Be Curious - Lou Hamilton (July 2015)
Creativity is thinking outside of the box, it’s turning the box upside down or it’s doing away with the box altogether. Without curiosity our creative thinking skills remain stuck in a box. Some people think only artistic people are creative but I believe that if you can form a question then you have the ability to think creatively. Creativity is curiosity, wanting to find out more, asking why or why not. It’s taking nothing for granted, it’s disrupting the norm and questioning what is ‘right’. Creative thinkers want to know why, how, where, when; they dig deep. The world is a fathomless dimension of exploration and discovery and each of us has but a short time to make the most of what we’ve been given.
As a filmmaker creating characters I have to continually interrogate their very existence, their purpose, their motives, their behaviors, their thoughts, speech and interactions with others. But you can only go so far before you inevitably get stuck or get to the point where you think you’ve nailed your characters and story. At that point you need to ask for the opinions and comments of others. Are you on the right track or have you backed an articulated lorry onto an airport runway? You need other people to give you the third degree in the same way that you have done to your characters. If they are really creative they’ll get you doing mental backflips, cartwheels and the tango all at once in the hope of getting you out of any place of self-satisfaction and complacency that you may find yourself.
On the RISE scheme (Northern Film and Media are working in partnership with Women in Film and Television and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art to nurture and develop six emerging female filmmakers over the course of a year) this is exactly the opportunity we have been given. To have our creativity challenged by industry professionals, and contorted into positions we would never have dreamed possible when we first started writing. You start with, ‘here are the characters and this is what happens to them’. Then you get (thankfully) script editor Kate Leys & film director Josh Appignanesi making you think more deeply – why do they want that, why should we care enough to watch them, do you need that person at all, can’t you see it through someone else’s eyes, what if you got rid of everything you have written up to the midpoint and started the film there, are they the right gender? Etc. This is mind acrobatics in free fall.
It’s enough to make your head spin and your brain melt but give it 24 hours and those creative impulses start firing new sparks and making new connections. They have been disrupted enough to see new improved directions for your script to go. So you push your ideas to another level, keeping at it every day, reworking and reworking and reworking. Until eventually you get to someone like film distributor Julia Short who reads your treatment and goes ‘yes I get the story, get the relationships, get the underlying themes, get the journey and the transformation and yes be that ambitious, yes think on that cinematic scale, yes go for that casting and that budget, don’t hold back, ramp it up, why not go the whole hog.’ And your creative juices fire up several notches and off you go again.
You might not write well every day, but can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page Jodi Picault
It takes 10,000 hours to master anything and unless we are challenged, questioned, prodded and cajoled we may be tempted to stop at 100 hours. We might think that’s all we need to do. We need those mentors and coaches and influencers and interrogators and investigators to help us get the best out of ourselves and our work. It’s not easy but it’s worth it to not end up with the half hearted, slapdash or dull.
Creativity is problem-solving without rules, it’s the spirit of curiosity in the face of the mundane, logical and routine, it’s the picking apart of the safe or commercial or obvious or trite, it’s throwing things up in the air and seeing where they land. Be fearless in your day and question everything and everyone. That’s how humans got to fly, it’s how we transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. The only people who aren’t creative are the ones unwilling to try.