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Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Power Is In YOU, Not In A Suit On A Committee.

Artists struggle. This is how it is, and it's assumed, how it always will be.

I know some incredibly talented writers, designers, composers, editors, actors, etc. They're immensely creative and their work is full of richness, but their wallets aren't. The composers I know are scrambling through job adverts for opportunities that might, in some way, somehow, suit their skills and be worthy of their talents. But when they do get paid, it's usually for running errands or handing out leaflets. Of course, this doesn't just happen to people in the arts. Right now, jobs are hard to come by no matter what your skills, talents, training, or lack thereof. They say the next crop of graduates in the UK will have a 20% unemployment rate. Focusing on Media - it turns out that on the dawning of this new era of technological advancement, of digital media and the democratisation of media as it were - everyone was convinced to go to University.

Thousands of media graduates pile out of education with degrees in their hands, only to find that the only jobs going are two production assistant vacancies on 'Eastenders' and one unpaid internship making coffee for Richard Curtis. Everyone else rams their heads against the walls as they apply on Craigslist for unpaid work experience for unknown post-production houses somewhere maybe near Surrey.


"If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that's been on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like in five years' time. And yet we're meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary." -
Ted Robinson, from his 'Schools Kill Creativity' speech at TED.com

How can so much talent be left in such a bleak, powerless position?

We have writers at the mercy of agents and producers who have no interest in who they are, we have genius DOP's whose email applications to shoot short films get missed in the sea of 763 applications. We have 20,000 people calling themselves actors, 15,000 of whom are convinced they're the next big thing and 5,000 of whom are one audition away from being evicted for not paying their rent on time.

I was mulling this over when scanning across various film websites, and job websites, whilst also alt-tabbing to some depressing news articles about the economy, budget cuts, and all the latest downer news in the film industry.

Despite the bleakness, the lack of opportunities, and the fact that everyone is waiting for a magic wand to be waved without knowing exactly who the person is that's meant to do the waving - one thing is true. There is still an abundance of creativity all around us.

History has been rewritten over and over again by small groups of people who had the sheer perseverance and audacity to try something. To come together and to use their skill, talent, hard-work and entrepreneurial spirit to begin something. I don't know what I'm really saying (you've probably gathered that by now) - but what I can see is that there is an endless supply of talent out there. And it's becoming increasingly obvious to me that most of the time this talent is not only applying for jobs that are hard to get, but looking for opportunities that don't exist in the real world. If you're a screenwriter looking for a chance to write a story about a small girl who suffers disability discrimination, there's probably not a producer out there for it. If you're an actress looking for a role that doesn't stereotype you in that role you always play, it probably doesn't exist.

We keep digging around and looking for opportunities in places that either don't care, or don't care anymore. We go looking for chances to prove our production-design skills, or our hair and make-up skills, or our poetry-writing skills, and end up applying for a job collecting money for charities we don't care about on crowded city streets we don't want to be standing on.

We're dying one day at a time when we flick around on job sites and stare hopelessly at recruitment companies hoping for the perfect opportunities to present themselves. Our dreams were built on the fantasies, illusions and infinite possibilities our childhood's promised, and from watching movies, and from believing. For them to be real, we need to step out of societal norms to achieve them. We need to step outside of the dead-end jobs and front-end criticisms; we need to create our own opportunities. We need to find the power in our ideas, ideals and our incredible ability for resilience and perseverance. And we need to start doing it now.

There is great power in making a decision. There is great power in finding like-minded souls and there is great power in deciding to be the one who has the power. Rather than wait for the perfect acting role, write the perfect acting role. Or pay a friend to write the perfect acting role. Or pick up a camera and invent the perfect acting role. Or start a Facebook campaign that tells everyone you're the perfect actor. These are terrible ideas, but one idea I do believe in is that if you think outside the box, and you believe your instincts, you can come up with something that will kick-start your career, your life, your big dreams.

We need to be inspired, we need to be fulfilled, we need to make a living, and we need to do it now. If we keep doing it by applying for unappealing jobs and begging for opportunities from people that don't care about us, we'll never get anywhere. We can go a different way. We can see there are thousands and thousands of creative yet disillusioned souls around us.

Rather than moan about the studio system, or bitch about corporate greed, or cry about big shot people in suits who hide behind giant walls; see the power in turning to the people who are sitting on the same side of the fence as you. History is made up of people who were oppressed and discouraged by systems and theories and policies and recessions and dictatorships far worse than what any of us are facing now. Let's quit emailing people who aren't listening, let's face each other, and let's begin building a new world; one where creativity takes centre stage and inspires people.

"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

You; the person who blogs passionately about movies every day, you; the person who spends every waking hour trying to get funding for your screenplay about disability, you; the person who has had 17 auditions this week, you; the person who stayed up till 5am sketching out set-design ideas--- you all inspire me so so so so much. You are infinitely more important to me, to society and to the world than anyone has been giving you credit for. The power is in your imagination and ideas and actions, not in some guy in a suit who decides whether to pick you, cast you, fund you, dump you or hire you. The power is in you.

Let's find new ways to make our projects. Let's believe in ourselves and believe in those who are talented and caring. Let's stop spending time hoping for opportunities from people who don't understand us. Let's find new ways.

Care to share?

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for this good inspirational blog.
    The trick, of course, is to stop sitting around as a "Wannabe" and actually step up to being what it is you want to be.
    I was a wannabe writer / wannabe actor / wannabe director. I didn't want to be a wannabe. So I became an actual!
    I enrolled in drama school. I asked an accountant to officially register me as a film company. I worked 8 hours a day on a screenplay. I made things happen.
    Now I run a film company, get fairly constant work as an actor and sell the odd script to producers around the world. Yes it's tough - very tough - unbelievably tough - but I do it. Because I made the choice that I didn't want to be a wannabe anymore.
    Step up your game. Be the cool calm professional who every day takes the next well thought out logical step and MAKE things happen for yourself. You can't rely on other people, but you CAN rely on YOU!
    Don't wait. Whatever your dream is, DO IT!
    Allin Kempthorne
    The Weird World of Wibbell

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  2. I felt exactly like this in December 2009, so I grabbed Alice Lowe and we desided to make a short film each month in 2010.

    We're just about to shoot the 7th (July). Results are at www.jackalfilms.co.uk/calendar and so far we're having a blast!

    The power IS in you! J x

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  3. Well said and many a true word spoken.

    Have a look at ShootingPeople.org.

    A collection of like minds who, if you are prepared to make the sacrifices for your art are prepared to believe in you and help you.

    The more of us who do things like this, the more chance we will have of achieving something without the major record labels and film studios.

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  4. Yes, and no ... the problem, as ever, is money. All creative work from music to film to writing to painting (including design for sets etc) has always depended on either patronage, or during the 20th century especially, exploitation of copyright in the form of physical copies of the work, to fund itself.

    Now that the whole notion of copyright - or certainly defence of copyright - has been blown apart by technology and the resulting assumption that 'content should be free' - most of the creative arts are being shafted in the wallet by the public's refusal to pay for music or anything else that can be digitized and downloaded for free.

    It's very hard to see how this can be fixed- so yes, you can collaborate with a bunch of like-minded souls, all working for love, and create something beautiful- but if you want to even break even - never mind make a profit - you'll have to spend an absolute fortune on promoting above the level of, say, a myspace page (music) or a post on Shooting People (film), or no-one, in this noisy internet world, will ever know you made the damn thing.

    Art has always needed Money. So if the Kid can tell us exactly how we're supposed to do what he wants us to do, and exploit this Power, then suggestions, on a postcard, of How To Get The Money, these days, would be extremely welcome !

    Tom Green - www.anotherfineday.co.uk

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  5. Hi Tom - I totally totally totally get what you're saying. Do I have the magic answer as to how to exploit your power to get money? No. I wish I did.

    But one thing I do feel, is that when we struggle in this industry we tend to try harder and harder to find ways to earn the money, rather than to focus on what we're good at.

    So rather than become so outrageously great at our talent or skill, we bend and reshape and try to do what the 'market' wants, and neglect our true talents.

    So for example, say I'm really good at writing comedy. So I write comedy. But people keep saying "Ah but, you see, with comedy these days, it's got to be about sex." So I start writing comedy about sex. And I keep doing it and keep doing it, keep trying to chase the buck, close the deal, earn the paycheck.

    I believe I am MORE LIKELY to earn the money I want and reach the level artistry I aspire to if I instead spend the time on really mastering my own passion, skill and ideas which might be comedies about fridge magnets, or comedies about woodpigeons, or about painter-decorators. If I am that good, the scripts I write, or the web-series I produce, or the radio-play I devise.. the quality will be so good that I will create something of value.

