't have the same yelling at it.

Matt Williams 10:11
Accountant, Tim, the accountant,

Alex Ferrari 10:15
The accountant. You know, but for people who people might be who are too young for that, too. I mean, home improvement was a massive, massive show. It was the friends and the Seinfeld of its day. It was the number one all the time for years, it was a very, very powerful show and been around for a long time. And you're right, that show does have this, this love in it.

Matt Williams 10:41
Love, love. That's the word I wanted. And this isn't just me, it's David and Kern, we want it every piece of art, I don't care if it's a half hour sitcom, an hour. Drama, a movie musical play, should be transformative. When Alex sits down at the beginning of this episode, by the end of this episode, he should be a slightly different person. I'm not saying he has to be taught a lesson, or, but it should awaken something in you that Oh, I feel a little more human, I feel a little more alive. And that was very conscious. We wanted the audience to feel that warmth in the family to feel good. Now during cynical periods, people roll their eyes at it. Oh, boy, is this another sitcom where they're going to have the hug moment? Yes. Because I think people were desperate for that their death, they really longed to be feel like they're a part of something bigger than themselves. And something that is, is comforting.

Alex Ferrari 11:38
Well, let me ask you this, I agree with you, again, 100%, that I do believe that the audience is so hungry for something else, something different than the Hollywood system has been putting out. That's why something like Ted Lasso, which was so absolutely brilliant and unapologetically optimistic. Yes, rang so true around the world, because people are in dire need of that stuff. Instead of the cynical, it's easy to be cynical. Yeah, easy to write cynical, it's, it's just a low hanging fruit, but to make you care about an optimistic, I mean, to be honest, that last was an optimistic fool, in many ways, doing what he did and everything, but you fall in love with him and everybody around him. So at the end, if you're looking at it as a story arc at the beginning, Ted is who Ted is, at the end, he did learn something. And he did change as a character, but slightly, where everyone around him

Matt Williams 12:42
Changed dramatically,

Alex Ferrari 12:44
Dramatically. It's very forced scumpii in that sense, you know, like everyone around forest is was affected, but forest himself pretty much stayed the same throughout the whole thing. And that's really interesting, as from a sitcom writers point of view is that, generally speaking sitcom writers, the characters don't change. You know, Alex, Alex P. Keaton, his Alex P. Keaton, you know, you know, it's just always the, you know, the friends were the friends, you know, Monica Chandler there, Monica. But the good ones always have, it's, like you said, slight change in every episode to the point where when you look at a season, that person's a bit a little bit different. And I think there was a lot more of that in the 80s and 90s, than there is today. Because I remember the hug moments, I remembered that my mom would wake me up. I never forgot this. Different Strokes had an episode on either bullying or being kidnapped, or I mean, serious stuff back in the day, or eating too much sugar, or whatever it was, woke me up. So I could watch the episode as a learning tool. Right? Those Those days are almost gone completely, almost. There are still shows that do some of that. But it just changed. And why do you think that? Hollywood is a general statement? And do you see Do you agree with me, first of all, and do you see how Hollywood kind of shifted over the last years into more cynical kind of storytelling, and emotions?

Matt Williams 14:12
I think oftentimes, true emotions scare people sometimes. Because you start feeling things and you go, I don't want to it's so easy as being cynical. It's kind of like putting on your armor, right? If I'm cynical, you can't penetrate me. I'm going to have that wiseass comment about Alex's words out of the way. But if you open your heart, and you go, you have your aha moment, right? Then you become vulnerable, and people are scared of being vulnerable. But being vulnerable is where the good stuff lives. That's where that's where you find who you really are. That's where you have your deepest connection with another human beings when you're vulnerable. And so much Oh, not only Hollywood, Wall Street advertising I live in New York City is posturing posing, presenting the persona No, this is the persona that I'm presenting to Alex. As opposed to Alex. Let me tell you sometimes I'm really scared sometimes I don't know what I'm doing. Sometimes I wake up and all I do is worry about my kids. And my one grandchild, my beautiful granddaughter, and we're issues going to have a world. But you know what? I shared that. Let's talk about it. Let's move forward. So I don't know. I'm anti cynicism, I guess. But I, I think unearned emotion when you get when you string for the aha moment in the SIP curse. That's a little the sacrum moment that's a little grating, but to be honest about our emotions and our deepest feelings. And maybe it's because I'm getting older I cry more than I ever have in my life. I cry in car commercials.

Alex Ferrari 15:54
When can you imagine a director walking on a set going, guys, I am lost today. I truly don't know what we're doing. And believe it or not, I do know some directors who who will be comfortable enough in their skin to go. I don't know what we're going to do. Let's figure it out. That's a rarity. But when you if you imagine it's like I'm feeling a little lost today. I had a fight with my wife this morning. Can you imagine? You want to eat him alive? Or alive? You know on set in Hollywood. It's it's really fascinating. Now as a as a humorous as a writer who writes comedy. What kind of spiritual connection or component? Do you think there is in humor as a general statement?

