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8 Jul 2020

Creativity under restriction: a local perspective

Scott Granville, Chasing Time English
Image: Still by Dan Inglis from Breaking News, a Transmission project short film

As we begin to stretch out, move about more freely and reflect on the past few months, there comes with it an opportunity to celebrate how creative practice in many forms and interpretations has stood up and challenged the unparalleled and unprecedented restrictions on our physical movement and interactions with others.

Now, it should not be understated that we are living in a marked historical period, made even more significant by the reverberations the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, on a global scale. Quantifiable and intangible negative effects, both present and future, jostle for the limelight while both individually and collectively we hold our breath in a sort of wait-and-see pattern for finite funding resources to be divided amongst many deserving interests.

Yet, from this uncertainty comes story after story of creative resilience from within the Waikato.

The very nature of creativity is one born from a response to adversity.

As a sometimes overlooked and often underfunded region, our local arts community are no strangers to producing within limitations. So faced with this new reality, many people embraced their ‘bubble’ time, accepting the restrictive nature as a challenge to produce rather than fall victim to their circumstance.

When a decision to create is made and committed to under conditions ordinary or extraordinary, the benefits stretch far beyond the finished work or social media like-count. The true value of expressing oneself is felt through the increased wellbeing of the creator, collaborators, and the community.

I come to this viewpoint while staring at the reality of an impending Level 4 lockdown. An online conversation with Jeremy Mayall and Dan Inglis led to an ambitious collaborative filmmaking project under lockdown conditions. Over the next five weeks, beginning with nine collaborators from four countries, Transmission was established. When the dust settled, thirty original short films had been completed using a unique format built on trust and respect for the creative process.

Crossing physical, cultural, and linguistic divides, we shared a spirit of inclusivity and achievement from creatives sharing works of high merit across the globe. The project grew to include more than fifty writers, voice artists, filmmakers, and composers from around the world It does not take any stretch of the imagination to acknowledge the upside of collective satisfaction for a job well done.

And this is only one example.

I have observed with admiration and respect a number of creative people producing and sharing clever projects. Presented with disruptive circumstances, the output by creatives young, old, and in between over a six-week period was quite astonishing. This only amounts to the known and shared content, likely a small percentage of what was created overall.

There will always be reasons or excuses to not attempt something new, whether during ‘normal’ times or a pandemic-inspired lockdown. The false safety argument “I would have but…” rings hollow to anyone who found time and made sacrifices to get it done.

As a writer and serial procrastinator (these two things often go hand in hand), I speak from experience. The hardest step is getting the first word onto the page.
The way we approach an uncertain future like the way we approach a new creation requires patience, resilience, and above all a mindset allowing creativity and problem-solving to lead the way.

Brilliant local creative output has been seen, heard, and experienced during this most peculiar and unsettling period. We can be encouraged. Championing a widespread understanding and acceptance that creativity regardless of circumstance promotes wellbeing in both an individual and community sense is a valuable starting point for discussion.


Scott Granville is a writer, producer and educator based in Hamilton. He is the co-founder of Chasing Time English, providing TV drama series and learning resources for the English Language Teaching global marketplace.