This weekend I attended the Vimeo Festival, a conference for film makers. I chose to go this year because one of my favorite film production companies, Stillmotion, was going to give a talk on the art of storytelling, a subject I have been forever passionate about but never really studied.
It was an odd feeling seeing Amina and Justin, two people I have learned so much from on the internet, in person. As they started speaking, I became focused and listened intently. While they both did an excellent job, it was Amina in particular that I connected with.
Amina is a small petite woman that is filled with passion, excitement, and love for her craft and her projects. She spoke of living a life of purpose, and how at Stillmotion they choose even their lenses/stabilizers to best tell the story of the people they are documenting. Of how you make decisions only to fulfill that purpose, and nothing else.
That is when I realized that I have been doing it wrong. I spent most of the last three years learning the tools, but not connecting the tools to my sense of purpose. I have been studying HD film making and with much practice. The lighting, camera settings, white balance, focal lengths, rack focus, etc. What I have not been doing is using the tools to create work that I am proud of. I have not been using them to create a piece of art that actually moves someone, and pushes them to action. I chose what to buy next based on what I thought I needed, not because I actually needed them to make a film.
What Amina really drove into my mind was the idea that your purpose should drive what you choose to do. At Stillmotion, they are passionate about telling authentic stories, and so all of the decision they make must tell the stories of the people they document better. It always starts with the people in the stories. As Amina puts it “A day is nothing. People are everything.”
She spoke of being present. About entering a room, closing your eyes, and really feeling the vibe, and understanding with your heart what your eyes could never tell you.
She spoke of listening above hearing, and of feeling above seeing. Every ounce of her body spoke directly to us. It was profound. I left dumbfounded, not by the material she presented, but at who she was, how she lived, and how she made her decisions.
I read many self help blogs that speak of living a life of passion, being present, etc. Reading about these things has done me a lot of good, but actually seeing someone live it taught me things that reading simply could not.
So to Amina and the Stillmotion team, thanks for being so awesome. I will commit to shipping one quality short film that I am proud of by the end of 2012.
Some advice from Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) on how to control and destroy any creative block.
Question: Why do some people get creatively blocked?
Rainn Wilson: I think “creative blocks” come from people’s life journeys. If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative. So I think a lot of times when people have “creative blocks” and I know my share of friends do as well if they’re at just some stuck point. They’re not sure what to do with their lives or their writing or their photography or their filmmaking or whatever it is that they’re doing. I think the best advice is you have to change your life up completely; to go on a trip, to go spend a year being of service. Be willing to take some major drastic action to get you out of your comfort zone and go inside, not outside. Our society is all about focusing on the externals, “These people like me, I’m successful because of these people, they view me as being good and we need to take that vision and instead of expanding it outwards we need to look inside ourselves.
I think meditation helps greatly with creativity. It doesn’t…. If it’s a pure expression of yourself no matter what it is or what medium, it’s going to shine. It’s going to resonate. You could look inside of yourself and you could have a canvas and you could paint a dot in it, but if that is where your creative purpose is taking you then it needs to be that dot. Again, we’re so focused on the externals about like well he did this and he already did this and tons of people are already doing that, I need to do something new and you’re just looking outwards all the time and you’re not taking that time and that is what… a trap of technology is to just always have our vision somewhere else, somewhere else, in the future, looking outside of ourselves. And I think taking the time in the morning to connect with your breath, that’s where the purest impulse comes from.
Question: Is creativity for everyone?
Rainn Wilson: Creativity is absolutely for everyone. I firmly believe this. I think if you’re the driest accountant with the plastic pocket pen protector it’s in how you interact with the world. There is artistry in everything that we do and there is expression in everything that we do and you see that in the game of chess as you… I used to play a lot of chess and competitive chess and study chess and as you get to the grandmasters and learn their styles when you start copying their games like the way they express themselves through… The way Kasparov or Bobby Fischer expresses themselves through a game of chess is it’s astonishing. You can show a chess master one of their games and they’ll say “Yeah, that is done by that player.”
So it doesn’t matter. It’s again, about that yearning to transcend. There is a surrender to a power greater than one’s self as every artist or scientist or thinker talks about a certain point when it’s no longer like their brain. It’s like the ideas are like streaming through them and that can happen with anyone. If you’re a janitor you can do it through your work or on the side or how you are with people, but this is the mission of Soul Pancake is to show that everyone is an artist. Everyone is creative in their own way and that that creativity is a great thing. It’s a human thing and it needs to be nurtured and it can help us go down life’s path and help us to become deeper, richer, more satisfied human beings.
Nike’s classic “Just Do It” slogan is the key to solving all problems related to inaction and lack of confidence. The thought of accomplishing something great is always met with the resistance in your mind, conjuring up hundreds of excuses in all shapes and sizes as to why you should not even try.
You want to run? Why? You are comfortable now…and those cheeseburgers you eat at lunch taste so good…
Want to get a new job? Why? You are doing good in this one. Don’t forget, it is a bad economy and you might not succeed…
Want to start a business? How can you even think of that at this time? Your family needs you to work a 9-5 job. Don’t think like that. Think safety and long term.
Nike’s slogan cuts to the chase and gives you a piece of advice that literally kills the resistance and gives you the push you need to just do it.
Think of how perfect this slogan is for sports. If you wanted to start running but can’t find the time, Just Do It. Stop making excuses and Just Do It. If you were an athlete trying to get a better percentage of free throws…Just do it. Practice till you can’t anymore and it will happen.
As good as this slogan is to athletes, it is applicable just about anywhere.
Want to get in shape? Just Do It. No excuses.
Want to get a new job? Go to school? Learn a craft? Just Do It.