10 things creative people can learn from La La Land

I planned to kick off the blogging year by a self affirmative and motivational post how to best achieve your New Year resolutions. Then I went to see an early screening of La La Land… and now I have to re-shuffle my posting schedule!

 Credit:  Dale Robinette
Credit:  Dale Robinette

La La Land blew me away and touched upon a lot of points I wanted to make in that New Years motivational blog post. So I felt compelled to do this write up as a semi prequel… just with less Jar Jar Binks! 

I expected the movie to be a sweet romance with some whimsical music numbers thrown in for good measure. What I didn’t expect was getting a multi layered meditation on creative ambition, dreams, insecurities, doubt, pain, love, happiness and despair on top of it!

It’s the story of how two struggling creatives falling in love in LA: Mia being an aspiring actor, Seb dreaming of playing Jazz and owning his own club. Garnished with amazing cinematography, lush colours, a great soundtrack and fun dance numbers, this movie feels like Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers via Wes Anderson. 

  Credit:   Dale Robinette
Credit:  Dale Robinette

This is really as far as I like to go reviewing it. I urge everybody to watch this movie for him or herself first without listening to any hype or reviews!

Still, I really like to discuss some of the themes that stood out for me.

Like any piece of art, how one will read a movie is deeply personal. Some might see La La Land as just a love story, some might see it as a critique of glitzy LA and some might just enjoy the film for it’s musical numbers and forget it the next day. 

Most reviews I read after touch upon the vintage musical feel the movie successfully recreates but somehow fail to mention how perfectly it discusses what it takes to be successful as a creative person.

Personally I think director Damien Chazelle crafted yet another great film dissecting the dynamics of creative relationships. His last Oscar nominated film “Whiplash” from 2014 was showing a dysfunctional relationship between an aspiring drummer and his tyrannical mentor, asking how far is too far in order to achieve artistic greatness and immortality. 

 Photo by Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. .
Photo by Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. .

La La Land is far more romantic, subtle and paints a broader picture on how difficult life as a creative person struggling for success and fulfillment can be.

Being a Designer, Artist and DJ myself I loved how the film followed the characters from their humble beginnings to the conclusion of their path, touching on many obstacles designers, artists, actors and musicians face every day.

So without further gushing here are…

10 inspirational things creative people can learn from watching La La Land

1. Have passion

If you don’t care about what you are creating how will you make your client or audience excited about your output? If you are more committed to your Facebook feed than your actual work it might be time to hand in your apron.

2. Don’t be a hermit

Hiding away in your studio is no fun. Go outside and hang out with great people you can bounce ideas around with. Your brain needs fresh air!

3. Endure the pain of creativity

Nobody says it’s gonna be easy. You will be judged, applauded, torn down, insulted, celebrated, hated, mocked, loved, fired and hired. Don’t let this shaky ride discourage you!

4. Respect your fellow artists

Even if you disagree with the work of a fellow creative: Don’t dish out the same vitriol you got served by that horrible client just two hours ago! Try to be respectful and give productive feedback.

5. Just do it

If you don’t start planting seeds nothing can grow. One idea might die, the next might grow into a beautiful flower. You never know until you actually put something out there and see what happens!

6. Don’t be stuck in your ways

Maybe you become exactly the painter you dreamt to become. Or maybe you realise that teaching art is more your forte than standing in a studio in solitude working. Wherever your journey will take you, don’t be afraid to improvise!

7. Stay on target

We all need to pay our bills so you might have to make concessions in your creative endeavours to make ends meet. This is just to give you some stable foundation to build your dream on. Don’t get cushy and forget about your original ambitions! 

8. Never give up

Things can become overwhelmingly tough. Self doubt can be crippling but curling up in the fetal position is not really an option that gets you anywhere. Dust yourself off and keep on walking, who knows where it takes you.

9. Be aware of the price of success

Everybody wants to be successful, but nobody wants to pay the price to get there! Late hours, a crazy work load and pushing your dream alone in the studio whilst your mates have fun down the pub… all this can be the price you have to be willing to pay to get where you want to go. 

10. Never stop dancing!

Don’t forget that life is more than ambition, work and long hours in front of the computer. The ultimate goal of every endeavour should be to become a more happy and healthy person!

Let me know your thoughts about the movie and about my 10 things i picked up on in the comments! I would love to read them!

I wish everybody a HAPPY and CREATIVE 2017!!!

