Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Moments of Conception 062 -- The Plate Scene from Chocolat

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 plate scene in Chocolat:

What can we learn?

Channeling personality in the service of creativity. Vianne is a creative, friendly, nonjudgmental, atheist single mother with an illegitimate child and a provocative wardrobe. That’s one hell of a combination. But what’s interesting is, so is her chocolate. Her confections use cacao, chili powder and other exotic ingredients. Which, in a town where abstinence is king, her chocolate wins over the closed hearts of the stuffy petite bourgeoisie. This movie, then, is a case study of identity based creation. Vianne integrates the whole of her personality into every piece of chocolate she makes. She taps into her instincts for matching the perfect treat to each customer’s need. And ultimately, that’s how she’s able to find a home for herself and her daughter in the village. It’s an inspiring tale of social acceptance and individuality. As one reviewer said, apparently chocolate can cure mental illness, restore marital passion, unite feuding relatives, assuage anger, defeat oppression, inspire art and get you a date. Good enough for me. What if your creative process was a game to see which part of yourself you could bring to work every day?

Cross my palm with silver. Artists are notoriously poor businesspeople. We’d rather be heard than paid. We’d rather make history than make money. We’d rather change the world than charge a fee. But the reality is, every product must be sold. Every artist must go out and meet marketplace and ask customers for money. Even if we feel guilty about demanding compensation for our work, even if we experience anxiety when we assign monetary value to our intellectual property, if we don’t admit that we’re in business for ourselves, we’re finished. The secret is to enlist the unique aspects of our personality to enhance our ability to sell. To make the dreaded commerce component easier to swallow. Vianne uses the mosaic wheel. It’s essentially an ink blot test for chocolate. Patrons give the wheel a playful spin, say what they see, and she identifies the perfect chocolate for them. It’s playful, alluring and unexpected, just like her. It’s a device that surprises and delights and intrigues customers in spite of themselves, just like her. Most importantly, it’s an effective tool for driving sales. Period. Vianne poured her heart into this chocolate to make it great, and she isn’t afraid put a price on it and ask people to buy it. How are you exercising your personality in the selling arena?

We can smell our own. There’s a powerful thematic undercurrent of community in this movie. As it says in the original screenplay, if you lived in this village, you understood what was expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. And if you happened to forget, someone would remind you. Belonging, after all, means having people expect something of you, and caring about what that expectation is. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially for creators who tend to live inside their own heads. Vianne’s journey as an artist, then, is more than just designing her own kind of chocolate, but also discovering her own kind of community. At the end of the film, just when she resolves to move to another village, the townspeople who have come to love her, convince her to stay. Because her work is needed there. Vivian is the enchanting rock people can count on. Her value is desirable to the point of absolute necessity. And so, she takes up permanent residence in the village. Emerson was right. Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread. To whom is your art essential?

What did you learn?

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter. 

Never the same speech twice. Customized for your audience. Impossible to walk away uninspired.

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