Photos by Kim Zanti
Bold colors, evocative scenes, and imaginative characters transform the streets of Akumal, Mexico. Approximately 100 artists converged in late January on this seaside town to paint murals â not in a sequestered district, but on homes, schools, businesses, park walls, bus stops, the library and the bridge. Since 2018, this community collaboration has left a vibrant cultural trail. Viewers are invited to stop, see, imagine, and absorb the beauty of life on this planet. (Above left-right) murals by: @Dutek46 (Dutek Pacheco, Mexico);@theanunaki (âRon,â Mexico),@jimvision (Jim Vision, England),@kevscraps (Kevin Burdick, Michigan), @4c0n (âAcaymo,â Spain)
While preparing to direct a short documentary about the Akumal Arts Festival in Mexico, I faced a pivotal moment. Icy fear coated my gut. The ghost of low self esteem screamed, You f***âd up!!! You have no idea what youâre doing. What made you think it would work in the first place???
I hadnât heard that crippling voice in a long time. Now it blasted on an internal loudspeaker as I contemplated canceling my first film. Iâd disappoint many people. I might need to return money, some of which was already spent. Looking back, I saw where fear could have crushed my resolve. Instead, I used creative thinking skills to my advantage.
Specifically, I used the set of 20 Creative Thinking Skills first articulated by Torrance and Safter in 1999, then expanded upon for educators by Burnett, Figliotti & Salzberg in 2020. Applying these different skills throughout the stages of a conflict can turn brick walls into water in almost any situation.
This was mine: manipulation had slithered into exchanges with the director of photography (DP). Yet, I admired her artistry and felt I had to âkeep the faith.â My feelings changed after key contract issues were either hastily considered or ignored. Ten days before boarding the plane, I received a dashed-off email describing unacceptable terms. I didnât know what to do. Finding a skilled, harmonious replacement seemed more than unlikely, it seemed impossible. Creative Thinking Skills in Play: Keep Open, Embrace the Challenge, Be Aware of Emotions
I reached out to friends who are pros behind and in front of the camera. They responded to my crisis with sage advice, which I followed. My efforts were met with continued deflection, and I chose to part ways with the DP. Creative Thinking Skills in Play: Produce & Consider Many Alternatives, Take Risks, Practice Mindfulness
While frantically considering alternatives, I reached out to a connection of an entrepreneurial colleague in Akumal. She told me she knew a wonderful musician, âwho also had a camera.â This was all I had to go on.
Topangan Joe Gutesha served as Assistant Producer for Catalyst Museâs documentary film on the festival. Here, before he interviews her in Spanish, he shares a laugh with Kaori Sueki, Akumalâs childrenâs librarian, a central figure in the communityâs educationalÂ landscape. Director of Photography Pablo Sauti checks his frame.
He was happy to talk and not long after our Zoom meeting, I had so much more: a signed contract with a bilingual director of photography based in Tulum, twenty minutes south of Akumal, with a killer / dope / awesome camera and a stellar network of his own. He recommended a boom mic operator and liaised the negotiations to bring him on board. Both acted with kindness, commitment, and professionalism from the first hello. This is what âteamâ felt like! Creative Thinking Skills in Play: Embrace Ambiguity, Break Through and Extend the Boundaries, Get Glimpses of the Future, Take Risks, Embrace the Challenge
We planned each day of the brief, intense shoot. The stateside editorial team stayed in touch as footage accumulated. We left time and space for last-minute schedule changes and moments of grace. Those spontaneous situations elevated our workâlifting our hearts and minds, and hopefully, our documentary. (Coming soon!)
So, if it feels like everything is falling apart, use your creative thinking skillsâKeep Open, Produce & Consider Many Alternatives, Embrace Ambiguity, and Look At It Another Way.
You might find thatâs when the light of possibility shines brightest.