What’s Creativity and Who’s Creative? (什麼是創意? 誰有創意?)

What’s Creativity and Who’s Creative? (什麼是創意? 誰有創意?)
[創意組織 ]
(2003/07/28)

What’s Creativity and Who’s Creative?

ARE you creative? Would you like to be? Why? Don’t creative people just get into trouble? Creativity is the expression of originality — it’s exciting but also demanding, consuming, frustrating, and addictive; it’s inspiring but also fickle, erratic, tricky, and risky. Creativity can be found anywhere, at home or work as easily as in art or science. It can erupt suddenly or emerge slowly. Creativity means being both different and better. Being different without being better is often pointless or just odd; being better without being different is just evolution, not revolution. For an act to be deemed creative, there must be an accepted style or method against which it can be judged original. The accepted style or method is the benchmark, and creativity often begins by rejecting or at least questioning it. An activity may seem creative up front, according to intent, but not creative in hindsight, according to results. The burden of proof is with the creators to demonstrate that their innovation is an improvement over what’s gone before. Creativity comes in many flavors, and it is well represented in the diverse group we gathered. Three of our guests have run large, creative organizations; two are foremost teachers of creativity. All are personally creative. No two are alike in what they do; all are remarkably alike in how they think about what they do.

PARTICIPANTS

Stephen J. Cannell is one of the most prolific producers and writers of network television series in Hollywood. He is also a best-selling novelist, author of such thrillers as The Devil’s Workshop and Riding the Snake. But what kind of English grades did Stephen get in high school?

Dr. Mihaly (Mike) Csikszentmihalyi was for many years a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago; he is now at the Claremont Graduate University, in California. The author of various books on creativity, including Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mike describes some common characteristics of creative people.

Dr. Robert Freeman, a pianist and music historian, has been chief executive of two leading music schools, the Eastman School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. Was Mozart more creative than Beethoven? Bob explores different styles of creativity.

Dr. John Kao, trained as a psychiatrist and active as an entrepreneur, has taught business creativity at Harvard Business School and Stanford University Graduate School of Business. John gives us some practical insights into the creative process.

Ray Kurzweil is an inventor, entrepreneur, and executive who has founded and managed four high-technology companies. He is also the author of two important books on the future of computers: The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Age of Intelligent Machines. Ray talks about sleep, risk, and group creativity.

ROBERT: Stephen, you’ve created or co-created forty television series, including The Rockford Files and The A-Team–an American record. How does it feel in your gut when you create a new show?

STEPHEN: For me it’s always, Will I like it? I start with one premise: I want to be able to go home, look at that show, and be proud of it. And I always ask myself, “Would I be willing, three years hence, to come in and write a script over the weekend?”

ROBERT: Are you proud of all your shows?

STEPHEN: No. Obviously I’ve made mistakes along the way. I made shows that only my parents watched. But they all started off trying to be the best thing I ever did.

ROBERT: How did you feel when a show you really liked was canceled?

STEPHEN: I’m pretty good about cancellations. I do my best. I try not to worry about things I can’t control–and I certainly can’t control network thinking–

ROBERT: You can’t control this show, either.

STEPHEN: That’s right–I’ve known you long enough to know that. If a show gets canceled, I try to learn from the cancellation. I look at it and ask myself, “Did I do anything wrong? Was I stubborn, was I pigheaded? Could I have made the show better? Could I have affected its longevity in some important way?” And once I’ve gone through that–usually in two or three days–I can move on.

ROBERT: Mike, your book Flow is considered a classic in the study of creativity. What is flow, and what is its relationship to creativity?

MIKE: By flow, I mean a state that people feel when they’re totally involved in whatever they’re doing–when they’re completely focused on the activity at hand. I started by studying artists, musicians, chess players, and athletes, and I found that despite the great variety of things they’re doing, when they’re really involved their inner states are the same. They describe their feelings in the same way. And the relationship to creativity is that this thorough involvement is always present when they’re working in a creative medium. Flow may not result in creativity, but it has to be there.

ROBERT: Are there cross-cultural differences, or is creativity a universally consistent human trait?

MIKE: It seems universal. The creative output may differ from culture to culture, but the creative state is described very similarly in Korea, India, China, Japan.

ROBERT: Bob, tell us about some of the great composers. Their styles are very different, but is there a root similarity in their creativity?

BOB: Beethoven left us large numbers of individual sketch books, single pages, notebooks, continuity drafts–obviously, he worked on a fair number of pieces at the same time. And he worked with great pain. Mozart, on the other hand, was well known for hardly leaving any marks behind. He could go for a walk, come back, and write a whole string quartet.

ROBERT: Was creativity harder for Beethoven than it was for Mozart?

