I’m always curious about the process of creating new forms of art, as process is transferrable to any medium. As someone who has worked in a lot of disciplines (music, film, design, etc) I find my best ideas always come from crossing over from other disciplines.
An approach that works for painting can be used in music. A technique used in writing can be used in graphic design.
I came across this post from ETR about Benjamin Franklin’s writing system. In a nutshell, to learn from the masters,
1) Study the structure.
2) Make an exact copy- by hand.
3) Make a summary outline of the ideas, structure etc.
4) Add improvements of your own.
Art students were often told to copy the master’s paintings. But it applies to all arts. I have done this with some Beethoven string quartets. By copying by hand every single note – just copying – the mere physical act of writing down the master’s notes – there is some kind of insight and transferrence of knowledge. I had read somewhere that composer Roy Harris had done the same thing instead of going to his lessons with Nadia Boulanger. Berlioz did the same spending hours and hours in the Paris Conservatoire library copying out parts from Gluck’s operas. Filmmakers have done homages to their favorites even having music videos that are basically recreations of specific scenes in a movie. The “Flashdance” quote in JLo’s video a few years ago comes to mind.
To stand on the shoulders of giants, you need to climb up there. This is one way of doing it.
Try it with your next film. Study a scene from your favorite film. Create the storyboard from it. Write the screenplay that would have accompanied it. Film it if you can.
Or how about with an animation? Recreate a 30 second sequence from a Disney classic – frame by frame.
As an aside, this reminds me of the hysterical magical realist story by Jorge Luis Borges “Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote,” in which Pierre Menard was intending to “coincide – word for word and line for line – with those Miguel de Cervantes.” Not by copying but by reliving a life as Cervantes would have to recreate oneself as a Cervantes. I love Borges for his ideas and his very dense incredibly compact language.
And here’s the exact section from Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography.
About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious.