The recipe

By Adam Pierno

Tonight my wife told me she was bringing home left over Beef Stroganoff that her mother had made for their visit. I instantly got a picture of the Beef Stroganoff that my own mother had prepared for the 18 years of my life that I lived at home. I could not only envision it, I could smell it. I could taste it. I could feel the texture of the noodles. Needless to say, I was excited. 

An hour or so later, my wife returned home with a container full of the meal her mother had kindly sent home for me. I opened it, and it looked completely different from my vision, my memory. My thought at that second was “It is so interesting that two people, both equally skilled cooks, could take a classic recipe, and using the same general ingredients produce such different dishes.” The meal was delicious. It was just different from what had been served to me before. 

When we dine at a new restaurant, many menu items are familiar. And we have an expectation of what will hit the table. Sometimes, an inventive chef will deconstruct or remix a classic dish using the basic ingredients and pleasantly surprise us. Sometimes, deviating from our expectations is a great way to take something traditional or dull and giving it new life. 

When we create anything, we are often tasked with taking familiar elements and rethinking the way they work together. Often in my career, I’ve worked side-by-side with another Art Director on the same project, pulling from the same concept and elements and produced an entirely different piece.

This is one of the areas of creativity that dazzles and confounds audiences and clients. The same inputs produce varied results. Given the same script and actors, three directors would produce three vastly different films. More importantly, people in the same audience would have mixed reaction (most likely) as to which version was superior. Some would prefer the version of the film made by the director they like the best, maybe even before seeing his result. 

The second thought I had as I devoured the Stroganoff was “Do I prefer this version because I am currently enjoying it? Or do I prefer my mother’s version because of an obvious bias?” I was clearly overthinking this. But it’s true that the audience subjectivity  adds another layer to the variations on creativity – because their interpretation also determines if the work is ‘successful’ or not. 


Explaining ADD

By Adam Pierno

I’ve been hearing for years about our shrinking attention span. As a creator, there is a pressure on all of us to think in short impactful bursts – because people are only going to give us a few – HEY! Over here. I’m going to make a good point. Just hang in there. 

There is an undiscussed element to all of this. The implication is that people are getting dumber, that we’re fickle and easily swayed by whatever shiny object is dangled before us. The idea is that Google alone is “rewiring our brains” and training us to proactively jump from thing to thing. And so we tell people commissioning the work that we have to do something to get people’s attention.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting dumber. I’m not more fickle. I’m not more into pictures of cats than I ever have been. 

The truth is I just have more amazing options than I’ve ever had before.

I don’t run from thing to thing because I lack focus, there is literally more incredible art, video, photography, writing and music created and shared every day than the entirety of the dark ages. I made that stat up to make a point, but you see where I’m going. So maybe I’m getting dumber. But the point is valid. The links that we can’t stop clicking are addictive because such a high percentage of them are bringing us to something really, really good. Something the person who shared it with us KNEW WE WOULD LOVE. Something created by an author who has a style and a voice that we’ve been denied by corporate creative cartels until now.

Television alone, never mind the ubiquitous internet example, offers us a ridiculous amount of great options. Growing up in a house with no cable until I was in my teens, there were a handful of channels. The networks, PBS and syndicated sitcoms were the options. I’m not deriding what they gave us. Now, HBO, Showtime, CInemax, USA, TBS, Bravo and others all produce original series that (for certain audiences) are even better than what the networks offer. And though the networks take abuse for a lot of their programming, it is really not that bad. No wonder you have a hard time focussing, there are 5 times as many hours of good programming on. 

And now to the ubiquitous internet example. Outlets like Facebook try the walled garden approach because they know once you get out, you might not come back. They know how much good stuff is floating around out there. Or, not floating around. Being moved aggressively in your direction. And Facebook can barely produce a TV commercial and a privacy policy. 

Plus, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Critical acclaim aside, if you consider that there are niche sites and creators for the most obscure and ridiculous interests then you’re aware that there are great videos, stories and art in those categories too. Never mind the amount of really great things, each person can have their own garden of their own favorite art and entertainment—and only the things they believe are the greatest—whenever they want. Shit, there is Horse Ebooks fan fiction sites. Someone thinks that stuff is just wonderful. 

So the meaning of this new view on our collective ADD as a society is this. You do not need to create something shiny to distract people. You need to create something interesting and great. You may be painting, or you may be writing music. in either case, you are competing for the same attention that Showtime is trying to win with Homeland, or the eyeballs everyone on Pinterest is trying to win over and you can’t expect to do it without both understanding who’s attention you are trying to earn and what must be done to earn it.


Caine’s Arcade

You’ve probably seen the video by now of Caine, a boy who created an entire arcade out of cardboard and whatever else he could find lying around. As a documentary, directed well by Nirvan Mullick, it is captivating in it’s simplicity. It captures the creativity and energy of a very normal boy doing what bored kids often do: create. 

We keep waiting for a twist or turn in the story. But one doesn’t come. It’s really as pure as it sounds. The boy, inspired by simple direction of his father to entertain himself lets his imaginiation go and builds not one game, but a row of games. And rules. And prizes. His joy is not only the making of these games, but in the filmmaker, his first customer’s willingness to take a spin and enjoy the ride. Mr. Mullick takes up the gaming with child-like complicity. “Oh, these are the rules of this game? Sounds good. I’ll try it.” There isn’t a hint of cynicism or irony.  

The film is inspired, assumedly, by what the filmmaker saw in the boy and in the arcade. Pure playful imagination.