Star Wars nothing but Star Wars…

When I started writing this blog post it was meant to be a celebration of the movie series that means so much to so many people. Now I feel it’s an eulogy for maybe the biggest star that shines in the Star Wars universe: Princess Leia and the actress that created her feisty wit and princess prowess: Carrie Fisher.

I am sure I am not the only guy out there who’s first crush was Leia in A New Hope. But although she was very pretty she never felt like eye candy and a damsel in distress. Being it choking out Jabba or trash talking Vader, she was badass and could handle her business! 

I feel sad that Carrie Fisher had such a rocky life, being haunted by the one role that defined her acting career. Seeing her back in The Force Awakens was great and *SPOILER* even her CGI likeness in Rogue One made me misty eyed and brought me right back to my childhood.

Leia set the bar when it comes to female leads and I am more than happy to see this tradition continued with great kickass female heroes like Rey and Jyn.

It’s weird to feel this way about the passing of somebody you never knew who played a fictional character in a fictional movie. I felt the same when MCA from the Beastie Boys lost his battle with cancer: You suddenly realize how much this person  (that you never met) contributed to your life’s journey. And as much as I listened to the Beastie Boys my whole life did Star Wars provide the movies and collectibles from my early childhood all the way to now! So let’s dry those tears and celebrate Carrie Fisher’s life and the biggest franchise in this damn solar system…

It’s actually hilarious to see just how many of my friends gift Star Wars toys their kids this Christmas, as if trying to make up for the shortcomings of their parents back in the days. The Force is still strong in this one! 

So what is it that makes these flicks so iconic and different? Let me mention the things that I feel made Star Wars catch lightning in a bottle…

A lived in universe

Until Star Wars came along life in space has been either about glittery camp aliens, squeaky clean star ship interiors or freshly pressed space suits. Star Wars felt more like a filthy Spaghetti Western made by Sergio Leone than a clean cut John Wayne Hollywood production. The colour palette was muted, life on dusty desert planets was as dusty as it could be and star ships looked beaten up and bolted together.

When I saw this promo shot of Ewan McGregor in a film from 2015 I instantly thought: Now THAT’S the Ben Kenobi I wanted to see in the prequels!

So less this… and more THAT!

JJ Abrahams putting the dust and dirt back into The Force Awakens with puppets, built sets and interiors really brought back that sweet Star Wars feeling to me.

Amazing design

Talking about how the flicks look… EPIC!

Whilst most other Sci Fi movies tried to either impress with outrageous and over the top designs, Star Wars kept it precise: Very much like Braun or Apple, the design teams crafted space ships, weapons and armour that was sleek and minimalist yet instantly iconic.

From the impressive Imperial fleet, the Rebel X Wings, the Stormtrooper Helmets to Boba Fetts Slave One: Each piece of the Star Wars universe felt meticulously crafted regarding shape, colour scheme and amount of weathering.

A huge part in all this played concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who designed many of the original characters and created stunning artwork that I would hang on my wall in a second.

Another designer with a powerful impact was Joe Johnston, who later became a movie director in his own right, crafting movies like The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Captain America: The First Avenger. Back in the days at Lucasfilm he worked alongside McQuarrie and designed most of the amazing star ships and vehicles.

A honorable mention must go out to Doug Chiang who replaced Ralph McQuarrie as concept designer on the prequels. And as much as I don’t like the films themselves, I must give credit for the lush designs of the pod racers, naboo fighters and Queen Amidala’s all chromed out pimp ship! Plus his work as Creative Director on Rogue One was great!

Cooler fanboys

Unlike Star Trek, somehow Star Wars attracted the cooler nerds: Being it Japanese Streetwear don NIGO, MoWax head honcho James Lavelle or any Graphic Designer in the 90ties who incorporated Star Wars visuals into their designs to make things look cooler… it wasn’t only the IT Crowd that got super obsessed about the battle amongst the stars! ( Yes I know Pharrell and the Beasties prefer Star Trek … shush! )

 A sticker sheet by MoWax records
A sticker sheet by MoWax records

 AD-AD urban vinyl toy by Bill McMullen ( via Kidrobot )
AD-AD urban vinyl toy by Bill McMullen ( via Kidrobot )

 Street Art by Invader
Street Art by Invader

“Berry Meditation” UNKLE album cover

 Toymaker The Sucklord ( via Village Voice )
Toymaker The Sucklord ( via Village Voice )

 Boba Fett by KAWS
Boba Fett by KAWS

The most iconic characters in the universe!

