All creativity begins with the moment of conception.
That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today’s clip comes from the trainwreck scene from Super 8:
What can we learn?
Develop second order imagination. The prolific creator has a profound opportunity agenda, which is an inherent enterprise to notice creative opportunities, apply force and propel them into interesting directions. He is obliged to carve his own path. To build his own leverage. To penetrate his boredom with himself and engage his own interest, lest the first whiff of meaninglessness derails him as he stands in the void between projects. I remember the first time I strolled through the tunnel under the historic arch in my neighborhood park. The aesthetics were inspiring, the architecture was stunning and the acoustics were shattering. There was no way I wasn’t coming back with my guitar. Three years later, I’ve not only become a weekly performer in that space, but I also wrote, produced, directed and starred in a concert documentary about that place. The point is, making art is work, but so is creating the opportunity to make it. Charles, the kid director of the low budget zombie movie, doesn’t have that little voice inside of him that says not you. He’s not waiting around for somebody to greenlight his creativity. He doesn’t don’t have to ask permission to innovate. And so, he takes advantage of his invaluable production value. That’s second order imagination. How could you manufacture your own creative opportunities?
Embrace the importance of sustained movement. Charles may be obsessive as a director, but it’s only because he’s competing in a film festival against kids twice his age who have better stories and access to cars. Without production value, his movie has nothing. And while that particular phrase becomes annoying to hear over and over during the film, I can appreciate his plight as a creator. Because every project has its own version of this. Some idea, some moment, some opportunity, that’s going to pass the artist by if he doesn’t act on it, right now. Creativity, after all, isn’t just knowing a good idea when you see it, it’s executing that idea before anyone else sees it. Timing isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. That’s the only way to extend your artistic reach. By grasping the significance of something, leaping on it with everything you’ve got, making sharp and decisive strokes without being sidetracked by secondary thought, and then trusting every purposeful action that follows, while maintaining deep belief that your initiative will be rewarded. Quick eyes, quicker feet. What ideas do you have that you’re afraid people will steal?
Create a self to express first. If you have to resort to some gimmick to let people know you’re still around, you’re not really there. But if you keep doing things worth writing about, you will keep writing things worth talking about, and if you keep writing things worth talking about, you will always have an audience for your work. And so, I’m a firm believer in gradualistic creativity, which rejects the notion of the elusive eureka moment and favors an existential and holistic approach to the creative process. It’s about living your life in a way that your art gets done over and over. That’s something I loved about this movie. Once the train derails, a dangerous presence releases into town and strange events start happening. Every dog runs away, certain people go missing, all the electronics are stolen, and even the military comes to evacuate everyone to the nearby base. Spooky. But that’s the whole point. The kids weren’t just making a horror film, they were living inside of one. And that’s why the project ultimately gets done. Are you keeping the line between your life and your art short and clear?
What can we learn?
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