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Alejandro Inarritu on the Creative Process

Edward Norton, Michael Keaton, Alejandro Inarritu

“In the creative process every human being is confronted with doubts and contradictions and flaws…”

Acclaimed for his films including “Amores Perros,” “Babel” and “21 Grams,” Alejandro González Iñárritu has earned a number of award nominations for directing and co-writing “Birdman.”

In a theatre, we can enjoy the results of sometimes hundreds of talented people collaborating on making a movie, but there may be many years of often messy and emotionally challenging creative process that goes into getting a film actually produced and released. Iñárritu has made a number of interesting comments about that process.

In an interview for Film Comment (the official publication of the Film Society of Lincoln Center), writer Steven Mears asks him:

“This is a film about the insecurities that plague artists. The voice of Birdman articulates the anxieties of Michael Keaton’s character. Do you have a Birdman of your own?”

Iñárritu: “Yeah, absolutely. A vulture, I would say!” [Laughs]

Mears: “Has he ever talked you out of anything you wanted to do?”

Iñárritu: “Yeah. You know, in the creative process I think every human being is confronted with doubts and contradictions and flaws . . . and that’s part of it. That’s the deal of it. That’s the complexity of it.

“Because it’s very contradictory and that’s the way it should be, I guess — to move two steps forward and one back. And so it’s a torturous process, sometimes more for some than others, but no matter who you are you have to have that.”

[See more on insecurity below.]

Iñárritu comments on the personal meaning of filmmaking:

“All the themes that the film navigates are themes that are really close to me, personally… It’s nothing I observe intellectually or detached from — I’m part of that discussion. I’m part of the problem, maybe.

“But I think that’s why it’s such an important and incredible journey for me, to be able to exorcise many of those thoughts that I have, through this story and these characters, because I empathize with all of them!”

From Interview: Alejandro G. Iñárritu by Steven Mears, Film Comment.

In another article, Iñárritu commented that “Birdman” was a film “that took a lot of courage to make. I knew that I was challenging the conventions, and I knew that sometimes that can come with a high cost to many people – and that’s why people were scared to make it. But I think if we don’t challenge conventions and we are not brave in that sense, then we will be stuck in cinema.”

From Oscars 2015: Director nominee Alejandro Inarritu on ‘Birdman,’ risks, by  Josh Rottenberg, Los Angeles Times.

[Photo of Iñárritu directing Edward Norton and Michael Keaton from Hollywood Reporter post: “Making of ‘Birdman’: Alejandro G. Inarritu Recounts Harrowing Experience Behind His First Comedy” by Pamela McClintock.]



Many people, even with exceptional talents, can feel insecure and struggle with unhealthy self-esteem, or impostor feelings.

One example: Amy Adams admits, “I was insecure long before I declared I was an actress.”

Psychologist Anne Paris says “We cannot create in a vacuum of isolation: we are helped along in the creative process by certain kinds of emotional support from others that help us to be at our best and to realize our full potentials.”

From my article Talented, But Insecure.

Fear / courage

What we call fear may really be excitement: emotional and physiological arousal. Creativity coach and author Eric Maisel notes it can sometimes be hard to distinguish nervous tension from anxiety or fear:

“Part of the confusion is that ‘life energy’ in the form of hormones like adrenaline are necessary, so it is easy to confuse ‘enthusiasm’ with ‘anxiety,’ since both have a real (and similar) hormonal edge to them.”

Robert Maurer, a UCLA clinical psychologist, notes, “You publish your first novel, does that make fear go away? No. So your skill at being able to nourish yourself and give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them is your single greatest attribute as an artist and as a human being.”

From my article Living and Creating: Fear Is Not A Disease.

Do you relate to any of these topics?


Alejandro Inarritu on the Creative Process

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2015). Alejandro Inarritu on the Creative Process. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Jan 2015
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