По итогам прочтения “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull

Из книги “Creativity, Inc” я выписал больше цитат, чем из какой-либо другой. Мне посчастливилось работать в Зептолаб, поэтому многое, чем Эд Катмулл, сооснователь студии Пиксар, делится в этой книге, мне знакомо и понятно.

Эта книга о созидании. О хрупкости нового. О важности фидбека. Об умении обсуждать недостатки продукта, оставаясь открытым и не принимая критику на свой счет. О сложных взаимоотношениях коммерческого и творческого.

Знаете в чем прелесть и одновременно проклятье работы над новым продуктом для рынка развлечений? Прелесть в свободе выбора. Проклятье в иллюзорности этой свободы.

Делая игру или фильм, ты создаешь новый мир с нуля. Можешь сделать его любым, у тебя миллионы вариантов. Но чтобы выбрать один вариант – придется отказаться от остальных.

Когда выбор сделан, ты начинаешь строить новую вселенную. Но проходит время, и ты становишься заложником уже придуманного. Каждый следующий шаг должен соответствовать правилам, которые определили предыдущие. Ты можешь поменять правила, но любое изменение повлечет за собой новые конфликты и проблемы.

Добавьте сюда сроки и ограниченный бюджет. Желание создать что-то новое и оригинальное, и при этом заинтересовать широкую аудиторию. Сложную взаимосвязь ожиданий и мотивации команды.

И вот ты, еще недавно вдохновленный свободой выбора, находишь себя за решением головоломки, которую сам же и придумал. Ко всему прочему эта головоломка видоизменяется с каждым шагом.

Спустя время ты нащупываешь решение, но не знаешь, получится ли дойти до него, не изменив установленные правила, или же ты вновь уткнешься в тупик и окажешься перед новой головоломкой. Это сложный процесс, но он приносит удовлетворение.

Если вы создавали новое, то вам должно быть это знакомо. А еще вам обязательно надо прочитать эту книгу.

Ниже цитаты, которые мне понравились.

creativity inc

“Early on, all our movies suck” или новое нуждается в защите

Early on, all our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I make a point of repeating it often, and I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I’m not trying to be modest by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so – to go, as I say, “from suck to no-suck.” This idea – that all movies we now think of as brilliant were, at one time, terrible – is a hard concept for many to grasp.

Originality is fragile. And, in its first moments, it’s often far from pretty. This is why I call early mock-ups of our films “ugly babies”. They are not beautiful, miniature versions of the adults they will grow up to be. They are truly ugly: awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete. They need nurturing – in the form of time and patience – in order to grow. But the natural impulse is to compare the early reels of out films to finished films – by which I mean to hold the new to standards only the mature can meet. Our job is to protect our babies from being judged too quickly. Our job is to protect the new.

The success of each new Disney film also did something else: it created a hunger for more. As the infrastructure of the studio grew to service, market and promote each successful film, the need for more product in the pipeline only expanded … The pressure to create – and quickly! – became the order of the day.

Nevertheless, the drought that was beginning then would last for the next sixteen years: from 1994 to 2010, not a single Disney animated film would open at number one at the box office. I believe this was the direct result of its employees thinking that their job was to feed the Beast.

Think of a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly – it only survives because it is encased in a cocoon. It survives, in other words, because it is protected from that which would damage it. It is protected from the Beast.

When it comes to feeding the Beast, success only creates more pressure to hurry up and succeed again. Which is why at too many companies, the schedule drives the output, not the strength of the ideas at the front end.

Whenever it’s a kernel of a movie idea or a fledging internship program, the new needs protection. Business-as-usual does not.

Both groups thought they were protecting the proceedings, but only one group understood that by looking for something new and surprising, they were offering the most valuable kind of protection. Negative feedback may be fun, but it is far less brave than endorsing something unproven and providing room for it to grow.

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy,” Ego says. “We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their selves to our judgment. We thrive in negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new need friends.”

John started off the meeting as he often does, by focusing on the things he liked about it.

Our job as managers in creative environments is to protect new ideas from those who don’t understand that in order for greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so-greatness. Protect the future, not the past.