BOB: Looks as though it was harder. Brahms composed more like Beethoven, except that he went to the trouble of destroying all his tracks afterward, so it’s very hard to get at the sketches.

ROBERT: John, as an author and jazz pianist as well as a psychiatrist, what can you tell us about the process of creativity?

JOHN: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that the popular image of Archimedes jumping out of the bathtub, or of someone with a lightbulb popping up over his head, is just a part of an overall grammar, you might say, or of a series of events that constitutes the creative process. If you look at creativity as moving from the existing to the preferred, there’s a whole lot of preparation prior to that lightbulb and a whole lot of work that needs to follow on after that. And the lightbulb doesn’t appear over the head of only one person, necessarily, although the process clearly can occur between the ears of a creative person–which in some respects, we all are. Creativity also pops up in the space between people, and also within organizations–within society, if you will.

ROBERT: If ever there were lightbulbs popping up over someone’s head, he’s sitting right next to you. Ray, you’re a successful entrpreneur, a remarkably prolific inventor–speech recognition devices, computer music keyboards, reading machines for the blind. It’s an incredible list. Compare for us the process of creativity when you create new companies with the process that goes in writing your books.

RAY: I’ll mention one similarity and one difference. The similarity is that creativity involves a sort of fantasy or daydreaming. When I start a technology, I try to imagine I’m at a conference four years from now, demonstrating how this thing works, and I just go with that fantasy. I find that I’m describing how it must have been–the problems we must have solved–and I work backward from there. The creative process of writing a book is similar: I have something I’m trying to accomplish, and I fantasize about how I will accomplish it. So I start daydreaming–and, really, a lot of creativity is done while you’re sleeping. I like to think about a problem before I go to sleep–just frame what I know about it. Then, in the morning, somehow, some of the answer is there.

ROBERT: I went to bed last night thinking about the questions I was going to ask you.

RAY: The difference is that with technology you have to catch the wave. You can’t be a little bit too early or a little bit too late–neither one works. You’ve got to be right on the wave of what’s currently feasible. In writing, you can be more imaginative and have a much broader canvas to work with. For example, my latest book is about the twenty-first century, so you don’t need to be concerned just with what’s feasible today.

ROBERT: Mike, I need some help. Analyze me. I’ve been in a creative mode, working on this show, but I have to tell you I’m continuously grumpy. But paradoxically, even though I’m so grumpy, I’ve never been quite so happy. Am I just nuts?

MIKE: I don’t think jolliness is necessarily a sign of how you feel inside. When Beethoven was struggling with his compositions, he probably felt like you did; he was grumpy, too. But inside he may have felt so consumed by what he was working on that those were the greatest days of his life.

ROBERT: Stephen, are you grumpy when you’re writing a novel?

STEPHEN: No, no; I have so much fun doing it. For me, writing is a release of something I really enjoy doing. I look forward to it. I love what Ray [Kurzweil] was just saying, about our sleeping hours producing results. Sometimes I’ll end a chapter and I’ll think, Boy, I’ve written myself into a hole here. And the next morning I’ll get up and I’ll go “Whew!!”

RAY: But it’s a struggle. It’s not an easy process. It’s the hardest work you can do, and you’re constantly faced with problems to solve. As John [Kao] mentioned, the lightbulb is a very small part of it. There’s the whole process of continuous improvement. I try to sketch out the first draft of a book very quickly, in one month–at least an outline of it. Then I progressively improve it. You’re constantly framing problems that you need to solve and trying to find solutions.

STEPHEN: My outline is the framework, the architecture, of the novel. I know what the first act is, I know what my complication is at the top of act two, I know what my second-act curtain is. Some people say books shouldn’t be written in three acts. I think any good story has to be told in three acts–just as a piece of music has to have its structure. And so I work that structure out; the process is very cerebral. Then I write a sixty- or seventy-page narrative, which breaks it into chapters. And once I’ve got that done, then I can enjoy the writing process, because I won’t deviate too much from this framework. Sometimes I find mistakes that I’ve made in the structure, but basically the books write pretty easily from there.

JOHN: As a follow-on to what Stephen [Cannell] is saying, you can write books in several different ways. Some involve structure and having a plan, and some are about the play and the joy and the discovery. And I think that says something about the creative process, too: it’s not just one way of thinking, it’s multiple. In a sense, intelligence is made up of diverse ways of thinking that come together. There’s the tension in setting up a goal, which may be a part of this process–a picture of the future, with all the uncertainty attached to trying something, failing, experimenting and failing. To be certain of your goal and at the same time uncertain how to achieve it can be very difficult.

