March 24, 2019

8 Kinda Weird Ways to Get out of a Creative Rut

Stuck in a creative rut? Want to take your work to the next level? Then check out these tips.

You know what, guys? Sometimes we all need permission. 

"Uuuuhhhh, I don't need permission from anyone, let alone some short-haired, ninja mask-wearing writer who thinks she..."

Okay, shoosh. Calm it. It's not a ninja mask. What I'm saying is...sometimes we all need permission to...how do I put this...to do some weird shit.

Yeah, I know some of you are super confident "I can do what I want when I want" types, but not everyone is like that. Some of us are a little more reserved, like to play by the rules, and inevitably get pinned down by the weight of convention, feeling our creative bones buckle as we desperately try to figure out how we got stuck in the first place if we followed all the damn rules! 

Professional editor Sven Pape of This Guy Edits goes over some extremely helpful things you can do to boost your creativity and strengthen your work not only as an editor but as a director, cinematographer, or whatever kind of creative you might be. Check it out below.

Pape nails it with this list. All 8 of the "hacks" he mentions have not only helped me personally as a filmmaker but have made me less terrified of taking risks or exploring the unknown as a creative. 

Because at the end of the day, that's kind of the big hurdle, right? It's finding the...I don't know, I guess courage to look at your creative challenges and risks, say "fuck it," and do them.

Let's quickly go over Pape's list:

Embrace Constraints

Don't tell me you can't make a movie because you don't have a lot of money, never went to film school, or can't shoot anything good on an iPhone. Those are either excuses that you know are bullshit or are honest piss poor beliefs that you need to flush immediately.

You can make a movie without a lot of money, just like Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, and Shane Carruth. You can make a movie if you've never gone to film school, just look at Tarantino, Kubrick, and PTA. You can make a movie on an iPhone, like Sean Baker and Steven Soderbergh.

Those constraints often lead to amazing filmmaking, because you have to become a creative problem solver in order to get things done.

Change the Rules of the Game

Intentionally bucking convention and breaking the rules can produce awesome results. 

You don't like how everyone else follows a certain narrative structure? Create your own. You don't like how everyone else frames a shot? Do it differently. 

Try everything. Experiment constantly.

'Borat' (2006)

Immerse Yourself

Sometimes in order to have that aha moment, you have to experience your story yourself.

What's your film about? A lonely hermit who lives in the woods? Then get your camping gear. What about a bus driver who falls in love with a rider? Ride that damn bus. Oh I know, an elderly woman who searches the ocean floor for a lost necklace? Grab some scuba gear.

Change the Tool

Pape talks about using "unconventional gear" in the video, and I personally love that idea. As filmmakers without huge budgets, it's important for us to know how to use what we have. 

Don't cry over the fact that you may never even hold an ARRI Alexa in your paw. Get excited at all the possible ways you can use your busted up GoPro.

Roll the Dice

Let the unexpected happen...even if it isn't all that great.

Let your actors improvise. Try playing it loose with the script. Encourage your cinematographer, 1st AC, and anyone else on set to share their ideas and then actually try them out.

There's Steven Soderbergh just shooting 'Unsane' on a friggin' smartphone.

Steal and Remix

There's nothing wrong with stealing...you know, as long as you make it your own. Copying is no good, obviously, but taking someone else's work that inspires you and then remixing that shit into your own creation is...pretty much what everyone does.

Warp Your Mind

Okay, take it easy, Cheech. I'm not condoning the use of illicit drugs or anything else that will impair or inebriate you, especially if that substance is illegal where you live. I've certainly never written anything while under the influence of...stuff. Ever. And even if I have, it definitely wasn't my best work. And even if it was, I can promise you...whatever.

A nice hot bath, some yoga, or some good, all-natural, and completely legal meditations might help you take you to a different state of consciousness, which can help promote creativity.

Bend the Genre

Everyone loves a good genre-bender. Whether it's a horror comedy, tragicomedy, rom-com, or...what are some other examples that aren't comedy? I don't know...superhero mockumentary? Damn it, that's comedy, too. Children noir? That's it. Nothing funny about cheatin' and lyin' kids in trenchcoats and fedoras.

Try to come up with a mixture of genres that you've never seen before. Oftentimes that will lead to new ideas that you can actually run with. 

Best genre-bender of all time. Change my mind. 'A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night' (2014)

What are some ways you avoid getting into creative ruts? Let us know down in the comments.     

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