3 Tips from HOWLive Opening Keynote, Tiffany Shlain

ShlainTiffany_Headshot2_HOWDesignLive_2016HDLAs HOW Design Live head honcho Gary Lynch explained in a recent podcast interview, our keynote speakers are not limited to the visionaries in the design industry. We promise to inspire you and surprise you with creativity from across the spectrum and we cherry pick an eclectic mix of keynote speakers, many from outside the industry you may have never heard of!

So we are thrilled that a visionary from the film industry, Tiffany Shlain, is our Opening Keynote Speaker this year in Atlanta.

Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker, author, artist, Internet leader, and Renaissance woman whose work catalyzes deep thought about the future and how we want to live it. Her short and feature length films address issues from science and technology to creativity, culture, and motherhood. That’s why they have received countless awards and distinctions, including a Disruptive Innovation Award from Tribeca Film Festival, multiple premieres at Sundance, and global showcasing by the US State Department. Plus, her film series on AOL, “The Future Starts Here,” has amassed over 20 million views. She is also a founder of the Webby Awards and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

I had the rare opportunity to interview Tiffany in real time about her work and her creativity as part of a brand new, pre-conference “pop up” interview series, developed in partnership with our Executive Education sponsor, the Savannah College of Art & Design, and hosted on SCAD campuses in Savannah and Atlanta. (Watch all of those interviews here.)

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She was extremely generous with her time and ideas about how to maximize creativity — here are 3 of my favorite ideas she shared with the SCAD students last month. (You can also watch the video, which includes the screening of 2 of her short films, and listen to the podcast version).

1. Creativity efficiency: Why film is Tiffany’s medium of choice

Tiffany spoke first about how to be efficient with her creativity as a way to maximize it. She said she has been thinking about the word “movie” – and how it’s related to “moving” and asking herself why movies are “moving.” “The purpose of a movie is to move you! We’re trying to move things forward.”

“I’m interested in scaling my creativity. But if you weren’t at the Webby Awards (the awards show she cofounded), you missed it! It was an amazing event but if you weren’t there, you couldn’t experience it.” (It’s the same with #HOWLive, by the way!)

Also, 13 years ago, with her first film at Sundance, “Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness,” she was thinking about how she can make an impact on the world. That short film plus the discussion and web materials, can live without her. “It doesn’t need me after 13 years. I love that!” In fact, all 28 of her movies are playing all over the world – doing their thing without her. “All the creative energy is still in the film.” That’s what I call a very efficient use of her creativity.

2. Resource efficiency: Why her film style is like a collage of film clips

Tiffany is a flea market lover. She loves finding things and repurposing them. That is evident in the collage-y style of her films. I asked her why she uses clips from so many other existing films.

She said at first it was out of necessity (i.e. no budget). But then it became her style. And she loves “recontextualizing” the clips to convey a different meaning.

Plus, it is another way to be very efficient. “Why shoot when there’s so much stuff out there? Why spend $50K to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge when you can buy one of 40 versions for $300?”

3. Time & attention efficiency: Why she and her family have been doing a weekly technology “Shabbat” for 7 years

One of my favorite ideas from the interview — and this is one many of the students in the audience promised to try — is the Technology Shabbat. Seven years ago, Tiffany said she and her family were feeling too distracted. They needed time and she wanted to use her time more wisely. So they decided to turn off all screens for 24 hours every week — from Friday night to Saturday night. They call it “Technology Shabbat” (even though she’s not a particularly observant Jew).

The result? They all sleep best on Friday nights and are most creative on Sundays. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done — I feel so creative after those periods. I’m completely replenished. Productivity has increased as well.”

In fact, she is bullish on sleeping:

“I look at creativity like an athlete — how to maximize it. Sleep is essential for creativity. I’m a better version of myself when I have 8 hours of sleep.”

And her final tip to students:

“Write handwritten thank you notes. Email thank yous are not enough!”

Come hear and see Tiffany in person at HOW Design Live May 19-23 in Atlanta – you won’t want to miss this!

And in the meantime, explore these links:

freelance-businessMore resources for creatives: