Ferran and creativity

(This post is part of Ferran Adria week. Don't know what that is? Inform yourself.)

"Creativity is at the center of everything else. If we didn't have it, we'd close tomorrow. The challenge of creativity is what makes El Bulli continue." - Ferran Adria

I'll start with, perhaps, the  easiest leap from kitchen to advertising: creativity. Agencies swear it's their lifeblood. Creatives have it as their job description. So it seems like a natural jumping off point.

Ferran saw creativity as a necessary part of his job as a chef. Especially as a way to get people to understand food the way he wanted them to understand it. It was his way of communicating an idea with people through a dish, a taste, an ingredient.

And how does he come to this creativity? It's not divine inspiration (which so many people want you to believe it is.) It's hard work.

"I [Author Colman Andrews] notice on the big calendar pinned to a bulletin board at one end of the kitchen, he has blocked out certain days for (his favorite word) "creativity." "How can you plan to be creatively inspired on a certain day?" I ask. "Don't ideas come when they want to come?" He shakes his head. "No, no, no, no," he says. "You have to actively look for inspiration. On this level you don't just sit and wait for the bulb to go off. The work of creativity is very, very difficult. It's very complicated. Ideas aren't creativity. You look for them and you make notes. After the ideas with the notes you start to make cuisine. I'm interested in speaking of the *synthesis* of creativity. It's a very animal thing, the capacity for synthesis. During the creative process, I only think of creative cuisine. It's like hibernation, as if I'm in a monastery."

I think this separation of inspiration and creativity is really interesting. (Jerry Seinfeld actually brought up a similar point about writer's block in yesterdays Reddit AMA. As does John Cleese when talking about writing and the "Open Mode.") It seems the most important part of creating can be setting aside the time to let yourself create. Force yourself to sit in that box until something comes out. Which isn't all that novel but might be worth remembering.

All quotes taken from "Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food."

Ferran Adria week.

Sometime last year I started reading Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli And the Man Who Reinvented Food. (For the non food-obsessed El Bulli was ranked best restaurant in the world five times before shuttering for good in 2011.) If it's not apparent from the title, it's a book about the restaurant its head chef: Ferran Adria.

Books like this usually go fast for me but this one took nearly a year to finish. It was just so dense. Every page seemed to have something interesting on it. And I found myself exhausted after reading a chapter or two.

That said, the book had a profound effect on me. It is the story of an unassuming man who changed food across the globe. (For better or for worse is up for debate.) You can see techniques pioneered at El Bulli in most restaurants today.

So this week I've decided to do something a little different. Have an entire week dedicated to the man and the things I learned from the book. There was just too much there to make it into a single post. (Either that or I'm bad at reducing a book down to its essential elements. Sorry.)

So please check back during the rest of the week if you want to learn more about him. Or you could buy the book and cut me out of the process entirely.

Saying no to listicles.

My resolution for 2014 is simple. I'm saying no to listicles.

No. No. Hold your applause. Although this is an admirable purist I'm not looking for praise. I'm simply trying to reclaim my brain.

As with most resolutions, there was a time when this wasn't a problem. Listicles simply didn't interest me. I didn't read them. didn't look. Didn't care. 

Then, sometime in the last year or so, they began to absorb my attention. Just as they absorbed most of the journalism industry. I had, to borrow from Paul Thomas Anderson, strayed from the proper path. Because listicles are potato chips. 

"Oh," I'll think, "I'll just have one of these." Then it's an hour later and I've looked at 400 pictures of dogs or babies or cakes or something even more embarrassing.  And I think the same thing one thinks after finishing a sleve of Oreos: "Jesus, man, get yourself together."

So I'm done. It probably won't be easy. But it's necessary because I can feel myself dulling.  

Listicles are dead to me.

Some thoughts on unreasonable creative challenges

One of the perks of living in Los Angeles (oh yeah, I moved to LA around two weeks ago) is access to limited release movies. Movies like Spike Jonze's "Her." Which I saw last night.

It was easily one of my favorite movies of the year. Intensely personal and probably a little too close to home. Some people have said the premise is laughable but I think it's right on. And, not spoiling anything, there were some scenes done so masterfully that audience laughed in discomfort. I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone so you should probably just go out and see it.

After I got home I read interviews about the movie for over an hour. And one of them, from Indiewire, was so good I wanted to post some of it here. Because seeing this film made me feel like I wasn't being ambitious enough in my own life. And after reading the interview that feeling was only magnified. So if this only serves the purpose of making you feel small and motivating you then I'd say it's worth reading.

JONZE: I think it's things that I make, I follow my intuition and later, maybe it makes sense or has more intellectual... I can understand it more or not. Like coming up with the idea for beautiful handwritten letters.com [in “Her”], it was just an idea that seemed fun, funny, correct, interesting. And then only as I started writing it started unveiling why it also made sense.

(Indiewire is bold. Jonze is regular.)

I think it's things that I make, I follow my intuition and later, maybe it makes sense or has more intellectual... I can understand it more or not. Like coming up with the idea for beautiful handwritten letters.com [in “Her”], it was just an idea that seemed fun, funny, correct, interesting. And then only as I started writing it started unveiling why it also made sense.

