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Portland Creative Conference: 1999
In the Creative Spotlight: Portland Does it Again!
by Sharon Rockey
How would you respond to an invitation that read, “Lend Us Your Brain; We’ll Do the Rest”? If it were me, and the invitation was for the Portland Creative Conference, I’d say, “Here, have at it!” In fact, that’s exactly how it went.
It was the 10th annual event for this conference produced by dedicated Portland visionaries and once again they inspired, delighted and amazed us with three days of full immersion into the spirit of creativity.
In the beautiful theater setting of Portland’s Center for the Performing Arts, writers, producers, entertainers, internet entrepreneurs, advertisers, and all manner of talented people who do extraordinary things well, shared personal insights and the results of their own creative endeavors. It was high-powered fast-laned folks meeting in a low-key, warm and welcoming atmosphere. What a mix!
Here are just a few of the highlights:
The Bay Area’s own Tiffany Shlain, Founder of the Webby Awardsexplained how she sniffs out the “creme-de-la-code” for winning websites, shared some personal “adventures with email” stories, and closed with a fast-paced glamour publicity video of the recent awards event.
John Callahan, author and cartoonist, dubbed as “rude, crude, tasteless and appalling” by his closest friends, brought new depths to the meaning of political incorrectness by showing some hilariously perverted examples of his work along side his favorite letters from the insulted and highly offended.
“The Simpsons” creator, Matt Groening, gave us a tour inside his head and uncovered the show’s origins and then spilled these beans: next season they’ll “kill-off” one of the show’s characters! Don’t tell, but. . . one of Homer’s neighborinos is about to become a single diddely-dad!
As if that were not “shocking” enough, Matt showed us a French TV commercial that flashed a glimpse of the Simpson family in full frontal nudity! Groening then redeemed himself by rolling his favorite episode, “The Simpsons’ Bible Stories”. He wanted us to see it because, as he put it, “I never get to enjoy watching people enjoying watching”. So we all indulged him and enjoyed!
Alexandra Rose, producer of “The Other Sister” and “Norma Rae” demonstrated the art of establishing characters early in a story with poignant clips from those films and others.
Seymour Cassel, long time character actor, counseled budding young directors to not “direct through the box” but to keep an eye-to-eye relationship with actors. The improvisational quality in clips from director Cassevettes’ “Faces” was convincing proof of how critical this relationship is.
Ever wonder what happened to “Milk, It Does a Body Good?” Would you believe honesty in advertising? Goodby, Silverstein & Partners took on both the account and a focus group deprived of milk for two weeks. Voila! Now it’s “Got Milk?” Paul Venables shared favorite examples and stories about TV commercials that you’ll never read in advertising trade journals!
Johnathan Taplin of Intertainer, Inc. demonstrated just how close we actually are to the digital convergence that will have us clicking on the sweater in a TV show and wearing it on a date the next evening. Ready or not, it’s virtually here!
Jill Goldsmith, former Chicago public defender turned script writer for “The Practice” told delightful stories of how she made the shift into creative work and how she is guided to do or not do projects. It all involved the synchronicity of events such as meeting an executive on NYPD blues while waiting in line for chocolate and a sign inside an old fashioned gas stove that read, “no pilot” when she was teetering on the fence about writing one. She showed clips from episodes that were taken from her own experience as an attorney.
Don Hahn, Disney producer gave us a sneak preview of Fantasia 2000 with a scene animated to Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” due to hit the screens January 1, 2000, (assuming we are all still here!)
Between speakers we were entertained by the bizarre and unique performance art of Imago Theatre, and three Current Thinking Panels on creative education, the new wave of filmmaking, and money. There was a steady stream of well-crafted and humorous short films by Will Vinton Studios plus the Mayor’s film screening of “Thick as Thieves”.
For many of us, the crowning moment came when Eugenio Zanetti, Oscar winning art director of “What Dreams May Come” shared his comments about the source of his inspiration for this project and how he lives his life. There were tears and a standing ovation as he openly and passionately revealed his own creative process—getting out of the way, opening to something greater than himself, being still and listening and letting the ideas simply flow into beautiful expression. His presentation epitomized the sentiments expressed by many of the other speakers and seemed to coalesce the underlying theme of the whole conference.
There is an undeniable magic pulsing through the heart of this conference. For a conference that focuses on the creative process, one that is produced, presented and attended by so many talented, high energy, well-grounded, well-rounded professionals, this was much more than an intellectual high-voltage stimulation for the brain or a pleasurable jolt for the senses.
Maybe the invitation should have read, “Lend Us Your Heart, We’ll Do the Rest!”
The next event will be Portland Creative Conference 2000. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll be there!