La La Land was one of the most well-known movies featured at this year’s Academy Awards. It tells the story of a jazz pianist who falls in love with an aspiring actress, and the resulting conflict brought on by their separate ambitions. It’s a bright, inventive film that takes place in modern-day Los Angeles and hearkens back to the days of old movie musicals.
The beauty and fun of La La Land have been overshadowed a bit by the controversy surrounding the Best Picture Oscar. La La Land was mistakenly announced as the winner, and after a few moments of awkward confusion, it was revealed that Moonlight was the real winner.
Despite the unfortunate mixup, La La Land remains a movie worthy of all the attention it has received. My wife asked me to take her to see it a few weeks ago. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about it. I’ve never been a big fan of musicals. But soon into the movie, La La Land completely won me over by its playful spirit, engaging story, and sheer audacity.
This is a movie I will revisit many times in the future. Why? Because it has ignited my creative spirit in new and refreshing ways. It will do the same for you, no matter what type of creative work you do.
There are three specific lessons on creativity I’ve learned from La La Land:
1. Do something audacious.
Damien Chazelle, the writer and director of La La Land, wanted to create something unique with this film. He sets the tone with the opening scene, which features dozens of actors performing “Another Day of Sun” on a crowded L.A. freeway.
This intricately choreographed musical number took a huge amount of effort to plan and rehearse. The filmmakers had to get special permission from California officials to shut down the freeway for two days of filming.
Talk about audacious!
When is the last time you did something crazy? Too often, we play by the rules and stick to conventional wisdom because we are afraid what others will think. We underestimate what we can achieve and often avoid reaching for higher goals.
In the song “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” Emma Stone sings, “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem.” I can’t think of a better encouragement for every creative out there.
Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem.
2. Follow your own path.
It would have been easy for La La Land’s creators to settle for making a more conventional movie. Drama? Superhero? Action? Romance? Those are neat and tidy categories for studios and audiences. No surprises and no risks.
But Damien Chazelle forged ahead with his specific vision for the film he wanted to make, despite the fact that we haven’t seen many successful musicals lately. In fact, can you think of a recent live-action movie musical that was truly successful? I had to look it up: it’s 2002’s Chicago.
Despite the odds, Chazelle ignored the conventional wisdom and followed his own path.
There is a lot of conflicting advice about the most effective ways for creative people to build and audience. Should you focus on a blog? Newsletter? Podcast? Speaking? Video? Webinars? Social media? The more we see what works for other people, the easier it is to get confused about our own goals and direction.
It’s great to learn from others, but you must stay true to your own voice, vision, and values. This is why it’s so helpful to have creative clarity in your life.
3. Surround yourself with creative people.
A movie like La La Land is the product of a collaborative team. It was primarily the vision of the director, but he relied on a multitude of creative partners to create the finished product. Everyone involved in the look and sound of the film (including cinematography, lighting, wardrobe, music, and many others) made a key contribution.
A great example is Mandy Moore, the choreographer for La La Land. The dance sequences were a key element in the movie, and she played a key role in bringing these to life. The theme of collaboration is subtly woven through the movie with Sebastian’s love for jazz, which relies on the interplay and improvisation of musicians.
I’m 42-year-old introverted Gen Xer, and I don’t naturally seek community. My parents taught me to be independent and self-sufficient, and my personality is wired to crave time alone. Millennials seem to naturally gravitate to working and creating in groups. Whatever your age, personality, or generation, you will benefit from the wisdom and creativity of other people.
If you’re lacking a sense of community in your life, you will have to be intentional about finding it. Church, Facebook groups, meetup groups, and organizations in your community all offer possibilities for connecting with other creatives.
If you haven’t seen La La Land, I encourage you to check it out. I hope it inspires you as much as it’s inspired me. That’s the power of movies: sometimes it takes a made-up story to show you what is possible in real life.
Have you seen La La Land? If so, how did it inspire you?
Originally Published on Kent Sanders
Photo: Lionsgate Movies