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When Personality Traits Don't Fit the Narrative, These Filmmakers Start Rolling

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Why you should care

Multitasking pushes people to become experts at certain tasks, leaving the remaining space for creativity.

Multitasking has become a driving force of modern life. And while the seemingly never-ending to-do list has become more of a universal feature of daily living, how we tackle the tasks ahead of us is distinctly unique. As such, OZY asked three rising-star filmmakers to each create a short film about how they view multitasking.

For filmmakers Elizabeth Delaune Warren and Danya Abt, quirk is key. The eccentricities and complexities that drive people also drive their documentary filmmaking.

“You take someone who’s a potato farmer in Idaho, and you expect a certain thing from them,” Abt says. “How do they subvert those expectations?”

For Abt, the answer is in resisting the instinct to simplify and instead focusing on those very traits that don’t seem to fit the usual narrative. She believes this is the point at which a character starts to have dimension.

Abt and Warren laugh at their own oddities, the traits that one might not decipher from a first meeting. For Warren — whose filmmaking career took a winding path (she’s worked in finance and at a food justice startup, and she’s taught abroad in Bhutan, Guatemala and India) — her secret superpower is getting people to open up to her. She once worked the front desk of a hotel, and within a week, she recalls, three different coworkers confided their deepest secrets to her.

When 90 percent of it has been done a million times, there’s 10 percent left to improvise.

The unexpected has also defined Abt’s career — she’s a Detroit native who has spent time in Lousiana and Central Africa for her filmmaking. Her quirk? She can only wake up at times with even numbers.

The two are also no strangers to multitasking, and for them, the interesting parts are the bits that aren’t done by rote. In the video they created for OZY, Abt and Warren profiled creative professionals whose careers depend on innovating in the midst of multitasking.

“With these people we profiled, as well as with our work, you put certain things to procedural memory and do them automatically,” Abt says. When 90 percent of it has been done a million times, there’s 10 percent left to improvise.

In different professions, Abt says, there’s a level at which you reach that autopilot. Once someone has committed enough time and practice to reach that level of expertise, that creativity can emerge again.

“You make space again for what brought you into it in the first place,” she says.

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