The Gap

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There’s something that’s been bugging me for a few weeks now, and only this afternoon as my family and I watched the Red Arrows roar about over the English Channel, did it really strike me what it was.

In Incognito , David Eagleman goes to great lengths to show that the subconscious is a mass of unknowable stuff, but it’s mostly rules and regulatory stuff, that we don’t need to know because it’s either pre-programmed into our DNA (breathing, learning etc.) or we’ve taught ourselves by repetition (driving a car, playing a musical instrument etc.)

What is singularly lacking in Incognito is any discussion about creativity. Who or what are ‘the little men downstairs’ that Stephen King writes of, that generate complex stories apparently from thin air? I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down to write a blog post with absolutely no idea what I’m going to write, and yet fifteen minutes later I’m busy finding an appropriate image for something that appeared as if by magic from my finger-tips. And what about those ah-hah moments (for me, usually in the shower) when an idea manifests itself so fully and completely that there’s no way I could have thought it up instantaneously? But yet I did.

There must be some kind of computational machinery in there too, something that is working at is own pace, quite often, and doesn’t always deliver when we’d like it to, but there nonetheless.

I recently found some old notes; I’m not sure why I’d even written them down, but I suspect it was some time last year when I was reading about and doing a lot of meditation. The notes were mostly trivial waffle around Big Data, but I did ask two pertinent questions: 1) Does the subconscious have rules? (Thanks to Incognito we have the answer to that one), and 2) Does creativity come from the gap between the word and the non-word, the conscious and unconscious?

I have no idea about that one, but somehow it feels right. We spend too much time in our conscious minds, and meditation does allow you to learn to move away into a more balanced state of conscious/sub-consciousness. Is the gap between them bridgeable? And at what point does an idea developed in a system that doesn’t deal with language, make the leap to one that we can formulate in words? It’s all a bit of a mystery that definitely requires more exploration.

Priorities in filmmaking

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I find it quite telling that while the UK film industry, from my limited viewpoint, appears to be bogged down in left-thinking, anti-Brexit, anti-capitalist mind-think*, one of the greatest neo-liberal Presidents of the USA was an ex-actor.

It always struck me as a bit of an over-simplification, but the simple difference between Hollywood and the Indy scene is their attitude to money. Hollywood is a business, it’s run by free-market thinking types keen to return a profit to make their next film with, the Indy scene by ‘artistic’ types, who have no idea about making a commercially viable product, and who balk at the thought of creative such a vulgar thing as a profitable film.

Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film by Peter Bisking, as well as being a great read, displays the dichotomy well (even if he does slightly blur the sound marketing and commercial sensibilities of the Weinsteins with their more unpalatable traits, although, I suppose, what else could he do?).

I’ve never really understood the auteur mentality. The age-old struggle of any filmmaker is where the money for the next project is coming from. Money tends to create money, so if you want to prove yourself, make a ‘commercially viable’ film. To do this you have to start with the audience in mind. An inventor worth his salt wouldn’t set about trying to improve society by creating a device that didn’t solve a common problem. The problem that the entertainment industry should be looking to solve is simply that people need entertaining. They just want to be carted off to another place, become someone else for a while and enjoy their suffering and success in a nice comfy chair.

I get the feeling, seeing reports in The Hollywood Reporter about the preponderance for data and spreadsheets at places like Netflix, that the industry is starting to overthink things, but that’s still possibly a better place to be than not thinking about these things.

It’s not easy to make a low-budget, entertaining film, but it’s not impossible. But if you don’t start with the audience in mind, you’ll get nowhere fast.

* Yes, I know not everyone, but a lot of people!

On Creativity

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Yesterday I mentioned in passing my definition of capitalism involved the element of creativity. This is another of my fundamentals of life.

We are, as human beings, creative. It is a result of, and in our integrative worldview – a cause of, who we are. The biblical scholars understood this, even as they attributed the mystery of creation to God, they understood that it is in the process of creation that we are made in the image of God.

We naturally like to create, whether that be for a living or as a hobby, the state of flow that comes from creating something, for me, indicates that it is what we are meant to do. The integrative nature of how both our brains work and how we work together, will always bear creative fruit if allowed to. In fact, the greatest pleasure and most fulfilment I’ve ever had in life has always come from creating with other people.

When people create together, whether it be making music or making films, the results are always far greater than the sum of its parts. If you ever want to see the origin of the extended order in action, make a film or write a song with other people. It’s incredible.

Even in the workplace and in society, we are always creating, even if it’s a bit less fun. Laws, traditions, products all emerge from the efforts of many people, who rarely could produce the result by themselves. And so the extended order grows, a constant dance of creation and evolution, never controlled or owned by anyone.