BOB: I have a question for Stephen [Cannell]. When you sit down to write a book, you’re trying to write something which is good, which is moving, and which satisfies your standards of excellence. In that way, I could compare you to Mozart–to the way he thought about what he was doing.

STEPHEN: Mozart and I are frequently compared.

BOB: To what degree would it complicate things for you–this is what Beethoven’s principal preoccupation was–to write something that would be a masterwork for the ages? Do you have any sort of historical self-consciousness?

STEPHEN: I would reject that as a concept. When you put that kind of pressure on yourself–to write something so monumental that it will live thousands of years after you–by nature you just dry up your creative process.

BOB: It’s not a necessary part of creativity?

STEPHEN: I’ll give you an example. Shakespeare–who we’ll all agree was one of the greatest English playwrights ever–was writing those plays to pay his rent. In his own mind, his sonnets were his truly great literature. He’d go down to the Globe and write those plays for the masses, and yet they’ll live forever. I try and come up with an idea that I think is going to be exciting and interesting and pleases me intellectually. And there may some humor in it that I’ll enjoy. But I try not to burden myself with the notion that it has to be brilliant, because that will dry me up.

ROBERT: Mike, you started out studying happiness and got into creativity as a result. What’s the relationship between happiness and creativity? Are happy people creative? Are creative people happy?

MIKE: It depends. Creative people are often creative in order to escape unhappiness. Many people, especially in the arts and literature, are trying to produce a world in which they feel comfortable–someplace more harmonious, more ordered, more livable than the actual world in which they live. And when they’re immersed in their own world, they feel happy.

RAY: There’s another aspect of creativity. We’ve been talking about great individual contributors, but when you’re creating technology it’s necessarily a group process, because technology today is so complex that it has to be interdisciplinary. In my companies, for example, experts in speech, speech recognition, signal processing, computers, and linguistics all need to work together. And they’re all essentially speaking their own languages, even about the same concepts. So we will spend months establishing our common language–which is actually a useful thing to do, because if anybody ever overhears our conversations they’ll have no idea what we’re talking about. I have a technique to get people to think outside the box: I’ll give a signal-processing problem to the linguists, and vice versa, and let them apply the disciplines in which they’ve grown up to a completely different problem. The result is often an approach that the experts in the original field would never have thought of. Group process gives creativity a new dimension.

ROBERT: John, have you worked with high-technology companies?

JOHN: Several times. What Ray [Kurzweil] says is very true–that in order to move people out of a literal definition of what’s interesting to pursue, it’s important to be like the curator of the set of group experiences. You bring together people with very different points of view, you blend together disciplines, to produce new perspectives.

ROBERT: You’re saying that the organizational creative process is different in some respects from the individual creative process. Let’s compare, say, Stephen Cannell and Mozart, as one class, with technology companies like Ray [Kurzweil]’s.

JOHN: I would argue that everyone at this table is probably a good example of this kind of arbitrage between different kinds of work, or between different ways of seeing things. Even as one person in one career, we’ve all practiced both individual and group creativity. Our lives, in a sense, are a creative improvisation around themes, adding novelty when what we’re doing gets boring, augmenting our portfolios. And in a high-tech company, it’s often similar. You start off with some significant initial moves, assemble the founding team. But in order to inject the kind of energy and the additional perspective you need, you have to be a great manager–like a great chef mixing the right ingredients. You have to manage the tensions, find the sweet spot all the time.

RAY: I think there’s a relationship between group process and Mike [Csikszentmihalyi]’s concept of flow. Flow is hard enough to achieve for an individual, because our daily needs and problems distract us from connecting in that profound way with the creative task at hand. But it’s even harder to achieve flow in a group, because political issues often arise within the group, and people aren’t all communicating. To really achieve that kind of flow in a group, everybody has to be firmly connected to the project–to the point that when ideas arise from the group, you don’t necessarily know exactly whose idea it was. Groups form because they can accomplish things that individuals never can. There’s a blending of perspectives.

BOB: Absolutely. We all start out as fairly narrow disciplinary specialists. And nothing worthwhile can be achieved except through the intelligence that emerges from a bunch of different specialists working together. And that’s not an easy process.

ROBERT: But isn’t there a danger, in today’s world, of ceding too much creative responsibility to the group at the expense of the individual? Isn’t there something to be said for loners–people sitting three or four standard deviations off the chart, messing around and shaking up the world?

STEPHEN: I think we can spark each other. In television we work with staffs of writers, and it’s fascinating to watch what happens. It’s what you guys were just saying: you have to give up your sense of self to the group. You have to say, OK, we’re all here to make a story for Bob to write. I always characterize ideas as little pink things running around on the floor–we can either stomp ’em to death or we can nurture them. Somebody might throw out a stupid idea, but instead of saying, “Oh, that’s dumb!” you can say, “Well,…” and play with it for a little while. Then something develops: other people add their ideas to it; someone says, “That’s kind of cool,” and the process builds like that. The next thing you know, you’ve built something, among all of you, that no one of you alone would ever have thought of. Bob will then take the ideas and write the script, because, as a staff of writers, we’re creating the ideas for him to write. And he’ll give it his stamp, adding his own creative flavor.

JOHN: It’s “Yes, and” versus “Yes, but”–which is what you get in great jazz, where talented people work together. When you’re playing in a jazz group, if somebody offers you an idea you’ve got to go with it, and add to it. You don’t exercise judgment on the front end or you’ll never get to something truly sweet.

BOB: The alternative is Richard Wagner, who’s going to write the words and the music, conduct the work, and be the dramatic director–all by himself.

ROBERT: So occasionally individuals still have the freedom to go against the whole world–though less so today, where high technology is concerned.

MIKE: Oh, yes. Creative people often work both ways, bringing this kind of division inside their own practice. For the first four hours of the day, let’s say, they’re alone with the doors closed, working by themselves. Then they open the doors and start interacting and getting as much information and as many different points of view as possible.

BOB: You still need a prime mover. There’s a group process, but generally you need one person who has the vision, who can provide the leadership and move the thing forward. This person has to have the intelligence and the understanding to make use of contributions from a broad array of other kinds of people.

ROBERT: Stephen, I want to get inside your head, since I–

STEPHEN: You’ll be the first.

ROBERT: –since I didn’t get the chance with Mozart. You love being a writer. Ever since we’ve known each other, I always see a sparkle in your eye whenever we talk about writing. It’s never about success, it’s never about money, it’s always about writing. You’ve written five novels since you started, at age fifty. Five best-sellers. You’ve written four hundred episodes of network television. Remarkably, you’re dyslexic. I want you to tell us what that means.

STEPHEN: I have fairly classic dyslexia. I mirror-read. I’m a very slow reader; I read about two hundred words a minute. I have sequencing difficulties, which makes computer work very hard for me. Every time I turn my computer on, I have to reread the instructions–I can’t remember the sequence of events. I have recall difficulties.

ROBERT: In high school and college, what kind of grades did you get in English?

STEPHEN: Terrible. Terrible. As a matter of fact, I flunked three grades before I got out of high school. I went back to the twentieth reunion of my high school class in Pasadena. By that time, I’d won a few Emmys and had a fairly high-profile career–

ROBERT: I love this story.

STEPHEN: There was this guy sort of circling me. It was my old teacher, who’d given me F’s throughout high school. At the end of the evening, he finally came up to me and said, “So, you, ah, really make your living writing?” But what he’d been looking at back then was my spelling–and spelling isn’t writing. I can compose a sentence and say it to you, or I can compose it and put it down on paper.

ROBERT: But to look at it on paper–

STEPHEN: The words are totally misspelled, just phonetically spelled. I’ve ruined the spelling of my twenty-year associate, who inputs all my stuff for me. She can’t spell anything anymore; she was great when she started.

ROBERT: This is so fascinating! Doesn’t Stephen demonstrate an enormous disconnect between creativity and what we normally think of as standardized-test, SAT intelligence?

MIKE: How many in this group have similar backgrounds? I was very bad in high school.

ROBERT: Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Sorry. I feel out of place, embarrassed–as if I’m not creative because I got decent grades.

BOB: I was pretty good in high school, because I knew that if I didn’t work hard I’d lose my scholarship. What it would have been like otherwise, I don’t know.

ROBERT: Einstein received poor grades in mathematics.

STEPHEN: Dyslexia often comes with a capacity for abstract thought. People who are very good with abstract thought have been dyslexic–Einstein and Edison, two of our greatest inventors, were dyslexic.

MIKE: Practically all of the hundred people I interviewed in my study of very creative individuals–ninety out of a hundred–had pretty bad things to say about their formal education. They usually had one or two teachers who made a big difference in their lives and whom they remembered fondly. But the structured, mass-produced instruction that their schools generally provided was something they just couldn’t take.

JOHN: What we’re circling around is the issue of who gets to decide what’s valuable. You said it in your introduction, Robert: there has to be something of value created; it’s not enough just to come up with something new. Otherwise, throwing paint against the wall would be creative, and that’s surely not very valuable. But the question is, Who decides? This is especially hard when it comes to social situations or organizations. There are plenty of people who look at a new idea, or at somebody who’s a creative troublemaker, and say, “That’s not particularly good.” When does the perspective change, so that that new idea has its day in the sun?

RAY: The world is changing. We’re entering an era in which the creation of new knowledge really constitutes the wealth and power of a nation’s organizations and individuals. It’s no longer just about being disciplined in manufacturing, or intelligent in some rote way. Economics is really about creating new knowledge. That’s why the United States is as successful as it is, and why there are economic problems elsewhere. We have a culture of risk-taking; people seek new frontiers, and we reward that. We have entrepreneurial institutions, such as venture capital and incentive stock options–all designed to create new knowledge and value. The Internet is giving tremendous empowerment to the arts; those millions of web pages need pictures and music, and that’s where wealth is being created today.

ROBERT: How important is risk in creativity? The willingness to accept failure?

RAY: An important part of creativity is failure and one’s attitude toward it. My view of failure is that it’s just success deferred. But not everybody feels that way. If you’re afraid of failing, if that’s a devastating experience, then you can’t be creative. You have to see disappointment as part of the inner process of getting to where you need to go.

STEPHEN: I really like that–failure as success deferred. That’s a great line.

JOHN: It’s inherent in learning. We never did anything perfectly the first time through. We didn’t ride a bike the first time we got on it; we had to fail in order to learn. Look at designers: they take an idea and make a model, which by definition is going to be destroyed–preferably as quickly as possible. So you go from version 1.0 to version 2.0.

STEPHEN: I think it’s important to have target fixation when you’re creating, and not think about failure, not think about criticism, not think about rewards, not think about anything but what you’re trying to do. Just focus on your target and screen the rest of that stuff out.

RAY: That’s another difference between a book and a technology. With a book, you finally do launch it and it’s out there. Whereas with technology, if version 1.0 doesn’t work–well, fine, you can upgrade to version 1.1 and version 2.0.

ROBERT: Mike, do many of the people you’ve studied fear failure?

MIKE: You can’t ever achieve much if you fear failure–because, as everybody here says, that’s how you learn. You have to have the confidence that you can do it yourself. As people say, you have to obsolete yourself before others obsolete you–which means that you’re always trying to get better and better in order to beat the competition.

ROBERT: When I consider the creative process, ego is a two-edged blade. One edge is an outsized anxiety about your public image: “How am I going to look in front of my colleagues and friends? I’ve been successful before, and if I fail now, my image suffers, my standing goes down.” The other is a manic, sometimes offensive, outsized confidence. Both these attitudes are primitive, but the latter is more productive than the former.

STEPHEN: I think ego is a motor. It’s really an important motor, especially for creative people. Your ego is what pushes you out on stage after failure. It’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Yeah, I screwed that one up, but what about the next one?” When I joined the Writers Guild, all the new members were convened in a theater, and they asked us, “What do you think the biggest motivation for writers is?” And some people thought it was money, and others mentioned the creative satisfaction, and this guy said, “No, it’s ego. That’s what gets people to sit down in front of that keyboard.”

MIKE: But I think it’s important to realize that the creative ego is different from the normal ego.

STEPHEN: Well, it’s not a boastful ego.

MIKE: You’re so identified with what you’re doing that you cannot let it fail, because it reflects on you. It’s the activity itself–the writing or the painting or the music–that has become so much a part of you that you have to make it succeed, and through it make yourself succeed.

BOB: There are different kinds of egos. Going back to Mozart for a moment–he succeeded musically and artistically every time he put pen to paper. But in a larger sense, he didn’t succeed at all–with respect to Salieri. The whole point of Amadeus was that the outcome was Salieri’s fault, but Mozart just couldn’t handle Salieri. If he’d been able to handle Salieri, he’d have lived twenty years longer, and who knows what works he would have composed.

STEPHEN: What I’m saying is that since failure does hover over every creative project, there’s some part of you that wants not to enter into it, because you’re liable to fail. What gets you over that hump is your ego, which says, “Yeah, but what if it turns out to be the best thing I ever did?

RAY: I’d express the goal of creativity a little differently. The real satisfaction in creating either music or a book or a technology is the impact that it has on other people. Seeing a technology change people’s lives, or a book change people’s ideas, is deeply satisfying. Now, maybe that’s an ego drive, but it’s more than just saying, “OK, I accomplished this.” It’s experiencing other people’s input.

ROBERT: You can almost say the reverse: that is, creative people do get lots of input–but ultimately you have to do what you yourself feel good about. If you compromise, you’re often not going to be as effective. I can’t tell you how many contradictory opinions I’ve had on producing this Closer to Truth series–from topics and guests to set and structure–and when I violate the principle of listening to one’s own gut, I usually make the wrong decision.

RAY: But Stephen [Cannell, doesn’t your definition of “the best thing you ever did” reflect how your work affects other people?

