Joss Whedon on taking a creative "vacation"

Joss Whedon took a detour from mega-budget filmmaking to direct a passion project, the much smaller budget film, Much Ado About Nothing. “When you work at something really hard, then working at something else is a vacation. I remember returning to work on The Avengers (after taking a break to direct Much Ado About Nothing) with a clearer eye and being more invested not because I have my art and this is my commerce but because the joy of storytelling is back.”

Carrie Brownstein on the upside of not arriving

"The notion that you’ve arrived, I think, is--first of all, it’s probably false--but it’s also a bad place to make any kind of art. To have a sense of yourself as an impostor or an outsider kind of pushes you to not settle for something."
From "Carrie Brownstein Keeps It Uncomfortable In Season Two of Portlandia."

Steven Soderbergh on picking projects

“Start with a great product and everything flows from that. You start by making something you like, that you would go to see, that you would buy and see what happens. I’ve never made something because other people would like it. I don’t know how to do that. That seems like a waste of your life.”

Gerry Graf on making a great ad (or anything)

Gerry Graf, founder of agency Barton F. Graf 9000, gave a "Master Class" on making great commercials, but his advice applies across creative endeavors.

“A lot of ideas come at the beginning. Most you should throw out.”

Jonathan Gottschall on the best way to get a message across

“We are beasts of emotion more than logic. We are creatures of story, and the process of changing one mind or the whole world must begin with “Once upon a time.” From "Why Storytelling Is The Ultimate Weapon."

Thelma Schoonmaker on knowing your tools

In describing the making of a classic scene--the "you think I’m funny?" scene from Goodfellas--legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker makes a point about creative decision making and using the right tools for the right outcome (rather than using the tools because you have them).

"Do you use a close-up or do you use a medium shot? Do you use a wide shot with both of them in the frame? All those decisions are very critical in how you create someone’s performance. In fact, in the scene 'What’s so funny about me?' Marty deliberately did not shoot any close-ups. He [knew] he wouldn’t use them. He wanted to show the people around Ray Liotta and around Joe Pesci. They’re laughing at the beginning, and gradually they fall silent, and then they get very worried. So he didn’t even shoot them. Until the owner of the nightclub comes over and asks Joe Pesci to pay his bill--and then we had a close-up and we cut in. You have to know as a director how to use your tools. Everything doesn’t have to be handheld or have a snap zoom in it, which is the way things are done today."

Jim Stengel on the importance of long-term thinking and ideals

“The CEO of P&G when I joined said, ‘We think not in quarters and years but we think in decades.’ We need more of that. We need different kinds of leaders--they need to think longer term, and they need to understand their role is to ensure the ideal is right and that it’s activated everywhere. That’s a very different kind of activity system than most people who are in senior roles out there. To me that’s what’s getting in the way. It can happen, I’ve seen it happen but we need to take it from the exception to the norm.”
From "Marketing Leader Jim Stengel On The One Thing Businesses Need to Grow."

Demetri Martin on sculpting an idea

"Here’s an example of a joke that doesn’t quite work yet. It’s super simple. Sometimes when I’m eating at a restaurant, the waiter will come up to me and ask if I’m still working on something. Like, “Are you still working on that salad? Are you finished with that salad? Are you still working on it?” And to me there’s something funny and annoying about him asking me that. I’m actually at lunch from work; I’m on a break. Don’t turn even the eating of the salad into how productive I am. A lot of times a joke just floats in my head, perfectly formed, and its like 15 words. Other times, it’s something like this salad thing: For some reason it pisses me off, and I can’t quite get the wording right, but if I think about it some more and then keep chiseling away, I get it down to just like a sentence."
From "Advice for A Twitter World: Demetri Martin On How To Be Succinct."

Simon Rich on how to get out of a writing slump

"I find in general that if I don’t have any ideas on what to write about, I just research whatever at the moment I’m extremely interested in. I read a lot of nonfiction on subjects I’m interested in, and that usually knocks something loose. Wikipedia is also a big help. There’s always something interesting on Wikipedia--the random article button is great. When I was writing Free Range Chickens, I had just discovered Wikipedia and one of the ways I came up with ideas was to just keep refreshing, and keep clicking the random article until a premise occurred to me."
From "How To Write For Any Medium…" from Simon Rich, who’s written for The New Yorker, SNL, Pixar films and many others.

Dick Cavett on how to remember

A trick for how to keep multiple conversational threads alive during an interview:

"I didn’t always remember everything we’d been talking about. I was forever thinking 'Oh shit--what was it I thought of a minute ago while this other person was talking?' Eventually, I developed a memory technique from my friend, Harry Lorayne, the memory expert, of creating an outrageous image. Like if they were caught stealing an apple as a kid, but then they start talking about something else, you picture picking up an apple and throwing it in the face of, I don’t know, Mitt Romney or some prominent person. And that sort of startling image will trigger 'apple’ for you later on. But I wouldn’t throw an apple at Romney. Or a vote."