Matt Williams 16:38
Oh, I think the one great thing about comedy is comedy connects people. When you have enough 3000 seat theater or 99 seat off road, and everyone's laughing in the same moment. That vibrational energy that shared joy, that mirth that connects you with people. Now you expand that out. I was telling my students at Columbia at the other day, that when I was on The Cosby Show, this is long before the streaming services, right? This is when there were basically three networks in the upstart. Box. Right? Right, right. We were taking bets when we were going to hit a 60 Share. 66 Zero. So when you think about that, when you think of that many televisions turned on and that many million people sitting between eight and a 30 watching a show, and all of them laughing. Somehow, in all that energy, they're all connected, they are sharing a certain energy. And I really do I believe when people you say, oh, it's only a sitcom, I go, No, it's not just a sitcom. Laughter heals laughter Connexus laughter opens things up in us that we we need to feel and examine. So it's so healing.

Alex Ferrari 18:00
And then I tried to explain this to my kids. I'm like, sit around girls, I'll tell you about a horrible a horrible time when there was only three channels. And you had to get up off your chair to turn the channel because the remote or you can find the remote. And they're like, what Daddy, what I'm like, and Saturdays there was only five or six hours of cartoons. And that was it. And if you missed it, it was gone. And then you have to go outside and play with other kids. It's terrifying.

Matt Williams 18:29
If you really want to freak them out. Show them a rotary phone.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
Oh, I did. We walked by an antique shop one day there was one of the window and they go Daddy, what's that? That's a phone. They're like what? And I showed it to them? They're like, what is it like? And if you hit nine, and if you're the last, the last number dammit got to start again.

Matt Williams 18:47

Alex Ferrari 18:50
It was a crazy time. But that's something I always tell people now's like the movie stars and the stars of the 80s. The 90s. Those days will never even before then will never come back. Because the attention that they were focused on one product one show, one movie at a time, doesn't exist and will probably never exist moving forward because it's just now social media and Tik Tok and YouTube and all the million video games. And there's so many of the things were in 87 or 86. Whenever Beverly Hills Cop came out. Yeah. Everybody knew whom Eddie Murphy was. He was the most everyone who had Arnold Schwarzenegger was everyone knew who Sylvester Stallone was. Those days are gone. I think in many ways the movie star is an extent is an endangered species right now because I don't know if you remember like, you know, Tim, Tim Allen could just show up and he movie would open with you know, he would just open because Tim was so popular from the show. And the Santa Claus was a monster hit I remember and right and he would do the other Little movies but they would all open they'd open up a 50 million $20 million. And it really didn't matter what the movie was about almost is Tim Allen was in it they would go in today's world, a movie star. You know you put Margot Robbie and Barbie $2 billion movie you put her in Babylonian Babylon Babylon yeah didn't really go or Amsterdam but really go it's not it's the right star with the right product now alright story that sells Ryan Gosling is not going to open any movie, they'll open right movies. So if you agree with me that you think that that that the age of the movie star because whoever we call movie stars today, they started 20 or 30 years ago, the rock?

Matt Williams 20:43
Now it's all about the concept or it's about pretty aware of Barbie is a good example pre awareness how many IP how many years? How many generations know Barbie? Pre. It's about selling a concept that you plug a movie star in Harrison Ford being the ultimate old old school movie star in the very best sense anytime his face was unclear and present danger far on the stars

Alex Ferrari 21:10
Presumed innocent. presumed innocent, innocent.

Matt Williams 21:13
Witness that digit if Yeah, yeah, future. So but but I think because the fragmentation of the audience and the dissipation of the focus. Yes, you were looking for? I call it you have to break through the monkey chatter that's out there. And how do you break through the monkey chatter? Well, you have a concept that is so fresh or so outlandish or so audacious people have to pay attention to it. And sometimes that's good. And sometimes it means you're breathing crap, you know,

Alex Ferrari 21:45
And there's so much hunger in the in the in the marketplace right now for content, it ain't all going to be good.

Matt Williams 21:55
Again, I tell my students, if you're right, and I teach a television pilot class at Columbia, and I tell him I go if you are writing television, you couldn't be at a better time other than the writer strike it in the history of the entertainment industry, when you look at how many jobs are available. Now we can talk about pay disparity, we can talk about profit participation, we can talk about all that. But as far as the sheer number of jobs that are available for writers and television, it's never been this great. Now one of the problems is the talent pool gets dissipate. When you think of Mary Tyler Moore, you think of those classics back in the 70s, you had seven or eight of the best writers in Hollywood on the same show, run separate people running seven different shows, you know,

Alex Ferrari 22:41
Those names, those seven or eight writers today, would each have their own show? Absolutely. Absolutely. With with a with a writers room that might not have the depth that exists. I know, it's an all star team versus, you know, triple A sometimes depending on network. So how do you balance? You know, as, as you know, when you were, you know, working in Hollywood, I wouldn't say you were a closeted, spiritualist, but you didn't put it down. You didn't put it out like on a on a charade. No, you didn't parade it. So with that said, when you're writing or creating characters or creating storylines, how do you balance the spirituality or the messaging, of dislike, love or family, with the, the marketplace of needing to make a hit. And that also and also not to be preachy? Because you could is so hard, it's so easy to go preachy.