STEPHEN: Well…probably a difference between the two of us in the way we approach the creative process is that I never look beyond the goal, the finishing of it. I don’t say, “This is going to have a tremendous effect on humankind.”

RAY: But you’ve internalized your audience. If no one ever reacted to your books or your TV shows, it wouldn’t be as satisfying.

STEPHEN: But where television series are concerned–aside from the ratings, which are sometimes devastating to read–you don’t have the response you’d get in a theater, where people are laughing or crying at the lines. You’re sitting there with your wife, asking, “Well, what did you think?”

RAY: Then you internalize what people will say when they come to you afterward and tell you how it’s affected them?

STEPHEN: To some degree, but not as much as you might think, or as I might like.

ROBERT: We need a prediction from everyone. Fast-forward a hundred years. Where is creativity making its greatest contribution to society?

STEPHEN: Because I’m a writer, I would hope it’s in literature. Literature is about thought, and society should be about thought.

RAY: We’ll have expanded our intelligence and creativity by merging with nonbiological intelligence, and we’ll be creating new types of entities that we can’t imagine today, such as virtual-reality environments. But we’ll still have elements that are based on our foundation of music and art, and various forms of culture will be the primary expressions of knowledge.

JOHN: In a hundred years, we’ll have better tools to take our innate creativity and collaborate with one another in more effective ways, and we’ll realize our ideas much more immediately.

BOB: I’d like to refer to something Mike [Csikszentmihalyi] brought up. The creative teacher–whether it was someone alive in 1800, 1900, this year, or a hundred years from now–is going to be someone who sees in each of his or her students what makes them different, and can enable them to see their own futures.

MIKE: Technological creativity is certainly going to continue and flourish, but I’m not sure that will be formal creativity’s most important contribution in the future. Humanity needs a creativity that can help us find our place in this evolving cosmos, so that we can respect one another, live together peacefully, and not destroy one another in order to feel good about ourselves.

ROBERT: CONCLUDING COMMENT

WHAT is creativity? It’s certainly not standardized-test intelligence. Stephen Cannell, all by himself, is proof of that. How do you solve a problem creatively? It’s often a mistake to get too smart too quickly. Expert opinion fouls up the creative engine; conventional wisdom is creative death. So develop your own ideas yourself, alone, without external information and before seeking the opinion of others. Your naivete will be more ally than enemy on the creativity battlefield. Brood. Cogitate. Meditate. Agonize. Uncertainty, ambiguity, and doubt are all friends of the creative process. Experience tension, frustration, stress. Stimulating creativity means multiplying your options, generating alternative, contrasting, conflicting solutions. Lose yourself. Feel the flow. But remember what psychologist Abraham Maslow said: Creativity might be as much found in a first-rate chicken soup as in a third-rate painting. Suffer with humor to get closer to truth.

c2000 CLOSER TO TRUTH

Editor’s Translations:

“Creativity means being both different and better. Being different without being better is often pointless or just odd; being better without being different is just evolution, not revolution. For an act to be deemed creative, there must be an accepted style or method against which it can be judged original. The accepted style or method is the benchmark, and creativity often begins by rejecting or at least questioning it.”
[創億不只要求不同, 也要求更好。 單是不同而不是更好豪無意義˙單是更好而沒有不同只是演變, 不是革命。 一個行動, 如果要被視為創億性的, 就必須先跟被接受的樣式或方法相對。 被接受的樣式或方法是基準˙ 創億的開始經常由丟棄或質疑它。]
— Robert Lawrence Kuhn

“Creativity might be as much found in a first-rate chicken soup as in a third-rate painting.”
[一張下等繪畫的創億不如一鍋頭等雞湯的創億。]
— Abraham Maslow 世界聞名心理學家

— Bevin Chu

Explanation: What’s Creativity and Who’s Creative?
Illustration(s): Stephen J. Cannel, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Robert Freeman, John Kao, Ray Kurzweil, Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Author(s): Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Affiliation: CLOSER TO TRUTH (CTT)
Source: http://www.closertotruth.com/topics/creativitythinking/103/103transcript.html
Publication Date: N/A
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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Film: The Bodacious Babes Out-Muscled The Big Green Guy

Film: The Bodacious Babes Out-Muscled The Big Green Guy
[文化創意產業]
(2003/07/03)


The Bodacious Babes Out-Muscled The Big Green Guy

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle flew in to first place this weekend with $37.6 million.

While that was a bit less heavenly than the original Charlie’s Angels movie, which grossed $40.1 million its opening weekend in November 2000, the troika of Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu still had more than enough to wallop The Hulk down to second place, where it earned an $18.8 million, according to final studio figures Monday.