IW: You've really given yourself all these crazy challenges in the last couple of years. Part CGI, part costumed monsters, children [“Where The Wild Things Are”], robots in love [the short “I’m Here”], now you’ve got an actor who isn’t on screen. Is that a conscious thing?

JONZE: Well, it's being drawn to ideas that you don't know how you’re going to be able to pull off, but I think that's exciting. Even “Being John Malkovich,” the movie was so absurd and trying to pull off the tone that was going to ground it, was a constant mystery whether it would work or not. “Adaptation” is so many thematic through lines, so many disparate ideas and Charlie Kaufman writing the script—his relationship with his “brother” and [Meryl Streep’s character] writing the book about “The Orchid Thief” and her sort of melancholy of her life that she's lost in. [Chris Cooper’s character’s] life and the history of orchid hunting and the history and creation of life and the universe and the planet, there's many different ideas. To make those all things fit… we edited that for 14 months trying to make that one fluid through line and those are the things that are the scariest. Many times in the course of making these things I didn’t know if they would work.

So some fear in the challenge helps?

It's what makes it exciting because we don't know if it's ever going to work. There were times in “Adaptation” during the editing where I really thought, “Okay well this was a noble failure.” I tried to do something good but this is not going to work. Same on [“Her”]. There were many times in post production where—and I can laugh about it now because when I locked picture I feel like I got it to where I wanted it to be, but I can only laugh about it now. At the time it wasn't that funny. I really thought I had to go to [producer] Megan Ellison and apologize to her and tell her maybe we shouldn't try to make the movie. There would be dark days.
Getting the tone right on a movie strikes me as meaning everything to you.

Every inflection is important. When I'm working on a scene or a line or a word, tone is the most important thing in the world. The movie succeeds or fails on that being true.
[Changing things mid-productions is a} risk you make when making these kinds of ambitious movies I take it. You can miscalculate with so many unknown variables.

You kind of don't know how to make a movie until you've made it. That can be the case with everything that's challenging or worthwhile; whether it's a movie, or a relationship, a company or family or raising children, especially raising children. Everything that's meaningful probably falls under the same rules.
Read the rest of the interview (there's tons more) over on Indiewire.

Also, she's never going to read this, but thanks to Megan Ellison for producing so many amazing movies. Sure, you're the daughter of a Millionaire. But you're singlehandedly producing most of the best, most ambitious films out there.

"You're The Only One I Ever Loved"

"You" - Tv On The Radio

This is probably my favorite music video ever. I've certainly watched it more times than any other. I like it because it's so different. It's nearly twice as long as the song itself. And it's deeply, deeply personal to the band.

The first time I watched the video I remember thinking how brilliant it was. Extending the concept of the singular "You" into a group of people who had broken apart.

It was also an artful way of giving the fans something after the band broke up. It allowed us to feel comforted, in a way, about a band that experience a lot of hardship. And added commentary about holding out hope for too long. 

I just really love it and hope you love it too.

Movies. Who doesn't love movies?

There was a point late last year and early this year that I was seeing movies every week. In theaters. Sometimes multiple times a week. That slowed a bit as the weather got nicer and he independent theaters started running less interesting movies. But watching movies--film, whatever you call it-- is still one of my favorite past times. And the best way to spend exorbitant sums of money on someone's vision. 

This little video wrap up of most of the films from 2013 made me really happy. WARNING: If you're horror movie averse there's a chunk in the middle you might want to skip. 

via The Dissolve 

Voice actor extravaganza.

Some mornings you get a lot of work done. Other mornings you don't because you're watching videos about voice actors. That's what happened to me this morning. 

It's interesting to see their approaches. How an actor's face contorts to summon a different character. How they can do sound effects as effortlessly, or seemingly effortlessly, as us plebs can talk regularly. 

Here's a few of the best videos:

Overnight success isn't overnight.

In the age of everyone having 15 minutes of fame it's easy to assume all that success comes overnight. But I don't think that's how it works at all. Rather, it feels like ages of work to the person the success is happening to. 

Consider this. People toil in obscurity for years before experience any sort of success. In their minds they are working and working and working. They're trying to become something. And they aren't anything until they are. 

People find success when they find it and regardless of when it happens it took their entire life that's a reassuring thing even if someone is successful at 13 that was their entire life i am reassured by this thought and that doesn't mean be patient it just means that things happen at a time.

But to people watching it, it looks like overnight success.

Everyone, no matter what age they are have been waiting their whole lives for this success. It wasn't overnight. 

It took a lifetime.

And it's much harder to resent success when you look at it that way. How could you possibly resent someone who has worked their entire life to become something? Even if they have something you don't. 

For me, this is a refreshing, less distressing way to look at success. Because success, however you define it, is less mysterious than assuming it just happens.

Weekly Linkly

My week is now your week.

  • Ben also has a great round up of the UK Christmas ads with lively discussions over on his blog.
  • A brutally honest post about her childhood, and how you might treat people as a manger. It's A Story About Dishes by Angela Natividad.


(Via Sell! Sell!)

Kmart is doing some incredible work. This layaway spot had me giggling. (via R/GA)