Monday, June 30, 2014

Moments of Conception 036 -- The Surrealist Scene from Midnight in Paris

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 surrealist scene in Midnight in Paris:

What can we learn?

People who don’t get the joke are dead to you. Bender’s dilemma is that he inhabits two different worlds simultaneously. To the lay person, that would sound like a surreal concept. But not to a group of surrealists. These men long for contradiction, surprise, absurdity and madness. They welcome the bizarre. Their work, after all, is conceived at the confluence of genius and insanity. And so, meeting a man trapped between generations is a great honor for them. That’s the part of the scene that touches me. Bender has found kindred spirits. He’s discovered his own kind. A community that shares a common passion. People who aren’t interested in catering to the normal. Sigh. Has that ever happened to you? If so, you know profound it can feel. But you also know that the whole thing happens in an instant. Even if it feels like a lifetime. It’s relativity at its finest. The dangerous part is, sometimes it happens so fast that you fail to recognize it. That’s why you have to keep your antennas up. You have to stick around and continue to be yourself until the correct people find you. Which tribe is weird enough to make you feel normal?

Every person helps unlock a little piece. This scene illustrates the transformative power of dialogue. In dialogue, we become observers of our own thinking. In dialogue, we understand the self in the context of other people. In dialogue, we connect with others, observe how they respond to us and gain a broader vision of our ideas and our identities. Unfortunately, too many artists are seduced into taking the antisocial low road. Locking themselves in their studios. Staying at home all day. Constantly disappearing into their own work. And as a result, decimating their ability to relate to others. Myself included. Gruber’s theory of gradualistic creativity, however, touts the interpersonal imperative. His research shows that establishing social environments and peer groups for nurturing work are essential to creative success. That our art should be approached interactively, always conducted in relation to the work of others. To use one of my favorite mantras, it’s hard to play basketball without a backboard. How would your work change if you had access to better sounding boards?

Inspiration is the eye of the beholder. Each of the characters hears the exact same story. Bender is confronting the shortcomings of his relationship while falling in love with a woman from another era. And yet, each of the artists envisages a different masterpiece inspired by such an unusual romance. One man sees a photograph. One man sees a film. One man sees a problem. One man sees a rhinoceros. It’s the perfect illustration of the subjectivity of inspiration. And, if you dig a little deeper, if you look for the thing behind the thing, there’s also a subtle message about originality. Artists, after all, are notoriously possessive about their ideas. And when a good one drops out of the sky, everyone wants to be the first and only one to snatch it. But the reality is, everyone metabolizes inspiration differently. Some see what they want to see. Some see what they need to see. Some see what they expect to see. And some see what they can afford to see. Nonetheless, by the time that moment is received, registered, recorded and rendered, everyone’s result will always looks different. Always. What happens when inspiration registers against your template?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?