Saturday, February 20, 2010

Exploring Creativity Through Lightsaber Fights

The hardest thing about creativity is all the work you have to put in before you can actually take advantage of it. No matter what endeavor you choose to pursue, chances are you will have to go a very long way before you can even start down the path you envisioned. With the Internet at our fingertips, we have a tremendous resource for learning, sharing, and encouraging one another, but it can also be distracting, discouraging, and overwhelming. This line of thinking started for me when, while link following one afternoon, I ran across this bit of nonsense from the Jace Hall Show.

Hey, I thought to myself, that's a pretty impressive lightsaber fight. The technology available to create such things has really come a long way, hasn't it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that reaction didn't tell the proper story. It doesn't really matter how cheap video cameras have become, or how video editing and processing software is within the reach of mainstream desktop computers. If I were to try and make a video like that I'd end up looking like that poor Star Wars Kid.

The story behind that video is a sad one, because what was posted publicly was someone captured in the early stages of learning, experimenting, and having fun. The first time you pick up a guitar, even if you have someone teaching you, you aren't going to sound like Hendrix. Your first attempt at anything isn't likely to be very good. Mostly it will be, if we stick to Internet memes, an epic fail. But you will be ever so slightly better the next time. A creative success is just another failure with a tiny, almost imperceptible improvement iterated over the course of months, years, or even decades. And there is another factor in the lightsaber fight between Mr. Hall and Ms. Day: the third person.

As you can see, there is some experience at play here. In fact, you have to do the tiniest bit of research to learn that everyone involved in the top clip is in the creative industry. Jace Hall works in interactive entertainment and television. Felicia Day is a writer and actor. Both have their own web series. The third person in the clip is Michael Scott, an independent filmmaker and special effects artist who has made some very popular lightsaber fighting shorts. They have put years into practicing the skills on display in a couple minutes of video. And these are just the people prominently featured in the clip. There are no doubt others filling in the "behind the scenes" roles that make the polished clip what it is.

Even solitary creative pursuits can benefit from collaboration that encourages, teaches, or supports. Sometimes just knowing that others are out there having similar struggles can be a balm for the ground down spirit. And often you can see people's progression in skill as they continue to practice their art.

So maybe you are a little discouraged at how hard something is to get into, or your latest attempt doesn't match the vision you had for it. Remember that everything is a learning experience. Heck, maybe this post didn't express what I was trying to say terribly well. It's OK, it's just practice.

PS: Higher res versions of the Ryan vs. Dorkman videos are available for download through DVDs too. Naturally, you can follow Felicia Day's and Jace Hall's work through their respective web sites as well.

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