Matt Williams 23:35
That's, and that's, you don't want to preach you want to embody, right? So if I want to have a loving relationship, or to illustrate a loving relationship between a father and his sons, or a husband and wife, I don't talk about it, I'll preach about it. I embody it. You know, it's like they tell you when writing a novel, Show, don't tell. Right? Show it don't don't tell the audience what they're watching. And so you just embody it. And we always, I always made, I guess I learned this on The Cosby Show. In Alaska comes people don't really ever touch or hold each other or do things like you do in real life. If you have kids that wallowing on you. You've got your arm wrapped around them, they're hanging on the neck that they're eating popcorn and spilling it on. Well, I always tried to in the shows I created was to create that verisimilitude so that people would actually talk or if somebody came in the room and said something funny, everyone in the room laughed, as opposed to waiting for the 300 members of the audience to laugh. And it's it's, I don't know, it's just something about, I guess you can call it ground tone. You can call it spirit. You can call it aspirational. It's just what I guess it's what is the intent behind what you've created? What why we created Homer pro because we wanted to celebrate an American family and, and have all this love embodied and on the screen and have it as funniest Ask both without preaching. And I know a few times we may have gotten a little preachy, but for the most part, we just tried to embody all that love.

Alex Ferrari 25:06
Now as a writer, and I've asked this of so many successful writers, where do you think? Or how do you think this information or these stories or these ideas come in to your exhibit? Kind of like flows into you? Because I always I've asked many writers this to like, Have you ever sat down after you wrote something and read it and go, who I don't know who wrote that, but this is good

Matt Williams 25:30
All the time. All the time. I go, I don't know where this came. And this is what I mean when I believe we co create with the Ultimate Creator. And it's almost in my imagination. It's almost like the spiritual ether. In fact, I just said this to my students. I said, think about what you do as a writer. Think about this, you go into this shamanic, like trance, and you go into the spiritual ether that will call your imagination you hear voices, and you see characters and worlds come along. And then you put these little blue or black scribble marks onto a piece of paper. And then that piece of paper is handed to a director, and actors and designers and makeup and hair people and entire crews, and it comes to life on the stage or on the screen. Because something you did you made the invisible, visible by putting those little scribble marks on a piece of paper. There is something sacred and magical and mystical about that. There really is. And when you talk about ideas, I had this question, because when I closed, my production company moved back to New York, wasn't sure what I was going to do. And one day I said to my wife, I don't want to die with all these stories living inside. And then that got me thinking. When a writer dies, what happens to all the untold stories? Do they float back up and join that spirit ether? And then does another writer snag a character or Word and start channeling that story? What happens to those stories that were released when the person spirit left their body? And then that got me thinking about, wow, I've got all these stories in my head. I've done enough TV, I'm done with that. And so that's why I started writing the book, I just I had these stories and the story started spilling out, I didn't know what they were. Because in the best writing, you follow the writing. Right? You're not consciously manipulating the in the best is when you call it being in the zone, you just start following the writing and you go, I have no idea where this is going. I don't even know what this is. I'll edit it later, right from the heart, edit from the head and just let it pour out. And then I started going, Oh, this story. Oh, this is a book. Oh, I see. Oh, this is a collection of humorous essays. Oh, I see what this is. And it ended up being the book. But that was because I didn't want to die with the stories living inside.

Alex Ferrari 28:04
You know, that idea of the ether. Ether I truly believe that. There are moments in our history as we go forward that humanity is ready for certain ideas. And they don't come out until they're ready. So, you know, the I always use this examples like in the 90s there was two or three asteroid movies all at once. They just showed up. Yes, all of all of a sudden, and you're like, no one in the last 10 years thought about this. And they all just happen to show up at the same time. And you see that like oh, there's not there's two or three volcano movies right back to back and, and these ideas kind of start popping up. I love this story that I heard. I forgot who told it to me But Prince Prince before he passed, he was a creative, creative juggernaut. I mean, he literally has, I think a new album, every year into the year 3000. He left behind. That's how much he was recording and never released. It was fascinating. But he would call up his his citizen backup singers. One morning like at three o'clock and one is okay, I need you to come down. We're going to record and like it's three. Can we wait till six? You know, I'll get there six. Is that okay? Prince is like no, no, no, you gotta come over. I gotta get this out. Because if I don't record this, Michael Jackson's gonna get it. And it was like he understood that the idea. Hit him. Okay, your turn. You don't do anything with it quickly. It's going over to Mike.

Matt Williams 29:34
You know what, why that rings so true. I'm sorry. I don't remember exactly which poet. It could be. I think it's Mary Oliver. But it may be one of the other giants who write poetry. She and she explained it. I read this year. When I'm outside in my garden working I can feel Yes. Yes. I mean, yeah, I feel and I have to drop what I'm doing. Yeah. out there and sit down with the pencil and let that poem flow through me or us, it passes me by. And I read something about that of snack. Now there's a lot of work. I mean, that's to me, that's the initial creative impulse now. Now once of course, I get that story up that I follow, I may rewrite it to 50 times to hone it and make it but the spirit of, for lack of a better word, the spirit of that the essence of that has been poured out in one fell swoop onto that page. Now, it's just a matter of refining it, and hold it. That's where craft comes in.

