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 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 father/son scene in Thank You For Smoking:
The barometer of value. According to a research report from the three largest media distribution services in the country, nearly two thousand press releases are sent out each day. That’s north of a half a million each year. Now, some people argue that this marketing approach is a form of spam. Just another impersonal, insulting, shotgun strategy for getting somebody’s attention. And perhaps that’s true. But the press release process is still an inherently worthwhile experience. Not only because it challenges you tell your own story, but because it requires you to create value. Otherwise you wouldn’t be writing it. Lefsetz famously wrote that having a new album is not a story. That with a twenty four seven news cycle online, he says, what happens in your life is not a story. The hard core already knows what’s you’re up to and the rest don’t care. And so, perhaps the press release isn’t the point. Perhaps the point is having interesting experiences and creating meaningful things in the world, all of which earn you the right to write a press release in the first place. After all, before you write things worth talking about, you have to do things worth writing about. Life is subordinate to art, not the other way around. The press release for my documentary certainly didn’t go viral, but it still earned tens of thousands of headline impressions and hundreds of online pickups. And to me, that was a victory. Because it showed that I did something worth releasing. If you were arrested and charged with creating value for people, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Buried under layers of defensiveness. Joey is accurate when he says people make things more complicated so they can feel sorry for themselves. It’s what our species does. Human beings are amazingly adept at being defensive creatures who can deny almost anything. And so, overcomplicating is just another arrow in our rationalization quiver. It makes sense. Complexity feels like progress. However, thinking in absolutes can actually be quite useful. Even if it’s just a thought experiment, the simple and finite world of black and white has its merits. It knocks out excuses, reduces our experience of anxiety, prevents our rationalization of poor choices and enables daily decision making to be significantly easier and faster. As a textbook right brainer, I can attest to the power of this mindset. Thinking absolutes has always been difficult for me, but what I’ve come to understand is, abstinence is cheaper than moderation. The best way to block a punch is to not be there. Once we become okay with that, once we stop creating a labyrinth of bullshit around problems and start filtering the world’s noise to make the purest signal we can, clarity and liberation ensue. Are you introduce complexity for the wrong reason?
Build your story where you are. Nick has fallen into depression after the public relations nightmare exposed his lobbying practices. But thanks to his son, he recalls the integrity in his job. He realizes that his gift is defending the defenseless and protecting the disenfranchised. And so, he reclaims his message about consumer choice and responsibility, reminding the courts that liberty includes the freedom to make unhealthy decisions. And he’s inspired to open a private lobbying firm, continuing to do what he does best. Talk. Meanwhile, his son wins a school debate using lessons his father taught him. Yet another reminder, dark and satirical as it may be, that we are the authors of our own narratives. We are the public relations agents of our own careers. I’m reminded of my favorite filmmaker, Kevin Smith. He said people had been telling him that he was a failure and that he was doing it all wrong for twenty years. But he reminds us to never trust anybody when they tell us how our story goes. We know our story. We write our own story. That’s what being an artist is all about. Not just creating the work, but creating the mythology that surrounds it. Which story in your life do you want to feel on a new level?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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