    I can't prove what I'm saying. I am not claiming to have the final word or to be any kind of expert. I just think that the way the industry is shaped now we do so much to APPEAL, to SUCCEED, to be the right TYPE, BRAND or whatever, that we neglect the very talents we were born with.

    Let me know what you think!

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  6. ... and I totally totally totally get what you're saying there, too. I wear a good deal of different musical hats - occasional 'recording artist' (in the traditional sense, records and all that) to 'media composer' (which used to be a reasonable earner and could fund the 'art' but getting tougher and tougher to actually get paid for it, these days) ... and I 'adjust my set' according to which musical hat I have to wear today.

    As the 'artist' - I'll do exactly what you're saying above. Follow the Muse wherever the annoying little sprite wants to take me, often against my better judgement, especially commercially speaking ...

    ... and as the 'media composer' I do precisely the opposite, as I have to produce what my client wants, however idiotic and also against my better judgement that may be, as well. But the client Pays (or used to ...) so following their equivalently wayward briefs is a lot easier than the ones dictated by the Muse, whose activities normally lead to Insanity and/or Penury.

    I have, recently, begun to think that maybe my two different roles will have to be reversed. Since media work no longer pays what it used to, and won't necessarily fund the Art, maybe the thing to do is just do the Art (which will cost me, in time and money) - and do precisely What The Hell I Want, And Sod Commerciality (after all, the punters are only to going to download it all for free anyway) - in an attempt to create something totally uncompromising which might just get some kind of attention, if not money.

    If it gets enough attention in the right quarters, it might feed back into the media composing opportunities, and strangely, we'll have a situation where the art feeds the media work which can then feed the art.

    Or something.

    I'm still left with the problem that none of this can happen unless I sort out my promotion strategies very, very carefully, and budget just as much money for that, as I would for the entire recording and manufacturing process- or my wonderful, esoteric, market-ignoring, and very expensive, Artwork, will just get Lost In Myspace.

    The basic thrust of your blog is, though, on the money, I think. We can trawl through as many job boards as we like but we all know the Real Work isn't on them. It's going to people who are already on the list of the very few agents left in town who do get offered all the real work... and they're only going to take you on when you've just been given a Bafta (and one of their existing clients has just popped their clogs)

    So you may as well go for the whole hog and try and get that Bafta, with something amazing...

    ... and then you can get into that agency...


    ... and then, finally, you might get some work !

    It's a mad world.



    Tom Green (and this time you get the media work link www.apollomusic.co.uk)

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  7. Tom, again, I agree with everything you say- and now I guess we're really getting down to business. This is what I'm talking about:

    If we're not going to get money anyway, why not do what we want.

    If me and you focus on what we're fucking good at, even if people see it for free, there's progress to be made. If I happened to write the greatest blog post of ALL time, it would get around. You'd tell 50 people to look at it, so would everyone else. I'd get a million hits, make a bunch of money on google ads, get linked to by 20,000 people and advertisers would be like "hey, this dude's onto something." - There would be new possibilities.

    It's essentially how I feel about my filmmaking, and your music. We just need to do what REALLY inspires us. And KEEP DOING IT. If you create something as inspired as the stuff that inspires you, it will get you recognition, it will get you money.

    I know a lot of good bands and a lot of good filmmakers who are struggling. And it sucks, cause they have real talent. But have they truly gone all out to not only succeed, but to succeed by operating at the very best of their abilities? No.

    If I make the greatest short film ever, It'll earn me no money. If you do the musical score for that film, it'll earn you no money. But if it's the greatest short film ever, it'll have 12 million hits on Youtube, a best short film academy award, and people will want to know what the fuss was about.

    So I guess, Tom, if we're in agreement -- then the clarity we now have is that, ummm, we need to stop everything we're doing and focus on being the greatest film and music producer's of all time?

    Maybe I'll have a tea first.

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  8. And I really like the music on the Apollo site, great work! Very cinematic too!

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  9. Thanks, Kid !

    Yup, tea is good, first.

    Then I'm off to the studio to knock out that Masterpiece ... (tho' I must just finish editing some 'risers' and other bits and pieces for a trailer music compilation first. Decks must be cleared before Art takes a turn !)

    I'll keep an eye out for yours !

    best, Tom

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