Looking at the world through different eyes - why engaging with the arts is so important to creatives

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A few years ago, I worked on a film magazine where every actor or director interviewed was asked the same question

“What do you love about movies?” The answers were always fascinating and over time a theme developed. Many of the answers were similar to Director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block):

“...Walking out of the cinema after you’ve seen an amazing film, it’s like landing on another planet... it’s like you’ve just arrived on earth.”

This is the mark of great art - not just cinema. It’s the same with theatre, literature, music, anything that has such an effect on you, that, for a little while at least, it gives you different eyes with which to see the world. You gain perspectives and ideas you never had before and experience unfamiliar emotions.

This new outlook doesn’t last long, only a few minutes in the conscious mind, but sometimes elements lodge in the subconscious and return at different and unpredictable times - the moments before falling asleep, standing on the platform of the central line at 08:15 on the commute to work, or, if you’re lucky, when trying to come up with ideas for a project.

In many ways, our industry thrives on preserving the mystery of ‘creativity’. It’s not just hard to find; it’s hard to define. Rather than just creating something new, we want to create something inspiring. And this is where cinema comes in. Or art galleries, or the theatre - anything that offers that magical change in perspective. Trawling through YouTube and Pinterest is often very valuable - but in truth, the inspiration needed to create something special is rarely found within the four walls of an office. And that’s what the most successful work demands - something that can be the foundation of an experience that resonates. People don’t necessarily remember clever copy or delicate images in a campaign, but they do remember how it made them feel.

That’s why when interviewing new members for the creative team, we always ask about the books they like, or what they last saw at the cinema or theatre. We ask what they liked about it and what connected with them. We’re looking for the moment when their face lights up as they talk about something that’s affected them. It’s not just because we want to get to know them and see how they’ll fit into the team. And it’s not just about passion for what they do - that’s a fundamental, or their ability to connect and engage with different types of art. It’s about an enthusiasm for these experiences, and an eagerness for art that changes them. Because with the pressure of a deadline looming and a seemingly impossible brief in front of them, it’s those 15 minutes after the cinema where the world looked different that might hold the answers they’re looking for.

Jonathan Williams