Where does creative inspiration spring from? At TEDIndia, Hollywood/Bollywood director Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth,” “Mr. India”) pinpoints his source of creativity: sheer, utter panic. He shares a powerful way to unleash your inner storyteller.

When I go out to direct a film, every day we prepare too much, we think too much. Knowledge becomes a weight upon wisdom. You know, simple words lost in the quicksand of experience. So I come up, and I say, “What am I going to do today?” I’m not going to do what I planned to do, and I put myself into absolute panic. It’s my one way of getting rid of my mind, getting rid of this mind that says, “Hey, you know what you’re doing. You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re a director, you’ve done it for years.” So I’ve got to get there and be in complete panic. So it’s a symbolic gesture. I tear up the script. I go on [unclear]. I panic myself. I get scared. I’m doing it right now. You can watch me. I’m getting nervous. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t want to go there.

This speech resonated with me on several levels.

First, despite being almost 40 years old, I still enter every client engagement with two emotions – fear and excitement. I can’t stand overly confident people who think they have all the answers at the onset of a brief so I push myself to be frightened (at least for a moment). I want to feel the adrenaline rush of a 21-year-old who hasn’t dealt with a business problem before. I want my hands to get clammy and my head to vibrate with random ideas as information cascades in and out of my brain. This is where creativity emerges and big ideas hatch.

Second, I’m a firm believer that all good stories need to be told with a certain choreography and Shekhar Kapur makes this point in his speech.

So when I look at a film, here’s what we look for, we look for a story on the plot level, then we look for look for a story on the psychological level, then we look for a story on the political level, then we look at a story on a mythological level. And I look for stories on each level. Now, it is not necessary that these stories agree with each other. What is wonderful is, at many times, the stories will contradict with each other. So when I work with Rahman who’s a great musician, I often tell him, “Don’t follow what the script already says. Find that which is not. Find the truth for yourself, and when you find the truth for yourself, there will be a truth in it, but it may contradict the plot, but don’t worry about it.”

At SS+K we’ve developed a process called, “Choreographed Spontaneity™”. In other words, a blueprint for successful storytelling.

Many social media programs appear spontaneous—growing organically as if they just happened to “go viral.” But, from finding the right narrative (story), to selecting the best channel and balancing social with other elements of your overall media mix, it’s all about finding advocates, sticking to that narrative and pushing the right buttons at the right time. These activities ultimately coalesce into a vibrant, dynamic story and social community.

I encourage you to carve out 21 minutes to watch this rather enlightened speech. Of course, I’d also love to hear what you think.

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