KAX 2017 Live Lecture Video and Script
The quality of the video footage is poor but the content is all here. The video content has been divided into four parts to make it easier to watch.
KAX 2017 Lecture Script
Welcome to Caffeine and Car Keys, A Crash Course in Creativity.
My name is Barry Mitchell and I’ll be your professional jester for the morning. My particular presentation purveys a potpourri of people pleasing practical pranks and patter that’s more than a pittance parade of placid prestidigitation. Precisely my program is planned to promote your general pleasure. With that in mind, I will now promptly paralyze your peepers, if you will permit me to proceed. That means I’m getting started now.
You may have noticed I like to P. I mean I like to use Ps. For example, when I was a Phony Physician selling a pack of lies and useless potions, I used to say . . .
Potent Power gives physical perfection. Pleasing people is my only passion. Previous panaceas will pale in comparison to the pampering of patients under my protection.
You can tell I like to P. So put on your thinking caps and let’s proceed.
I’ll try not to use any more Ps other than the points of the presentation.
(Open paper bag as you talk)
Would you like to know how stuff gets created? Would you like to know how books are written? Would you like to know how Trump got elected? Some things only God knows. But for the rest . . . it ALL begins with an idea.
Ball – This is an idea. It looks like an egg. A big red egg laid by a big red chicken. But chickens don’t have ideas. Chickens have fingers and nuggets. People have ideas. People with ideas can change the world. An idea is supposed to be examined. You don’t just throw it in a bag. (Drop ball inside paper bag)
An idea isn’t like an egg. Ideas aren’t fragile. An idea is strong. You can mash it and change it. An idea should to be examined. Squeeze it. Blow your nose on it. Ok, maybe don’t squeeze it.
When we first have an idea it isn’t perfect. It’s a little rough around the edges. (Medium cube with corners cut off) But that’s ok because one idea can create another one. (Medium cube) The whole idea of ideas is for them to grow. (Medium cube) Some ideas are small. (Small cube) Some are large. (Large cube) Some ideas are very unique. (Yellow ball)
There’s one thing we need to know about ideas. They only have value if we use them to think outside the bag.
Welcome to Caffeine and Car Keys.
In our time together, I’ll share a crash course in my understanding of creativity. To do that, I’ll perform a few tricks, explain them, and share how the creative process brought them to life.
“I’m never more alive than when I’m giving life to a new idea.”
Did Ben Franklin say that? NO!
Did Thomas Edison say that? NO!
Barry Mitchell said that, just now. Pay attention people!
I asked my wife to put that on my tombstone. She said, “We can only afford “I’ve never been more alive.“ . . . She didn’t laugh at that either.
The reason for the name Caffeine and Car Keys is because 90% of my ideas and scripting are written in my van. The words I’m speaking right now were written in the van. I built a desk in the van so I can write. The radio was stolen several yeas ago and I never replaced it. Long story.
If I need a break from the silence I can listen to music on my phone. That means my drive time is almost pure creative time. I never leave for a trip without paperwork for several tricks or scripts I’m working on. I’m an odd bird.
Years ago I could drive for hours without caffeine. Those days are gone. I take a caffeine pill before I drive to the post office. Once it kicks in . . . boo yah! I would be a horrible Mormon.
CREATIVITY IS . . .
Creativity is all about problem solving.
A problem becomes an opportunity, which may potentially become a product, which equals a house payment. That’s my personal definition.
Two Reasons to be Creative
- Solve a problem
- Invent a better wheel.
- Avoid math.
Smile Maker/Clown Maker Problem
It’s no longer possible to make the large size incrediball in yellow. This is something that Goshman has made for me for several years but can’t anymore. Reasons aren’t important. Bottom line, it’s a problem.
Goshman and I decided to go with the growing ball. Because of the size difference I needed to find every possible benefit of the change. Previous customers would see the difference in size. However, they would also see the new benefits . . . as long as I pointed them out. That’s called advertising.
As I was painting balls to determine the best face, I made a mistake on one of the yellow balls. I don’t like mistakes but I’ve found they usually lead to something wonderful. I realized I could add a clown nose to the smile and cover the mistake. I figured I would give it to my friend Lee Andrews, the best clown I know.
When I finished, Sherry said, “You should make a version of smile maker for clowns.” Boo Yah! Clown Maker was born.
Two Reasons to be Creative Defined
- Solve a problem – Covered mistake with clown nose
- Invent a better wheel – Created a new product directly because of mistake.
- Avoid math – Kept the price the same. Boo Yah!
TEN STEP PROCESS
I have a simple ten-step process for creativity. Don’t worry, the steps can all be condensed into two words. But I’m not going to tell you the words until the end. Instead I’m going to labor through the list of ten, simply because I enjoy the sound of my southern accent.
It’s time to meet Fabio The Fearless. (Perform and explain within the context of the Ten Step Process. For Studio members, the Fabio performance video is on the Barry Mitchell Products website.)
The Creation of ANYTHING begins with:
What is it? Are we creating a trick or script or theme show? Are we trying to book more shows or create better advertising? What is our problem?
The Fabio Connection
Fabio began as Louie the Lightning bug. It was a good routine and I sold several until I got the letter from the lawyers. It seems that Louie the Lightning Bug is a trademark of the Alabama Power Company. Had I known this, Louie would not have been Louie. Fred, Bob, Jim, or Joe, but not Louie. This is the point when I learned to research my character names before turning them into a product.