Han Solo, Luke, Princess Leia, Chewie, Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, R2D2… the list of iconic characters, droids and aliens is endless. As much as I like Star Trek too, their alien back catalogue doesn’t even come close to all the crazy critters that inhabit the Star Wars galaxy… 

Most of these character designs can again be credited to the design genius of Ralph McQuarrie. Good to know he got his moment to shine as well playing General McQuarrie in The Empire Strikes Back. You can find his toy in the Star Wars section in aisle 4, thank you…

 It's the dude in the middle
It’s the dude in the middle

Another fan favorite was created by Joe Johnston: Boba Fett, the flyest Bounty Hunter of them all. That Mandalorian armour still looks so damn BADASS!

We all know he escaped the Sarlacc pit so let’s hope they get the Boba Fett standalone movie right! I wonder how much they have to bend the story after that clone origin debacle in the the prequels… oh well.

Until then my favourite toy artist The Sucklord has to keep Boba P.I.M.P.

Practical effects baby!

Mixing practical effects and real locations gave the saga a weird sense of realism even when it was set in a galaxy far, far away.

Abandoning this approach really betrayed the prequels in my opinion, as the CGI and clean look just didn’t feel Star Wars to me.

The Force Awakens had some very obvious puppetry going on and somehow that made it feel more tangible. BB-8 was properly build and that they even did Rey’s weird green muffin bread as a practical effect really showed the commitment to the cause!

Ta TA, ta ta ta TAAA TAAAA!

Just like in the James Bond franchise, the music and it’s classic themes helped elevate Star Wars to another level of greatness. The Main Theme. the Imperial March, that Cantina Band Spacejazz… Star Wars just wouldn’t be the same without it! Fist bump to John Williams for lacing some dope stringz, yo.

Of cause there have been some awesome musical spin offs as well. Collect `em all!

Whilst we are on the topic of Star Wars soundtracks… how great is this etched holographic vinyl release of The Force Awakens? 


G’damn light sabers!

Hell yes!!!

Even before Kylo Ren pimped up his tool of the trade with an added hilt lightsabers were the coolest shit ever! The glow, the hissing sound and the ability to cut through metal doors like a hot knife through butter… no other space weapon comes close!

My favorite lightsaber fight actually happens in the prequels: When that second blade came out… oh my! I really wish they wouldn’t have killed off Maul in The Phantom Menace so quickly. Such a waste of good Sith…

Buy buy buy!!!

As every bit of the SW universe was already designed to a T it was easy to translate the starships and characters into a range of toys who looked awesome as well. Somehow Kenner managed to create some great packaging on top of it which would soon become iconic in its own right. Now spice things up with multiple variants of the same figure and you whip collectors into a frenzy! 

Much of the Star Wars merch obsession of millenials can be traced back to either having sold off their collections for peanuts on the local flea market or silly parents decluttering the attic at the end of the 80ties. OH THE PAIN!

How cool are these vintage Clarks x Boba Fett sneakers?!

 via theswca.com
via theswca.com

These lost treasures were never forgotten, and with Lucasfilm pumping out more films there is no shortage of SW obsessives trying to re-buy their childhood and heal the mental scarring of their youth.

Again to be fair to the prequels, I still have fond memories of this Naboo royal starship blockade cruiser playset which was gifted to me from my uncle in America back in 1999. Oh the fun when the package arrived , beeping like crazy as some of the postal workers managed to trigger all the sound fx buttons at the same time…

Last but not least: Crazy shit that stays with you

There is something said for grossing out your audience: They will never forget it! Being it Jabbas slimy perv tongue or that carnivorous Rancor beast in that pit munching on exotic dancers… there always were these awesome gross out moments during the original trilogy that added a little bit more spice to the proceedings!

Jabba wants kissy kissy!

Ewww floss your teeth bro!

After a run in with this fellow Han had to stuff Luke into the carcass of his trusty Tauntaun, warming him with it’s intestines… GROSS! And inspiration for the best sleeping bag ever…

 via ThinkGeek
via ThinkGeek

So these are my thoughts on the topic. And with a new movie getting released every year now it never has been a better time to be a Star Wars geek! Or run for the hills in horror…

I personally will always love Star Wars, even when I start looking like this old geezer below with all that grey in the beard!

It’s a shame General Leia will not be part of the journey going forward. Carrie Fisher, you will be missed! And in the words of Space IP Man Donnie Yen:

I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me…