Moments of Conception 173: The Father/Son Scene in Thank You For Smoking

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 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 father/son scene in Thank You For Smoking:

The barometer of value. According to a research report from the three largest
media distribution services in the country, nearly two thousand press releases
are sent out each day. That’s north of a half a million each year. Now, some
people argue that this marketing approach is a form of spam. Just another
impersonal, insulting, shotgun strategy for getting somebody’s attention. And
perhaps that’s true. But the press release process is still an inherently
worthwhile experience. Not only because it challenges you tell your own story,
but because it requires you to create value. Otherwise you wouldn’t be writing
it. Lefsetz famously wrote that having a new album is not a
story. That with a twenty four seven news cycle online, he says, what happens
in your life is not a story. The hard
core already knows what’s you’re up to and the rest don’t care. And so, perhaps
the press release isn’t the point. Perhaps the point is having interesting
experiences and creating meaningful things in the world, all of which earn you
the right to write a press release in the first place. After all, before you
write things worth talking about, you have to do things worth writing about.
Life is subordinate to art, not the other way around. The press release for my documentary certainly didn’t go viral, but it still earned tens
of thousands of headline impressions and hundreds of online pickups. And to me,
that was a victory. Because it showed that I did something worth releasing. If you were arrested and charged with
creating value for people, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Buried under layers of defensiveness. Joey is accurate when he says people make things
more complicated so they can feel sorry for themselves. It’s what our species
does. Human beings are amazingly adept at being defensive creatures who can
deny almost anything. And so, overcomplicating is just another arrow in our
rationalization quiver. It makes sense. Complexity feels like progress.
However, thinking in
absolutes can actually be quite useful. Even if it’s just a thought experiment,
the simple and finite world of black and white has its merits. It knocks out
excuses, reduces our experience of
anxiety, prevents our rationalization of poor choices and enables daily
decision making to be significantly easier and faster. As a textbook right
brainer, I can attest to the power of this mindset. Thinking absolutes has
always been difficult for me, but what I’ve come to understand is, abstinence
is cheaper than moderation. The best way to block a punch is to not be there.
Once we become okay with that, once we stop creating a labyrinth of bullshit
around problems and start filtering the world’s noise to make the purest signal
we can, clarity and liberation ensue.Are
you introduce complexity for the wrong reason?

Build your story where you are. Nick has fallen into depression after the public
relations nightmare exposed his lobbying practices. But thanks to his son, he
recalls the integrity in his job. He realizes that his gift is defending the
defenseless and protecting the disenfranchised. And so, he reclaims his message
about consumer choice and responsibility, reminding the courts that liberty
includes the freedom to make unhealthy decisions. And he’s inspired to open a
private lobbying firm, continuing to do what he does best.Talk.Meanwhile, his son wins a school debate using lessons his
father taught him. Yet another reminder, dark and satirical as it may be, that
we are the authors of our own narratives. We are the public relations agents of
our own careers. I’m reminded of my favorite filmmaker, Kevin Smith. He said people
had been telling him that he was a failure and that he was doing it all wrong
for twenty years. But he reminds us to never trust anybody when they tell us
how our story goes. We know our story. We write our own story. That’s what
being an artist is all about. Not just creating the work, but creating the mythology
that surrounds it. Which story in your
life do you want to feel on a new level?


What did you learn from this movie clip?


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* * * *

Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

Never the same speech twice. Customized for your audience. Impossible to walk away uninspired.

Now booking for 2015-2016.

Email to inquire about fees and availability. Watch clips of The Nametag Guy in action here!


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