Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Moments of Conception 025 -- The Critic Scene from Ratatouille

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.

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 critic scene in Ratatouille:

What can we learn?

Find your idea a friendly neighbor. Remy’s vision was to reimagine a classic. To put his unique spin on a something that was a fixture in the culture for centuries. Not an easy task. In fact, most artists who try to reinvent the wheel watch it spin off the axel and fly into a ditch on the side of the road. But not this artist. Remy works by instinct. He takes action on his intuitive leads. He boldly reinvents a time honored tradition, step by step. And what’s the outcome? He changes the customer’s life forever. But the real question is, what forces were at play, psychologically, that we can learn from? Simple. Remy found something that was already in the customer’s head and hung something next to it. The memory of ratatouille became the mental hook upon which the customer could hang this innovation. Proving, that it’s okay to be new, but not so new that nobody knows what to do with us. New is good, but we don’t want to be so impossible to classify that people drop the mental ball. Does your idea have a neighbor?

Let emotion do the heavy lifting for you. Ratatouille, which was traditionally viewed as a peasant dish, didn’t seem like the smartest way to impress the country’s most renowned and pretentious restaurant critic. But our tiny chef had an instinct. He knew exactly what he wanted to create. So he infected the people around him with his vision and led them to execution. And when the plate finally arrived at the table and the critic took the first bite, we witness a magical moment. Home. Childhood. Family. Comfort. Care. Remy’s creation wasn’t just a vegetable dish, it was a time machine. And it transported the critic to another realm of existence, allowing him to engage with his work on a deeply profound level. That’s what’s possible when we dare to  challenge our customer’s preconceptions. To violate their expectations about how something is made, and who it is that makes it. Does your art do that?

The changing definition of failure. Despite the positive review, the restaurant ultimately closes down due to an inability to comply with the health code inspection. Which seems like a failure, and maybe it is. But every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, as the song says. And we discover that this closing is the best thing that could have happened, both for the chef and the critic. Anton may have lost all credibility as a critic, but he ends up funding a popular new bistro that builds financial prosperity, local community and a platform for artistic expression. I’m reminded of a presentation I made many years ago. The audience reviews were the worst I’d ever received, and I was devastated. But then, a few months later, I received an email from the one woman in the room who was actually blown away that day. And her company ended up hiring me for a project that led to tons of future business. Funny how that works. Sometimes failure multiplied by time inverts into success.

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?