A couple of recent documentaries are worth a look for anyone interested in getting an insight into the creative process in industries different from advertising and marketing.
Jodorowsky's Dune tells the story of Chilean artist and director Alejandro Jodorowsky's unmade movie of Dune. He assembled an amazing group of collaborators, including French comics creator Moebius, Swiss artist of the gothic and bizarre HR Giger, Pink Floyd and special effects man Dan O'Bannon. He apparently signed up an amazing cast including David Carradine, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Udo Kier and Salvador Dali. And he developed a complete script and storyboard, scene by scene, for the entire movie. But the project was too ambitious and Jodorowsky apparently too crazed and uncompromising for any Hollywood studio to back him and his film. The fact that David Lynch was picked as the 'safe' option to direct Dune, in preference to Jodorowsky, gives some indication of just how far out there the Jodorowsky Dune would have been. The documentary is an entertaining watch, not just for the glimpses of the unmade epic, but also for the intensity that Jodorowsky brings to telling the story. You can see that this intensity (combined with his reputation for having previously made bonkers but visionary films like El Topo and the Magic Mountain) is what must have persuaded his collaborators to follow his call to, "Sell everything you own and move to Paris to work on something that will change the world." But you can also see why that same creative passion could have scared off the Hollywood money men. (There's a frankly alarming sequence where he likens adapting Frank Herbert's book to 'raping a bride'.) There are some parallels here with our business – the tension between the creative vision and the conservative client. But Jodorowsky makes it clear that he sees himself as an artist, not a commercial entertainer. He doesn't want a box office hit, he wants to blow our minds. In our work, we can't start believing that we are purely artists – our creativity is always in service of commercial objectives.
There's a part near the end where AJ says something like, "The movie didn't die. It lives on in people's minds as a dream. And a dream can still change the world." The power of dreams, no?
You can't watch the unmade Dune, but you can see its influence in other movies, from Alien to Bladerunner. And, if you're a fan of visionary cinema but haven't seen any of Jodorowsky's work, then you should try to track down the extraordinary and unforgettable Santa Sangre or The Dance of Reality.
Another recent documentary about a creative working in a particular field is Dior and I, which follows designer Raf Simons as he takes over as creative director of the Dior fashion house.
To the outsider the world of haute couture can seem like the Emperor's New Clothes brought to life: the unspeakable in pursuit of the unwearable. But even if you're not into fashion, this is an interesting story. Simons seems a reluctant guru, shy and somewhat intimidated by the legacy of Dior's founder, but quietly determined to reinvent the brand without losing touch with its essence.
The house of Dior is presented as an intriguing contrast: seeking to be at the cutting edge of fashion, but enabled by an atelier of middle-aged seamstresses, the craftspeople who turn the CD's concepts into real physical garments. Simons doesn't even sketch out his ideas – he uses clippings and moodboards and reference stimulus to suggest what he wants. Much of this reminded me of the way that some advertising creatives work: like magpies, picking up shiny things from the gutter of culture and assembling them in (hopefully) new and relevant ways.
Like an agency working towards a big pitch, the tension at Dior mounts as the day of the big runway show approaches. The pressure is on and time and money are running out. Simons persuades his boss to go wildly over-budget for a dramatic presentation that involves covering a mansion in fresh flowers, and after late nights, tears and tantrums, it all comes good with a triumphant launch of the new collection.
The striking thing, comparing the two films, are the similarities and differences between Jodorowsky and Simons. Neither can execute their vision themselves. Each has a team of highly talented collaborators from whom they need to elicit excellent work, in order to realise that personal vision. But while Jodorowsky assumes the role of the crazed visionary, the manic street preacher, Simons is thoughtful, subdued and even withdrawn. Both approaches seem to work pretty well.
If you're interested, you can find both these films in the iTunes store. Jodorowsky's movies are available on DVD.