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July 5, 2013 at 1:45 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Artistic Purpose

By Dayton from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Cinema Secrets Blog Series

As of late I have been feeling very rant-y. I don't seem to understand why, but it seems like I am the only sane one in the room sometimes, and I know for a fact that I am insane, so there is an issue here! My most recent obsession stems from a book that I am currently reading, the title: "Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck". With a title like that, how could I possibly not buy it? In the book (which is a great non-technical approach to filmmaking) the author talks about some of the things that can get in the way of making a great video. Admittedly, I am only through the first section of the book, but the information thus far is game-changing! I feel like I am in film school! 

The thing that hit me the hardest was when the author brought to light purpose as it relates to any artistic piece, in this case a video. He highlighted that the purpose is a definite deciding factor in the quality of the video. For example, if a videographer goes into a project and says, "Self, you have accomplished many a good video, and this opportunity looks as if it could be very lucrative, use your innate ability and make dat monay!" you will almost certainly get total crap. The reason? It isn't because of lack of technical understanding and it isn't because of a lack of talent, but there is no passion for it. 

As with any art form, (or even non-artistic tasks), if you don't care, whatever you produce is going to be absolutely atrocious. This is the same reason why I failed pre-calculus and loved advanced physical education. As it turns out, the artists that are really, REALLY good are typically the super-obsessive, the distracted, and the ones that seem detached from society. By no means am I recommending that we should go be hermits and ignore everything except our passions. On that same note, why are we living if we aren't consistently doing things that we love? And not TOLERATE, we don't just TOLERATE things we love. 

TELL ME, KIND READER, why would any one of us expect a product of our work be considered inspiring, even mildly decent, if we were apathetic toward the subject matter? There needs to be a good reason that said art is being created. Period. Also, money is not a good reason. Money may actually be the worst motivating factor that I can think of; either that, or sex. If art is born of hollow spirit, the body of work is hollow at its core and is nowhere near the same level of originality/ingenuity/awesomeness as its nonexistent counterpart, the one that was created with meaning. 

Getting Paid

I've had to learn this lesson over, and over, and over again. Then, as I was lying on the ground the lesson came and kicked my teeth straight in and left me bleeding and in confusion. Take what you can get, right? Make the numbers work and hope for the best, right? If X is income and Y is expenditures, make sure X is bigger, right? The answer is sorta. Keeping to my go-to, (but this applies to any art), under no circumstances can a video have money at the center of it (unless it's a documentary about money, I guess). Worrying about profit margins works in Hollywood because they have massive amounts of people that work in separate divisions. There are the ones that give a crap about what the movie looks like, and there are the ones that are ensuring that the studio is in the black. Mind you, both are essential, but when you are the writer, director, and accountant, lines can easily get blurred. is it that the musician/filmmaker/brewmaster/whatever gets paid?

Look at it this way: Imagine 2 owners of 2 separate restaurants, the 1st, his name is Hans, wants to make a restaurant that shares his passion for Icelandic cuisine and culture. He diligently works to get just the right foodstuffs to create the most authentic and best tasting menu. The atmosphere was obsessed over, the staff hand picked. 

The second, (his name is Brutus), is only interested in the profit that will come from owning an Icelandic restaurant. He takes time to get investors, and with a considerable amount of his own resources goes into business, making sure that the cost of operation is constantly as low as it could be and delegating the personal touches to someone else. Which of the restaurants are going to be the most profitable? 

The same can be made with the application to art, if the artist is really in love with what he is doing the end product is going to be vastly superior to the artist that is in it only for money. Thus that will give the competitive edge to the artist that wants to express his creative vision. When there is a client that is looking for a video to be done, the obvious choice will be there. The main problem is that we live in a pretty apathetic world. And by pretty apathetic I mean like we don't even give a little bit of a crap save for a few things that we love. How do we make ourselves care about a project though?

You Don't.

The cold hard truth is that you can't make yourself care. It will not happen. But, there is a way to help. When starting a problem, ask yourself WHY you are doing it and write down all the reasons on a piece of paper. If you were designing a graphic piece for a grocery store your list might look like the following:

To get paid for my work.

To make the reader see HappyMart's prices are better than the competitions.

To get my work published in a magazine.

To make people see how friendly HappyMart's employee's are.

Increase HappyMart's sale.

Get to the moon on a boat.

Because I want a contract from HappyMart and get money every month.

Now look at the list again, which ones are going to make the graphic better? Instead of trying to BS your way out of a design after creating it, might it be advantageous to go in with a purpose? Is there anything wrong with wanting your work published? No, that's fine. Wanting compensation for what used to be a hobby isn't the death to all things art, but if that becomes your focus, game over. If the contracted designer for HappyMart is only focusing on what he will get from it, or even focusing on end results, there is going to be a lapse in artistic integrity. In the case that the designer is really interested in a grocery chain, (which, how would that happen?), he can define specific purposes for why he is really doing it. If the answer is "for money" then it will probably be best to forgo the opportunity altogether, because what every shallow piece of refuse that is crapped out will simply be discarded and considered a waste of time and money, a scar to the company and the artist. 

What I'm Trying to Say

I realize that not everyone is an artist, but why are you alive if you are doing everything you hate? Don't worry about the money when it comes to what you love.

Now watch this video and be on your way.

Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object


Stockman, Steve: How to Shoot Video that Doesn't Suck. Workman Publishing Company; New York City. 2011. Print.

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1 Comment

  • This is a great blog that has a subject matter that I think about daily. The video at the end was awesome.

    One of my favorite people said you take on a project if it has 2/3 of these elements.

    Exposure - How many people will see this. What's the reach

    Passion - If you love the project you have to do it, but alone this could be deadly

    Money - This goes against what you wrote, but if its a boat load of money you have to take the project. Of course this can't be a stand alone.

    He said every project must have two out of three of those in order for it to be worth your time. The best work comes from the combo of Exposure and Passion. The money follows if you always have those, and if you can get all three you're gold!

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