Saturday, July 12, 2014

Moments of Conception 048 -- The Radio Scene from That Thing You Do

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 radio scene in That Thing You Do:




What can we learn?

Scaring success into hiding. Every artist should expect to fail. It’s in the job description. If you’re not failing, you’re not making art. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still prepare to succeed. Because you never know. The odds may be stacked against you, but if your bags aren’t packed when the world is finally ready for you, you’ll either miss the boat completely, or, worse yet, get taken on a ride before you’re ready to go on one. And like the dog chasing the car, you won’t know what to do with success once you catch it. I’m reminded of a family vacation I took about twelve years ago. We met a guy on the beach who worked for the biggest talk show in the country. Naively, I gave him copy of my recently published first book, hoping he might find my story interesting enough to warrant an interview. He didn’t. I never talked to the guy again. But in retrospect, that’s probably good thing. Because I wasn’t ready. Had I finagled my way onto the biggest talk show in the country, I would have left behind wake of missed opportunities, wasted attention and underleveraged exposure. When the big kahuna comes along, will you be in a position to ride it?

The evolving landscape of art. This movie takes place in an era when the mass market still mattered. When radio play was the royal road to fame and fortune. When a single disc jokey held the keys to a band’s artistic future. But that was fifty years ago. Now we live in a direct to consumer era. Where the need for the middlemen of the world is quickly vanishing. Where the fans are actually becoming the gatekeepers. And so, our job as artists isn’t to get on the radio. It isn’t to be all things to people. It’s to narrowcast to a small, specific audience. It’s to go out and create the market for what we love. It’s to figure out which of the mainstream hoops are not worth the time, money and effort to jump through, and then forge ahead without stopping. Think of this way. Shakespeare didn’t open in twenty countries. He had one theater and one audience. The people cherished the art. The artist cherished their attention. And together, they made something magical. Outside of that sacred space, nothing else mattered. Are you still buying tickets for the starving artist lottery?

Little things make a big difference. There’s something inescapably joyful about watching this scene. It’s every rockstar’s dream. It’s exactly how you would react in the same situation. And it’s a game changer. Their moment has come. As of right now, these four men will never be the same again. Ah, the elusive tipping point. The moment of critical mass. The irreversible ignition of momentum. Burn the ships, boys, there ain’t no going back now. We should all be so lucky. Campbell originally named it crossing the threshold, in which the hero enters into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of their world and venturing into a dangerous realm where the rules are not known. What artist doesn’t dream of it happening to them? The only problem is, it’s still a movie. As iconic and romantic and inspiring as this scene is, we can’t let it skew our relationship to reality. Because any veteran will tell you, there are no big breaks. Only an accumulation of small breaks that eventually accrue enough weight to get you noticed. It’s volume times consistency to the power of timing. How will you know when you’ve entered your zone of magnified creative power?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?