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Dream a little dream
Q: How do you keep your creative spark alive?
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"Do you give 100% of yourself to every project?" I asked over a late night dinner in New York ten years ago. I was in conversation with an actor friend and her colleagues, a DP (Director of Photography) and a Creative Director. They gave me a strange look.
"No. Always more than that." said the DP.
"Ya, when I'm working on a project I'm completely consumed by it. It's all I can think about." said the Creative Director.
"How do you sustain that level of input for so long?" I asked.
"Breaks. We take breaks in between our projects unlike you full-timers."
I remember both being in awe and feeling envious. Back then I was enamored by the idea and wondered what a life devoted to pursuing that creative spark would look like. If I had stayed back in India instead of coming to the US, would I have been pulled into the creative industry thriving in Bombay - pursuing a career in media or production for Bollywood instead of spending twenty years in tech? As we all know, pondering the what ifs can be fun but not so fruitful. But even today I am often drawn to thinking about how I can bring more creativity into my work.
I continue to be inspired by everyone that follows their own inner creative spark and marches to their own beat. Watching the Oscars (or any other awards show) is a chance to observe people that have given their life to the creative pursuit. It is a celebration of excellence. This year was the first time I watched it with my daughter. I had to explain to her what it meant, why people were getting awards and for what (very complicated to explain to a four year old it turns out). When the Indian filmstar Deepika Padukone came on stage, I said - "A…she's Indian!" and I saw my little girl's eyes light up. "She's Indian, mama?"
Seeing Michelle Yeoh win the Best Actress award for the excellent movie Everything Everywhere All at Once was a highlight for me. Her speech while accepting the award had a message for our children and for us women -
"Thank you… for all the little boys and girls who look like me tonight…This is proof that dreams do come true. And ladies, don't let anyone ever tell you you're past your prime."
Ya ladies (and gents), whenever we doubt ourselves or wonder if it’s too late for us to do something new, something different, let’s remember these wise words.
Another artist that caught my attention was Guneet Monga, the executive producer of the Oscar-winning short film The Elephant Whisperers. The story of her life on the Humans of Bombay Facebook page moved me. This is just one example of an artist making it onto the world stage despite the adversity they faced or perhaps because of it.
I have always enjoyed watching the Oscars - noticing the risks taken by artists with their fashion choices on the red carpet or seeing the emotions on display during an artist’s acceptance speech (Roberto Benigni’s joy from winning for “Life is Beautiful” in 1999 will be forever seared in my mind).
I aspire to be a passionate and authentic storyteller. The Oscars are one of the biggest celebrations of storytellers - of all the artists, artisans and craftsmen who play an important role in bringing our human stories to life through movies. There are so many people whose effort and hard work goes into creating a movie. As Jamie Lee Curtis said when accepting the award for Best Supporting Actress -
“I know it looks like I’m standing up here by myself, but I am not. I am hundreds of people.”
I have always believed that “you have to see it to be it” as said by Billie Jean King. Seeing people of all genders, races, and abilities represented on the awards stage helps inspire future generations. Ariana DeBose who herself made history in 2022 as the first openly queer woman of color to win the Best Supporting Actress shared this observation -
“…we are so pleased and encouraged that the movies and the people who make them are becoming more inclusive and more of a reflection of the audiences that are inspired by them.”
So many stars stood on stage and reminded everyone to believe in their dreams. There were 16 first-time acting nominees (out of 20) this year ranging in age from 27 to 73. Ke Huy Quan, who came to the US as a refugee from Vietnam, won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once. He started his career as a thirteen year old (in Indiana Jones and Goonies) and it took almost 40 years of hard work, resilience and self confidence to get onto the Oscar stage. I got teary eyed listening to his acceptance speech. Because he was proof of what the "American Dream" means to immigrants - a term coined by James Truslow Adams in his best-selling 1931 book Epic of America. He described it as "...that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." Ke Huy persevered and patiently waited for his day to arrive, surrounding himself with supporters to help him keep his dream alive. Accepting the award he shared -
“...They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I can't believe this is happening to me. This. This is the American Dream…Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine. To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
These artists inspire us to follow our dreams, stay true to what makes us unique and to not forget that the journey is what makes us who we are.
For those of us interested in lessons from different industries, here is an insightful read on another creative artist who is a fascinating business case study -
"...Swift is set to become the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time. She holds the record for most songs to ever chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (188 songs), and last fall became the first artist to own the entire Top 10 simultaneously.
...The people who power pop culture can be blueprints for the companies that need to tap into the zeitgeist to break through. Swift is one of the first internet-era pop stars, and she’s a masterclass in brand-building and community management."
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