CreativityEngaging CultureMedia ProductionStrategy & Marketing

How to Be Successfully Creative

It’s tough being creative in today’s world. With the ever pressing need for “productivity,” smaller budgets, and enormous distraction, people struggle to be successful as a professional writer, designer, filmmaker, musician, or other creative role. As a result, many give up too easily – especially when they experience conflict with an employer, client, studio, or funding source. But yesterday, I pulled a long quote I’ve kept for decades that reminded me of the real secret of being successful. It’s a quote from writer and director Ron Shelton – famous for a long list of movies like “Bull Durham,” “Tin Cup,” and “White Men Can’t Jump.” He was speaking about the movie business, but his philosophy applies to every area of creativity, and it’s worth reflecting on:

“I think people are naive about the movie business. The movie business is no different from any artistic medium in the history of the world. Pope Julius II was screaming at Michelangelo for four years; Velazquez painted for Phillip II, and the guy was an inbred lunatic. My models for screenwriting and for directing are the court painters of Europe: I need the king’s money to criticize the king. How can I get it without getting my head cut off? 

That is the model. 

In the fifteenth century a patron would come to a painter and say, I’d like to pay you to make a painting. I don’t care what your style is, I don’t care how you do it. There’s only one thing, and I’ll pay you well: Can you paint my family into the background?

And do you know what the good painters did? They said, No problem.

You know what the bad painters did? They said, I can’t compromise my vision.

Look at Velazquez’s Maids of Honor: He’s not only got everybody in it, he’s got himself in the damn thing. That’s the painting every screenwriter should look at. I mean if the people who painted paintings and made movies, saw eye to eye with their financiers, something would be wrong. And I don’t say that judgmentally. I think there’s a lot to be said for the conflict of the process. I really do.

To make a painting or the movie you want to make without getting your head cut off – that’s the trick. It has never been any different, it won’t ever be any different, and so be it.”

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Tags

Related Articles

16 Comments

  1. typo on “kind’s money” should be king’s money.

    this is a terrific quote – classic conflict between business and art, and yes, the successful ones figure out to make it work. great examples.

  2. Great article. My grandfather was an artist. Some of his best illustrations were unprofitable but he made a handsome income drawing the political satire cartoons for a major newspaper during World War Two here in Australia. In my family, legend has it that one of those cartoons made it way into the hands of Sir Winston Church during the London blitz because it illustrated the courage and defiance of the Brits.

  3. Definite Clip & Save material, Phil. Shared your post with a couple of aspiring filmmaker groups on FB. Shelton is a solid director.

    Decades ago I directed a compelling documentary on Islam – and reaching Muslims with the Gospel in a culturally appropriate way. (Shot in Morocco, UK, France, Tanzania, Bosnia, Israel, Egypt, Indonesia, India.) The clients showed up very late in the process (final editing and scripting) and wanted changes everywhere, all the way down to excising certain (great) shots my editor & I wanted to keep. Incredible to us, but not to the clients. I made my compelling case to keep them in, they strongly made their case to chuck them. I compromised, and rightly so. It was their video, not mine. And…they were paying the production and me very well. The video still looked great. (Today you could save a “director’s cut” for yourself.)

    As my friend Joe Sindorf says, “You can be right. Or you can be employed.”

  4. Wonderful article, great thought. I wish I’d known this principle earlier.

    In the beginning of my career, a client asked for a change contrary to my artistic beliefs. I tried hardly to convince him otherwise. My boss asked me:
    – Why the quarrel?
    – We did such a beautiful work.
    – And?
    – The client wants us to make it ugly.
    – If the client wants it ugly, we’ll make it ugly.
    End of the argument. Client was happy. We’ve got payed.

    At last, the creative team had the money to go to lunch and complain about why the rich clients are so insensitive not to support our creative dreams. It was the most delicious lunch we had enjoyed in a long time.

    1. Love that Mirgen. So true. However, my first goal is to deliver what the client wants and STILL make it something I’d be proud of. Not always possible, but when it works, it’s great! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Like Velazquez, in every film I’ve produced we’ve included investors and their family members at least as extras. Sometimes we’ve even given them speaking roles. And sometimes it’s actually worked well. But it’s definitely a balancing act . . . Not all are destined for the silver screen. In every case we issue a disclaimer: “Mr/Ms Investor, just so you know – your scene could end up being cut.” This makes for a little less pain when that happens.

  6. Definite Clip & Save material, Phil. Shared your post with a couple of aspiring filmmaker groups on FB. Shelton is a solid director.

    Decades ago I directed a compelling documentary on Islam – and reaching Muslims with the Gospel in a culturally appropriate way. (Shot in Morocco, UK, France, Tanzania, Bosnia, Israel, Egypt, Indonesia, India.) The clients showed up very late in the process (final editing and scripting) and wanted changes everywhere, all the way down to excising certain (great) shots my editor & I wanted to keep. Incredible to us, but not to the clients. I made my compelling case to keep them in, they strongly made their case to chuck them. I compromised, and rightly so. It was their video, not mine. And…they were paying the production and me very well. The video still looked great. (Today you could save a “director’s cut” for yourself.)

    As my friend Joe Sindorf says, “You can be right. Or you can be employed.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker