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How David Lynch comes up with original film ideas

David Lynch, the legendary director of Dune, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet prominence, has had an illustrious career, but none of his fame and fortune has come easily or without its pitfalls. Over the years, the 76-year-old filmmaker has been subject to bouts of depression, something many creative minds find themselves grappling with. 

Like an overworked machine that has no off button, highly creative minds seem to become crowded with a tumble of half-baked ideas and fleeting thoughts that stagnate into a state of stress and anxiety. Lynch is no stranger to this feeling, but fortunately, he managed to find great relief in meditation in the 1970s, which allowed him clarity of thought and respite from his depressive tendencies. 

In an interview featured in The Talks, Lynch explained that he picked it up in 1973. “It was the idea that the human being can gain enlightenment. It was driving me crazy because you hear we only use five or ten per cent of our brains,” the director explained. “What is the other part for? How do you get more and more and what is the most you can get? A lot of people said meditation is like jogging or like lying in the sun on the beach. This shows a huge misunderstanding about what meditation is. Meditation is a way to go within, all the way within to the deepest level of life, the transcendence, the absolute, the totality and reality, and experience that. The human being is built for it.”

Reacting, the interviewer asked if Lynch finds an enlightened consciousness attained through meditation helps the artistic process. “I don’t know,” Lynch admitted. “You can catch ideas at a deeper level when you start meditating. Intuition grows, and intuition is the number one tool for an artist – feeling and thinking combined. When you are working on a painting, it’s like you know, and you enjoy the doing so much. It’s the same way with films. The enjoyment of working increases, the enjoyment of everything increases. The ideas are flowing, and the feeling that you can get it to feel correct. You know what that is. It’s a knowingness that grows. It’s really beautiful.”

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Later in the interview, Lynch was asked how his film ideas materialise. “I always say ideas drive the boat,” he started. “Ideas are a huge, huge blessing. That’s the thing you try to catch – an idea that you fall in love with. Every time that I have made a film that’s not from a book or somebody else’s screenplay, it happens the same way. The whole thing doesn’t come at once, but fragments of things come and these fragments form themselves into a script. You write the idea down and save it until the next idea comes, and little by little, the majority of ideas find themselves in a script – which is organised ideas. Then you go and shoot that script and edit it and you mix sounds and music. It’s a process. An idea can give a story that is more abstract and not so straight-ahead, and sometimes it gives you a story that is more straight-ahead.”

The American filmmaker was then asked whether he prefers the more abstract or straightforward ideas. “I like all different kinds of cinema,” he opined. “There are no rules. Some abstract things don’t move me at all and some move me like crazy. Some straight-ahead movies don’t do anything for me, whereas others really light my fire. It’s cinema, it’s billions of elements. Cinema, they say, combines seven arts. It’s a very complete medium, so it shouldn’t stop you from going other places – if the ideas come along. Cinema is a mighty special, beautiful medium.”

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