Creativity can take many shapes and forms. The following documentaries explore creativity and how a variety of artists channel their inner genius. After all, there is no one definition for what it means to be an imaginative creator.
Six Documentaries Exploring Creativity
Finding Vivian Maier (2013)
Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, Finding Vivian Maier follows the life of Maier and her hidden talent. Although she was born in New York City, she spent most of her youth in a small village in France. Upon returning to New York, Maier took up caregiving as she had a deep love for children. At the same time, unbeknownst to anyone, she also began to venture into street photography, capturing mundane human life and turning it into an art form.
Maier was an extremely private person whose work never came to light until after she died in 2009. John Maloof discovered her photographs in an auction where he came upon over 100,000 negatives capturing her life’s work. Finding Vivian Maier hints at the ever-recurring question, what is considered art and what is not? Maier’s work stands on its own, with The New York Times calling her “one of America’s more insightful street photographers.” You can now see some of her complete Contact Sheets on a mobile-friendly website.
The Creative Brain (2019)
Creativity lives within everyone, no matter age, race, or background. The Creative Brain studies how we as humans can tap into specific parts of our brain to spark that creativity. Neuroscientist and best-selling author, David Eagleman, discusses how the brain operates and how it has evolved during evolution for humanity to access its imagination. He takes the input of many different artists and creators to evaluate their processes and their ability to create visual and physical representations of their thoughts and ideas.
The documentary interviews artists like Grimes, Kelis, Tim Robins, and many others to explore what inspires them in their imaginative worlds. How we use creativity to expand our everyday worlds is a theme that occurs throughout the film. Eagleman stresses the importance of unhooking from the present, considering what does not yet exist, and going beyond instinctual behavior. Creativity happens when we take the path of least resistance.
Iris Apfel is a New York fashion icon who began her textile career. In 1950, she and her husband, Carl Apfel, launched Old World Weavers. They practiced making new fabrics, taking inspiration from around the world to create patterns. With her background in interior design, Iris and Carl landed projects in the White House throughout the terms of nine presidencies. Iris also became known for her bold fashion choices as she traveled the world acquiring non-western clothing and jewelry.
In the documentary IRIS, legendary filmmaker Albert Maysles shows Iris’s ability to step outside the box. She never shies away from bright colors or large jewelry, and her style has become a legacy the fashion world continues to celebrate. The film evaluates how curiosity and thinking beyond what’s been done is, in fact, what creativity is all about.
Everything is a Remix (2010)
Most people assume that to be creative, you must develop an original idea. One that no one has ever seen or heard before. Everything is a Remix, made by Kirby Ferguson, challenges this idea. Through the lens of music, film, technology, and science, Ferguson studies how a lot of innovative thinking stems from borrowing an idea or concept and expanding on it.
The film reveals that original thoughts are rare. Ferguson explains that there are three essential elements of creativity: copy, transform, and combine. Taking mutually exclusive ideas and fusing them to make something inspiring is what creativity is. The art of being an innovator is not about the ability to create something new. Instead, it is about having drive to build off what’s been done in the field you choose to pursue. Kirby is currently working on an updated version of the film. Here’s a snippet.
Raising Creativity (2014)
Raising Creativity revolves around the idea of maintaining creative minds as we continue our education and grow older. Sir Ken Robins states that we are “educating people out of their creative capacities.” As the arts remain at the bottom of the totem pole in American education, this documentary discusses how we can foster the importance of creativity in our school system.
The five-part series created by Rebecca Zak evaluates how Americans subtract creativity from their curriculum. Zak explores how what we learn in school is not as valuable as cultivating creativity in the long run. Which brings about the question, how do we integrate creative thinking into our schools? Zak has made the full documentary available on YouTube.
Meow Wolf: Origin Story (2018)
Within just a few short years – and with a bit of help from George R.R. Martin – the arts and entertainment group Meow Wolf hit a cultural nerve and garnered massive, unexpected success with their exhibit, House of Eternal Return.
Meow Wolf: Origin Story chronicles the group’s early years. The film shows a tumultuous journey that led to new ways of thinking about participation in culture and entertainment (not only for artists but also for people from all walks of life who engage in and are inspired by their work).
From fashion to art to music to architecture, being creative is necessary to develop revolutionary ideas that could take the world by storm. However, it can be challenging to understand how to turn a dream into reality and what it all entails. Finding what you’re passionate about and embracing that you’re an innovator is crucial, as is learning about others’ artistic journeys and processes.
Written by Amaya Coleman
Top image by photo by Sam Lion from Pexels