 

Фидбек – ключ к созданию нового

First we draw storyboards of the script and then edit them together with temporary voices and music to make a crude mock-up of the film, known as reels. Then the Braintrust watches this version of the movie and discusses what’s not ringing true, what’s not working at all. Notably, they do not prescribe how to fix the problems they diagnose. They test weak points, they make suggestions, but it is up to the director to settle on a path forward. … The movie steadily improves with each iteration, although sometimes a director becomes stuck, unable to address the feedback he or she is being given. Luckily, another Braintrust meeting is usually around the corner.

To understand what the Braintrust does and why it is so central to Pixar, you have to start with a basic truth: People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process. Where once a movie’s writer or director had perspective, he or she loses it. Where once he or she could see a forest, now there are only trees. The details converge to obscure the whole, and that makes it difficult to move forward substantially in any one direction.

How is Braintrust different from any other feedback mechanism? The first is that the Braintrust is made up of people with a deep understanding of storytelling and, usually, with people who have been through the process themselves. The second is that the Braintrust has no authority. The director does not have to follow any of the specific suggestions given.

Problems in films are fairly easy to identify, the sources of those problems are often extraordinary difficult to assess.

Rarely does the director get defensive, because no one is pulling rank or telling the filmmakers what to do. The film itself – not the filmmaker – is under the microscope. This principle eludes most people, but it is critical: You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.

It is natural for people to fear that such inherently critical environment will feel threatening and unpleasant, like a trip to the dentist. The key is to look at the view-points being offered, in any successfull feedback group, as additive, not competitive. A competitive approach measures other ideas against your own, turning the discussion into a debate to be won or lost. An additive approach, on the other hand, starts with the understanding that each participant contributes something (even if it is only an idea that fuels the discussion – and ultimately doesn’t work).

A good note is offered at a timely moment, not too late to fix the problem. A good note doesn’t make demands; it doesn’t even have to include a proposed fix. But if it does, that fix is offered to illustrate a potential solution, not to prescribe an answer. Most of all, though, a good note is specific. “I am wtiring with a boredom,” is not a good note.

Andrew Stanton says, “There’s difference between criticism and constructive criticism. With the latter, you are constructing at the same time that you’re criticizing. You’re building as you’re breaking down, making new pieces to work with out of the stuff you’ve just ripped apart. That’s an art form in itself.”

 

Создание нового

In any given Pixar film, every line of dialogue, every beam of light or patch of shade, every sound effect is there because it contributes to the greater whole.

We had put our faith in a simple idea: if we made something that we wanted to see, others would want to see it, too.

We believe that the most promising stories are not assigned to filmmakers but emerge from within them.

The first principle was “Story is King” by which we meant that we would let nothing  - not the technology, not the merchandising possibilities – get in the way of our story.

Up had to go through these changes – changes that unfolded over not months but years – to find it heart. Which means that the people working on Up had to be able to roll with that evolution without panicking, shutting down, or growing discouraged. 

One trick I’ve learned is to force myself to make a list of what’s actually wrong. Usually, soon into making the list, I find I can group most of issues into two or three larger all-encompassing problems. So it’s really not all that bad. Having a finite list of problems is much better than having an illogical feeling that everything is wrong.

It also helped that Pete never lost sight of his mission on Up, which was to drill down to the emotional core of this characters and then build the story around that.

Pete has a few methods he uses to help manage people through the fears brought on by pre-production chaos. “Sometimes in meetings, I sense people seizing up, not wanting to even talk about changes,” he says. “So I try to trick them. I’ll say, ‘This would be a big change if we were really going to do it, but just as a thought exercise, what if …’ If people anticipate a production pressures, they’ll close the door to new ideas – so you have to pretend you’re not going to actually do anything, we’re just talking, just playing around. Then if you hit upon some new idea that clearly works, people are exited about it and are happier to act on the change.”

I’ve heard people describe creativity as ‘unexpected connections between unrelated concepts or ideas.’ If that’s at all true, you have to be in certain mindset to male those connections. So when I sense we’re getting nowhere, I just shut things down. We all go off to something else. Later, once the mood has shifted, I’ll attack the problem again.

If we start with the attitude that different viewpoints are additive rather than competitive, we become more effective because our ideas or decisions are more honed and tempered by that discourse.

This sounds simple enough – honor the viewpoints of others! – but it can be enormously difficult into practice throughout your company. That’s because when humans see things that challenge our mental models, we tend not just to resist them but to ignore them.

What these people were engaged in was the kind of detailed analysis – and openness to constructive criticism – that would determine whether merely good animation would become great.