Alex Ferrari 30:36
Right. And I heard that same story. And I heard that she'd like, would drop what she was doing, and run to the house, trying to outrun the idea.

Matt Williams 30:45
And grab a pencil before it passed by concept. So the concept of prints afraid that song is going to end up going to Michael Jackson or something. And now there's, you know, they're shared stories in Hollywood all the time, and they get stolen. But now we're talking about the whole spirit. We're talking about the zeitgeist, what's floating around. But listen, thoughts create energy, thoughts create energy, I'm looking at you in this podcast over your right shoulder is a globe, and it's a certain color, certain shape, that globe was a thought before it became a thing, right? Everything. So all that spirit is put into motion by words. Think it, say it, bring it to life, right? That's it's a wonderful, wonderful process. And we're all creators. It's just some people get paid to create and others just do it.

Alex Ferrari 31:41
And the thing that's interesting as well, as you said this a little earlier craft, those ideas won't come to someone who's not ready to execute that idea. So if you've worked on your craft, and any, any, anything you want to do artistically, or just anything artistically, from writing, to movies to music, if you don't hone the craft and spend the time honing the instrument, that is your mind or whatever you're doing, that idea is probably not going to come to you, it's going to probably go to someone who can execute on it right away. And that's something that people don't understand, like, oh, the idea that you're not going to get Jurassic Park. Michael Crighton got Jurassic Park. Exactly. And then because Michael crane could execute that, and then who did he give it to? Steven Spielberg? Because out of everybody in Hollywood at that time, there was probably two or three filmmakers maybe, right, who could have executed that. That idea at that time with the technology that was available, either. So it's it is very Spielberg also said that he's like, he believes in the ether as well, because he would reject an idea that came to him. And he goes, six months later, he'd see it somewhere else he like son of a. Because Marty got that this time, Jim Cameron got that, like what's going on?

Matt Williams 33:00
I think they're flawed, and but there is no art without craft. And this when I teach, I always pound I can't teach you Alex how to be funny. I can't teach you how to be sensitive. I probably can't teach you how to write dialogue. I can help you a little. The only thing I can teach you is how to craft a story. Have an inciting incident, you know, causal effect is built into primax that can be taught and and unless you hone your craft, you may get lucky once in a moment of divine inspiration. But to have a 20 3050 year career, you have to constantly on your grip. I'm 72 and I'm still reading books about dramaturgy, and how to write because I want to keep learning

Alex Ferrari 33:45
Yeah, and take it from someone who's interviewed 1000 filmmakers and screenwriters literally that isn't never ending. Yeah, story is one of those things that you just you can be really good at it and you know, and I've had the opportunity to speak to some really excellent, excellent people. And even even the Guru's the the story gurus that really understand story at such a deep level you know, they go to a certain place with story become spirit. I last time I had John Truby on and when we spoke it was like it was becoming spiritual. And it was just literally we were transcending story. And well let me ask you this because you know, we all you and I both know the hero's journey we all know Joseph Campbell and the basics hero hero's journey that is so famous. If you want to look up just type in Star Wars, hero's journey, anyone google it and it'll come up. But that basic idea, I believe is such a spiritual idea because it truly is an explanation of our journey as a soul. And as our journey as a human being. That's why it rings so true. I mean, the hero's journey is not for everything. You can't really make a detective story hero's journey. But the hero's journey is the most popular form Have of storytelling, because it really does mirror our life. Again and again and again. We go on many hero's journeys. Yes, all the time. There's a we're in our normal world, something happens oh, I met this girl do I want to date or do I not want to date her? Okay, let's go go on and like then there's trials and tribulations there might be a mother in law that throw some obstacles in front of you, they called guardian. If your show guardian, there might be a point of no return, I got her pregnant. So like, there's a lot of a lot of things, but it's all these mini stories again. And then there's that macro one, the one the overall arching arc of a human, a human's life. Do you believe that story does have this kind of spiritual aspect to it? Without stories as a species, I believe we just die. You we need stories.

Matt Williams 35:51
We need food, water, shelter and stories in order to live to survive. And yes, there is a spiritual aspect. That's reason there was mythology. You know, that's the reason we have myth and Joseph Campbell's The Xena, the god, you know, ethology. And I had a college professor said you're not truly educated until you have read the Bible, Shakespeare and the Greeks. If you read those three, and that's kind of the ultimate hero's journey and all of the Moses, the hero's journey, right? refusal of the call, right? And all the sacrificing come ever returning with the golden nugget, the boom, you know? So yes, there there is an aspect of that type of storytelling that goes beyond our intellect and goes into the world of spiritual vibration and emotion that we don't understand. It's something we know. And it's something we've always known, we've known that we've forgotten that we've known it.

Alex Ferrari 36:54
Yeah, it's a rememberance it's, it's,

Matt Williams 36:56
We have to remember it. It's lived in us from the moment, like the spark of life, and we've carried this in us and those kinds of stories re mind us are, we remember who we really are and what we're connected to and how we're connected to all humanity.

