Chris: So it seems like maybe the fuel for that fire was moving to Paris, that sort of being an emotional undercurrent of, I want to be a practitioner and so I need a showcase, I need a proof of concept combined with the fact that you again, you were trying to shake things up, so it’s almost like…it almost seems like was the perfect storm of okay we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to make something. And so here’s an idea that makes sense, so it was like the idea was almost like opportunity and then the emotional undercurrent was the sense of urgency that was no doubt exacerbated by the fact that you were going to move.
Adam: Yeah. I think that’s absolutely right. I think it’s actually the same with how Delve eventually came into being. It was, I really need to put this into practice soon and that idea was kind of the DiVinci series was an idea that excited me enough that I felt I could make something good out of it and I didn’t have to worry too much about what it was going to be. Certainly one of the hardest things is what’s going to be your next video or your next anything.
Adam: And I think one of things I’ve been seeking and I’m still seeking in a sense as well is almost a way to take the decision out of that process, to take the choice out of that process.
Adam: And I’ve been thinking a lot about Delve like in the future and I’ve been interested in trying to find some kind of way of using it as a way to adapt books for example or maybe ideas other people have written in books where I don’t have to find the right…I don’t have to search for ages for the right thing, I can force myself, constrain myself into a specific run of ideas. So one of the things I’ve also been doing is I’ve been experimenting with Instagram video, those kind of little 15 second videos as a way of trying to convey similar knowledge in video. And I’ve also tried this idea of can I come up with a project where the work is already decided where it’s going to be and I just have to wake up in the morning and say what’s next on the list.
Adam: So what I ended up doing was I started to adapt a book called A Little History of the World which is written by this German guy in the early 1930’s and it was only translated into English about ten years ago. And it sort of is a children’s book about the history of the world from ancient Egypt to today, and I kind of thought it would be cool and all if I could adapt that into a little Instagram chatter and that kind of worked. I didn’t have to think too hard about what the next one was going to be. I just opened up the book and saw what was the next chapter and start to work on that, and it’s interesting when you look back in the early cinema – how often Disney for example – Hitchcock, how many of their films you know were adaptations of other people’s works.
Chris: Yeah, my friends Laura Innes who is a comics creator and my friend Justin Copeland who is a story artist who was at Marvel and now at WB, the two of them and I do another podcast called The Paper Wings Podcast and that’s all about visual storytelling specifically. And that’s one of our number one things is, artists struggle so much with the blank canvas and I understand that whole thing. That’s real, it’s just that sometimes you can just change the conversation by having a bigger ongoing project if you just take the time to be explicit about making lists of what needs to happen to finish the project. Then like you said, if you sit down and you have 90 minutes to work, maybe you just put the kids to bed and you’ve still got to get up for the day job the next morning and all you have is 90 minutes to work, if you sit down and you’re having to make the blank canvas decision every single time, most likely that will severely retard your productivity. Whereas if you have oh, well I have to draw page 24…at least you just fast track right to the well, how do I draw page 24? Am I doing thumbnails, am I doing inks, whatever. Anyway, that’s huge. I guess I’m just trying to emphatically highlight that idea of, let the work decide for you.
Adam: Absolutely. And I think also, removing as many decisions as possible in some sense is useful. I don’t know whether it’s true or not but there’s that story about Barack Obama only has four suits or something, so he just wears the next one in the line and it’s one less decision he has to make when he’s running the world.
Chris: Yeah, I never pick the restaurant because I’m like you know what? I want to spend my limited time and emotional energy on other things. My brain is limited and I’m just trying to all the time…to the point where I think it can kind of get unhealthy socially sometimes but I’m just trying to optimize and make every moment count.
Adam: Yeah, I completely agree. I think actually…it kind of chimes with a lesson I’m learning right now actually. I’m sort of mid production on the next essay, the next Delve essay, and I’ve spent the last three…in fact it look a lot longer than I expected but I spent a long time in the sort of story design process of working out what the story was and what order I was going to tell it in and how I was going to make it an engaging story and I found one of the things that’s been really…or one of the sort of insights I had is that it gets so much easier if you break it down into lots and lots of smaller decisions. You’re going to sort of think positively about some bigger, grander narrative thing but you have…what is the one thing the story is trying to say and you just run every single sentence in your script or every single image cross reference against that controlling idea and say, is this essential for that? Yes or no? And then it’s either one of the two and you just make a decision, if it’s a no it goes from the script or it gets dropped from the storyboard or whatever. And some of the rigor or even though it sounds like it’s almost too mechanical to be creative, it’s too robotic, it almost just gives a discipline that just means you have to spend so much time making a decision.
Chris: And not to mention, there are plenty of other decisions to be made, it’s not like you weren’t going to be surprised.
Adam: Absolutely, yeah. I think it’s sort of trying to reach that stage where everything in a story is intentional, like I think that’s sort of what I’ve been chasing for a while. How much of it is in there because it’s the first idea I had and how much of it is because it is the best way to do it and it’s in there for a reason. And I’m sort of starting to appreciate a potential beauty of a piece of art that is just the essence of what you’re trying to do. A movie that starts at the latest point it can possibly start and ends as soon as possible, that seems very rare these days in a world of three hour movies, it seems we have forgotten how to tell a story in 90 minutes that we used to. That’s almost like a great sort of indicator of that sort of discipline is that sort of ability to almost make something that’s smaller or shorter or more of the bad bones with less flare and kind of sparkle and shine that people try to put on things.
Chris: I’m not crazy about the most recent Cohen Brothers films but something that I’m really fascinated by is what seems to me, and I’ve thought about this a lot, it seems to me that’s what they’re trying to do. True Grit, their remake of True Grit and then their most recent one Inside Llewyn Davis. That is too me very apparent, they’re doing exactly that, they’re going – what is the…we’re not meandering at all. And where I want a little more self indulgence from them, I want a little more poetry and that’s what I feel like the third act of their True Grit remake is so abrupt and it’s to tight that I feel like it’s not…I feel like it’s a lesser version of the Cohen Brothers even though I think…but I still respected and love them because I get it, I think I understand what they’re trying to achieve there. I think they’re going, ‘Hey, how do we be as efficient as possible?’
Adam: I think it’s not about being efficient in financial or time, it’s almost like out of respect for the audience.
Chris: Yeah, exactly.
Adam: I don’t want to waste people’s time to come see my movie. Let’s tell them the story in the shortest way. I think the one film I saw that sort of achieved that last year was Blue Jasmine, the Woody Allen show which wasn’t great but it was only 90 minutes long. And it’s great when a film finishes after 90 minutes, you’re like oh great I’ve still got the rest of my evening. Some films you feel like you’ve sort of been declared missing. So yeah, I think that I was having a discussion with a friend just about that very thing and how much it is about, can you sell a ticket for a 90 minute movie or do people not feel they got their monies worth? I don’t know.
Chris: Yeah, I feel like Woody Allen has done that a lot. He’s been doing that for a while actually with his…there was Match Point a while ago, there was a few of these films that he’s done that I feel like it wasn’t until you brought up Blue Jasmine that I realized oh, that’s true, he’s been exploring that…but yeah, that’s very fascinating to me and this whole art and editing, and then whimsy and letting yourself explore and I think there’s a nature of what you’re trying to communicate. So for example in the Delve videos, the efficiency I feel like is a very high priority for many reasons. The fact that it’s on the internet and there’s even a utilitarian purpose and especially with these earlier videos are more succinct, it will help to grow the business more because more people will see it and more people will share it and more people will finish watching it and reach the conclusion that you were trying to direct them toward and so forth.
Adam: I mean that’s the danger isn’t it with the goal that I’m aware that I’m running in a way I’m choosing to tell these stories. It’s the opposite approach that I was always taught to convey information as a journalist which is, you have the inverted pyramid. You put the most important thing at the start so people don’t miss it, and I’m doing these stories in the opposite way. So like you said the realization, the idea comes in the last thirty seconds and it’s how you get them there in the most interesting enlightening way. But yeah, there’s a big danger, a lot of people don’t make it to the conclusion.
Chris: It’s so enjoyable and it’s such a huge payoff, that I feel like the power in that is what…if you can combine that huge reward at the end because you’re opening up these information gaps and then you even do it at the end of the first video where you talk about Craig Ferguson and you show the shot with the robot and it’s like, what does that have to do with anything and you’re dropping the bread crumbs the whole time.
Adam: Bread crumbs is a word that appears in a lot of my story notes as I sort of build these essays. It’s sort of that idea…how do you apply say a dramatic sort of technique if you like to a documentary essentially, it could be anything – the weather or space or mass. And I’ve struggled with that for a long time, I feel like I’m sort of starting to get some sort of clarity on it but I think one of the things is the idea that it reacts really on anything to do with beginning, middle, and end. But they’re all about conflict, so it’s not at 1, 2, or 3, it’s introduced conflict, heightened conflict, resolved conflict. That kind of underlying shape of any story and I think that’s sort of how I’m trying to apply that to building these things where it is, open up a big question, open up even more questions and then try to answer all of the questions at the end and seeing whether that is a way to translate. Half probably thing I’m just being crazy for trying to take Hitchcock’s technique or the classic dramatic technique and apply it to documentaries. Sometimes I sort of catch myself saying, why didn’t you just go and write a bloody screen play if that’s what you really want to do. But it’s not an easy fit at the moment, I’d as soon figure out a lot about how will some of these things be applied to conveying information rather than drama.