I’m reading the fantastic December 19th Rolling Stone cover story, Anchor Management, about the improvisational movie-making odyssey that’s become Anchorman and it’s recently-released sequel, Anchorman 2. At one point, co-writer and director of both movies, Adam McKay, shares:
The first movie, no one’s getting paid anything. For the second one, you want to do new shit, you need a little boost in production and everyone now gets paid 40 times what they used to get paid.
McKay asks Paramount for $80 million. They laugh. He drops it to $60 million. They settle, after much wrangling, on $50 million, which means cutting a ton and persuading all the stars to work for less. McKay continues:
Doing it for $50 million was exhausting but fun. I hate to give Paramount credit, but they probably gave us the perfect budget. Money can kill comedy. It made us get scrappy, it made us get clever…. All the making do is what the good shit comes out of. [emphasis added]”
I’ve found this to be universally true across nearly every creative endeavor, from writing to video production to art and entrepreneurship.
How many times have you said, I could do so much more or so much better, if only I had more money, supplies, connections, time, training, yadda, yadda, yadda. Meanwhile, some “snot-nose, no talent kid with empty pockets, no pedigree and no damn clue” drops onto the scene with an iphone, a screen of $1 apps and laps you in a city minute. WTF?
The production cost/minute for Good Life Project® TV is 1/1000th the cost per minute of a network television show. Sure I’d love a higher budget, but it’s just not there yet. So we get super-scrappy to make things happen with what we’ve got.
And I often wonder whether my desire to produce a next-level aesthetic is really just more about me than my viewers. Many of the top shows on youtube are filmed with one-camera, often the computer’s web-cam or an iphone with a $20 mini-LED light panel. Author, John Green, is a great example. Along with his brother, Hank, and a few webcams, he produces Vlog Brothers. With 1.7 million subscribers, each episode is watched hundreds of thousands, some millions of times. The format forces the essential ideas and delivery to be that much more exceptional.
Sure, you need enough to get the basics rolling. But often times, the difference between crap and craft isn’t more, but less.
Constraint forces creativity.
Fewer resources means the essential nature, the soul of your output, has to be that much better to break through all the noise.
Even more, constraint in one area of work or life makes you more creative in all areas.
There’s research behind this. According to a study by Janina Marguc at the University of Amsterdam, and published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
…encountering an obstacle in one task can elicit a more global, Gestalt-like processing style that automatically carries over to unrelated tasks, leading people to broaden their perception, open up mental categories, and improve at integrating seemingly unrelated concepts.
That’s fancy talk for the oxymoronic…
Limits expand potential.
Ya know how you’ve been saying I can’t do that thing on the level I want to do because I don’t have enough [insert bells and whistles] to make it shine? Just stop. Sitting here, reading this today, you very likely have what you need. You may need to get scrappy. You may need to get more real, to hone your ideas, voice, presence, ability to radiate. Your breakout move is to elevate the essence.
Question is, what are you going to DO about it?
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