But with Sony’s reteaming of the Angels’ triumvirate (alongside Bernie Mac as a new Bosley and against Demi Moore as a fallen angel) failing to outstrip the intake of the original and the extremely sharp 70 percent plummet of Universal’s The Hulk, it was the third down weekend in a row for the overall national box office compared to this time last year. A year ago, the top 12 movies earned $131.3 million; this weekend the tally was $112.4 million, a 15 percent dropoff and 21 percent lower than last weekend.

Despite its huge dip, The Hulk (which debuted lower than expected last weekend with $62.1 million) just managed to cross the $100 million mark, the 10th film this year to do so. Its take now stands at $100.6 million. The PG-13 Angels, meanwhile, was tops among wide releases, averaging $10,880 per screen at 3,459 sites

Universal’s president of distribution, Nikko Rocco, admitted being upset with the savage decline of the The Hulk, telling Reuters, “Obviously we’re very disappointed. You never want to see this kind of drop.” Several Wall Street types have predicted that if The Hulk continues its precipitous decline, it could mean the end of what was supposed to be a new superhero film franchise.

Editor’s Comments:

That box office receipts for Hulk went from bad to worse is deeply discouraging, but based on the early reaction of some critics and the subsequent reaction of movie audiences, not a complete surprise. As one disappointed critic complained, “It’s too long for kids, it’s too slow for teens, it’s too light for adults. It’s too deep for those who don’t like to think about their movies, it’s too on-the-nose for those who do, and it’s completely lacking in memorable action moments for those who are just coming for the special effects.”

Hulk Director Ang Lee told interviewers at the film’s premier that with a $150 million budget and full studio support, “If this movie sucks, the blame falls on me.” The fact is Lee attempted to pull off an enormously difficult feat. Many would say that from the very start he had taken on “Mission Impossible.” If in the collective judgement of movie critics and moviegoers he failed, he at least failed heroically.

Full Disclosure: I have yet to see Hulk in the theater, so as yet do not have enough information to give Hulk either a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

— Bevin Chu

Explanation: “Angels” Throttles “Hulk”
Illustration(s): Chinese-American Actress Lucy Liu, Chinese-American Director Ang Lee’s Hulk
Author(s): Bridget Byrne
Affiliation: E! Entertainment Television
Source: http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,12068,00.html
Publication Date: July 03, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Film: Department of Redundancy Department

Film: Department of Redundancy Department
[文化創意產業]
(2003/07/01)



Department of Redundancy Department

It has been an unhappy autumn here behind studio gates. The gloom commenced when “Stuart Little 2,” pre-sold as the summer’s hit kid flick, nose-dived into the toilet. Next came “The Scorpion King,” the latest installment in the “Mummy” series. It grossed less than half of what its predecessor did.

Conventional wisdom held that Sony Pictures’ just-released Eddie Murphy-Owen Wilson action comedy “I Spy” was a surefire hit — given its star power and the cult popularity of its namesake TV series. By last weekend, the $70 million-budgeted film had grossed only $25 million, with audiences shrinking.

The message from these and other recently unsuccessful remakes may be that a long-held industry maxim — that remakes have built-in audience brand loyalty — is going the way of Prince Val haircuts. Hollywood is currently infatuated with the concept of branding, deaf to Madison Avenue’s warning that consumers, particularly young ones, care less than ever about brands. What they care most about — terrifying news — is quality.

Writers blame Hollywood’s increasing reliance on recycled material on risk-averse out-of-date studio suits cocooned behind a fawning cadre of junior development executives — mostly non-writers who typically talk or otherwise negotiate their way into their jobs and are notorious for their inability to recognize a good screenplay after they pretend to read it. Thus the famously craven writer’s pitch to executives: “It’s just like [hit movie], but completely different.” Gus Van Sant tried delivering on that promise with his recent shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller “Psycho.” Audiences failed to see the point. Producer Edward R. Pressman, whose films “Das Boot,” “Plenty,” “Wall Street” and “Reversal of Fortune” won Oscar notices, says, “There’s no reason to remake something that’s been done so well that anything that comes after it would pale by comparison.”

In Hollywood, however, reason routinely takes a back seat to ego. Case in point: British director Guy Ritchie and spouse Madonna, whose recent remake of director Lina Wertmuller’s wonderfully original 1975 hit “Swept Away,” “Love, Sex, Drugs & Money,” chalked up less than $600,000 before distributors pulled it.

Director Jonathan Demme’s admiration for Stanley Donen’s 1963 romantic thriller “Charade,” which starred Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant at their best, didn’t translate into an audience-pleasing remake. Demme’s recent “The Truth About Charlie,” starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton, appears to have flopped.

