Getting Stuck: Why Creative Blocks in Filmmaking Can be Good

Paul Broadie

If you are producing innovative work regularly, I’m sure you will have experienced what is commonly known as a creative block. Some describe it as a ‘lack of motivation’, some ‘paralysis’ and others ‘creative angst’.

Whatever you wish to call it, the experience is often the same; enthusiasm being sucked right from you.

At Manto, creative blocks are certainly no alien concept to us, we will experience them to a varying degree almost daily! Sometimes they come as we work on current edits or as we canvas ideas and create concepts for existing or potential clients.

So often, creative blocks are perceived as having a negative and destructive effect on workflow. However, I want to suggest that, whilst they most definitely are frustrating and sometimes soul-destroying, if harnessed correctly they could actually be a positive thing not just for our workflow but also for our own growth as a creator.  Getting stuck could be good!

When we have a creative block we are faced with a choice: to give up or to persevere. Either we accept that we have reached our creative limit or we search for a deeper level of inspiration.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said that, “The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.”

It is really easy to get stuck in a place where we act like a mirror, recreating the same things and keep going down the same routes that have been fully explored. I wonder whether creative blocks are a way of encouraging us to discover, develop and grow.

One of our core values as a company is to be brave – to have the courage to take a risk and dare to try something new and with that having the freedom to fail. Getting through a creative block requires us to do just that. We need to allow ourselves the opportunity to take these risks, step back, reconsider our ideas, explore new ideas, good and bad, and maybe even take a new approach completely.

Psychologists have evidence to suggest that stepping back from the problem we are stuck on can be massively helpful in solving it. This only needs to be for a short time and could just be moving to a different task, which in the context of Manto will often be watching totally random videos on YouTube, playing office basketball and/or wrestling with the office dog (these tasks are not to be mistaken for procrastination!) During this time our nonconscious is still working on the problem even though we aren’t sat in front of it, often meaning when we come back to it we experience ‘break through’. Distance from the problem can give us greater clarity.

Something we do often at Manto is asking for the team’s opinion. Generally it’s the case that even when we can’t see the solution ourselves, having another input can be helpful in seeing something different, and a creative side step to a solution.

However you choose to approach your creative block, the key is to not let the fear of running out of ideas or running out of time for a looming deadline set in but to give yourself the freedom to acknowledge the creative block and see it as an opportunity to push your own creative bar higher.