If you rely too much on the references to what came before, you doom your film to being derivative.

Whenever filmmakers make a derivative presentation to John, he will often stop them, urging them to slow down, and look beyond what they thing they already know. “You must,” he tells them, “go out and do research.”

It is impossible to overstate how strongly John believes in  the power of research. At his urging, when Pixar was prepping a movie about a Parisian rat who aspires to be a gourmet chef, for example, several members of Ratatouille’s team went to France and spent two weeks dining in extraordinary, Michelin-starred restaurants, visiting their kitchens, and interviewing their chefs. These experiences are more than field trips or diversions. Because they take place early in the filmmaking process, they fuel the film’s development.

In any business, it is important to do your homework, but the point I’m making goes beyond merely getting the facts straight. Research trips challenge our preconceived notions and keep cliches at bay. They fuel inspiration. They are, I believe, what keeps us creating rather than copying.

The real problem was that although the director was extraordinary creative, he was unable to settle on a spine for a story. The piece meandered, lacked focus, and thus packed no emotional punch. It wouldn’t be the first time we would find someone who was able to invent wildly creative elements but was unable to solve the problems of story – the central and most important creative challenge.

Many of us has a romantic idea about how creativity happens: alone visionary conceives of a film or product in a flash of insight. Then that visionary leads a team of people through hardship to finally deliver on that great promise. The truth is, this isn’t my experience at all. I’ve known many people I consider to be creative geniuses, and not just at Pixar and Disney, yet I can’t remember a single one who could articulate exactly what this vision was that they were striving for when they started. In my experience, creative people discover and realize their visions over time and through dedicated, protracted struggle. In that way, creativity is more like a marathon that a sprint.

That uncertainty can make us uncomfortable. We humans like to know where we are headed, but creativity demands that we travel paths that lead to who-knows-where. That requires us to step up to the boundary of what we know and what we don’t know.

Pete says, “However, there’s always a guiding principle that leads you as you go down the various roads.”

Pete had a basic concept that he held to throughout: “Monsters are real, and they scare kids for a living.” But what was the strongest manifestation of that idea? He couldn’t know until he tried a few options.

This is key: When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work – even when it is confounding them.

I didn’t change any of the dialogue. I just changed the drawings to make her body bigger, as if to say, “I am a match for you.” And when I played the revised scene, the Braintrust said, “That’s much better. What lines did you change?” I said, “I didn’t change a comma.” That’s an example of the group knowing something was wrong, but not having the solution. I had to go deep and ask, “If the dialogue is not wrong, what is?” And then I saw it: Oh that.”

Michael Arndt, who wrote Toy Story 3, says he thinks to make a great film, its makers must pivot, at some point, from creating the story for themselves to creating it for others.

“I understand that you want to keep this simple and relatable,” he told Pete, “but I think we need something that your audience can get a little more invested in.”

“I think you need to spend more time settling on the rules of your imagined world,” he said. … Every Pixar movie has its own rules that viewers have to accept and understand.

We have come to recognize the signs of invention – of dealing with originality. We have begun to welcome the feeling of, ‘Oh, we’ve never had this exact problem before – and it’s incredibly recalcitrant and won’t do what we want it to do.’ That’s familiar territory for us – in a good way.

Taking risk necessitated a willingness to deal with the mess created by the risk.

 

Закрытие проектов

Unfortunately, we often have little ability to distinguish between what works and is worth hanging on to and what is holding us back and worth discarding.

For all of this talk about accepting the failure, if a movie – or any creative endeavor  - isn’t improving at a reasonable rate, there is a problem.

The criteria we use is that we step in if a director loses the confidence of his or her crew.

 

 

Ментальные модели, чтобы делать новое

“Keep on going, even when things look bleak.”

Those with superior talent and the ability to marshal the energies of others have learned from experiences that there is a sweet spot between the known and the unknown where originality happens. The key is to be able to linger there without panicking. And that, according to the people who make films at Pixar and Disney Animation, means developing a mental model that sustains you.

And at some point I realized that I was crashing because I was trying so hard not to crash. So I relaxed and told myself. ‘It’s going to be scary when I make the turns really fast, but I am going to push that mountain away and enjoy it.’

Byron Howard, one of our directors at Disney, told me that when he was learning to play a guitar, a teacher taught him the phrase, “If you think, you stink.” The idea resonated with him – and it informs his work as a director to this day. “The goal is get so comfortable and relaxed with your instrument or process, that you can just get Zen with it and let the music flow without thinking,” he told me. “I notice the same thing when I storyboard. I do my best work when I’m zipping through the scene, not overthinking, not worrying if every drawing is perfect, but just flowing with and connecting to the scene – sort of doing it by the seat of my pants.”

Andrew likens the director’s job to that of a ship captain, out in the middle of the ocean, with a crew that’s depending on him to make a land. The director’s job is to say, “Land is that way.” Maybe land actually is that way and maybe it isn’t, but Andrew says that if you don’t have somebody choosing a course – pointing their finger toward that spot there, on the horizon – then the ship goes nowhere. It’s not a tragedy if the leader changer her mind later and says, “Okay, it’s actually not that way, it’s this way, I was wrong.”

Talking to directors and writers, I’m constantly inspired by the models they keep in their heads – each a unique mechanism they use to keep moving forward, through adversity, in pursuit of their goals.

Pete Docter compares directing to running through a long tunnel having no idea how long it will last but trusting that he will eventually come out, intact, at the other end. “There’s a really scary point in the middle where it’s just dark,” he says. “There’s no light from where you came and there’s no light at the other end; all you can do is keep going. And then you start to see a little light and then a little more light and then, suddenly, you’re out in the bright sun.”

Rich Moore, who directed Wreck-It Ralph for Disney Animation, envisions a slightly different scenario. He imagines himself in a maze while he’s making a movie. Instead of running through willy-nilly, frantically searching for his way out, he places the tips of his fingers along one wall as he moves forward, slowing down here and there to assess and using his sense of touch to help him remember the route he’s travelled so far.  But he keeps moving so as not to panic. “I love mazes as a kid,” Rich says. “But you have to keep your head to find your way out. When I see a movie to go south, I think to myself, ‘Well, they went nuts in maze. They freaked out in there, and it fell apart.’”

The idea that as you progress, your project is revealing itself to you. “You’re digging away, and you don’t know what dinosaur you’re digging for,” Bob says. “Then you reveal a little bit of it. And you may be digging in two different places at once and you think what you have is one thing, but as you go farther, blindly digging, it starts revealing itself. Once you start getting a glimpse of it, you know how better to dig.”

During your excavation not every bone you unearth will necessarily belong to the skeleton you are trying to assemble. The temptation to use everything you find, even if it doesn’t fit, is strong. After all, you probably worked hard to dig each element up. But if you are discerning and rigorous in your analysis – if you compare it to the bits you’ve found already to see if it’s match – your movie or project will reveal itself to you. “After a while, it starts to tell me what’s there,” Andrew says. “That’s the place you’re looking for: when the movie starts to tell you what it wants to be.”

I am reminded here of a letter written by one of our animators, Austin Madison, which I found particularly uplifting. “To Whom it May Inspire,” Austin wrote. “I, like many of our artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first is white-hot, ‘in the zone’ seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time. The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumped-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories fo professionals who have been making films for decades going though the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems. In a word: PERSIST. PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision …”

The most important  thing about a mental model is that it enables whoever relies on it to get their job done. The uncreated is a vast, empty space. This emptiness is so scary that most hold on to what they know, making minor adjustments to what they understand, unable to move on to something unknown.

 

Управление компанией, процессы, культура

When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.

Professor Sutherland used to say that he loved his graduate students at Utah because we didn’t know what was impossible.

The process of moving toward something – of having not yet arrived – was what he idealized. (Джордж Лукас)

Whether evoking wagons or ships, George thought in terms of a long view; he believed in the future and his ability to shape it.

It is better to focus on how team is performing, not on the talents of individuals within it. A good team is made of people who complement each other.

Toy Story 2 offers a number of lessons that were vital to Pixar’s evolution. Remember that the spine of the story – Woody’s dilemma , to stay or to go – was the same before and after the Braintrust worked it over. One version didn’t work at all, and the other was deeply affecting. Why? Talented storytellers had found a way to make viewers care, and the evolution of this storyline made it abundantly clear to me: if you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up, if you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.

Since change is inevitable, the question is: DO you act to stop it and try to protect from it, or do you become the master of change by accepting it and being open to it? My view, of course, it that working with change is what creativity is about.

