The Joy of Creativity – “Shorts”

Shorts/Rated PG/ Running Time: 89 mins
 
Over Christmas, I sat down with my six year old son and had him tell me a story.  He began with a simple premise of two aliens who need to fix their spaceship to go home.  We’ve all heard that one before.  But then one of them finds a treasure map in the ship’s glove box and they travel to dinosaur land to get the pirate treasure from the king dinosaur who had a castle with disappearing doors and little dinosaur soldiers and they had to go through the jungle and elude traps, Indiana Jones-style and, and, and . . .  unfiltered creative brainstorming.  Now imagine a movie studio executive heard his idea and gave him a few million dollars to film it and you would end up with the movie “Shorts.”
 
The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez, who is better known for more adult fare like Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn and El Mariachi.  However, nearly half of his films have been kid’s movies, most notably the Spy Kids franchise.  “Shorts” may be the ultimate kid’s movie as it feels like it is a direct feed into a seven year old’s brain, without any adult editing.
 
A synopsis of this film doesn’t do it justice.  It’s the story of a magic rock that grants its owner unlimited wishes and the consequences for each person that holds it.  The movie throws every idea a kid could ever imagine up onto the screen.  Want crocodiles that walk on two feet?  Check.  Giant robots?  Check.  Booger monsters?  Check.  And my favorite, a Super Genius Telepathic Baby.  The movie is unbridled creativity, which makes it messy, yet beautiful. 
 
As adults, our creativity is often stifled.  Many of us have impulses to write or paint or sing, but are afraid to follow our instincts.  Kids have a much easier time doing this.  Perhaps it is because as kids we are closer to the creative source.  Or maybe it’s just that adults have been judged and graded and nitpicked so many times in their life that there is a fear of really putting a true thought out there, unless it is considered safe. 
 
Family movie night is a great time to spend with the kids and share movies that we remember loving as children, but there are times when it can be a teaching tool.  “Shorts” can teach kids (and their parents) about creativity and the creative process, and the joys of brainstorming without critique.

 A game the whole family can play after watching the movie is called “Yes and ….”  The rules are simple, Mom or Dad pick a topic like “we are going to build a new house” or “let’s make a movie.”  Then he or she says something they would want to include.  If Mom says a big living room, then everyone would say, “Yes” (because the idea of this game is to be positive and not to judge any of the ideas).  And then everyone says “And” leading to someone else adding to the suggestion.  It does not matter what anyone says, the key is to accept all of the ideas, even if they are outrageous or impossible (A giant  tank with Great White Sharks is possible in this game, so Dad can’t disagree with this, even if there have been very few Great Whites held in captivity).   You can play with any topic.  Just remember the point is to be open to all possibilities.

Now of course, we adults have also learned that at a point, editing is a key step in the creative process, where we hone what we have created into its best possible format.  But it is important to remember that we need to allow the raw material to be created in order to be able to edit it. 
 
After all this talk about judgment hindering the creative process, it wouldn’t be fair to really review “Shorts.”  The kids will love it because it is how they think.  Parents can enjoy it by watching their kids’ enjoyment and by challenging themselves to try and be more creative.   “Shorts” reminded me of the power of brainstorming and how much fun it can be to let every wacky idea out.  I’d love to teach my kids to always be free and to explore their creative urges, to never be afraid of being judged, and most important of all, not to judge themselves.  That is the ideal.

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One Comment on “The Joy of Creativity – “Shorts””

  1. jon rahoi Says:

    my kids LOVE this movie and watch it constantly. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. To them, it makes total sense. In fact, I’m convinced they look upon it as a kind of documentary.


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