“inspired by”

Say those words out loud.

“Inspired by…”

I can’t read or say those two words without them coming off as dreamy, reverent or almost ethereal at times.

One of the STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, movie trailers inspired me in a big way. The now famous scene of a half dozen TIE Fighters silhouetted in front of a blazing sun inspired me to get out my camera, my wire, my TIE Fighters and get to work.


I ended up with a shot similar to the movie trailer version and a few variations on the theme featuring different settings and different starships. I considered all of them original but still “inspired by”. I also gave credit to the scene in the trailer so folks wouldn’t think I was trying to pull a fast one.


Shortly after I posted my picture I learned the shot from the Star Wars trailer was directly inspired by another movie. Director J.J. Abrams credits a scene of helicopters from “APOCALYPSE NOW” for his scene of TIE Fighters in the sun.


I was dumbstruck. My scene was inspired by a scene which was inspired by a scene! The original of which dates back to 1979!

The trail of inspiration goes cold there though. I was unable to find any source credited by Francis Ford Coppola for his inspiration. Maybe it was a combination of setting and scenario. Maybe it was just pure genius on his part, I don’t know. I do know this, J.J. Abrams had the decency to give credit to the origin of his idea. I’ll even bet that when Mr. Abrams looks at his version and is asked to describe it he says the words “inspired by…” kind of dreamily.

So, are we all “inspired by” ? Are any of us (creative types) truly original anymore or have we all unknowingly become copy cats to some extent?

Something to ponder on a Friday afternoon…

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8 years ago

Great post. Have everything we do already been done? If so why do we do the things we do? Why have we a need to express ourself and do what we do? Just wondering.

8 years ago
Reply to  Kristina

Wow, that is some deep thought question!

Shelly Corbett
8 years ago

Nice post Matt, you bring up some great issues. I don’t know if there are any new ideas out there, I sure there probably is, they haven’t been revealed yet. In the mean time, us creative types need to know that we are not working in a vacuum. We are all influenced by what we see and who we admire. The honesty shown by JJ Abrams in acknowledging his own inspiration is inspiring. I am sure he has introduced this next generation of Star Wars fans to the genius that is Coppola.

8 years ago

The thing about this shot is that Apocalypse Now was originally supposed to be directed by George Lucas. He jumped out to make American Graffiti and subsequently Star Wars. Francis Ford Coppola directed Apocalypse, as we know, but seeing this in the trailer I wondered whether the hommage was this deep. I mean, did J.J. Abrams mean to say something about Lucas’ pre-Star Wars ambitions? Was it a comment? Perhaps too far fetched. I like your shot and the way it is closer to the original hommaged shot than the one that came from that. It’s a very nice twist… Read more »

Ben Teoh
8 years ago

Great question! I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but I think what’s original is you. As Shelly said, we’re all influenced by others and our environment. But only you have that unique combination of influences and can use them as tools and ideas. I guess you could almost say that the end result, as a creative, will always be original. The word ‘inspiration’ is a good one. If you look at its origins, to “be inspired” can mean “to be brought to life.” I like to see it as those times when I get excited about something and think… Read more »

8 years ago

I wonder what does it mean to be be truly original? I’m not sure the human brain is able to create something “truly original” but only remix what surrounds him. My intuition tells me that there is no such thing as an original idea because the human brain is only a box that receives inputs and transforms them into outputs. (A little bit like a computer?) Like Shelly says we don’t live in a vacuum and I would add that everything that looks original is only the sum of things that already exist. I don’t think it does matter whether… Read more »

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