There's No Such Thing as Perfect

So chasing after it really misses the point. Because you'll never get there.

How does that make you feel? What would let go of if you knew this to be true?

What's the better thing, then, to hitch your wagon to?

Truth, maybe.

Connection and truth.

The Freedom of Restrictions

I have this love-hate relationship with After Effects. On the one hand, it gives you an incredible amount of creative power. But at the same time, all that freedom, all that choice and possibility can feel paralyzing.

So much about art-making now feels like this. Standing in front of the abyss of seemingly infinite possibilities, how do you know what to do?

Most will choose some well-worn industry-prescribed route. And most will struggle to have their work be seen and engaged with.

For everyone else - those with a burning desire to create and the chutzpa to blaze their own paths - the options are much more nebulous.

So where to begin?

Invent some restrictions for yourself. If you are a writer, allow yourself only 500 words. A filmmaker? Give yourself only an iPhone camera and a final running time of 2 minutes. Your juices are flowing already, aren't they?

Creativity thrives in the presence of constructive constraint.

In fact, with fewer opportunities to hide behind gloss and technical skill, with less of the baggage that comes with predictable forms, what comes through the work instead is the warmth of the hand that made it.

This isn't to urge you against ambition.

But there can't be an "outside-of-the-box" without a box. And these days, especially if you find yourself stuck in place, you just might yourself have to create that box for yourself.

Say something true. And don't be boring

The other day I somehow ended up in the “Filmmaking" section of the bookstore. I say “somehow,” because I usually make a point of avoiding it altogether. Just catching a glimpse of the titles can fill me with this feeling of emptiness and dread.

Titles like "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck.” And “Filmmaking: Direct Your Movie from Script to Screen Using Proven Hollywood Techniques.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve even got a few like these on my bookshelf. 

But if art is what you aspire to create, there is no formula, no set of rules that will get you from point A to point B.

Art-making is about finding your own way and creating your own language.

Because never before have "the rules" made less sense.

So let’s start here instead:

Say something true. And don't be boring.

Special Effects Porn is Dead

Just like hard-core cheapies, movies like Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park aren't really "movies" in the standard sense at all. What they really are is half a dozen or so isolated, spectacular scenes - scenes comprising maybe twenty or thirty minutes of riveting, sensuous payoff - strung together via another sixty to ninety minutes of flat, dead, and often hilariously insipid narrative.

- David Foster Wallace

So I'm knee-deep again in all things David Foster Wallace and I come across his 1998 essay "The (As It Were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2." The gist of it is that there exists a genre of Hollywood mega-budget film that relies on a handful of eye-popping action and special effects scenes to get an audience to fork over ticket money. The sheer spectacle of these scenes - as in porn - is enough to make up for the shallow and unsatisfying story-lines connecting them together. The "Wow!" is what gets the butts in the seats.  

In the fifteen years since this article was written, this trend has only accelerated. Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean, John Carter, The Lone Ranger, I'm literally reading down the list of most expensive productions, all over the $250 million budget mark, all made in the last eight years. And don't forget about the 3-D!


But have you seen these YouTube videos [1, 2, 3] of the guys with GoPro's strapped to their heads, dangling off high-rises and cliff faces? I don't know about you, but sitting in my office chair staring at my little computer screen, I feel a sense of fear and awe shooting straight from my amygdala that I can only assume is the same feeling that Hollywood is chasing with their big, expensive, IMAX-sized productions.

The lesson? Dudes with cheap cameras, an internet connection, and a death wish can be more compelling than anything a producer with stacks of money and an army of visual and sound effects artists can conjure. You can now get "Wow!", and a whole lot of it, for free.

Charlie Kaufman on Writing and Creativity

I think you need to be willing to be naked when you do anything creatively in film or any other form, that’s really what you have to do because otherwise it’s very hard to separate it from marketing.

I started pulling quotes from this enlightening, inspiring, and occasionally incendiary BAFTA talk by screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman, and pretty soon I found myself copy/pasting the whole lecture. Check out this passage:

People all over the world spend countless hours of their lives every week being fed entertainment in the form of movies, TV shows, newspapers, YouTube videos and the internet. And it’s ludicrous to believe that this stuff doesn’t alter our brains.

It’s also equally ludicrous to believe that – at the very least – this mass distraction and manipulation is not convenient for the people who are in charge. People are starving. They may not know it because they’re being fed mass produced garbage. The packaging is colourful and loud, but it’s produced in the same factories that make Pop Tarts and iPads, by people sitting around thinking, ‘What can we do to get people to buy more of these?’ 

And they’re very good at their jobs. But that’s what it is you’re getting, because that’s what they’re making. They’re selling you something. And the world is built on this now. Politics and government are built on this, corporations are built on this. 

Interpersonal relationships are built on this. And we’re starving, all of us, and we’re killing each other, and we’re hating each other, and we’re calling each other liars and evil because it’s all become marketing and we want to win because we’re lonely and empty and scared and we’re led to believe winning will change all that. But there is no winning.

What can be done? Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them hope. It’s done so for me and I have to keep rediscovering it. It has profound importance in my life. Give that to the world, rather than selling something to the world. Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do. Try not to.


Here's the full transcript of the full lecture. And a few favorite scenes: