Updated: Mar 30, 2019
As part of my New Year's Resolution, I want to write out my thoughts on creativity and how it can be utilized from a practical sense. Although I am gonna do what comes naturally and ramble. If talking about an episode of "Bojack Horseman" leads to an amusing anecdote about my first gig in Boston that rolls into some useful insight, then strap in!
Sorry if this blog sounds like a self-help book that you would find in the bargain bin of an airport bookstore. But hey, sharing is caring. Hopefully my experiences will resonate with those who want to create content.
I have been working in production for several years. I started out in 2009 as an "eager beaver" intern at a local television station in Pennsylvania. Since I was a kid, I watched the works of iconic directors: Spielberg, Hitchcock, Henson and more. Their gifts for storytelling and provoking potent emotion through visuals and characters was amazing. I was like, "Hey, I wanna do that." From then on, I studied what it takes to make a movie, went to film school and worked on a lot of productions. Commercials, ULB (ultra low budget) films, popular TV shows, you name it. Every experience brings a new morsel of knowledge. And learning can lead you down a yellow-brick road of creative musings and growth. Filmmaking is all about trial-and-error and making questions into full-fledged challenges. Always ask questions!
When I saw Jaws after starting film school, I had a few burning questions:
"How did they make the mechanical shark work in Jaws?"
"Did a lot of the budget go into constructing more Jaws(es) if the first one broke down?"
"Can I break a shark out of my local aquarium and tame one for my film?" Answer's no.
I am branching off into two different scenarios and career paths: The Producer/Executive and The Writer/Creative. It is like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Each path has an approach to how questions can be deployed in your creative toolbox.
The Producer/Executive: When in a development or pre-production meeting, I have "preemptive strike of thoughts." Jotting down notes of what a client wants, my brain starts rolling out the red carpet for the buzzing inquiries and trains of thought. Whether it is a series of promotional videos or a webseries, I want to know everything. Who the client is: how do they see themselves as a participant in the creative process and what kind of results they want. Then dig deeper: the intention of the film, structure, history, budget, longevity and flexibility. Are your expectations flexible enough to change if budget and resources are tight? Can you make last minute changes? If Talent X has postpone and you gotta go with Talent Y to make a deadline, will that affect the quality of the project? Being a tad overcautious works, but never let it paralyze you from doing the job.
I tend to ensure people that they will get the finest product that matches their vision. But I like to have Plan B, C & D ready, so we focus on the bigger picture without losing time and money.
Ask questions, listen carefully and get invested. Being invested and informed means you will be ready for any obstacles. If you can find the "beating heart" that drives the product, then devising a solution won't be as hard as you think. You can even surprise yourself with what you know before the work even starts.
The Writer/Creative: Okay, so this is the fun part. If you love writing scripts like me, you usually have to do a lot of groundwork to get a premise going. Who are your characters? Do they have aspirations and problems in their lives? Anything happening in the story's world or setting? Then you gotta flesh out story beats and how it impacts the characters, the drama and the world.
Let your mind wander with the possibilities that float around in that big brain of yours. The easiest answers are not always the most imaginative. Don't just let your lightsaber-wielding Hobbit just get to Modor and destroy the Ice Walkers with the Ring. (Yes, I know they are all different franchises) Think up some risks and adverisites for Sir Frodo Skywalker and see if they bring some depth to the character or how we view the adventure from Act One to its Resolution.
As Albert Einstein once said, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Questions make the world go 'round. If humans were not naturally curious, we would not have to advanced so far as we have now. Hell, would this blog be happening if nobody applied themselves? This goes for storytelling too. If the artist is not willing to challenge themselves on what they are creating, then the work loses steam alongside the potential to be something of novel quality.
When embarking on your next film as a fast-talking producer or a writer of quip and snark, ask questions. Talk to yourself (privately), your client and your team about what makes a particular project... (insert adjective). Whether it is something you have done before or full of new undertakings, questions open up the realm of possibilities to make your professional work shine. And if you're lucky, you might learn something about yourself as a creative!
Thanks for reading my first post. I look forward to detailing more of my thoughts and experiences with you! Always be creating!