Alex Ferrari 37:14
Let me ask you this, because this is a concept that's starting to be thrown around so much. And again, this is the thing that you're not ready until humanity is ready. So like the movie, like The Matrix, introduced, simulation theory, introduced, this is all a dream. It's my it's the illusion It's been talked about for 1000s of years. It just had some Kung Fu and some really cool visual effects. But the philosophy behind that movie kind of shifted, globally, the consciousness of, hey, maybe this isn't real, maybe this is not the real and the other side is the real A, we're in the dream. And that and again, these are ideas have been talked about a lot. And now the multiverse is everywhere before you will never even heard the term multiverse parallel realities. That was so far, because real science fiction, we're now it's become. I mean, sitcoms are talking about that. I mean, the new Indiana Jones was about that. And of course, Spider Man multiverse and Marvel's doing an amazing job, putting out the multiverse idea to billions of people around the world. What do you what are your thoughts about the multiverse storytelling, and are we are those moments in time when we're ready that these kinds of ideas just flourish,

Matt Williams 38:29
You just said the opposite route, when you're ready for something mature to appear as as an individual as a society, when you're ready for something it's sure to appear. And when you're talking about multiverses in an expanding universe, and I'm not going to go off on a tangent here, but I went down this path, studying dark matter and dark energy and the actual world we live in is only 5%. And the rest is dark matter and dark energy. And you start once you go, there you go, Well, what lives in that dark is that God? Is all that energy and dark energy is that God is that the energy force that's guiding us the infinite intelligence and went off on this whole tangent. And I and I had to stop I'm going I'm so far over my on a sitcom. Right? What the hell like this is way, way above my head. But it got me so excited. Because when you start thinking of molecules and the nucleus of a molecule and the space between the nucleus and the electrons, if it's a basketball, it's like two miles away what what lives in that space? And is Alex a solid beam, because if those molecules are just pinging, he's not really solid, he appears solid. And if I touch Alex, our molecules interact, you've got you can go drag yourself a little nuts, but it's kind of fun to just let your mind go.

Alex Ferrari 39:49
I mean, well, listen, one of my favorite topics to talk about on the show is quantum physics and spirituality, and combine that so I've talked to multiple quantum physicist about this, and neuroscientists and IT people from Harvard and Cambridge and Oxford, about these those kinds of things, then you start getting into the quantum field. And then just like, Well, wait a minute, what is the space between? So between us and the moon? Let's say, yes, there is space. So what is is there? What is gravity? Is gravity just a manipulation of the quantum field? And that's the pulling of the two things together. And, and then they're like, well, light isn't really the fastest thing in the universe. Actually, the universe can actually grow faster than the speed of light. So it's expanding faster than, then your head just starts to spin. And then you're like, Well, what's quantum entanglement? Oh, that's two particles could be a billion miles away. And if you spin one, it's going to spin the other one the exact same. What is happening? So it's fascinating. But then I love bringing in the Vedic texts and traditions in the Hindus, too, because they've been, they've been talking about this.

Matt Williams 40:58
Ever, or ever. Listen, I just went the whole concept of St. Hildegard talked about the web of life. And he talked about the web and how we're all going to Chief Seattle and other indigenous folks talk about this, how we're all connected through the great bandwidth. Are we talking string theory here? What are we talking about? And how everything in the universe is connected through this web of energy? And, and so yes, I would have to live another 100 or 200 years to begin to understand all this. But man, it's fun to kick around it, especially in a spiritual context. Into this,

Alex Ferrari 41:34
Right! And you know, what's even more fun is when you speak to a guru or yogi, about with a physics background, okay. And I just spoke to one last week, a yogi, very beautiful, billions of followers around the world. And he has a physics background, I just sat there for an hour talking about quantum physics, and the Vedic traditions and, and he's like, this, and that, and this and that. And this is what we do here. And it's just like, this is fascinating, because quantum physics itself is spooky to physicist because they can't, they can't it's not part of time and space anymore. Yeah. And then it throws materialism out the door. So if there was material as an outdoor, we're like, what are we what are we doing here? And then that just throws everything out of whack. So they just ignore as much just is it is absolutely a fascinating idea.

Matt Williams 42:25
I think you're I think it sounds like you're pitching me a sitcom here. I listen. This guru who moves with?

Alex Ferrari 42:32
Hey, let's do it a big bang theory 2 let's do. No, it's really fascinating. And look, that a guy like me, or a guy like you, who do not come from the world of quantum physics, in the least in the least, I failed science. But yet, I'm having deep philosophical and scientific conversations with quantum physicist about quantum physics and understanding deep concepts like dark matter, dark energy. That was not in the zeitgeist before. That was not something that was talked about. I mean, even we joke, but the big bang theory opened the door to a lot of that stuff, in a very humorous way to the point where we lot of people know what string theory is. They don't understand it. But they've heard the term Dark Matters a term and the particle accelerator, they understand there's something going on. That was completely out of the Zeitgeist before that show. And now, people talk about quantum physics very freely, very open, like you and I are just talking about to people from from, you know, dark matter. Particles between our molecules, I think are really, you know, if you want to if your head really wants to explode to go, Okay, so we're all non solid. Truly, we all are done solid. That has been proven, but yet we are solid. Okay, fine. So let's agree to disagree that were solid or not solid. But the question is, we're all just a bunch of bar. molecules, atoms thrown together, right to create Matt to create Alex, this table. I'm on this computer screen there, I'll just put combined. So what is the organizing power behind Matt and Alex? Because you have molecules like I have molecules, your human being just as, but what is the organizing power that put your set together and hold it together? And are set together hold on hold me together, then your head starts to release because now you're going to like, with the observer, and then as consciousness and then you're like, wait a minute, is this the oversoul? Like, starts getting into these? This is why I do the show, Matt. Okay. It's pretty fascinating. Now we're going back to your writing. You mentioned this earlier about the religious dogmas and, you know, all that kind of stuff. that people get caught up in. Did you ever use comedy as a tool to kind of explore or critique these religious dogmas? And throughout your work? You know, and how did you if you did, how the hell did you tiptoe around that? In a way that was cool.

