How do you get creative? And what are the things that stimulate you when you’re staring at a blank sheet of paper trying to come up with an idea?
This has been on my mind a lot recently – and not just when it comes to this time every week when I have to turn in a blog post – but particularly on Tuesday when I attended the 25th anniversary presentation of Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors’ Showcase in New York City.
The film premiered at Cannes this year, but I didn’t have a chance to see it there, and, as Saatchi’s worldwide film and content director Andy Gulliman told the audience, it somehow seemed particularly appropriate to be watching it in New York City anyway, especially at the lovely theater at the Museum of Modern Art.
The films were so different and diverse, and pretty much fantastic across the board. Each winning director from the last 25 years had made a new 60-second film using a prop from their original films and each successive director had to include a prop from the previous director’s film.
Saatchi & Saatchi then showed this year’s crop of New Directors’ Showcase films, which if anything I enjoyed even more. As the first film demonstrated, many of the winners of this award have gone on to become superstars of their craft, and I could easily see the same happening to the class of 2015.
Take a look at this amazing piece for example, from Korean director Kyungmin Woo, called JohnnyExpress:
As well as the expected crop of creatives and other beautiful people there were also some clients in the room, and Saatchi & Saatchi New York CEO Brent Smart gently encouraged them to use the stimulus of the films to try and be braver in their branding work.
Defining creativity is an impossible task. Its context changes from day to day and it can disappear as fast as it arrives. It depends on mood, location, environment, energy, and many other factors.
But anyway, since it’s silly season and probably no one is reading this as it’s one of the quietest weeks of the year, I thought I’d list a few of the things that are inspiring me at the moment, and I’d like to encourage all of you to share your current creative stimuli, either as a comment at the end of this post, or to me via email.
This might sound naïve, but let’s try to help each other be creative and in some small way advance the cause of coming up with big and bold ideas. As I say, this list will change tomorrow, or next week, or even later today, but capturing this moment, it’s what’s inspiring me at present.
1/ Ex Machina – one of the best films I’ve seen for years. I won’t spoil it by revealing too much, but it’s all about artificial intelligence and it will certainly make you think. This stuff is happening faster than you know. Try and guess who director Alex Garland thinks is the protagonist. You can find out in a Reddit AMA with him once you’ve watched the movie. The dance scene is a particular highlight. "After a long day of Turing Tests you gotta unwind." How true…
2/ Cover Junkie – print might not occupy such an important part in our lives as it used to, but I still love magazines, and I especially love magazine covers. Even if it doesn’t help you come up with your next great idea, visiting this excellent site allows you to just enjoy the great skills of the world’s best magazine designers, including PRWeek’s Jon Butterworth.
3/ Frankie Boyle – Britain’s most controversial comedian and, severe health warning here, definitely not someone to watch if you are offended by curse words or "difficult" subjects. But personally I think the man’s a genius who shines a bright light on some of the biggest subjects of our generation.
4/ Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase – I already mentioned how good these are and I particularly loved the JohnnyExpress piece, but check out all the films from the 2015 crop. They’re well worth a watch.
5/ Manchester United – every sports fan will have their own version of this one, that moment in your life when your team gave you an experience you’ll remember forever, no matter how badly they play in the next game. I can watch this over and over again and still get goose bumps every time. May 26 1999, a very special night.
6/ Grand Chess Tour, Sinquefield Cup – think chess is boring? Well, the strongest tournament of all time is going on at the moment in St Louis and, for me, it is compelling viewing. The commentary team of Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade, and Maurice Ashley manage to bring the game alive for fans and non-fans alike. OK, you’ll probably still think it’s boring, but I like it and am inspired by it. If the Sinquefield Cup is a little hardcore, go see the upcoming film Pawn Sacrifice instead, starring Tobey Maguire as US chess hero and maverick Bobby Fischer. It debuts on September 16.
7/ Music - Sometimes you hear a piece of music and you have to keep playing it over and over again, until it drives your neighbors to distraction. I’m sure you’ll all have your own favorites, but this one’s doing it for me right now.
8/ Books – Turn off your cell phone and read a book. You’ll remember how much you liked it. Doesn’t matter what it is, zone out and transport yourself somewhere that isn’t connected to WiFi or a cable. This one’s on my coffee table at the moment.
9/ Travel – I spent some time back in my home country England recently and remembered how beautiful the Lake District is. Spending time here was a totally amazing way to recharge the batteries.
OK, please excuse my indulgence, but that’s what’s inspiring me at the moment – let me know what’s inspiring you…