Tim Cawley’s “From Nothing, Something: A Documentary on the Creative Process”

SaraQuinthree-stars15With a seemingly simple no frills flip of the wrist, director Tim Cawley has tossed his filmmaking hat into the world of documentaries with a movie about, well, I believe the title says it all.

So, how does one actually go about exploring the anatomy of the creative process? I’m sure there are many ways to do this, Cawley however opts for a methodically direct approach. And although not very cinematic, the effectiveness of its straightforward presentation provided me with more than enough umph to overlook those usual elements that I tend to seek in what I deem to be rewarding cinema. The reward in this movie didn’t present itself to me in the form of impressive lighting, creative camera work, a mind-blowing score, or any other devices from a the documentarian’s toolkit, but rather it came to me immediately after the movie ended when I was struck with the same inspiring urges felt by the film’s subjects, at which point I immediately headed off to the music studio to work on songs with my band, Vulgar Trade (Click here to listen to three of our songs for free). Tell me a review on a movie about the creative process isn’t the perfect opportunity to shamelessly plug my musical creative outlet. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, on with the review.

Apparently, all one needs in order to make an effective documentary such as this are interesting subjects, i.e., a slew of highly successful professionals whose careers have all stemmed from their own seedlings of creativity, a straightforward chaptered structure in which to organize each topic, and the editing knowhow to put it all together in a cohesive fashion that feels effortless, when in fact Cawley’s filmmaking team spent over two years making this. The result is 80 well spent minutes on a topic that’s near and dear to my being.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the names of these famous subjects who Cawley impressively gathered to take part in this movie. In by best name dropping fashion here they are: Sara Quin of the indie rock group Tegan & Sara, Tom Perrotta (Oscar nominated screenwriter for Little Chiildren. Also penned Election), Neville Page (creative designer for films such as Cloverfield, Star Trek, Super 8, Watchmen, Tron: LegacyAvatar and Prometheus), Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger (Chefs who appeared on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters), Jay Greenberg (Composer and child prodigy), Maria Bamford (Comedian), Keith Young (Emmy-nominated Choreographer whose worked with such artists as Madonna, Outkast and Red Hot Chili Peppers), Alexa Adams & Flora Gill (Fashion Designers), Steve Breen (Pulitzer Prize winning Editorial Cartoonist), Huma Bhabha (Artist), Moungi G. Bawendi & W. David Lee (Cancer Researchers), and Preston Scott Cohen (Architect), Jason Rohrer (Video Game Designer).

Director Tim Cawley is quoted as saying, “After the first few screenings, I had audience members come up to me after screenings and cry in my arms telling me they’d given up on their former “creative selves” and that our film had inspired them to reconnect. What better reaction could a director want?” Well, Mr. Cawley, here’s hoping for similar reactions on your upcoming screening in San Francisco.

From Something, Nothing will be playing this Friday, July 12th at 6:30pm in San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre as part of the Frozen Film Festival. Click here for info on the Frozen Film Festival.

Click here to check out the official website of From Nothing, Something.


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Categories: Frozen Film Festival, Reviews

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