Creativity And Innovation “When you watch a movie for about ten minutes, you recognize if there’s a potential mental picture there.”

-John Boorman

Vision, Concepts, And Show Business

Besides an expressive catch, a movie director requires an authentic opinion, a perception to impart. The opinion should address specific life circumstances or issues that hold importance for the moviemaker.  You cannot create a good movie if you don’t know what it’s about.

In fact, innovative movie directors need ideas in two fields: the film’s theme and innovative storytelling.


“Do I possess a creative notion in my head?”

-Charlie Kaufman Adaptation

The theme is what Lajos Egri (The Art of Dramatic Writing) terms its premise while Sydney Lumet describes as, “What the movie involves.” It is awareness into individual circumstance.

This basic awareness/premise/theme doesn’t have to be innovative.  Many themes have already been used. Therefore, to create an “innovative” story, the basic premise must be so intense and special to you that you think you are the first person to have thought about it.

For example, the premise of the movie, Some Like It Hot, is the pursuit of love.  Love is not a new concept.  It has been around for many years and used by a number of great writers, such as: Shakespeare, Moliere, and Preston Sturges.  So, why has Some Like It Hot maintained its originality, even after four decades, if it is based on an overused theme?  The answer has a great deal to do with the director’s belief.

Billy Wilder, the film’s writer/director, firmly believed that no one understood the topic the way he did. That is the distinction between true innovation and mass-production.

There are no replacements for awareness and fact in a movie’s premise.  Facts can come from studying individual conduct as in Some Like It Hot.  They can also come from the perception into people’s desires and anxieties.  M. Night Shayamalan demonstrates this beautifully in The Sixth Sense.

Although the assertion may or may not be true, the desire to overcome death is common and the movie addresses it by letting the living and the dead help each other. A third example is seen the Danish movie, Festen (known as Dogme 95 in the U.S.), which portrays the lasting emotional pain of incest.  Here, the premise is based on an intense experience.

Innovative Storytelling

“You must obtain a concept you really like. You can’t act only to be unique.”

David Lynch

The second element in a making a great movie lies in its story telling. “Innovative” storytelling includes the following components:

  1. The characters’ actions and discourse are human and keenly studied.
  2. The circumstances of individual scenes are creatively formed, identifiably human, and full of idiosyncratic detail.
  3. The events of the entire story are organized in order to be astounding yet predictable.
  4. The cinematic approach draws its visual procedure naturally from the subject matter.

Every scene must connect and contribute to the main story. For example, you may have a scene, where the character is going through a car wash while talking on his cell phone. If the phone scene does not connect to the story or cultivate a character, it is insignificant.

The Effort Of Creativity

“I only picture that there is an idiot like Osgood Fairchild.  An old sucker exists. Then I go on.”

-Billy Wilder

Directors and writers often do not completely and intensely visualize the stories.  As a result the story may appear artificial

“Functional” visualization is different from a pointless daydream. Suppose I am browsing a fashion catalogue. A pointless daydream is when I see a model wearing a beautiful dress, then imagine myself as the mode. However, functional visualizing is when I take the time to picture how I would appear wearing the dress.

In addition to requiring more effort, true visualization bears the risk of temporary dissatisfaction. In case of the dress, if I deceive myself and order the dress, I will be disappointed at the image I see in the mirror, when I try it on.

If I am truthful from the beginning, however, the mental picture may make me turn the dress down and go through the same process with another dress. So, it behooves us to be truthful in our process.

The same is true for movies with one difference.  Movies involve internal and external visualizations.  Internal visualization refers to truly experiencing the story as we tell it. This is where the intricate details and characters come alive.

I call it “mental ad-libbing.” When you allow the characters to ad-lib in your mind, you set them free. External or filmic visualization refers to the movie director’s special “eye” for locations, scenery, camera angles, and optical impression. External visualization alone lacks depth.

I invite you to experiment with internal visualization.  Feel what it’s like to have a liberated and unbreakable imagination and create characters you believe in.  But also experience the burden of self-knowledge.  Though not without effort, in the end it is an exceedingly rewarding process.