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 bar scene scene in Rango:
What can we learn?
Filling in the identity lines. This movie is terrifically clever, but it’s also a powerful meditation on identity. Rango is a chameleon, both literally and figuratively. With a little mimicry, bravado and improvisation, he presents himself as tough drifter who will blow the ugly right off your face. And the townsfolk believe him. They have no idea he comes from a domestic terrarium. Rango is a blank sheet of paper, in his minds and theirs. And this scene is him filling in the lines. We’re witnessing the conceptual beginning of a man’s identity. Rango’s history and beliefs are awakening in him. His narrative is beginning to assume a definite form. And his personal mythology is burning itself into people’s brains. If you’re an artist, there were probably moments just like that your career. Starting from scratch. Filling in the identity lines. Consciously deciding who you’re going to be. It’s an exhilarating experience. Especially since most of the world isn’t lucky enough to become who they are. What where the sudden but seismic shifts in your sensibility and persona that became foundational in your work?
We each see what we need to see. Dirt is a town of deep faith. A loyal, tightly knit community who needs something to believe in. Rango, on the other hand, is a loner and a complete fraud. He’s not even supposed to be there. But as the spirit of the west advised him, no man can walk out on his own story. And so, he doesn’t have a choice. Rango raised his hand. He became the hero they were looking for and. And from this point on, that’s who he is. If you’re a veteran creator, this lesson is particularly useful. Because over the long arc of an artist’s career, people often take detours off their main line that they’re not initially thrilled with. But that doesn’t mean the experience isn't worthwhile. Creative people must always allow for the possibility that new meaning will arise in unexpected places. As my mentor once told me, when you think you know your destination, you’re on the wrong path. Are you willing to lean into a different future?
Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow. Rango’s entire future was predicated on something he read on a bottle of cactus juice. That seemingly innocuous detail was the divergence that resulted in a significantly different outcome. It’s chaos theory at its finest. Sensitive dependence. Initial conditions in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. Sound like quantum physics? You’re right. But it also sounds like the creative process. Because the obligation of an artist is to always be on the lookout for that divergence. That tiny detail that triggers a whole world. Every creative person has their version of it. Fifteen years ago, I decided to put on a nametag. And out of that moment, I built a brand, a business and an entire career. That was my first experience chaos theory. But what’s interesting is, now I notice those innocuous details everywhere. To me, everything is a nametag. Everything is a bottle of cactus juice that could change everything. What do you see when you see people?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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Email to inquire about fees and availability. Watch clips of The Nametag Guy in action here!