TEDx speaker Adrian Chan sheds light into his creative process as a photographer and cinematographer.
Contributed By Jeremiah Tan
“Creativity is, more often than not, sheer hard work,” declared Adrian Chan, assistant director at the National Archives of Singapore’s Sound And Moving Image Lab under the National Heritage Board.
Echoing the famous saying from inventor Thomas Edison that “genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Chan was speaking at the second TEDx Youth@Singapore event held on Nov. 19 at One Marina Boulevard. It was the 12th TEDx initiated by TEDx Singapore since 2009.
An avid photographer, cinematographer and producer, Chan was one of 12 speakers at the event.
Many people believe creativity comes in a sudden moment of insight and that this “magical” burst of idea occurs in a special faculty in the brain. But research has shown that when one is engaging in a creative effort, the brain is using the same mental building blocks exercised in everyday thinking.
Over the years, Chan has been involved as a multi-camera director in various live events and concerts, including the recent F1Rocks concert, the Marina Bay Sands’ grand opening and the National Day Parade. As he has to keep the experience of both the live audience as well as television viewers in mind, his role is a demanding juggle of technical know-how and creativity.
“Live audiences want detailed shots of what is going on at a particular area,” he described. “On the other hand, the people watching the parade on TV want to have an overview of what is happening.”
Technical challenges include meeting accurate time cues and getting every shot sequence and angle right, while the creative challenge comes from “connecting the dots of our independence day together with the audience.” What makes any project great is consistency—one that has all elements of aesthetics, clear, organized information and interactivity, said Chan.
The creative process is essentially a problem-solving one—what is the task at hand? Why are we doing it? What is the problem or opportunity? Who is it really for and why should they care? Where, when and how will it be used? What value can we add to it? Who will become engaged with it directly and indirectly?
For Chan, who has also served as a media producer and multi-camera director on a voluntary basis at City Harvest Church, where he is a member, it is about the sharing of ideas, images and stories.
In his current job, he is dedicated to retrieving and sustaining the cultures that history has left behind for the present generation, at the same time he has to help leave a legacy for the next generation to learn from. Chan sees the digital age as one offering myriad possibilities.
“This is an exciting time to be in,” he told his audience. “There is a greater need to collaborate; it is about igniting emotional bonds between people. There’s a strong belief that we have the power to transform our own lives—preserving our heritage will help the next generation find cultural value. Adding value into the creative process and integrating it with our culture is the passport to long-term success.”
The creative process is one of trial and error—it observes the world, identifies the patterns of behavior, generates ideas, receives feedback, repeats the process and keeps on refining it. Being creative is hard work, Chan explained. “Forget the romantic myth that creativity is all about being artsy … if you are waiting for that one full-blown moment of inspiration, you will never start working on what you might create someday,” he said.
“Take risks and expect to make lots of mistakes, because creativity is a numbers game. Work hard and do what you love, because creative breakthroughs take years. Ideas don’t magically appear in your head from nowhere—they always build on the actions that were taken.”
TEDx was created in the spirit of the global conference TED, in line with its mission of propagating “ideas worth spreading.” The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis. www.tedxsingapore.sg