The Pressure Principle: Why Artists Excel Under Pressure

I know. I know. It’s been longer than usual since I last blogged. I’ve been rather engrossed on a time sensitive project. We’re in the process of producing a series of three shorts films and some complementary videos for Pictage, one of our long-standing clients.  A lot of late nights, and due to the schedules of the subjects in the film, the filming and editing is all down to the wire. (The only reason I’m blogging now is because I’m waiting for one of the films to render).

Anyway, this recent project has got me thinking a lot about artistry and how it’s affected by stress. Particularly as it relates to time and deadlines. In addition to the fact we were already pressed for time, we had another set back. The third of the three films was going to be based on someone who has a very inspiring story. This person has been making changes in his/her life, the subject of which I knew would make a great film. Last Friday we were to interview that person. No show. After dozens of phone messages and four days later, we had to completely abandon the original plan. The deadline is now only days away. What’s a filmmaker to do?


I remember as a kid watching those very cool Saturday morning School House Rock videos. It’s amazing how much I actually learned without even knowing it. One of the cartoons was Mother Necessity, showing how some of the most important inventions came for sheer necessity. As a kid, I had no idea what any of that meant. I thought “Necessity” was just that old lady’s name (kind of like Charity or Felicity). Last Friday, Mother Necessity was alive and well in Atlanta, GA. On the road back home from where we were scheduled to shoot the interview, Tasra (Creative Director for our company) and I started brainstorming ideas for what we should do if we never got ahold of the individual. We talked about it all the way back, and came up with something that just might work.

I’m not at liberty to say what we came up with, but it was terrific. We shot it that day and worked it into all three films. The end result is, what I feel, a much better and more powerful film series. All because we were under pressure to come up with something new.


I’ve always seemed to do my best work under pressure. I’ve heard other artists say similar things. I’ve determined that it’s due to what I call “The Pressure Principle.” And it’s applicable to just about any discipline. Simply put, when you’re under the gun, clock ticking, you don’t have time to consult with the “committee,” or run a million numbers. You have to go with your gut instincts, take risks, then just pray/cross your fingers it all comes out. Mother Necessity demands that you follow your heart and trust in yourself. In your experience. In what you’ve been trained to do. It’s what Scotty on the USS Enterprise did so well when Kirk gave him an impossible task. It’s what Spock learned in Star Trek IV when he had to “take his best guess” at the calculations to jump back to the future. It’s what Luke Skywalker learned in Star Wars when he turned off his targeting computer when shooting his proton torpedoes into the shaft to destroy the death star. It’s what Violet Parr learned in “The Incredibles” when it came time to show-up and effectively use her powers to save her family. It’s what we had to do last Friday when with less than a week to our deadline the most anticipated subject of our series disappeared. And it’s what YOU probably have done countless time in your own career.

So, the next time you get flack for procrastinating, just tell them, “Oh, I’m not procrastinating, I’m acting on the Pressure Principle.”

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