- Prop, Point or Principle
What is the problem specifically? The more I know about what I’m looking for, the closer I am to a solution.
The Fabio Connection
The firefly art and basic routine were just too good to leave behind. However, I did stop selling it under than name for a couple years. Then Louie’s Mexican exchange student entered the picture. Fabio took on a whole new life and made the simple trick even better.
- Patter and Play
Write a rough script. The process of writing will inspire more ideas. Writing will often change the direction of the original problem. That can be a good thing.
The Fabio Connection
The Louie script was easy to write the first time. It’s a basic transposition of silks. However, the Fabio character made it even better. With any character we might create, the more unique it is, the more memorable it will be. Of course, if the character is uniquely funny, even better.
- Put together and Play more
Build something and play with it.
- Prowl and Play
Brainstorm! It’s time to play well with others. Ask trusted friends to be in your brainstorm group. These friends need to be people who share your interest and are willing to be honest with you. A brainstorm team benefits everyone. It benefits you, the team members, and generates a better resolution of the problem.
However, a brainstorm team only works when all members check their egos at the door. You must be willing to listen to the ideas of others without taking offence.
- Polish, Pack it in or Pick a new path
Some ideas change and improve and some are shelved for another time.
The Fabio Connection
The cannon wheelbase went through a great deal of changes. The original version with Louie the Lightning bug was a bean can. The final version that I decided on had an issue. A customer contacted me and told me the problems. So I was back to playing to find a solution. I did and the fix was small but made the product even better. I sent replacement parts to all the previous orders and we all moved forward. It’s just the right thing to do.
- Play more
There’s no substitute for play also known as trial and error.
- Perfection isn’t possible, but keep trying
I improve my props and scripts constantly. We all can if we’re always open to improving. Most of the improvement process takes place when we perform the effects and something unexpected occurs. These are the moments you can build on. The unexpected moments in my shows are my favorite. They serve to break any boredom I might have from doing the same script. They also reveal changes to improve the next show.
- Play more and keep playing
It’s fun. I added this one so I could have ten parts in the process. I don’t need it. I just wanted ten.
- Prepare for limitations
And finally number ten, which should be called number nine. Recognize your limits. Some might say there’s no limit to your creativity. However, there is a limit to your particular skills and gifts. If it’s not your gift, get help. No one says you have to do it all yourself. The only reason to do it all yourself is so you can tell others you did it all yourself. That’s not creativity, that’s an ego problem. I can’t solve that.
By the way, figuring out this alliteration of P words is an example of passion and persistence. It was done on a six-hour drive to a show. I did stop often to pee and get petro.
PIPE DREAM DEMO
Problems with a Pipe Dream
Now that you’re seen the Pipe Dream, I want to briefly share some of the problems that I needed to solve to make it a reality. I always say I want my products to offer two core benefits. 1. To be different from everything else in the world. 2. To be better than anything else in the world. I say that half jokingly but that really is my goal.
Problem – What is the theme and overall design look of the prop?
Problem – What will make the prop different from every other pom-pom stick?
Problem – What will make the prop BETTER than every other pom-pom stick?
Problem – How do I package and ship a bigger pom-pom stick?
Problem – What will people pay for a better pom-pom stick?
Price is my least concern because if the product has a strong audience appeal, price is seldom a limitation. The magic world is full of examples of overpriced amazing magic and overpriced crap. The same logic applies for entertainment. Price is the least concern. Getting the customer to WANT your product is the biggest problem.
Problem – All the parts must be easily accessible for most people to be able to make the DIY version. The DIY version was to be part of the Better Builder DVD, which has a building theme for the 2017 summer library programs in most states.
Problem – Can I find reliable availability of parts? You can’t depend on Dollar Tree to always carry the items they have on the shelf today.
Problem – How do I get the tee pipe to stay on the end of the pipe? This was a BIG problem in the building process.
Problem – How do I get the gimmick to slide over the space in the middle? Another BIG issue to make the product work smoothly.
Problem – Chain won’t work without a pulley. Rope doesn’t move smoothly. I don’t want strings because all other pom pom sticks already use string. What can take the place of a pulley for the chain to work?
Problem – What else can the middle section do other than be for looks?
Problem – How do I get the flashlight to work easily and every time?
Problem – Do I paint or tape or both?
Problem – Will the junction box and knife switch be worth the work?
Problem – What will hold the switch plate to the box?
Problem – What can go on the ends of the chain that makes the prop unique?
BIGGEST Product – Can I solve the potential future problems before they occur?
All of this, problem solving process goes on for months in order to get one Pipe Dream. Then a new set of problems must be solved in order to get YOU to WANT one. That’s the process. It’s a process that I LOVE.
I told you that the entire ten-step process could be summed up into two words. They are
Passion and Play
Gotta LOVE it and gotta LABOR it.
LEGO RIP BAG
(Rip Apart change bag was used to change single lego blocks into one unit. The legos were shaped to look like a large “P.” Tape was put around the P so it didn’t break apart during performance.)
I’ve been blessed to perform and lecture in Denmark twice. One of my favorite parts was to visit the Lego theme park. Legos are made in Denmark.
We think of Lego building blocks as toys that inspire creativity. They are all about passion and play. The word Lego is Danish for “Play well.”
Ironic. Even Lego has a P. (Show large P shaped legos)