“Simplicity is the outcome of technical subtlety.”

My good friend, the prodigiously talented director Kenn MacRae, recently launched a Tumblr site, That Moment Smashed Me: http://thatmomentsmashedme.tumblr.com/

Every day or so he puts up a single frozen moment of pure emotion from a movie. The beautiful simplicity of the format got me thinking about the power of making difficult creative decisions, stripping away layers, distilling things to their core essence.

The site reminded me that everything, from films to books, shoe designs to guitar melodies, philosophical theories to (especially) advertising briefs and ads themselves, is more potent when boiled down. And as a writer whose natural tendency is to the flowery, I can never be reminded of this too much. The creative discipline and intellectual rigor it takes to go through complicated and get to simple is a daily challenge. It’s one I started to embrace seriously in my time, years ago, at M&C Saatchi, whose agency philosophy is Brutal Simplicity of Thought. This evolved from Bertrand Russell’s idea that happiness can only be achieved via “the painful necessity of thought”; the Saatchi brothers tweaked it with the ‘brutal simplicity’ bit. The ultra-smart and thoroughly charming Maurice once said that “the phrase expresses our distaste for waffle and vagueness and a strong preference to get to the point. For all these years, it has acted as a threshing machine. It separates the intellectual wheat from the chaff. Reminds us that simplicity is the outcome of technical subtlety…the goal, not the starting point.”

I’m absolutely fascinated by that link between simplicity and technical subtlety; it’s what I’m working towards every day. And going back to the idea of using film as inspiration, it’s clearly evident in the sublime clip from Rust and Bone, above. No special effects, fancy costume, witty dialogue or complicated framing device. Just a phenomenal actor, the startling physicality and raw emotion of her performance and the perfect music choice. It smashes me every time.

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About antmelder
Creative Partner at DDB Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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