Mentors Breathe Inspiration into Creativity


My Home Town Movie Theatre

When I mentor young filmmakers in how to develop their style and breathe life into their films, I often watch their eyes close me out from their thoughts. They are adamant about making sure the film is theirs and they don’t want anyone to give them a helping hand. This is problematic for a collaborative art form.

The idea of inspiring someone to a higher level of art can only come from words of encouragement, difficult moments of challenge, and the sharing of conceptual ideas. The word, “inspire,” means to “breathe into” or to “infuse with life by breathing.” That means someone has to do the breathing of new ideas to help the filmmaker get his mind cranking.

The creative process requires an environment of ideas, enthusiasm and energy. These are tools that help us gain experience from others and expose our minds to various styles and artistry. The shared wealth of history creates a powerful form of influence that brings the young filmmaker to a higher level of art than his or her counter parts ever achieve. Yet, Millennials seldom want to collaborate.

Inspiration of Mentors Stir Our Heartfelt Voice

The best thing that happens in a collaborative process is the deep sense that your own ideas demand to be heard. From deep within the gut comes this voice begging to resound. The inspiration of mentors draw out those deep ideas from within us and we suddenly find a way to express them. The inspiration brings our ideas to the surface so we can take action.

Unfortunately some people think that when you share a creative idea with the hopes of inspiring them, they think you want them to use your idea. But that is far from the truth. The mentor only wants to get the filmmaker thinking about something they never finished thinking about—that special something that resides deep within their heart.

I was mentoring one filmmaker who wanted to create a world that lacked water. The scarcity drove many to kill for a single cup of fresh water. The original script had a sign in it that made the idea of water scarce, but I suggested he find a way to demonstrate the rarity of water instead.

His latest cut of the film had the water sewn throughout the entire story as the key driver of all decisions made by every character. It became obvious that the liquid was such a rare commodity that everyone’s life changed in the presence of fresh water. Within that setting his protagonist could then mature and become a person who questioned his selfishness and chose to demonstrate love sacrificially.

While I gave him a handful of ideas that were plausible to demonstrate the scarcity of water, he was inspired enough to come up with his own unique ideas. Not one of my suggestions made it into the film, which was good, because my goal was to inspire his convictions and expressions. His choices worked.

The Journey of Understanding

Film is an emotional medium that comes from the heart. Those who hold to conservative standards make conservative films. Those who understand the liberal first and then make conservative films takes the audience on a journey that ends with a conservative view that makes sense to all, not just those with likeminded ideologies.

By finding inspiration from both sides of the political spectrum, a filmmaker becomes more powerful in the messages he can send to an audience that’s hungry for answers to the latest societal issues. But closed-minded conservatives who only focus on their views can present nothing of value to the liberal.

And what good is a film that only reaches the likeminded?

Film is not necessary when used as a tool of validation. It’s only necessary to help opposing viewpoints be understood. When film demonstrates the potential results of an idea, while touching the emotions of everyone watching, the audience is able to buy into the concepts and consider how they might apply within their own life.

For this reason I hangout with liberals and conservatives. I read both sides of every issue. And, I create paths through story that will take an audience to the life-breathing conclusion that cries out to be heard. These actions breathe creativity into each viewer so he or she is capable of altering their life with healthier choices.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Promoting without Purpose

CandyIt was a beautiful and warm day, perfect for long walks and meeting new people. I treaded carefully past the “No Solicitor” signs and came upon a business that flashed me back to my teen years. It was a detailing shop, which was all the rage back in my theater days, but are almost impossible to find today—well, at least quality shops.

The door was locked, so I moved to the next storefront to peddle my marketing pieces. But before I could open the door a little boy ran up to me and said, “We’re here. This is my shop.”

I must have had a perplexed look on my face because the six year old pointed to the door of the detailing shop.

“Your shop?” I questioned.

“It’s inside.”

The boy’s mother came up from behind him holding up a key. She wiped her hair away from her face to bring some semblance of order to her frazzled look. She worked hard to keep her family moving in the right direction.

“I’m sorry we’re late, we had to take care of some family matters,” she said.

The husband walked up with a baby bucket seat in one hand and reached his empty hand of welcome toward me.

“Please come in,” he said. “My son’s talking about his mini-business, just inside.”

“Okay,” I said as I followed everyone inside.

The front office looked more like a playroom than a waiting room for customers. The little boy grabbed nachos from his mother’s hand and sat down in front of the TV next to the curtain drawn display windows.

“You’ll have to excuse the mess,” the mom said. “This is a mom and pop shop and we don’t have anywhere else to take our kids.”

“No problem,” I said with a smile. “There’s nothing wrong with having a family business.”

The dad quickly interjected, ”It’s more like a nursery in here, but it gives our son more family time and we can keep an eye on the little one.”

“I used to have my son creating animations for my business back when he was in grade school,” I added. “Now he manages computer teams, speaks at conferences and makes the big bucks.”

“My son has become somewhat of an entrepreneur in his own right,” the father said. “This is his desk where he sells candy.”

The father pointed to a deep, black walnut desk with piles of boxed candy, cartoon business cards and handwritten receipts.

“He sells candy to help him understand the value of money,” said the proud dad. “He’s made $300 just this week and he’s going to give it all away to help others.”

“Wow, that sounds amazing,” I said. “Who is he helping?”

“We don’t know. He’s just selling right now.” The father paused, glanced out the door at a shop across the street. “Most of what he’s sold has been to a group of guys that work across the street. They come over here every day to buy his candy. They’re really great guys, and customers too.”

“They sound nice, to be able to help your son daily,” I said. “But, how exactly is your son learning the value of money?”

“Well, he’s giving it all away.”

“When I attempted to teach my kids the value of money, I had them take 10% out for charity, 10% out for savings, 5% out for vacation spending money, and so on,” I said. “I wanted them to learn how to manage money and learn of its value in the process.”

“No, he’s going to give it all away,” the father insisted.

“I’m sure there will be a lesson in the adventure for him.”

I turned to the little boy and asked, “Who do you plan on helping with the money you’ve raised?”

The little boy kept his eyes focused on the TV and shrugged his shoulders.

“Pay attention to the man,” demanded the father.

The little boy turned to me and said, “I don’t know.”

The mother chimed in, “He said he’d like to help the kids at a children’s hospital.”

“That would certainly be admirable,” I said.

“He wanted to give all the kids teddy bears, but then changed his mind,” said the father.

“I’m sure that whatever he does, it will be a blessing to the recipient.”

“Get over here,” said the father as he pointed his son to the desk.

The little boy ran around me and stood at his desk. He moved his hand across the candy like Vanna White revealing the Wheel of Fortune game board.

“It’s too bad I’m not a candy eater,” I said. “But it all looks good and the kids you help will certainly appreciate…”

Before I finished my sentence the boy ran back to the TV and flopped into his chair.

I’ve been know to purchase from kid’s sales stands and tables over the years. Sometimes I accepted the product and other times I pay for it and asked the seller to gift it to their next customer or someone in need. But, this candy table was different.

There was no purpose or intent behind the little boy’s candy sales that made it worth my support. Nor was I persuaded to think he was learning from the activity. And, aside from the generous men that worked across the street, I wasn’t convinced the kid even knew how to ask for the sale without his dad’s prompting.

I love to reach into my pocket and help young people who work hard for a cause, but when the moment is void of purpose, it feels pretentious and phony. I don’t like to support people that don’t have their heart in the matter. Show me a passionate person filled with specific intent and I’ll try to support them beyond what I should.

I walked out of the office wondering if I was the first person to withhold support from the father’s educational moment. After all, the cause appeared noble and the kid was cute. But when I turned back and saw the kid’s eyes still glued to the TV, I walked out of the building knowing that my money was going to be held for the next heartfelt project that’ll make a difference in the lives of real people.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

A Killer with Heart

people-men-fight-challengeYesterday, I took a shortcut through an alleyway. The buildings were covered in dirty paint from a few decades back. I stepped around a mangled grocery cart and stepped over a rotted bone that wild dogs didn’t even want. A broken down car suggested that the neighbors used the narrow road to discard items that were hard to place in the garbage.

I finally made my way to the open street and the bright sunlight. I felt like I had just stepped out of the arena of would-be muggers, only to find myself facing a fight club. Having never been to a fight club, I decided to put my alley courage to the test and entered the facility.

The dark room was decorated with various pieces of abused equipment and the dilapidated walls were covered with posters from previous fights. The one poster that held its shiny finish was for a fight scheduled later this month. Partially blocking my view of the fight cage was a glass cabinet that hadn’t been cleaned in years. Inside were several champion boxing belts and MMA trophies.

A short Asian man walked up to me and asked, “What you need?”

“I wanted to give your employees some discounted oil change coupons from Hi-Tech Addison Auto Repair,” I said as I handed him the coupons. “Do you train fighters here or have competitions?”

“We train,” he said. “I’ll give these to the guys.” He waved the coupons and then walked into the restroom.

Emerging from the hallway shadows was a bigger man wearing a hoody. The only part of his black face that I could see was his crooked nose uniquely shaped through multiple beatings. I glanced down at his hands and saw his red, calloused knuckles just below the baggy sleeves. The evidence suggested he was a fighter.

“We train killers,” the guy said as he stepped into the light. “The kinds of men that win fights live just on this side of crazy.”

I felt compelled to dribble out a few words of small talk and held my ground as the large framed trainer stepped closer. His knuckles turned white as he clenched and then relaxed his fists. His brown eyes tried to intimidate, but I could see too much depth and control through the windows of his soul.

“Is putting on a caged fight like putting on a concert?” I asked.

“It’s more complex,” he said with a furrowed brow. “Working with killers on the edge of crazy keeps you on your toes.”

“When I’m not working sales and marketing for a company, I’m making movies,” I said. “Some times actors need special attention, too.”

The man’s gangsta look suddenly shifted to that of a visitor at Disney World. He slipped his hoody back and his countenance became childlike. He told me a story of when he was interviewed for a documentary before a fight he coached. He loved the behind the scenes perspective and was in awe of how the final product looked on screen.

“Our dull surroundings came to life,” he said. “The music and the cutting back and forth of the images, I looked like a cool coach.”

“That’s one of the things I love about filmmaking,” I said. “Taking someone’s plain, ordinary day and turning it into a blast of entertainment and awe, as I reveal the heart of the story to an audience.”

“Heart, yeah, that’s it,” he confirmed. “When a boxer has heart, he can go longer in a fight than he thought was humanly possible. The crazy guys, they just try to kill everyone until someone puts them down.”

“There’s a lot of great boxers with skill, and as you say, some pretty crazy ones too,” I said. “But, the guys with heart rise above the moment and become more than the sum of their parts.”

“You’re right, they get a miracle,” he said with his eyes widening with revelation. “I’ve got to think more about this heart stuff. Because everyone has a story, but not every story is worth sharing.”

“Unless it has heart,” I added.

“You’ve got it,” he exclaimed.

“Hey thanks man … for sharing,” I said. “I’m going to take the lesson you’ve taught me and think about it—see if I can apply it to my life.”

“Oh yeah, me too.”

“Our paths just might cross again,” I said as I walked out the door.

“I’ll look forward to it,” he shouted as the door closed behind me.

What an amazing day. I had met a killer that became a coach of killers. The only thing that kept him away from crossing the line into crazy was his heart.

© 2017 by CJ Powers