Writing last Sunday about the lackluster performance of recent remakes, Los Angeles Times movie industry columnist Patrick Goldstein put it bluntly. “Maybe getting audiences to spend $9.50 for a half-baked update of a (fill in the blank: TV spy show/’30s adventure movie/’60s thriller/’70s art-house classic) isn’t such a slam-dunk after all.”

Part of the problem, no secret here, is that many of the people running movie studios know far less about the cinema arts than they should. With some notable exceptions, they’re typically people without writing or filmmaking experience, relying instead on business, law or financial backgrounds. Many are former studio publicity, promotion or sales functionaries who rose, often for reasons having little or nothing to do with the processes by which films are developed. Given the limitations of their experience they tend to be uncomfortable with unfamiliar concepts that have not been tested in the marketplace. Safer to bankroll “Santa Clause 4” or “Home Alone 5” than to risk money on something weird like “Driving Miss Daisy.” Leave that to the Zanucks.

So get ready for a remake of the 1961 Charlton Heston-Sophia Loren epic “El Cid,” possibly starring Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly. But why? “The generation that goes to the movies,” speculates “El Cid” producer Arthur Sarkissian, “I don’t know if they want to rent the old movie and watch it. “There’s [also] a vast amount of material” in studio vaults, he says.

Indeed.

“Alfie, ” the 1966 movie that made Michael Caine a star, is being remade. Joel and Ethan Coen (“Barton Fink,” “Fargo,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) are prepping “an American spin” on the 1955 Peter Sellers comedy “The Ladykillers.” Reported possibilities are “Flight of the Phoenix,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and “Barbarella,” with Drew Barrymore reprising Jane Fonda’s 1968 role.

Sounds more like a video weekend to me.

“No matter how hard Hollywood tries to brainwash moviegoers into embracing familiarity,” Goldstein concludes, “when we gather in the dark we crave something fresh and new.”

Editor’s Comments:

In my previous article “The Hulk: The Hulk has Heft” I wrote,

“The increasing technical virtuosity on the part of movie makers is matched by a corresponding technical sophistication on the part of movie goers. I am old enough to have seen The Guns of Navarone first run in 1961… Yet when I caught the movie recently on cable, I was shocked at how crude the once thrilling 1961 action sequences seemed in 2003. Recent action/adventure films… have raised the technical bar… to new heights. Modern audiences are thoroughly jaded. The naive action sequences of a more innocent era no longer pass muster… “

That was a true statement. That was of course not the whole story. This newfound technical virtuosity, useful as it is when applied intelligently, appropriately, is often accompanied by an appalling cluelessness about how to tell a story and touch the viewer’s heart. The result has been an endless procession of inferior films boasting longer gun battles, faster car chases, louder explosions, riskier stunts, trickier special effects, all in the mistaken belief that “sensory overload equals emotional catharsis.”

A perfect example is The Jackal (1997, directed by Michael Caton-Jones, screen adaptation by Chuck Pfarrer, starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier), an inept beyond belief remake of the tense and masterful The Day of the Jackal (1973, directed by Fred Zinnemann, screen adaptation by Kenneth Ross, starring Edward Fox, Michael Lonsdale, Delphine Seyrig). Actually, one hesistates to refer to The Jackal as a remake. These two film adapations of the best-selling spy thriller by Fredrick Forsyth could not be more different. The Jackal was light on story and heavy on effects; The Day of the Jackal the exact opposite. No credit for guessing which version was the critical and box office success.

“I want them [the audience] to have been put through the wringer emotionally.”
— Michael Caton-Jones, director of The Jackal

“[The] Jackal remake left out one thing — the suspense.”
— Margaret A. Mcgurk, movie critic for Cincinnati Enquirer

It’s all very ironic. The makers of The Jackal probably set out to outshine the original. They undoubtedly assumed with the vast resources available in 1997 that were not available in 1973, they would leave the original in the dust. One can almost hear some glib development exec gushing “It’ll be just like the original, only more so.” Readers who saw both versions know that’s not how it worked out. Moviegoers who thrilled to the understated menace of Edward Fox testing his custom made, one of a kind, single-shot sniper rifle on a watermelon in the 1973 original, then fidgeted through Bruce Willis’ grotesquely overblown yet emotionally hollow 20mm cannon testing scene in the 1997 remake, know that less is more, and more is less.

— Bevin Chu

Explanation: Department of Redundancy Department
Illustration(s): The Day of the Jackal, The Jackal, Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal
Author(s): Mark Miller
Affiliation: San Francisco Examiner
Source: http://www.examiner.com/ex_files/default.jsp?story=X1115MILLERw
Publication Date: November 15, 2002
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect