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Spark & Fire: Epic Creative Stories
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Spark & Fire: Epic Creative Stories

Author: WaitWhat

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Creativity. It’s as mysterious and elusive to humans as love. We stalk it. We crave it. We try to bring it out in ourselves. 

Every creative work you’ve ever loved has a hero’s journey behind it. Whether it’s a book or a building. A movie, a mural, a musical. It starts with a spark. Then: Endless iteration. Inevitable setbacks. Magical people who appear to help. And the breakthrough idea — that takes on a life all its own. 

On Spark & Fire, for the first time ever, you’ll hear what was happening in the mind of a creator as they brought their iconic work to life. But this isn’t an interview show. It’s a story — told entirely in the artist's own words — against the backdrop of originally composed music of the prepared piano. 

In Season One, you’ll hear from Yo-Yo Ma on the Silk Road Project, director Rian Johnson on making Knives Out, Isabel Allende on The House of the Spirits, Kemp Powers on Pixar’s Soul, architect Thomas Heatherwick on The Vessel, choreographer Bill T. Jones on Afterwardsness, book designer Chip Kidd on the cover of Jurassic Park, executive producer Kamilah Forbes of the Apollo Theatre, Susan Orlean on The Orchid Thief and more.

With host June Cohen — cofounder of WaitWhat, former executive producer of TED Talks and co-host of the TED conference — in her first hosting role since TED.

What really happens on the road to success? You’re about to find out. Let these epic stories spark your own creative journey. 

Spark & Fire is a WaitWhat original series in exclusive partnership with Skillshare.

Episode 5 of Spark & Fire, "Turn crisis into art: Tony-winner Bill T. Jones on Afterwardsness, his pandemic masterpiece," has been nominated for a 2021 Webby Award as one of the five best individual podcast episodes produced in the past 12 months.

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16 Episodes
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The Silk Road Project was an impossibly ambitious, creatively expansive idea to not only create a category of music that had never been heard before, but also create ensembles to perform it, and audiences who were hungry to hear it. How did Yo-Yo Ma build this vision? He knew from the beginning that it wasn’t about him.Follow along (with transcript and photos) at sparkandfire.com/silkroad.Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMr.Join us every Wednesday on Clubhouse: https://joinclubhouse.com/club/Creativity.Privacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
When you fall in love with a project, stay with it – for as many years as necessary. Its time will come. When screenwriter Allan Scott acquired the film rights to the Walter Tevis novel “The Queen’s Gambit,” he couldn’t have imagined it would take almost 30 years to get that movie made. Allan, along with executive producer Bill Horberg, talk about their long road to turning the cult-favorite book into a Netflix phenomenon; the creative insights (and the key partner) that unblocked the path; and what they’ve learned about staying the course when the world is telling you no.Follow along (with transcript and photos) at sparkandfire.com/QueensGambit.Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMr.Join us every Wednesday on Clubhouse: https://joinclubhouse.com/club/Creativity.Privacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
“It’s too long. It’s too sad. It’s not danceable.” Just some of the feedback salsa legend Rubén Blades got from DJs and record labels about his iconic song "Pedro Navaja" on the album "Siembra," which went on to sell 25m copies. That’s more than the Beatles' "White Album." And his story of creating this album with Willie Colón is a testament to three words: Trust your instinct. Don’t let anyone throw you off a creative vision you believe in. But also don’t assume that instinct is innate. You hone your instinct through a lifetime of reading, listening, looking, doing. And don’t believe anyone does it alone. Trusted collaborators are always a powerful, sometimes invisible force driving any creative vision, in any field.Congratulations to Ruben for being named "Person of the Year" by the 2021 Latin Grammys! Learn more: https://www.latingrammy.com/es/news/rub-n-blades-es-nombrado-persona-del-a-o-2021-de-la-academia-latina-de-la-grabaci-nFollow along (with transcript and photos) at sparkandfire.com/rubenblades.Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMr.Join us every week on Clubhouse: https://joinclubhouse.com/club/Creativity.Privacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
How do you create something an audience will love? Start with everything YOU love. Actor Randall Park ("Veep," "Fresh Off the Boat," "WandaVision"…) tells the story of a passion project that's become a beloved repeat-watch: the 2019 Netflix movie "Always Be My Maybe." It all started as a tossed-off remark by his friend Ali Wong: What if we made a romcom together? As Randall and Ali wrote the movie, they celebrated what mattered to them: family traditions, the food and music they love, even their favorite movie stars. Learn how you can take what authentically matters to you – and create work that will resonate for others too.Follow along (with transcript and photos) at sparkandfire.com/randallpark.Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMr.Join us every week on Clubhouse: https://joinclubhouse.com/club/Creativity.Privacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
To make a creative leap, get to know your creative self. After publishing a blockbuster first novel, "Homegoing," followed by a year of touring (and trying to write in hotel rooms), author Yaa Gyasi realized she needed two things to reconnect with her next story: space and time. She shares the creation process of "Transcendent Kingdom" : how she got started, how she gave herself permission to pause – and how to get the feedback she needed.Follow along (with transcript and photos) at listen.sparkandfire.com/kingdom.Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMr.Join us every week on Clubhouse: https://joinclubhouse.com/club/Creativity.Privacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
“Everything you do in the arts gives meaning to your way of life." In a year of pandemic, racial reckoning, and threats to democracy, Wynton Marsalis creates a seven-song cycle that imagines how artists can shape the times we live in. As he tells us the story of creating "The Democracy! Suite," he teaches unforgettable lessons about collaboration, preparation, and the rewards — and costs — of a creative life. When you’re playing to an elevated purpose, it opens possibilities and broadens your impact. And these are lessons that help you endure as a creative, no matter your field.Follow along (with transcript and photos) at https://sparkandfire.com/wyntonSubscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrJoin us every week on Clubhouse: https://joinclubhouse.com/club/CreativityPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
How do you create deeply imaginative work? There’s a method behind the magic. As Rian Johnson (Last Jedi, Looper, Brick) takes us on the journey of joyfully reinventing the murder-mystery, you’ll hear the way he draws on childhood memories (like watching Agatha Christie movies in his grandparents' rambling old house) to inspire his work. You’ll also hear he rigorously structures his creative process — including when, where and how he writes — in order to be playful and present when he shows up on set. Within this story, you'll hear tactics (and lots of creative techniques) you can borrow to fuel your own creative journey, whatever your field.Rian Johnson is a director and screenwriter, the creator of "Knives Out" and the director of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Follow him on Twitter at @RianJohnson.Follow along (with transcript and photos) at http://sparkandfire.com/knivesout/Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrJoin us every week on Clubhouse: https://joinclubhouse.com/club/CreativityPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
How do you create an authentic character? Start with your authentic self. When Kemp Powers joined the writers' room at Pixar, he found a story waiting to be told ... anchored within his own story. Spark & Fire follows Kemp on his own hero's journey of co-writing and co-directing Soul, Pixar's first film with a Black protagonist, from his first trip to the Pixar campus to his development of the main character – and his passionate pitch for the beloved barbershop scene that nearly got cut from the film. Hear Kemp tell the story in his own frank and funny words, with creative insights for anyone trying to choose the projects that will matter most.Kemp Powers is a screenwriter, playwright (One Night in Miami), director and veteran journalist. Follow him on Twitter at @PowerkeniFollow along (with transcript and photos) at http://sparkandfire.com/soul/Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
Making art is a distillation of all your life experiences – from the half-remembered images from your childhood to your fascination with what's happening around you right now. Photographer Stephen Wilkes developed his signature Day to Night images to share his passion for how time passes – and soon found that they also helped him explore everything else that interested him: nature, city life, even politics. Learn the backstory behind his famous photo of the 2021 Inauguration as he explains how he developed his signature style – and where to start as you develop your own.Legendary photographer Stephen Wilkes is known for his Day to Night photo series as well as his pioneering images of Ellis Island. Learn more about him at stephenwilkes.com – and listen to his beautiful Meditative Story, “What’s vital is right in front of me.“See images from this episode and a full transcript at sparkandfire.com/daytonightSubscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
"I want to make this into theater, in a way that’s never been done before." When Kamilah Forbes first reads "Between the World and Me," by her friend Ta-Nehisi Coates, she's moved, shaken, gutted by its truth and beauty. She dreams of presenting it at Harlem's Apollo Theater, a legendary space for Black art and excellence. First step: convince Ta-Nehisi. Spark & Fire follows the journey from book to stage to HBO – during a pandemic – in a story of collaboration and trust, joy and challenge.Kamilah Forbes is the executive producer at the Apollo Theater, where she produced the legendary staging of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. In her diverse body of work, Forbes is noted for having a strong commitment to the development of creative works by, for, and about the Hip-Hop Generation. Follow @ApolloTheater on Instagram.Follow along (with transcript and amazing photos) at https://sparkandfire.com/apolloSubscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
How do you change the creative brief? You start with play. The designer Thomas Heatherwick was asked to create a monumental public work for the plaza of vast new development in the heart of Manhattan. The expected route would be to copy what’s worked before on other plazas in other cities – a statue, a fountain. But Heatherwick knew he had to push past what was expected. Spark & Fire follows the journey of “Vessel,” a massive piece of public art, from its roots in traditional Indian forms, to its sophisticated construction and multi-year assembly, to its reception by the public – a complicated story that is still unfolding. It’s a story of creative bravery, play, and persistence – at the drawing board and in the meeting room.Thomas Heatherwick is the principal of Heatherwick Studio, based in central London. The studio is known equally for bravura projects like the Seed Cathedral, Vessel, and the new Little Island over the Hudson, and for thoughtful, human-scaled commercial and residential developments small and large, like the delightful, award-winning Maggie’s Leeds.Follow along (with transcript and amazing photos) at https://sparkandfire.com/vesselSubscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
When faced with a crisis, how do you move forward? Sometimes, you look backward first. It’s March 2020, and legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones is weeks away from a world premiere, when his company is forced into lockdown. All seems lost. But what comes next paves the way for a transcendent performance at the Park Avenue Armory called “Afterwardsness” — one of the only large-scale performances held anywhere during the pandemic. On Spark & Fire, the larger-than-life Bill T. Jones tells this powerful story of creative grit, love of art and reckoning with legacy — in his own fierce, fiery, funny words. He’s joined at times by his Associate Artistic Director, Janet Wong, and together they offer inspiration and ideas to fuel your own creative journey.In 1982, Bill T. Jones co-founded the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with his partner Arnie Zane. Jones is the company’s artistic director and choreographer; he’s also won two Tony awards for work on Broadway. He is a 1994 MacArthur Fellow and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2013. Follow on Instagram at @billtjonesarniezanecoFollow along (with transcript and amazing photos) at https://sparkandfire.com/billtjones/Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrVote for this episode to win a Webby for Best Individual Episode: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2021/podcasts/features/best-individual-episodePrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
How do you write the stories of your life? Any time, any place, any order. Isabel Allende was 39, and a refugee from her native Chile, when she started writing a letter to her dying grandfather — recounting the family stories he'd told her – of love, loss, memory, magic. This letter evolved into her first novel, the beloved epic "The House of the Spirits.” With her trademark warmth and wit, Isabel shares how she found the time and space to write as she rebuilt her life – and how her 500-page typed manuscript, heavy with correction fluid and coffee stains, found its way to the agent in Madrid who made it an instant international sensation. Throughout the story — told entirely in Isabel's brilliantly chosen words — you'll hear never-before-told details about her creative process and journey, including ideas on story structure and writing rituals; first readers and family politics — all of which can fuel your own story-telling.A novelist, storyteller and social activist, Isabel Allende is the author of The House of the Spirits and Eva Luna among many other novels; her nonfiction works include the powerful double autobiography Paula. Follow her at @IsabelAllendeFollow along (transcript and amazing photos) at https://sparkandfire.com/isabelallende/Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
What do you do when you’re stuck? Something else. Designer Chip Kidd got a dream assignment: Create the book cover for a soon-to-be-blockbuster: Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. Oh, and make it iconic. When the pressure to perform is that high, it's easy to get creatively paralyzed. Chip recounts exactly how he got started and how he got unstuck — over and over — on the journey to create one of the best-known book covers of the 20th century. He tells the story in his own fast-paced, funny, pointed words, with lots of smart, actionable advice for anyone setting out on their own creative quest.A longtime book designer for Knopf, where he designed the cover for Jurassic Park and hundreds more books, Chip Kidd is the author of two novels, two nonfiction titles and a study of Batman. Follow him at @ChipKiddFollow along (transcript and lots of pictures) at sparkandfire.com/chipkiddSubscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
How do you move past that "wobbly moment" in your creative journey? Just move. From the moment she heard about it, Susan Orlean knew she had to tell the story of "The Orchid Thief" – a wild, true story of obsession set in the swamps of Florida. But somewhere deep in the telling, she risks losing her own footing. Spark & Fire follows Susan as she pursues the story that "set her brain on fire," pushing past a creative crisis to write the magazine article and then book that in turn inspired the film "Adaptation." She tells her story in her own incisive, honest and very funny words – with insider details you haven’t heard, and actionable advice for anyone at any stage of their creative journey.Susan Orlean is a journalist and nonfiction writer who became a staff writer at the New Yorker in 1992. Her works of literary nonfiction include The Orchid Thief and The Library Book. She has a wildly entertaining Twitter feed: @susanorleanFollow along (with transcript and photos) at http://sparkandfire.com/orchidthief/Subscribe to the Spark & Fire weekly newsletter for images, stories and creative prompts: http://eepurl.com/hkmyMrPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
Every creative work you've ever loved has a hero's journey behind it. The first spark. The endless iteration. The inevitable setbacks. The magical people who appear to help. And the breakthrough idea.On each episode of Spark & Fire, an iconic creator tells their own story about the crooked path to creation. No host. No interview. It's the creator – entirely in their own words – against the backdrop of original music for the prepared piano. In this trailer, you’ll hear Season 1 guests, including the book designer Chip Kidd, author Susan Orlean, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, novelist Isabel Allende, screenwriter Kemp Powers, architect Thomas Heatherwick, and the choreographer Bill T. Jones. And look forward to episodes with director Rian Johnson, Homegoing author Yaa Gyasi, Apollo Theater executive producer Kamilah Forbes, artist Mark Bradford and more…What really happened to them on the road to success? You’re about to find out.Spark & Fire is a WaitWhat original series in partnership with Skillshare.www.sparkandfire.comPrivacy Policy and California Privacy Notice.
Comments (9)

Okamifan1 Productions

how do I block a show from coming up in my feed 1/10 for shoving it in my face.

Jun 18th
Reply

Rodeŕick Gogal

lifes on peeps, stand and be counted!

Jun 13th
Reply

Tobias Adams

Do Woo

May 25th
Reply

Burhan Lakdawala

Starts at 1:52

May 21st
Reply

Nasir Uddin Betagi

nice speech

May 17th
Reply

Jennifer Thompson

I love you Alex! I've been listening to u since 2014 and the King James Bible speaks what you speak! Thank You!

Jan 27th
Reply

mahan

slm

Jan 9th
Reply

Joshua Builds

This show is a solid 2/10. Just not my cup of tea I suppose.

Jan 7th
Reply

alireza alihosseini

Great!

Dec 24th
Reply
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