“Blow up the shark. Not just kill it, you have to blow it up!”
Besides the fact that each is a legendary filmmaker, what do Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese have in common?
In the late 60’s, they all hung out together.
Before any of them had a hit movie, they used to sit around sharing ideas and busting balls. Brian De Palma gave George Lucas the idea for the epic text scroll that starts Star Wars. Spielberg helped Scorsese edit the last ten minutes of Taxi Driver. It was this group of peers — known today as the “movie brats” — that convinced Spielberg that he had to “blow the shark up” at the end of Jaws — “not just kill. You have to blow it up!”
Here’s a secret all top-level creatives know to be true: The best ideas come from other people.
Our egos work hard to keep us as The Hero of our own story. To “protect” us from seeing the flaws and missed connections in our work. We’ve already explored the importance of staying connected with other humans for our health. But to reach our highest level of creativity, the need goes deeper.
We need peers — peers who know what it’s like — to offer critiques and criticisms. And even more important — we need a peer group to remind us that we’re not alone on this journey.
It doesn’t matter if you’re directing movies, writing a business plan, or raising a family. We all need other people willing to challenge our ideas, praise our moments of genius, and call us on our bullshit when it inevitably comes.
Nothing lends itself to a creative life better than an extra set of eyes to catch what we may have overlooked.
Socrates knew it when he sat with Plato and Xenophon to discuss big questions around politics and human nature. It was those conversations that would eventually shape Plato’s Dialogues and educate a young Aristotle.
Ben Franklin’s Leather Apron Club met every Friday night to talk about issues of morality, philosophy, and the future. These meetings helped produce the first public library, the first public fire station, and the proposal for the University of Pennsylvania.
Gertrude Stein, T.S Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound are just a few of the heavyweights who rounded out the “Lost Generation.” It was this group of writers, painters, and poet that pushed the boundaries of traditional literature, sexuality, and artistic expression in the 1920s.
Groups like this don’t come around every day. But cultivating a group of creative peers doesn’t need to be complicated. The digital age may make it easier to isolate ourselves, but it is still a powerful tool for creating a community without geographic limits. To begin building relationships and connections with a peer, make the first move. Reach out and compliment someone making work you admire. Or better yet, reach out to someone who could use your help.
Each of the “movie brat” directors went on to create work that changed the way we watch and enjoy movies. Each had their own unique style and vision for what they wanted to do, and yet they were able to add their different perspectives to help bring out the best in each other.
It’s often other people who first see what is special about our own work. They help us realize our strengthens and weaknesses. They hold the mirror up to the parts of ourselves that are worth exploring. Part of being human is accepting that we can’t do it all on our own. It’s by balancing our perspectives with the viewpoints of others that we are able to get our best work out of our heads and into the world.
Collaboration leads to flow.