Matt Williams 45:16
I didn't do it in the TV shows, because that would been like, I felt that that would be like crossing a line or something. I don't know why these shows existed to entertain, usually a family audience. But in this book, and I'm gonna plug it for 30 seconds. It's called Glimpses: A comedy writers take on life, love and all that spiritual stuff, everything we're talking about. I do use a lot of humor to talk about the very things we're talking about. Spirit, Infinite Intelligence, if there is a God, what you know, the whole idea of the male figure sitting on the cloud waiting to throw Alex is asked in the pits of hell, what I'm supposed to love and adore that God, as opposed to an infinite intelligence that guides you guides me. Yeah. So I rap a lot of this spiritual wrestling that I do with myself in humor. And I have a lot of conversations with my dog, about the cosmos. And, and in one of the pieces, I talked about being a five year old child in church, and it was the Lutheran church, Missouri Synod. And Reverend Goldstein was in the pulpit. And at five, he's talking about a tri year and God, a triune, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And I went, Oh, this is how I broke it down. And I write about this in the book. The father, he's, he lives in burning bushes, and he's really angry, right? There's Jesus, he's the skinny one. And somebody put a crown of thorns on his head. He's and he's really skinny. And he always seemed kind of sad. And then there's the Holy Ghost, but he's not a scary ghost. He's kind of like Casper, the Friendly Ghost. So there was that. And then at five, I'm going, Wait a minute, it's father. So how come? They're all men? Boys? Where's the mother? Where's the grandmother? How did he get his son without a mom? And why are they? And literally at five, I started thinking about these things. So I turned that into a humorous essay. That's early in the book about my quest to understand the very thing we've been talking about in this podcast, spirituality, quantum physics, how are we all connected, energy cannot be created or destroyed since the Big Bang, and release, God sneezed and boom, we all came into existence. That same energy is out there just keeps transforming and keeps, you know, transforming. So to write about those things. It's one would bore the hell out of most people. But to make them very human, and I hope very funny, then people will laugh. And my goal is to get people to laugh and then think about what they're laughing. Or preach.

Alex Ferrari 47:54
Yeah, and that's, you're absolutely right and humorous. I use humor constantly in the show I, I use wit and I try to lighten the mood, especially when we're talking about dark things. Because it's it's one of my be a defense mechanism I've grown up with since I was a kid, but it is just part of who I am. It's I always like to make people laugh. I always like to use that as a term. One. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think is the most spiritual Hollywood comedy ever made? Wow. Which was a hit.

Matt Williams 48:30
The Well, the two that came to mind instantly was defending your life. Such a great movie, and ghost. Ghost. So, but I can't think you know, unless you're talking, you know? Mel Gibson's movie, you're talking with those biblical epics?I don't know,

Alex Ferrari 48:53
No comedy. This is a comedy. Okay. It's a comedy. So ghost is great, by the way, and I had Bruce on the show, and he told me, he did a lot of acid. And he wrote Jacob's Ladder and ghost. So you watch Jacob's Ladder and go, I get it. Oh, yeah. The movie alone. Oh, I get it. I understand. Now. That was his trip. By the way. He told me like that was as close as I could get to writing the trip that I went on. But and defending your life. Anyone who's watching please look up Albert Brooks. Meryl Streep. Hilarious, wonderful film about the afterlife. It's just so brilliant. It's so Albert Brooks. But my favorite spiritual movie which is not a spiritual movie. It's just a straight comedy is Groundhog's Day.

Matt Williams 49:42
Yes. Okay, good. Which is typical in London.

Alex Ferrari 49:46
Of course, of course, but it's it is this is the absolute journey of a soul is not of a human life of an app as soul. He keeps reincarnating learning lessons he starts off. He starts off all in gluttony and sex and Food and all that. But after he just keeps going to the end, at the end, he's becoming of service being loving, he just completely transformed. But that is the souls journey. And just so many

Matt Williams 50:11
Just used the word again transformed, that that hero's journey, you there's a transformation that occurs, yes,

Alex Ferrari 50:18
it's it's absolutely beautiful. How has your understanding of spirituality or source or God played a part in your views of human nature, because as a writer, you really need to understand human nature in a very deep level.