To ensure quality, then, excellence must be an earned word, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves.

Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on – but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.

I believe that the inappropriate  application of simple rules and models onto complex mechanisms causes damage. The simple explanation is so desirable that it is often embraced even when it’s completely inappropriate.

A culture that allows everyone, no matter their position, to stop the assembly line, both figuratively and literally, maximizes the creative engagement of people who want to help.

That encourages us to believe, wrongly, that we should approach these two phenomena – these two buckets (big and small) differently. But there isn’t a bright line. Big and small problems are, in key ways, the same.

Imagine a balance board – one of those wood planks of wood that rests, at its midsection, on a cylinder. The trick is to place one foot on each end of the board, then shift your weight in order to achieve equilibrium as the cylinder rolls beneath you. While I can try to explain to you how to do it, show you videos, and suggest different methods for getting started, I could never fully explain how to achieve balance. That you learn only by doing – by allowing your conscious and subconscious mind to figure it out while in motion. With certain jobs there isn’t any other way to learn that by doing – by putting yourself in the unstable place and then feeling your way.

When companies are successful, it is natural to assume that this is a result of leaders making shrewd decisions. Those leaders go forward believing that they have figured out the key to building a thriving company. In fact, randomness and luck played a key role in that success.

While each rule may have been instituted for good reason, after a while a thicket of rules develops that may not make sense in aggregate. The danger is that your company becomes overwhelmed by well-intended rules that only accomplish one thing: draining the creative impulse.

Our view of the past, in fact, is hardly clearer than our view of the future. While we know more about past event than a future one, our understanding of the factors that shaped it is severely limited.

“We should be careful to get out of an experiences only the wisdom that is in it – and stop there.” Mark Twain

My rule of thumb is that any time we impose limits or procedures, we should ask how they will aid in enabling people to respond creatively. If the answer is that they won’t, then the proposals are ill suited to the task at hand.

Fundamental misconception that art classes are about learning to draw. In fact, they are about learning to see.

There are limits to data, however, and some people rely on it too heavily. Analyzing it correctly is difficult, and it is dangerous to assume that yo always know what it means. It is very easy to find false patterns in data. Instead, I prefer to think of data as one way of seeing, one of many tools we can use to look for what’s hidden. If we think data alone provides answers, then we have misapplied the tool.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is a maxim that is taught and believed by many in both business and education sectors. But in fact, the phrase is ridiculous – something said by people who are unaware of how much is hidden. A large portion of what we manage can’t be measured, and not realizing this has unintended consequences. The problem comes when people think that data paints a full picture, leading them to ignore what they can’t see. Here is my approach: Measure what you can, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you can’t measure the vast majority of what you do.

Do not accidentally make stability a goal. Balance is more important than stability.

Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and when you find them, hold them close.

The key was to focus less on the end goal and more on what still intrigued them about the characters who, by this point, felt like people we actually knew.

As director Brad Bird sees it, every creative organization – be it an animation studio or a record label – is an ecosystem. “You need all the seasons,” he says. “You need storms. It’s like an ecology. To view lack of conflict as optimum is like saying a sunny day is optimum. A sunny day is when the sun wins out over the rain. There’s no conflict. You have a clear winner. But if every day is sunny and it doesn’t rain, things don’t grow. And if it’s sunny all the time – if, in fact, we don’t ever even have night – all kinds of things don’t happen and the planet dries up. The key is to view conflict as essential, because that’s how we know the best ideas will be tested and survive. You know, it can’t only be sunlight.”

 

Steve Jobs

Steve’s domineering nature could take one’s breath away. At one point he turned to me and calmly explained that he wanted my job. Once he took my place at the helm, he said, I would learn so much from him that in just two years I would be able to run the enterprise all by myself.  I was, of course, already running the enterprise by myself, but I marveled at his chutzpah. He not only planned to displace me in day-to-day management of the company, he expected me to think it was a great idea!

At one point in this period, I met with Steve and gently asked him how things got resolved when people disagree with him. He seemed unaware that what I was really asking him was how things would get resolved if we worked together and I disagreed with him, for he gave a more general answer. He said. “When I don’t see eye to eye with somebody, I just take the time to explain it better, so they understand the way it should be.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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  • Pavel Kulikov

    Отличная книга! Сам все хочу написать ревью. После каждой страницы сидишь и думаешь.