Monday, May 19, 2014

Moments of Conception 004 -- The Sweaty Toothed Madman Scene from Dead Poets Society

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

Edward DeBono, the godfather of creativity, has published a substantial amount of research on this process of fully fleshing out your work. He calls the process movement value, the discipline of identifying concepts that allow you to breed other ideas from those concepts. It's the practice of finding the pivot point that alters the trajectory of your creative expression. Debono’s work found that the process of making the word become flesh, to use a biblical metaphor, can actually become a form of muscle memory, allowing us to become more prolific than we ever thought possible.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from The Dead Poets Society:


So, what did they do right?


Learn to love what’s good for you. Schulman writes in the original screenplay, “Todd is dying inside. All eyes are on him. He stands and walks slowly to the front of the class like a condemned man on his way to his execution.” There isn’t an artist alive who hasn’t had that experience. It’s the kind of fear claws around in your chest like a trapped animal trying to get out. After all, the acceptance of having our work counted as the real, the approval of having people like it, these are the things we crave. And so, Todd perfectly portrays a kid who’s paralyzed by the risk of rejection. Now that he’s watched his friend recite an original poem in front of the group, only to be met with crickets and wind, the last thing he wants to do is stand up next. Keating, however, spots Todd’s resignation as an indication of artistic potential. And he pounces on him in the best way possible.

Get the creative faucet flowing. Keating doesn’t just gives his pupil the stage, he gives him the freedom and encouragement to follow his most impractical curiosities. We should all be so lucky to have a mentor like that. Someone who loves us enough to shove us. Because in that moment of free association, where Keating tells him to answer instead of think, where he forces him to create without the burden of perfection, to capture every syllable of delirium that floats into his mind and kick it back out into the world, Todd sends a shockwave through everyone in the room, including himself. And his poem elicits a physiological response from the audience in the form of gasps and smiles and nods and claps. Proving, that there’s nothing like being tossed into necessity to help you figure out who you are.

You can’t wink in the dark forever. It’s a cold and hostile world when you step outside of the echo chamber. Audiences bring pressure and feedback and perspective and judgment. And the minute you stand up in front of them, you realize that you’re no longer the tree in the forest. Todd, face to face with his peers and his fears, becomes completely naked. And when his friends start to laugh at the words he says, his face swells and turns red. Humiliation unearths his raw anger. But even though he struggles to spit it out, he finally utters the words: From the moment we enter crying, to the moment we leave dying, it will cover just your head as you wail and cry and scream. Stunning. Todd produces a magical and defiant moment that nobody in that room will ever forget.

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?