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Artists Need Other Artists
The Case for positive artistic communities
My goal for 2023 was to build a more artistic community and specifically a more positive community. Let me expand. When setting my goal I wanted to find a community of artists that just enjoyed creating. One of the reasons I went into education was that I had stopped enjoying the process of making films because I was working on them so much. More specifically, I was only working on them instead of creating with my friends which had been why I fell in love with it to begin.
While having lunch today, my friend Gyasi brought up this topic and how he wished that there were more adult spaces for creatives in Los Angeles that allowed for collaboration. This is something I have been thinking about for quite some time myself. What if there was a space for just creating that wasn’t worried about the outcome? What if the process was enough?
I got to LA 13 years ago this month and searched for a space just like this with limited success. Back in Kansas City, we had the Independent Filmmakers Coalition which inspired me to make films. Just to make them, not make money from them. Making a living from this art form is a completely different thing for which this article is not intended.
Upon arriving I searched out Film Independent in LA and realized this was just not the same. Film Independent is wonderful, I actually have met many collaborators there, including the composer of “Seize The Carp”, but they are focused on a different budget level than most artists in this town.
Where is the community for artists that want to make their micro-budget feature?
Where is a theatre for film artists that want to screen their work?
I know as a filmmaker with multiple micro-budget features, it’s almost impossible to screen them for less than $500. It’s hard for an artist that has already paid thousands of dollars out of pocket to spend $500 to screen a movie once. Where are the $50-$100 screening options?
“It's amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit,”
The above quote has popped up in my life multiple times over the past few days, I’ll take it as serendipitous. I believe that artists must feel this way if they truly want to form a community. If someone in the community succeeds, then we all succeed. Right?
Creating in a large city is very difficult and sometimes stated as “cut-throat”. It’s expensive and difficult to navigate. Sometimes we step over others that we deem to be “in the way” or “might take our opportunity”. What if that exact person is the opportunity you have been waiting for? What if you ended up being a cinematographer on a friend’s movie and you actually enjoy it? You might realize you like set photography and now take behind-the-scenes photos. The opportunities are endless when you don’t care who gets the credit.
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What do I mean by positive community? In simplest words, a community that inspires others. A community that helps others when they can. I remember one of my favorite parts of the IFC back home was a part of the group called “Shameless Self Promotion”. During this part of the agenda, artists could promote anything they were working on without feeling any discomfort. Do you need help with your film? Do you have a screening or art show coming up? Do you want feedback on your film? Just ask, that’s what we are here for. Without these meetings, I would have never made a film, or more importantly, felt capable of making a film.
After the pandemic we all retreated to our safety nets, so to say. I know I spend more time at home than before. We are just now starting to get back out there and see what the world has to offer. I would like to say this exists somewhere but I haven’t seen it on the west coast. You know what they say, when you don’t see something you would like in the world, you need to make it.
I have been thinking about how this works for a while, and I’m so grateful Gyasi and I met up today. He was looking for inspiration for his writing, but I also found a bit of inspiration from his conversation with me. We need other people in our life that will inspire us and more importantly challenge us. We need a positive group of people around us that motivate us without discouraging us. We need spaces where creativity can thrive without having to think about financial gain. We need to share our knowledge with others because we can’t take it with us.
Approach Every Conversation With a Beginner’s Mindset
This was one of many things that were said to begin meetings at my previous school, and I will take it with me everywhere I go in life from here on. What it meant to me was even though we may feel confident in a given subject or topic, there is always more to be learned. If I approach a conversation wanting to learn something new, then I will keep my ears and eyes open. There is always more to learn.
Today I had this beginner’s mindset and realized a space for a collaborative positive community is still needed. I recently started teaching at a community darkroom and noticed that artists want to be around other artists. They want to learn, but they feel discouraged when they are told they have to do it this way or that. There is no right way to create art. There is only a feeling that you have when you make your art, and no one can tell you that it is right or wrong.
I have realized in teaching that young artists don’t question their instincts until adults question them. So I don’t question the work, I question the why. I ask them questions that make them think about the decisions and what they want to communicate.
How does this make you feel?
How do you want the audience to respond?
How will you know you are successful?
What does success mean to you?
I want my students to feel capable and build confidence in their abilities. Who know’s what stories they have to tell that are just waiting on that inspiration. I don’t necessarily believe that it matters if it’s “good or bad” as long as it sparks something inside you. When you start making art for yourself, beautiful things happen. Even if you think the work is bad you still learn, and in the end, you can use that failure for something positive in the future.
Go outside! But in all seriousness, reconnect with the outdoor world. Take a walk, listen to music, experience others’ successes, and encourage them. They are your community, and if they succeed you succeed. So what would a positive artistic community look like in Los Angeles? Is it a small group that meets at a bookshop or coffee spot? Does it start in a park, and you go on a photo walk? Is it a collective of people banding together to buy or rent a small theatre?
I’d like to open the conversation up to all of you now:
What would be a perfect community space for artists?
Would it mean that you can share your work in a space?
Does it mean their are collective nights where you can shamelessly self promote what you have worked so hard on?
Would it mean you could rent equipment and share you knowledge with others?
Consider this the pre-production phase, what would you want to see in a collaborative positive community space?