Creativity Files: 'House of Cards' Creator Beau Willimon on the Importance of Side Projects

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

Last week, we had the chance to speak with “House of Cards” showrunner Beau Willimon about “Curt,” the documentary he co-produced that’s screening tonight at SLIFF—and during our conversation, a top tip for keeping creativity fresh came to light.

"Curt" still | photo credit David G. Wilson

“Curt” still | photo credit David G. Wilson

After we talked about “Curt” and Willimon’s role in the short, I asked Willimon if going from the heavy tones of his famous White House drama (and what a drama it is) to a heartwarming doc about a West Coast surfer felt like a bit of a holiday, and he laughed.

“‘House of Cards’ has a very specific voice that’s right for that show, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other types of voices that I’m interested in,” he says. “In this case, the voice was Brendan Hearne and Curt [Harper] himself. The advantage of working on some of these projects is that I get to explore voices and styles that I might not be working on day to day. The world’s a large and vast place, and I’m a curious person.”

The takeaway: Having side projects—things outside of a main project or even a day job—can help keep your creative side fresh. 

“Curt” and projects like it, he says, allow him to remain open and not get caught up in a bubble or groove: “It feeds me as a producer and a person creatively.” Willimon talked a little bit more about these side projects—his production studio produces mostly documentaries—and how for him, they’re a way to get out of his everyday work mind in the time he’s able to squirrel away.

He acknowledged that those projects are a vacation in a way, adding, “It’s also nourishing to the soul. You’re hearing all this lovey-dovey stuff not applicable to the guy behind ‘House of Cards,’ but don’t mistake the show for pure reflection of my own soul! It’s nourishing to support and celebrate other people’s voices. There’s so many talented artists in the world with so many voices to offer, and one of the joys of being a producer is facilitating that.”

“Curt” shows Nov. 11 at 5:05pm in the Tivoli. Read our interview with Willimon for more information on the film. 

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