Jonah Weiner on not being too precious about your creations

In a story on longform journalism, writer Jonah Weiner offered this bit of wisdom that’s useful for any writer or creative person.

"What I’ve found useful on smaller pieces is really just actually deleting everything I’ve written and go at it fresh, just re-envision it again… That’s really the best way to do it. Often I find that that’s just this great cure-all: Just delete it all, go for a walk, whatever it is, and then sit down and start writing an entirely different feature about the same subject."
From "Longform Podcast Takes You Inside The Process of Journalism."

Alex Karpovsky on excuse-busting

"Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t overthink it. Don’t spend a lot of time begging for money. Do it on the small resources that you feel you can lasso in. Stop waiting for resources if you already have them. Stop waiting for greater resources if you feel like you need them. Stop making any excuses for why you feel that you can’t make this movie, because you can. Just start filming in two months."
From "Tribeca Star Alex Karpofsky’s Tips For DIY Filmmaking."

Ze Frank on getting your ideas out

"I’m suspicious of how your rational mind can hold onto ideas to make itself feel like it’s still creative. I consider creativity to be a more non-rational, subconscious thing. You have a relationship to your creativity--you can feed it with content, with some rational prodding and sleep and things like that, but the mechanisms by which your creativity work are largely unknown. So one way people combat that is they have an idea and then they hold onto it forever and it starts growing in their mind to the point where they never execute it because it’s never gonna be that good. I have a general workflow, which is, if I have an idea I try to execute it as quickly and faithfully as possible."
From "Original Web Showman Ze Frank On His New Series And Creativity As Brain Crack."

George Lois on inspiration

On the benefits of going to the museum for creative inspiration:

"If you want to do something sharp and innovative, you have to know what went on before. Museums are custodians of epiphanies, and these epiphanies enter the central nervous system and deep recesses of the mind."

Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan on listening...

"Listen to people very carefully. Listen to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying with equal interest. A few weeks ago I actually overheard a very stupid man being coached for marriage counseling by a hippie who was even thicker than he was. It was pure gold and I know I’m going to use something like it, somewhere. This is why you have to live in cities. To listen….

"What I find really interesting is what characters don’t reveal, what people try to conceal. Everybody is always trying to hide something, and you can show that through dialogue.

"Quite decent people often don’t realize that their conversations are not about truth or communication but advancing their own mythologies. Look at what people are trying to conceal, and you’ll see that they’re revealing everything."
From ""William Monahan on How To Write Unforgettable Dialogue."

Katie Meza on the long and short of it

“In the end you have to do what makes you happy. Life’s too short, and if you’re not happy at your current situation, know that you have the power to change it into whatever you want. You just have to be brave.”
From "How To Be A Happy And Successful Creative Freelancer."

Co.Create

Essential Creative Advice From Joss Whedon, Carrie Brownstein, Jim Stengel And 13 Others

To kick off a creative 2013, a veritable buffet of top-shelf advice from some of Co.Create’s killer interviews, including timely tips from Joss Whedon, Steven Soderbergh and more.

What can Joss Whedon or Steven Soderbergh teach you if you don’t make movies or you aren’t a TV show creator? You might be surprised.

Over the past year, Co.Create has talked to some of the most prolific creative people around—directors, ad makers, CEOs, content creators of all stripes. Their insight on their own creative process is always interesting, but their words of wisdom are also remarkable for how applicable they are across disciplines.

A core part of our mandate has been to bring together a range of creative voices from across industries, the idea being that creativity is everyone’s business. And we’ve been consistently fascinated by just how translatable these voices are across creative boundaries.

Anyone who read all of these interviews certainly learned something about creating a web series or telling a story or building a brand, but these discussions with creative leaders also yielded, we think, some useful insight into being creative in whatever realm you work in.

We’ve combed through some of this year’s most interesting interviews and cherry-picked some of the essential advice that’s applicable whatever your creative calling.

Click through the slide show for the very best quick-hit advice we procured in 2012.

Add New Comment

2 Comments

  • Amber King

    Katie Meza on the long and short of it
    “In
    the end you have to do what makes you happy. Life’s too short, and if
    you’re not happy at your current situation, know that you have the power
    to change it into whatever you want. You just have to be brave.”

    Agree. Whether in life or in business, when you find yourself unhappy with life or career, look for change. Do not fear change. We will only become better if we do not fear change instead embrace it. The only constant thing in life is change.