While preparing to direct a short documentary about the Akumal Arts Festival in Mexico, I faced a pivotal moment. Icy fear coated my gut. The ghost of low self esteem screamed, You f***’d up!!! You have no idea what you’re doing. What made you think it would work in the first place???
I hadn’t heard that crippling voice in a long time. Now it blasted on an internal loudspeaker, as I contemplated canceling my first film. I’d disappoint many people. I might need to return money I’d raised, some of which was already spent. Looking back, I saw where fear could have crushed my resolve. Instead, I used creative thinking skills to my advantage.
Specifically, I used the set of 20 Creative Thinking Skills first articulated by Torrance and Safter in 1999, then expanded upon for educators by Burnett, Figliotti & Salzberg in 2020. Applying these different skills throughout the stages of a conflict can turn brick walls into water in almost any situation.
This was mine: manipulation had slithered into exchanges with the director of photography, or DP. Yet, I admired her artistry and felt I had to ‘keep the faith.’ My feelings changed after key contract issues were either hastily considered or ignored completely. I didn’t know what to do. Finding a skilled replacement with proper equipment, a week out from shooting, seemed more than unlikely, it seemed impossible. Creative Thinking Skills in Play: Keep Open, Embrace the Challenge, Be Aware of Emotions
I reached out to friends who are pros behind and in front of the camera. They responded to my crisis with sage advice, which I followed with an eye towards resolution. My efforts with the DP were met with deflection, and I chose to part ways. Creative Thinking Skills in Play: Produce & Consider Many Alternatives, Take Risks, Practice Mindfulness
While frantically considering alternatives, I reached out to a connection of an entrepreneurial colleague in Akumal. She said she knew a wonderful musician “who also had a camera.” This was all I had to go on. He was happy to talk and not long after our Zoom meeting, I had so much more: a signed contract with a bilingual director of photography based in Tulum, twenty minutes south of Akumal, with a killer / dope / awesome camera and a stellar network of his own. He recommended a boom mic operator and liaised the negotiations to bring him on board. Both acted with kindness, commitment, and professionalism from the first hello. This is what ‘team’ felt like! Creative Thinking Skills in Play: Embrace Ambiguity, Break Through and Extend the Boundaries, Get Glimpses of the Future, Take Risks, Embrace the Challenge
We planned each day of the brief, intense shoot. The stateside editorial team stayed in touch as footage accumulated. We left time and space for last minute schedule changes and moments of grace. Those spontaneous happenings elevated our work — lifting our hearts and minds, and, hopefully, our documentary. (Coming soon!)
So, if it feels like everything is falling apart, use your creative thinking skills — Keep Open, Produce & Consider Many Alternatives, Embrace Ambiguity, and Look At It Another Way.
You might find this is when the light of possibility shines brightest.