Artistic versus Technical Creativity

Differences between Artistic Creativity and Technical Creativity

I recently posted a piece on social media in which I talked about how little respect is given to sound teams on movie and video shooting sets. In the piece I said that very few production sound mixers have truly creative relationships with their directors, and that the job of recording the actors speaking on sets, in most cases, is far more an engineering job than a creative job. The purpose of the post (as a whole, it went on for several paragraphs) was to suggest that one of the reasons production sound people get so little respect is that the work they do is perceived as being mainly technical, not artistic.

Creative On-Set Microphone Placement

The post also said that films and sound people would benefit if directors and producers were to allow the production sound team to have more artistically creative roles.
I’m happy to report that the post got lots of praise, but it also made some people angry at me for suggesting that jobs like microphone boom operating are not very artistically creative. Some pointed out, correctly, that creative thinking is absolutely necessary when mic’ing actors.
So, what’s the difference between being creative at a technical job and being artistically creative? I think it’s something like this:
To be technically creative is to use your imagination to facilitate a process … to make that process more efficient, more accurate, less costly, etc.
To be artistically creative is to use your imagination to create an idea in the mind of the person who perceives the work.
Scenario 1: A boom operator devises a clever plan to hide a microphone behind an object on a movie set. This technique does not create an idea in the mind of the audience that they wouldn’t have received with a less clever mic placement. It DOES make the process of capturing what the actor(s) say more efficient and accurate than it would have been otherwise. And it does involve creative thinking.
Scenario 2: A boom operator makes this suggestion to Francis Coppola on the Saigon hotel set of Apocalypse Now: “Francis, if we get a shot of Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen’s) pov of the ceiling fan above his bed, then in post production they can use the sound of helicopter blades for the fan.” This suggestion, if the director decides to implement it, will create the idea in the mind of the audience that the Captain Willard character is hallucinating and/or remembering the sounds of battle as he lies in his hotel room.
Of course it’s the job of the production sound team on a film/video set to record the actors. But in my opinion, it should also be their job to help the director figure out how best to use sound ideas in the story. One job involves technical creativity, the other involves artistic creativity.