Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Moments of Conception 051 -- The Studio Scene from O Brother Where Art Thou?

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 studio scene in O Brother Where Art Thou:



What can we learn?

Dishonesty is underrated. Everett and his friends lie about everything. The name of their band, the location of their hometown, the color of their skin, the genre of their music and the number of players in their ensemble. And it was worth it. Their single became a hit and their sins became pardoned. All because they lied. The question is, where does an artist draw the line? Spielberg famously snuck onto the lot of a major movie studio, commandeered an empty office and worked there for months until producers and directors noticed him. Universal just assumed he belonged there, so they checked out his first independent short and the rest was movie history. That was a lie. The greatest director of all time, whose films have grossed over eight billion dollars to date, told a lie. But does that make him a bad person? No. It just makes him a person. Steven did what he had to do to make his dreams come true. Because there’s a time to be honest, and there’s a time to sell cars. Sometimes you have to tell people what they need to hear to get what you want. How could you make something just true enough not to be a lie?

Let your why drive. Look into the lead singer’s eyes. He has no idea what the hell he’s doing. Everett isn’t a blues singer, he’s an escape convict in search of buried treasure trying to get back into good graces with his estranged family. And yet, he confidently plunges into the vortex of uncertainty. He pulls the band together, pulls the engineer’s leg and pulls the song off exquisitely. Everett may be a man of constant sorrow, but he’s also a man of solid execution. This scene reminds me of a mantra that’s guided my creative work for more than a decade. Don’t be stopped by not knowing how. How is overrated. How is a dream destroyer. How has no bearing on whether or not our dreams become realities. It’s just a matter of will. When I wrote my first book, I didn’t know what I was doing. When I gave my first speech, I didn’t know what I was doing. When I launched my online training network, I didn’t know what I was doing. And when I began preproduction on my first documentary, I didn’t know what I was doing either. But what I did know was why I was doing it. That was enough. And I trusted that the how would come in time. What event will serve as your catalyst to start a favorable chain reaction?


Counting your creative chickens. This movie contains multiple levels of spiritual symbolism, cultural allusion and ancient mythology. One of the themes that particularly resonates with me is expectation. How life is under no such obligation to make us happy and grant us what we want, only to give us what we need. In fact, early on in the film, a blind man driving a trolley prophesizes that the three convicts will find a fortune, though it will not be the fortune they seek. What a perfect message for someone pursuing a career in the arts. Never count your creative chickens before they hatch. It’s not healthy when your work depends on things out of your control. The reality is, the drug of choice most dangerous to artists isn’t heroin, it’s expectation. Because despite your best laid plans, best deployed efforts and best held intentions, your career as an artist will probably feel like the movie you never saw the trailer for. Which doesn’t make it a bad move, it just not the fortune you sought. Being okay with that is difficult. How are your expectations helping or hindering you in accomplishing your artistic purpose?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?