Creative thinking... With Derry Shillitto

People are used to consuming creative products in all their different forms: be they Instagram photos, music or the latest Netflix binge-fest. What isn’t put under the spotlight in quite the same way is the creative process behind those things. At Simply Thrilled, we’re wicked into creative thinking and in this series we dig into the creative processes and techniques which help a bunch of entrepreneurs and creatives of all backgrounds do what they do best. All images © the person/organisation featured in the article.

Whatever you create, how do you create it?

So, for me, it’s a case of looking at examples of things that are similar. I’m filling my brain up with things that have been done which are similar to the ideas that I have. What went right with them, what went wrong with them, and how can I make my idea different from what's already been done? If it's a story idea, which are probably the things that I'm likely to create by myself, I use music and spend some time alone just mulling over the tone of it before delving into fully creating the idea. 

The first stage is getting the tone of my story, then developing that into a three-act structure and from there using examples of other works and restructuring it to make it my own. If it was for a corporate video, for instance, I would research the company the best I can, think about the ways they make the graphics they use for their websites or any social media. I think about what image that creates in my head and then build on similar work by similar companies. More than anything it differentiates what has been done already and what can be tweaked to make it slightly more original.

Say the mafia wants six new ideas, how do you get them? Talk us through that.

For this, I would splurge any idea I have on to a Google document, similar to brain dumping. I just dump any idea and write them all down and commit to completing an idea, and then look back to see whether it can be developed. Sometimes if I do a brain dump as I’m writing, and I think an idea is good, I'll pursue that. However, if none of them appeal to me, then I'd look back at it a bit later on. If it’s urgent I might leave it for an hour, go for a walk, and come back to it. If any of the ideas stand out I’ll pursue it and develop that idea.

If it’s just an idea at first, and I’ve just written it down in one sentence, I develop the idea by using visuals. If the mafia needed an advert for their new shoe company, I’d come up with the idea for that advert and be influenced by films, TV, and visual aids. I’d put that in a PowerPoint and try to get it fully defined, try to figure out if it has a narrative or if it needs a narrative, if it’s going to be corny or if it’s going to be funny and has to have an element of humour. It’s mainly just mulling over ideas to see if I can insert the matrix properly, and floating ideas and trying to form them. 

Do you collaborate with other people? 

I’m solo, but when I have an idea which I think is good I'll speak to someone I can trust and say what do you think of this? Most of the time from their reaction I’ll know whether to develop it or not. A lot of the time I don’t like developing an idea with a person or with a group of people, but I do like getting their feedback from it and then working on it myself with the feedback.

I think other people are a sounding board more than anything. It's more to do with me saying the idea out loud in front of someone, and you want them to be impressed by it. I think it’s about how I'd respect their opinion. I don’t know if it’s anything to do with their personality - it probably is. That’s the subconscious thing of whether they are a pragmatic person or whether they're an idealist.

We’ve spoken about music - is the music complementary to your work? Or is it contrapuntal?

It’s more about the flavour of it. I’ve just been writing a script about Irish travellers, so I’ve created a playlist of Irish music which was community-based but also quite aggressive. For example, it’d be fast-paced, gritty, Irish folk music, as well as modern-day punk rock. If a project was something a client wanted to be inspiring, then I would do some LP house music or something like that, which I suppose is more complimentary. 

What was the last creative problem you solved and how did you do it?

I try to maintain CPD (Continuing Professional Development) as I believe that if I need to solve a problem, there are always resources out there somewhere where I can seek help. Now and then, I can't find the resources and I can’t rely on myself, so I’ll call someone. For example, I was working on a BFA film and the format of the footage wasn’t a format I’d worked with before, and the programs I normally use to lock the footage weren’t recognising the video files. We were still shooting, and the camera crew were catching up to me before I could load all the footage. I had to figure out how to work with this format and use any NFS connections I had. Eventually, I found out I had to download another version of another additional software, which is exclusive to that sort of format and it was a new format that just came out like six months before the shoot date. Thankfully we only lost two small takes out of like 60 slates so it wasn’t that bad but that was very stressful.

How do you get inspiration?

More than anything I get inspiration from seeing what people I know produce. For example, Luke ( Radford, a Notts based director) has got a documentary coming out on the BBC in a couple of weeks and that gets me motivated and inspired. Also, watching a film, like an independent film which goes into detail about complex characters and stuff, I find that very inspiring. 

Cheers Derry! Check out some of his work below:







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