Hollywood & The Creative Process: Interview with Phil Cooke (Part III)


Part III of IV

Part I

Part II

This is part three of a four part series based on an interview, conducted by Dr. Richard (Rick) J. Goossen, Chairman, ELO Network, with Phil Cooke, Co-Founder & President, Cooke Media Group. The entire interview can be watched below through YouTube.

Rick Goossen (RG): How do you go through your creative process?

Phil Cooke (PC): First, I view creativity as problem-solving, which all people can do. People, however, think they weren't born creative. Well, there's no evidence, just as a word of encouragement, that some of us are born creative and others aren't. Everybody is born creative. Put a bunch of toddlers in a room together, and they're all wildly creative.

Research is very important, including on-site visits. I'll never forget I was asked early in my career by Phillips Petroleum, the big oil company, to do a documentary on a refinery in Houston, Texas, that they owned. It had a horrible explosion and it killed, if I recall correctly, 26 people. There was a massive explosion in their refinery, and it destroyed the whole thing and they wanted to rebuild it to high-level standards.

They asked me to document that in a film. I just was kicking around ideas and I couldn't come up with a solution. I finally called my client and asked them to let me go to Houston and look at the damage. It was a week or so after the explosion had happened, and I flew to Houston. I walked around for about an hour among the rubble, and within that hour I had an idea hit me. That was the one we used. I ran back to my hotel room. I started writing immediately.

Stop having meetings in the conference room and start having meetings where the problem is located. So those are some little things that I think are really important for kickstarting your creative life.


RG: I think what you've expressed is the combination of creativity, discipline, the hard work.

PC: Somebody once said the art of being creative is the art of connecting the seat of your pants to the seat of a chair. You have to show up. I think first of all I would dispel the myth that you're waiting for inspiration. Instead, make it a regular discipline of being at that worktable every day or being on-site every day, or being on the film set every day. Suddenly ideas start flowing and you trigger things that you would have never triggered. I stop waiting for inspiration and just start getting out there. As Jack London, the great novelist said, “I don't wait for inspiration. I go after it with a club.” I think he's exactly right. We have to make it happen.


RG: How do you create a culture of creativity?

PC: There are so many leaders out there and today, whether you're an executive or a pastor or a non-profit leader, you're going to have to lead particularly creative people. You're going to have designers on your team. You're going to have video people on your team. You're going to have web people on your team. We need to learn how to foster a creative, inspiring environment. And I think a big part of it is to keep excessive criticism at bay.

Very often, creative people feel like they're putting their heart and soul into it, and if there's something you don't like about it, don't just start unloading on them. Engage with them and have a conversation about it that will inspire them. It’s important to get all of your leaders on the same page. Fight the urge to take the credit for something they did and let them take the credit for it.

One more thing is the importance of being flexible. A creative team is not like accountants. They're not like the sales guys. They're going to be a little weirder. They may have their inspiration in the middle of the night. They may have it super early in the morning. Give them a little leeway and you'll be amazed at the results.

The entire interview can be viewed here: