Reorganize chance. That is the basis of your work
When an artist does work that seems innovative, we say that he or she has created something. The more I think about the process we call "creating," the more I'm convinced we use the wrong word to describe it.
Articles on film sound usually stay clear of questions as basic as "What is creativity?" and "Is it possible for an artist to become more creative?"
Questions like these are usually considered too messy, or too abstract and subjective. I appreciate those arguments, and don't discount them. On the other hand, I think we do know a few things about being creative. One theory is that each of us is given a bag of creativity at birth, and that the bag doesn't grow or shrink much for the rest of our lives. But even if our bag of creativity doesn't change in size, our ability to dip into it varies constantly. Ask any artist or performer.
- Inspiration, insight, and luck are difficult entities to describe,
and all but impossible to quantify -
- The Tyranny Of Competence -
Being creative is balancing precariously between, or shifting back and forth between, these two extremes. It is not surprising that a high percentage of very creative people have manic-depressive personalities.
When you begin a project, the surest way to guarantee nothing interesting will happen is to go into it with the assumption that you know exactly how to do it. The best you can hope to do within that frame of mind is to duplicate work that you or someone else has already done. Of course, the first step in mastering a craft is to learn the traditions and conventions, the tools and techniques that have historically produced good work and bad. Having acquired those skills, the challenge is to look freshly at each new project, making as few assumptions as possible about how to proceed.
It's generally acknowledged that a good film begins with a good script.
On the other hand, even a very good script is nothing more than a vague
blueprint for the eventual film. The locations, actors, and other collaborators
will add depth to the story that the writer is not in a position to
anticipate. The serendipity that allows it all to come together will
only happen if each collaborator is open to it, and clever about making
the necessary adjustments. One thing seems clear: the best creative
- Complexity -
We operate in two worlds:
(1) reality, which contains profundities and comedy unimaginably wild and deep, but on the surface is mostly deadly boring and
(2) fiction, which isn't too hard to make superficially appealing,
but is difficult as hell to make profound or deeply funny.
- One thing that distinguishes fiction from reality is the level
of complexity -
As writers we go to the supermarket and examine it on as many levels as possible. We don't just watch what happens, we participate in it. We get a job working in the fresh produce section. We go home with the store manager and the bag boy. By living through these situations (and by watching ourselves live through them) we begin to find threads overlapping in amazing ways. Other threads we assumed were connected turn out not to be connected at all.
The script needs to be shaped by real world experience. Shooting and editing the film involves a trip through more unanticipated reality which will frustrate, but can also improve what you thought you had.
Designing your sound (bet you thought we'd never get to sound) should be no less experimental and no less influenced by process. When we begin to imagine a scene, the first few sounds that come to mind will usually be "appropriate" in a general way, but not very deeply connected to what is really happening dramatically.
Let's say we have a scene around a kitchen table where two guys are arguing. One eventually jumps up, pulls a gun, cocks it, and points it at the other's head. The most obvious sound effect to feature is the cocking of the gun. Ironically, the other prop I mentioned (the table) could supply a more powerful sound. As our guy stands, maybe he shoves the table toward the other guy. The scrape of the table legs on the floor could be fashioned to evoke danger more effectively because it comes from a place we don't expect. Knowing we may want to use the sound of the table in this way will influence everything about the way we set up and block the shots.
The best way to find unexpected storytelling elements is to experiment.
If I am designing the sound for the scene around the table, I will want
to simulate the set as closely as possible. Then I will move and play
with every object and surface in the place, listening for sounds that
have the dramatic values I can use to enhance the scene. On the other
hand, unless I can do this experimenting before shooting starts, there
is no way I can influence the way the scene is to be shot. If the Director
If I am directing the scene, I will want to experiment with sound in this way before the scene is shot, so that I will be able to block and shoot, and even construct the set in ways that take advantage of sound.
- A Craftsman knows how to avoid accidents -- an Artist knows how
to use them -
Mistakes, accidents, and the unexpected often provide the spark that leads to great work. The trick is to plan and execute your creative process in a way that makes room for lots of experimenting and lots of mistakes early. Rehearsing is not mainly for the purpose of "memorizing" what needs to be done. Actually the best reason to rehearse is to discover what needs to be done.
- We may not create or invent -- we always discover -
So, Uncle Randy's simple rules for being more creative are:
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