White Lotus creator, Mike White, took to the stage at Cannes this week, and wowed the crowd with his frenetic mind and wacky sense of humour.
One of the most brilliant minds of pop culture shares tales about his writing process, the desire to constantly get out of the job he’s currently doing and the darkness of perfectionism. Ogilvy’s Global Chief Creative Officer, Liz Taylor discusses with White the creative process, “divine discontent” and how our neuroses can turn into brilliant story telling.
Here are the takeaway quotes from the man of the moment.
1. Unleashing Creativity and Challenging Conventions
“I was sending the script around, people were like, ‘Not only are we not going to make it, but do not make it.’ It was like, ‘This is a bad idea. That’s the ones you do, the ones everyone tell you not to do”.
2. The Unforeseen Success of “The White Lotus”
“I have a love hate relationship with HBO, but they approached me during a content-starved pandemic period. They needed a show that could be produced quickly in one location, and I saw this as an opportunity as it was a rushed production and no-one was checking, you know. I feel like they’re always like trying to protect me from myself because I am a weirdo, and they were all shocked it succeeded, and I’m like, I told you guys.”
3. How it felt to be successful after so many fails
“Well I always thought it was a success as it was, in the seventh round, I was like, Oh, this is what it ACTUALLY feels like, I better buy that party hat now.”
4. About Hollywood
“I always thought being in Hollywood was like being in the Soviet Union. Something works, and then the next day, everybody’s like, Me too.
5. On Success
“I know what it’s like to be not be invited to a party and looking from the outside you know, behind the curtain and thinking, Oh, that’d be cool, that looks fun. I mean, it’s cool that people now want to hear what I have to say about stuff. But also we’re all renters, and I feel like it will go away some time and that is okay too.
6. Perfectionism and its dark side
“I was an OCD perfectionist before therapy. And then I realised like I was just going down wormholes. I was obsessed with the way the word was laid and other really weird stuff that would have no connection to the ultimate final product I need to let stuff go if I was going to figure out what’s meaningful. Perfectionism can be an obstacle for energy like, actually just producing and getting the work done.”
7. Coping with Burnout and Prioritising Self-Care
“I was in my 30s. And I was doing a TV show for Fox called Cracking up, ironically. Which was ironic because I, basically I was having a nervous breakdown I started having panic attacks. I was crying and I didn’t know why. I was having a physical manifestation of stress and I was a workaholic.
“I went to see a shrink and he asked me if I had suicidal ideation. I said ‘well I do regularly think of jumping in front of a bus ‘And then they put me in a mental institution and when I realised I wouldn’t have my own room, I had a worse panic attack. But I got the help I needed, So you know, so now I use my work as a supplement to my life, as opposed to the other way around.”