Tuesday 18 June 2013

Why INSIGHT Is The Key Ingredient In Creative Work

Insight is everything. When you love a movie, you love it because you related to it. It helped you understand yourself a little more.

But you can't have genuine insight every moment of every day; not everything you create will have the magic bullet. That's why you have to live. My most insightful creative works have been inspired by the most exciting times in my life and also the darkest.

That's also why you need to read a lot, and see films as often as you can.  It's inspiring to not only get insight from others, but to see how they capture and present it. 

Often, I'll be at some tiny film festival, watching mostly BAD films, yet they often have the seeds of great insight. That's the difficult thing, it's not enough to have insight, you need the skill and experience to contain it and get it onto the page, into your performances, and on to the screen. 

The best acting performances are full of great insight. Ever been watching a film, totally invested, when you are certain the character should be angry, and then in the next scene he's calm and controlled? Suddenly you think "Ouch, yes! That's how it feels. I so GET that!" The perception of a moment, delivered by a writer or director or actor, is capable of astonishing you because it totally surprises you, by finding the key to a moment or feeling that you wouldn't have got to yourself. And once it gets there, you think, "that was so obvious, why didn't I think of it!?". When that happens, you were trumped my insightfulness. 

Two of my favourite acting performances: the parole board scene in Shawshank, and Forrest Gump finding out he has a kid.

Ouch! Wow. What scenes. Hanks and Freeman are SO subtle.

But its not just 'good acting', it's not just their training and its not just that they were 'in the moment'. It's that they gave us new information that we couldn't have had ourselves.

Red's resignation, Gump's fears, there's wisdom and subtlety in the performances that are incredibly INSIGHTFUL. It's the rarest thing, to find true insight, but its what we're really after.

I'm talking about the films we really connect to, not the big-explosion-fodder. Having said that, you usually find that the people chosen to write and direct the big franchises are often screenwriters and directors who initially surprised us with more subtle and engaging films. Michael Arndt wrote 'Toy Story 3' and he's currently writing the new 'Star Wars', but he began with 'Little Miss Sunshine', the freshest comedy film in years.  Jon Favreau directed two 'Iron Man' movies and was the writer of average comedies like 'Couples Retreat', but he began with 'Swingers', which spoke to an entire male generation. 

As certain as I am that insight is the gold ticket to great creative works, my own attempts rarely reach those heights. Why? Lack of insight! Too much Facebook and Twitter and listening to other people's opinions.

I've re-dedicated myself recently to living more, reading more, listening more. Because life is where the insight comes. As an artist, you're only ever going to be unique and interesting if you engage with the world, open yourself up to its complicated craziness and then set it down in your own inimitable way.

That's HARD, but its what works. You need to be unmercifully personal and open and honest in your work. People will respond!

I mean, they won't always respond, because sometimes being personal is self-indulgent and uninteresting. But I'll leave it to you, fellow artists, to know when you've really had an insight worthy enough of taking up the time of the general public.

Care to share?

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