Below the blue line.

I’m standing in the middle of a large, white room. On all four walls of the room is a blue line exactly a third of the way up from the floor. The line is actually blue masking tape. It is level and perfectly straight.

Below the blue line is a curious mixture of visual references that seem to have nothing to do with one another.

From a history book there are photos of Victorian waistcoats. From architecture magazines there are examples of Barcelona architecture. There are ads from the ’60s for reel-to-reel tape players. There is a picture of a 1970 Lincoln Town Car. There are numerous Rube Goldberg designs and contraptions. There’s a paddle boat powered by a man riding a bicycle. There are sketches of sea monsters and opera glasses and clocks. Lots and lots of clocks.

It’s 2003. My team and I are standing in the Art Department at Paramount Studios to meet with Brad Silberling who’s directing the much-anticipated movie, A Series of Unfortunate Events. We’ve been invited by Brad (or more likely, one of his reps) to visit the studio and discuss an upcoming Geico project.

Okay, back to the blue line. As I said, below the blue line is an explosion of ideas and inspirations archived by a group of people who seem to have a rather loose grip on reality.

Above the blue line, however, is where it all starts to make sense.

Here, there are beautiful artist renderings of specific sets to be built, wardrobe to be designed, gadgets to be invented, mattes to be painted, and the hundreds of other production elements that go into the making of any movie.

In the middle of the room are scale models of key sets. Many of the models use forced perspective, such as one with telephone poles that seem to stretch to the horizon. Most of the movie is being shot on sound stages.

Next, I tour a few of the sound stages where the full-size sets are in various phases of construction. One of the sets is a precarious, cliff-side house built on a giant gimbal that will be used to simulate a hurricane.

Part of the movie’s charm is, it’s hard to say exactly when and where it takes place. Hence the odd mixture of people, places, and things.

Below are a handful of scenes from the finished movie that all of this creative thinking led up to.

So, what’s the point of all this? All movies go through the same process, because even tiny miscalculations early in the process can cost millions as the production moves forward.

“Sorry, Mr. Speilberg, we screwed up the measurements on the Temple of Doom. It’s only seven inches high. Do you think you can work with that?”

No, for me, the point is, for one afternoon, I got to take a literal walking tour inside the creative brain and marvel at how it works.

As I’ve suggested in many of my blogs, creative thinkers connect the dots differently. So it stands to reason, the more dots you have to play with in the beginning, the more different connections you can make.

My advice? Spend a little more of your creative time below the blue line. Get a little crazy. Get a lot crazy. It’s playtime. Who knows where it will lead.

Published by bassetts49

50 years in advertising, 20 years as the creative lead on Geico. A life in creative thinking.

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