Dream work: the new creativity hack Hollywood stars swear by

Jane Campion, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sandra Oh all say they have used a coach to harness the power of their dreams and say the results have been extraordinary

A woman relaxing with her eyes closed. Posed by a model
Dream on … ‘to create more authentic work’. Photograph: PeopleImages/Getty Images (Posed by a model.)

Mon 31 Jan 2022 18.07 GMT


Name: Dream work.

Age: People have been dreaming since people have been people. This is more about the exploration of dreams.

Freud, Jung, those dudes? Attempts to understand dreams predate them. Ancient Egyptians thought dreams were communications with gods; for the Greeks, they were prophecies; the Bible is crawling with dreams …Advertisement

I know! (Though mainly from Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, to be honest). Anyway, this is about even more than understanding them; it’s about using dreams, exploiting them even.

Who does that? Jane Campion, for one.

The New Zealand film director, who made The Piano? And much more. While making her most recent critically acclaimed movie, The Power of the Dog, she enlisted a dream coach, by the name of Kim Gillingham. “She’s the only person I think that really helped me as a director go very deep,” Campion said.

Kim Gillingham rings a distant bell … In the first series of Friends, she played Joey’s ex. Plus, she was in an episode of Seinfeld. More importantly, and more interestingly, she now practises dream work.

And what exactly is dream work? It “offers access to the rich and undiscovered content of the unconscious, allowing artists of all disciplines to create more authentic work”, apparently.

I’m thinking about my own dreams, and what films I’d make from them: there’d be a movie about not being prepared for an exam, another about missing a plane, a film about falling and … well, quite a lot of X-rated material to be honest. That’s probably why you don’t make films. Also, it’s not simply a question of making a film about your dream.

What else is it about? Gillingham, who works with two other coaches, uses artwork and exercises “to bring the material to the top side world and invite it into expression. The practice cultivates unique and authentic creativity, acceptance, permission and presence.”

Is it a load of hippy-dippy new-age nonsense? Well Campion obviously doesn’t think so. Or Sandra Oh, who thanked Gillingham on stage when collecting an award for Killing Eve. Bill Pullman and Benedict Cumberbatch have, also worked with her – Cumberbatch called her “an amazing woman”. There are other practitioners of dream work as well, Kirsten Dunst has used one.

OK, I get it, dream work is hot right now. If you’re in a creative field, get involved so as not to get left behind. Not just creative: Gillingham has also seen a scientist or two.

Hang on, I’ll take a look in my dream … oh yes, there’s the theory of everything. You mock, but Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is said to have come to him in a dream.

Do say: “Sign me up, I’m ready to go deep and unlock.”

Don’t say: “Yeah, keep dreaming.”

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