Thursday, August 27, 2015

Creativity and Originality in Film

I've been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be creative. Pre-production does that to you, apparently. Am I creative? Should I be more creative? Are there even levels to how creative somebody can get, or is it just like this big, overarching bubble of creativity that once you're in it, you're in it? Is creativity the same thing as originality? Does any of it even matter?

Those aren't rhetorical questions either. If someone has an answer, feel free to let me know.

You can find tons of articles online about how different writers and directors go about their personal creative processes (here's one that talks about how it took Chris Nolan 10 years to finish writing Inception, while Steven Soderbergh knocked out a script for Sex Lies and Videotape in 8 days - neither of which makes me feel particularly good about myself) but I've found very little about how to inspire creativity in yourself. There'll always be clickbait-esque pieces like this, suggesting different activities that might open your mind to new ways of thinking - thus bringing about creativity - but there's no tried and true formula. 

Because in the scheme of things, it's almost impossible to have a truly, never-before-thought-of idea. And that's kind of a bummer. It's an issue I've run into time and time again when working on scripts. Last year, I co-wrote a script about a washed-up TV star and had to listen to people go "oh, so you're making Bojack Horseman?" 

No. Dick.

But that's understandable. With so much media constantly getting thrown in our faces, it's impossible not to regurgitate some of that back out into our own work. It even happens to people who have already made it big, like the whole confrontation between Dane Cook and Louis CK - reenacted and dramatized in this clip from Louie - about how Dane might have, possibly, maybe, stolen a teensy bit of a joke from Louis. We all strive to make something that people think is "new" and "refreshing," but how do you do that when literally everything has already been done, one way or another?

The more time I spend writing, the less time I spend thinking about being original. After all, every story you tell - no matter who you are or where you're from - is going to have the same basic structure when you get down to the bones of it. There's no breaking away from that. And I don't know if that's awesome or horrible. Instead, I just focus on making something to the best of my ability, with characters that I find interesting and a plot that ties things all together, with the hope that it will all culminate in some tiny spec of originality. 

I guess I'm not really sure how to end this blog post, apart from giving what I - rightly or wrongly - assume to be the definition of being creative with a film. Creativity can't be quantitatively measured, despite what Cinemetrics seems to think. Films should make you feel something: whether it's happiness, love, fear, or anything in between. Shot lengths and camera settings and color palettes and every other "technical" aspect can be a part of this as well, as long as you play them to the overall effect that you're going for. You don't need to do anything groundbreaking. You don't need a 10 minute tracking shot (but oh man they're so cool). Emulate good films, take the techniques that you think will best help tell your story and use them.  In the end, as I've slowly learned, all you need is a camera, a story, and people willing to work their asses off to make something good. The rest will come. 

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