Pin It
art school confidential
Max Minghella as Jerome in Art School Confidential

The movie characters that are going to help you get creative

Wrestling with an idea but can’t get it out? These are the films that are going to inspire you out of this barren period

A lot of people have a lot of creative ideas. They want to paint, or sing, or open a restaurant called SUR and encourage inbreeding amongst staff. But hey, at first, the struggle is real. You’re probably mulling over your best idea right now. You feel pregnant with possibility. So where to begin in achieving your hopes and dreams? Here’s the tl;dr: you just have to start. Don’t buy books about learning to write, don’t trawl through subreddits dedicated to gluten-free cooking, don’t waste your time on YouTube tutorials about making a trap song in ten minutes. Just do it. Bring that trap song into the world (just better than this one, please). Learn to do by doing. Heed the words of actor/artist/life coach Shia LaBeouf, who once quipped: “Don't let your dreams be dreams. Yesterday, you said tomorrow. So just do it!”

Films that deal in creativity are often secretly laced with great advice. Often, frustrated writers or directors will inject sound counsel into a scene, because probably not too long ago, they were facing that same struggle. The only difference between them and you is they started. The following is a small selection of advice from characters who weren’t afraid to try.


Minnie wants to create, but she begins to lose all inhibition in another, cheaper way when she discovers sex and loses her V-card to her mum’s boyfriend. Minnie’s ultimate hero is illustrator Aline Kominsky, and Kominsky sometimes appears as a coach-like comic apparition. When Minnie bemoans the way her life is turning out and her false starts on pursuing her talent, Aline offers her a cold, hard slap of truth.

Minnie: “I have no friends. I don’t want to go to school ever again. Nobody loves me… Maybe I should kill myself.”

Aline: “Alienation is good for your art.”

Minnie: “Maybe I should paint a picture. I should paint a picture.”

Aline: “It doesn’t matter what kind of art you do, you just have to do it.”


This is John Malkovich at his least annoying, playing a character only he could play. As Professor Sandiford, he doles out advice to a young art student, Jerome, who can’t find his voice. Art School Confidential is straight from the brilliant mind of graphic novelist Daniel Clowes, the same one who also wrote Ghost World (2001) and was publicly apologised to in skywriting. Director Terry Zwigoff (also of Ghost World fame) places Jerome at the epicentre of where hope goes to die: art college. Jerome is simply looking to find his signature style in his art, and the lofty Professor Sandiford says it’s not about defining yourself so early in the game.

Professor Sandiford: “Jerome, it is absolutely essential at your age that you start to experiment with all the arts, all the philosophies, and all the lifestyles.”

Jerome: “So that’s what you think I should try to do, is try out a bunch of different styles and see where it takes me.”

Professor Sandiford: “Yes, yes, yes, and yes, Jerome.”

FRANK (2014)

Frank is an enigmatic musician who wears a papier-mache head. He is the lead in an eccentric music outfit. When Jon joins the band – called The Soronprfbs – due to the untimely death of one of the members, he vows to get as close as he can to Frank’s creative process, to do as he does and leech from anything and everything.

Jon: “It’s incredible. Frank finds inspiration in everything. How does he do this? If I’m to grow as an artist, I must see as he sees. I dedicate myself to learning his secret, and I won’t let anybody get in my way, however desperately they may try.”


Somewhere between the unintelligible wordsh of wizhdom that Sean Connery’s character mumbles lies the occasional, cross-stitch worthy phrase. Motivation is the backdrop to director Gus Van Sant’s film about a reclusive author (William Forrester) who mentors a young writer named Jamal. This is one pivotal moment, when Forrester takes the approach of a fastidious go-getter. He urges a questioning Jamal to abandon all the “what ifs” and just start. Get something down on the page. Just type.

William Forrester: “You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write. Not to think.”


It’s easy to laugh at the sheer misfortune of the making of director Mark Borchardt’s failed horror film Coven, but the audience is reminded of his passion in literally every scene. This film is a lesson in making dreams come true, something Borchardt contemplates in this scene, when a building he was planning to shoot a scene of his film in burns down and he watches his dreams go up in smoke.

“The hand of God is swift and sure, man. You don’t get to your production on time, and He’s serious and He’ll be backing you up, wanting to get you out of this life of mental and fiscal poverty, gives you an opportunity to do something and then burns the whole damn thing down when you don’t take action.”

Moral of the story: pursue your dreams before God smites them.


In Sofia Coppola’s exegesis of feeling alien in your surroundings, Charlotte is stuck. Her boyfriend doesn’t pay her much attention. She knows nobody in Tokyo, and prefers to hole up in her hotel room. A scene that comes later in Lost in Translation has Charlotte sharing some pillow talk with a new friend, Bob Harris. She riddles off her frustrations at being an amateur in every endeavour, failing to land on one miraculous answer to that circular question: what are you going to do with your life? It’s not so much in the advice Bob offers that we can find respite, but in Charlotte’s thinking out loud.

Charlotte: “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be, you know? I tried being a writer but I hate what I write. I tried taking pictures, but they're so mediocre. Every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, like horses? Take dumb pictures of your feet.”

Bob: “You’ll figure that out. I’m not worried about you.”