Leon Jacobs writes on the Crew Blog about the benefits of setting creative constraints. He uses the 1960s film The Perfect Human to illustrate what happens when the director Jorgen Leth takes on full creative control. The upshot is a boring movie about humans.
Years later one of Leth's students, Lars von Trier, challenges him to remake the film with a set of assigned “obstructions” or challenges. Von Trier sends him to Cuba to remake the movie in 12 half-second frames. Although Leth is initially scared, he ends up creating a much more compelling film the original.
The higher the obstruction, the more single-minded the problem, the more the creative mind is challenged.
Creativity is boundless. The paradox of creativity is that setting limitations focuses you on getting started and helps you end up with a superior product. The next time someone gives you a project, asks for some constrictions. As Jacob concludes, “ironically, the focus is what frees us.”