28 Apr 2023

Creative License

by John O’Brien

Entertainment is an industry built on creativity. The creative nature of the performers is obvious but there is a gamut of originality and ingenuity behind the scenes bringing the artiste to the public.

We already know it here; lighting, staging, video and audio design and execution all require the application of creative talent. When it’s on the road, another type of creativity is needed in production and tour management, juggling people, schedules and budgets. Back home, booking agents are busy plotting itineraries using dart-boards and tarot cards, requiring an artistry all its own.

Good management requires efficient problem solving, which often involves innovative thought processes and lateral thinking. You are in a creative industry; be inventive with how you approach it. So too with general life and industriousness. That’s how I go about it. No longer able to create many live shows, I now commentate on them.

Every month, I sit down with an empty notepad page to write a column. With nothing to start on yet endless potential, it can be daunting. To stave off a complete creative blank, I jot down some random, if related, thoughts. Often, it sits there for days or weeks, while I await some sort of muse or inspiration before launching in earnest. But, at least I have something started. This little psychological trick works wonders in my workflow.

Into the maw

Writing is a creative process. But there is a great difference between authoring a novel and producing regular content to a deadline. Both require creative wordplay, yet the end goal diverges. With the former, high art and perfection are the aims. Multiple rewrites, edits and contemplations can take a period of years before the masterpiece evolves.

Content (or column) writing necessitates an alternative approach. You are on a production schedule and, even if digital, the printing press awaits no laggards. Therefore, the process requires diligent adherence to deadlines.

Which means getting it together ahead of time to allow enough free headspace before final edit. It also means letting go of any pretention of perfection and striving instead towards optimalism. A weight lifts when the Send or Publish buttons get pressed, dispatching the words into the ether.

This applies equally to the modern phenomenon of content creators, nearly our entire source of entertainment at home. From food to building, via crafting and comedy, to documentary or fluff, we nightly watch a diverse variety of subjects and presenters. For us, they are mostly refreshing as they are not scripted by commercial industry types. Such creators have great scope in topic, style, videography and editing, without a coked-up studio monkey trying to regurgitate a tired format or industry trope. However, not all have the talent to ensure repeat viewing, so our watch list is curated regularly.

One downside is that small producers often lack the resources for high production quality. The smarter ones work around this limitation and stick to narrative and concept as the highlights of their ‘shows’. Home based video editing no longer requires exorbitantly expensive equipment. Hey, you can even do this on your phone. But it does need to start with a good idea and a modicum of personality.

Building social media profile high enough to financially sustain such an enterprise is often a long hard slog. Many never make it beyond their day job. Yet you don’t have to ‘go viral’ overnight to be a success at this either. I follow and interact with several such creators, many who now find this the entire source of their income.

Across the board, they are aware that they need to both build and then keep their audience. Some film what they are doing and then build a commentary around that afterwards. Others storyboard and come up with a concept before ever switching the camera on.

Avoiding the world – early pandemic

Commonly, all require lead time. Commentary based shows are quickest to turn around production wise but can also get held up determining legal status if they are contentious. Some post only when they are ready (and take the subscriber drop-off hit); others post to a schedule and must learn to tread the periodic hamster wheel.

When they hit a certain point (where the production load is too onerous for one person with a regular release deadline), many start employing professional camera operators, video editors and the like to assist. Eventually, they go fully ‘pro’ adding production assistants, set dressers, marketers and whatever else required to keep their brand slick and on time.

This is just one example of the many creative outlets available in our modern world. Open minds will see the potential everywhere. Whether for hobby or business, there are ample pursuits to engage a curious mind. Be careful though of turning a passion into a millstone. Keep a few activities just for fun, without being tainted by chasing a dollar. I’ve done this with photography. Although I have the technical skills to follow this as a career path, I’ve made a conscious decision to never rely on this for income. This way, it stays fun and I only do it when I am in the mood, thus producing much better work and much happier me.

Similarly, just because I know how to use Photoshop, doesn’t make me good at it, nor naturally good at art. Adobe’s flagship software is powerful, yes, but it is just a tool. Like a paintbrush, the skill (and art) is within the creator using these tools. Tools like WYSIWYG, lighting consoles, pixel mappers and spectrum analysers are the technician’s paintbrushes, enabling their inner Dali or Beethoven to tint the canvas of the stage.

Crows for Sim

Artists can make good managers. Why? Because they often see things differently to the mainstream; they can imagine left field solutions that others may not be able to see; they are adept at innovating. This skill is invaluable in countless situations. Integral to my personal intersection of art meets commerce is this here magazine, who’ve given me the creative license to imagine and refine content like what you just read. Thank you CX and thank you CX readers, for indulging my inner raconteur and enabling endless rambling bullshit. See you when I get creating again next month.

All Photos & artwork by John O’Brien

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