Doc of the Day: From Nothing, Something Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: From Nothing, Something

Posted in Days of Docs by - September 05, 2012

What goes into creation? This movie asks multiple creators to find out.

Dir. Tim Cawley, 2012, 79 min, Viewed via Vimeo

Full Disclosure: The director of this film sent me a link to watch it, requesting a review. I assure you that this has no bearing on my opinion.

(Not to be confused with Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap)

I tried to find a good quote about inspiration or creativity with which to start this review, but couldn’t. Which is somewhat ironic, I suppose. If you can think of an appropriate epigraph, mentally superimpose it over this section.

From Nothing, Something is an interesting movie because it has to visualize and visceralize a very interior, cerebral thing: the creative process. The fact that it pulls this off is the greatest signifier of its success. If ever you wanted to understand how artists or inventors come up with and develop their ideas, then this documentary is an answer to your prayers.

The movie features creators from all sorts of fields. Novelist Tom Perrota (Election, Little Children), musician Sara Quin (of Tegan & Sara fame), child prodigy composer Jay Greenberg, comedian Maria Bamford, and editorial cartoonist Steve Breen join many more. There are architects, researchers, artists, chefs, fashion designers, a choreographer, even a movie creature designer. It’s truly a kaleidoscopic look at different venues of artistry.

Each subject shares their thoughts on coming up with ideas, shaping those ideas, and bringing the ideas to fruition. There’s more to creativity than that, though. They also talk about stalling periods, feeling pressure to do well, and grappling with lulls in inspiration. In fact, much of the best stuff in the movie comes from them remembering how much they had to struggle to “break through” before they truly flourished in their respective arts. As someone who sometimes feels the dull wear of not seeming to be getting anywhere, it was quite reassuring.

The doc is of a kind with Indie Game: The Movie, in that it manages to invigorate an abstract subject through some lovely imagery. This is a film filled with nothing but people talking, but it refuses to sit still. It’s all over homes and studios and offices and outdoors and every which where. It’s shot gorgeously, as well. It has a bit of that digital “overly bright” look, but the sharpness of the images and colors outweigh that drawback in my mind.

From Nothing, Something does a great thing, in that it’s able to articulate something that seems ineffable to most people, even those who actively engage with it. None of these creators might be able to properly describe this phenomenon on their own, but in concert, their voices suffuse into a wonderful song of what it’s like to incept and cultivate a new idea. This is a process that is terrifying, frustrating, boring, repetitive, and often unrewarding, but which is also fun and spiritually fulfilling. Not many people “get” this, but this movie does.

This post was written by
Dan Schindel is a writer and editor. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
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