Matt Williams 50:33
I was taught at a very early age, like many people who grow up vote in the church, I was, I was taught to view the world with dualistic thinking, there's God the devil, there's good and bad, there's heaven in hell. That's what it is. And you're one or the other. You're either that and, and that devil walks on one side, God walks in the other and it's a constant struggle. And at the end, you better be on God's side where you're gonna spend eternity in hell. So that was my view, growing up dualistic thinking. And then as I matured, and started reading, I went, Wait a minute. If this is a journey, when you just if we're all on our Groundhogs Day, journey through life, we are going to constantly keep learning lessons and changing and whether you believe in reincarnation or not, it makes perfect sense. Because if you are going to return to the perfect Godhead, the the All Knowing mind, that infinite intelligence, and you have to go through so many lifetimes in order to understand all that that mind understands, if that's how you comprehend and see reincarnation, fine. My mother's who's born again, Christian is turning over their grave right now. But whether you believe in reincarnation or not, or whether you go, Hey, we only got one shot, and you better get it right. It's still about learning and transforming. And the three words for me, life has boiled down at this ripe old age to three words, love, create, serve. That's why we're here. First and foremost, it's love. It's not fear, it's love. Second, create, create a family, create a poem, create a movie, create a podcast, great, whatever you got to create. But then how does that serve others? If it's only serving yourself, then you you're not on the right journey. So love, create, serve. And if that man that just it seems so simple, but I think that's really all of our journeys, are shoot.

Alex Ferrari 52:41
That is absolutely beautiful. And you're absolutely right, I've never heard it. Put so beautifully love, create and serve. Because service is so important for your own mental well being, by the way, and your own emotional well being or service you you. It fills you with joy, and love and then create creating. So people don't understand the power. I mean, you and I are both creators, we're both artists, we understand the power of that, and being able to create something when there was nothing. It is it is, like you said it is a miraculous, sacred thing. And it shouldn't be treated as as such. But it is powerful tool, I think to open up, I think artists in general are a little bit more connected to that ether. Because we have to be, we just, we have to be in order to do what we do. You know, as opposed to another job that doesn't have that creativity aspect to it. In order to connect to source, he kind of got to be a little bit open to a little bit something in your mind, Whether you believe or don't believe it. You just you might call it the Muse has this to be on your shoulder, the Muse call it the muse, but they they know, a good one. And I've again spoken to so many high profile really accomplished writers. They all say the same thing. There's something else I don't know what that is. I don't I can't believe in God. And I'm I'm an atheist, whatever. But I need my muse and I need to, you know, just show up every day and something's going to come and I guess I'll let them let them use know that I am here. I show up at six o'clock every morning. I'm here to work. That's the look at it.

Matt Williams 54:19
My father worked in the factory is on the assembly line. But he was a brilliant artist. He was an amateur as he painted he sculpted up his whole life. And he would he would often say I don't know how I did this. And I said well what happens? He says I don't know. It's he called it something. Something takes over and he talks about tapping into that something. And Alex what happened is later in life, he got glaucoma and lost his eyesight and went into deep depression. And I took him to Florida to visit my sister and we were at an arts and crafts show. And as we're walking along, I'm explaining what's on the tables. And there was one table and he bumped he said what This this and I said these are woodcarvings. In essence, the gentleman he said, Can I feel these carvings? And he said, Yes. So I took his white cane and he felt, and he turned to me, he said, I can do this. And for the last 15 years of his life, I've got pictures, I've got the pieces. He started woodcarving, because he did it all by field. And his first piece was kind of two dimensional and flat, it was a fish, but he's got rearing horses, he's got cattle and, and he started winning ribbons. And he was totally blind and was winning. These are amateur contest. It's not New York or LA, but in India, but he said, I just have to stay in contact with that something. And he had no choice but to, but to he could he needed to create. And I And to this day, you know, when I look around, and I feel empty, I look at his woodcarvings, and I always feel something, I got this, I get this something,

Alex Ferrari 55:55
You know, and that's so beautiful, because people who aren't artists, quote, unquote, don't understand the obsession, the insanity, of being an artist that you have to create, you have to and when you're not, you become depressed, you become withdrawn, you become angry, you can bitter, there's all of this stuff, but you have to create constantly. And you're a perfect example of that, you by any stretch of the imagination has had a very successful Hollywood career. As a writer, a writer, a showrunner, and everything and producer and everything in between, you arguably could just sit down, sit back, you know, watch some Netflix, you know, maybe gain another five or 10 pounds, you know, have drinks, maybe travel a bit, and really take it easy for the rest of your life and you don't need to do anything else. But yet, your insanity. Joe drives you to like, I gotta write a book, I gotta create a podcast, I gotta, I gotta stick to that I gotta connect to that something. And that I want people to understand that if you have something missing in your life, it might be that you need to create anything, something a book, a poem or podcast, to connect back to that source to connect back to that something. And when you do, I don't know about us. But when I create, I'm happiest. You know?

Matt Williams 57:18
Absolutely. Your mental health creating is not about ego, I think when you're young, and you're 20, because it's about you look at me when I made look, yeah, oh, yeah, older, you go, I'm creating because I have to, I have no choice but to create. And if if I spent the rest of my life writing, and no one ever looked at it, I would still have to create stories, I just, I have to do it. And my wife will tell you tell you that. And she knows when I'm cranky. And I'm a little surly. And I'm kind of pissed off around the house, she was the librarian, right? Get in there, right. But she knows,

Alex Ferrari 57:52
Please get it out of yourself. Just get it out. My, my, my wife knows because she's been with me for a long time now. And she's gone up and down with me with my craziness as a creator, like, I gotta go shoot this, let's finance this independent film, let's finance this short thing or whatever I'm doing at the time. And she knows now that I've settled into this podcasting thing, and I'm really comfortable here, but she knows that that's just creeping around the shoulders, like he's gonna come to me with a movie any day. Now. He or she knows it's coming. I don't know when it could be a year could be two years from now. But it's coming. It's I can't not shoot, I can't not direct I can't not write those kinds of things. Maybe I'll write a book, maybe I'll do a podcast, maybe I'll do other things that kind of, okay, I'm still creating, I'm still creating like is, it's like a, like a gateway drug, if you will, like these little things, just to keep the fix coming. But I'm gonna want a big fix soon.

Matt Williams 58:48
I understand that.

Alex Ferrari 58:54
So my friend, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. Okay, what what is your definition of living a fulfilled life?

Matt Williams 59:01
I think I'm living it. Actually. I have a wife, I love I've have healthy children. We have been blessed. And I get to create every day. So I feel so fulfilled. I guess, the operative word in my life right now is gratitude. Every morning, I wake up, and I go, thank you, God. And the second thing is after thank you is how can I be of service? How can I help heal, inspire, encourage, how can I be of service? Those are the two thoughts every morning. And I think that comes with age, I think it comes with, with just a deeper understanding of life, you know?

Alex Ferrari 59:40
Now, if you had a chance to get into a time machine and go back in time and talk to little Matt, what advice would you give him?

Matt Williams 59:47
Don't give up your chair. And by that, I mean, do you know what I mean by that? I did go to a meeting with all those big executives. Go heads and all of this and the first thing you do is giving away all your power because these are the big people, I'm just a creator. These are the smart people. These are the bosses. And so instead of going in and not being arrogant or overly confident, but being sure that I am a creator, I create content they need, what I create, what I create comes out of me. They're there to help shape and hone and sell when I create, as opposed to please, sir, will you let me work 80 hours a week for you and die creating a series that you're going to take credit for for sure

Alex Ferrari 1:00:37
And make billions of dollars on?

Matt Williams 1:00:39
Yeah, I would not give up my chair, I would stand in the center of the room and say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. And little Matt gave up his chair a lot. I don't I I don't get what my chair anymore.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:54
Well, as I think James James B. Hart said, very beautifully, no one gets paid until you put ink to paper.

Matt Williams 1:01:04
That's exactly right.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:05
No jobs, no marketing, no, nothing. Now, how do you define God or source?

Matt Williams 1:01:13
I used to think of God as a noun. Because that's what I was taught. And it all started changing. And this is not original thought. There's several rabbis and other people have said, when I started thinking of God as a verb, rather than a noun, things really started changing for me. When I think of the source without a source, I think of the the, the energy that comes to life and animates online, then that that, and the energy that's around you, would be that we share that connects us in this web. That is God. And I think the mistake we make is we try and well, here's here's a funny thought I started an essay about this called Mr. Potatohead. That this is what we do with God. We, you know, throughout history go, God looks like this. She has hair and twigs in her hair. And no, God's a man and he looks like this. No, God has eight arms in the middle for Trump, no guy. And so we keep playing Mr. Potatohead. We're trying to define God and create God in our image that we imagined as opposed to go, I will never understand you, you are ineffable, you're beyond comprehension. So I will just accept you as the divine thought energy that you are

Alex Ferrari 1:02:31
Beautiful, my friend, and what is the ultimate purpose of life?

Matt Williams 1:02:34
To Love. I think I think ultimately to love and whether that's loving your family, loving what you're creating, loving a plant or an animal. Just it's love it. I know. It sounds like a cliche, but it all boils down to that one word.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:49
Very true. Very true. And where can people find out more about you, the work that you're doing your podcast and your new book?

Matt Williams 1:02:56
On the webpage, it's Is the webpage #MattAllenWilliams is the Instagram. I've had a lot of funny guests lately, George Lopez and Tim Allen and a few others and some brilliant writers. And the book is scheduled for release February 13. But the I think in October, people will start being able to preorder it.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:20
Fantastic. And also the book, you have a little thing about the book that all proceeds and all profits go to charity, correct?

Matt Williams 1:03:29
Charities to help children in need. That's my passion. That's the service part of love create, sir. So any and all the money I make from lectures or speaking engagements, or every penny from the sale of this book that I make as the author is donated to I have four organizations that help children. And that's that's my passion is helping the children in need, whether that shelter or education or food, or just the basics of life. And I said I can't make salad dressing. Right? If I can, it doesn't taste very good. So this is my Newman's Own the one thing, story. So this book is my Newman's Own and the and all the proceeds will go to charitable organizations.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:14
Matt, it's been such a pleasure and honor speaking to you, my friend, thank you for all the years of laughter and storytelling that you've brought to the world and thank you for helping a continuing helping it to awaken. So I appreciate you my friend. Thank you.

Matt Williams 1:04:27
I appreciate you, Alex. Thank you.

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