Where do ideas come from? It’s a question that has been asked through the ages, since the great philosophers of ancient Greece to the modern technocrats in Silicon Valley. Creativity is one of the great unsolved mysteries of mankind. It is also the main driving force in all human endeavour. No matter if your focus is in the arts, business, sciences or technology, the search for inspired thoughts and ideas is endless. They are the source of our most celebrated human traits and the greatest achievements of man.
One way of understanding inspiration, is to look at how the great minds of humankind encouraged their own creativity. Music producer and hip-hop empresario, Jay-Z uses the power of his memory to create a mental storehouse of lyrics, built up as a teen out on the mean streets of New York. South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone do everything to a ‘last minute’ deadline to make sure their ideas are spontaneous and topical. The most extreme of all is the eccentric Yoshiro Nakamatsu (inventor of the floppy disk), who literally drowns himself, saying that when he’s 0.5 seconds from death he gets his best ideas.
There is no secret formula for great ideas. It’s clear that there are all means and methods (FYI – we don’t advise drowning yourself) that help us get those groundbreaking ideas outside of our heads. If you’re working in film, TV and commercials the need for creative thinking is constant. While emulating the habits of those famous success stories might be tempting, it’s often down to the individual how they tease out the next big idea. In the Paragon creative nerve centre, there are always plenty of opinions on how to find inspiration.
The subject of inspiration is never far from anyone’s mind here. We’re constantly bouncing ideas around, sharing snapshots, mental notes and video clips that will unlock the next big project. One thing that unites all our opinions on the matter is that it needs to be ‘something that gets you excited’ and ‘engages you on an emotional level’. This emotional awareness is something that has long been acknowledged as a main source of inspiration. When we are emotionally impacted by a story, image or message, it stays with us forever.
This emotional intelligence also ties in well with our ability to tell the difference between a good idea and a bad one. The ‘gut feeling’ of knowing what’s going to perform and what isn’t, is an honest guide for the creative process. There is a sense that this feeling is immediate, a bolt of lightning moment that strikes from nowhere. The reality is that these visceral ideas need testing or as our Head of Ops, Sam puts it, “ripping them into pieces to see if they can still stand up.” It’s his razor edged theory that “the key is not to be too precious with the idea and to know that another one is out there.” We don’t need to always fixate on one solitary idea, when we can always cast our lines out into deeper waters to find new inspiration. Catching an idea that works is the ultimate goal.
To find that killer idea, our in-house director Jay, falls back on his well stocked memory bank for inspiration. A classic 90s kid brought up by the warm glow of the TV, his best ideas are based on “childhood years, spent soaking up all of those techniques, ideas, stories and filing them away in my young mind”. This concept of a mind archive is one that seems to be common among creatives. It means that an idea can be sourced anywhere and at any time. We just need to be ready to grab it whenever it appears.
“Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.”
Jim Jarmusch – Director
It’s important to be honest in the creative world. That’s why we should all admit where we get our best ideas. We steal them. If you’ve ever written, drawn or filmed anything of worth, you’ve committed idea theft. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Every great piece of work has been ripped off from some other rip off before it. The real test of a good creative theft is how it’s adapted to suit the demands of a new project. Stealing great ideas is the first stage of the creative process and this is something everyone here respects.
Each member of the team has their own way of approaching a project. From scribbling down every stray thought, to creating a profile of the average customer to get into their mindset. Between the initial ideation stage and the end point there are any number of ways to structure the creative process. Some like to pace around the office spitting out ideas out to see if they pass the ‘acid test’ while others take themselves outside for a long stroll to get rid of the dreaded ‘mental drain’. Essentially, creating great ideas is a process of acting on them, so you can reach the objectives of the project.
Our head of post-production focuses on the brief as the most integral part of any project as it frames his way of working, It’s Ste’s opinion that “some briefs have a strong outline of the desired end product” whereas in other cases “it’s a fairly open brief”. When a client has a very clear idea, it takes a disciplined approach to deliver their vision and give them more than they imagined. The second pathway of an ‘open brief’ can be liberating but daunting at the same time, requiring a more intense research and ideation phase to really nail the ideas pitch. Either way, the communication and collaboration between creative and client will define how we approach any problem.
When the subject of most inspirational people came up in the office, it threw out more than a few interesting names. Our Editor (and resident South African) Jono, picked an ex-Navy SEAL (Jocko Willink) as the person he looks up to the most. He cited his “sheer determination to tackle the toughest situations”, as a core reason why he can face bigger challenges himself. One strong candidate who came up for ‘most inspirational’ was tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, for his ‘out there’ thinking and the fact that he’s finding solutions to problems that no-one else can see. It’s an attitude that we adopt ourselves, constantly looking for the answers that go unseen.
“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.”
Elon Musk – Tech Entrepreneur
Inspiration means different things to different people. We all have our own approaches, ways to break the mould and methods to produce extraordinary work. Whether we’re conceptual innovators or experimental masters, it’s really all about trusting our own process to guide the way. It’s this same trust that will translate into every piece of motion content that we create.