Can we make money doing what we love? Should we aim to be able to use our creativity to pay the bills? Or will keeping our passion away from our paycheck allow for more freedom, because it separates the practical issue of putting food on the table from your creative process?
Valentin Farkasch is an Austrian-American filmmaker and photographer. In this episode, he provides his own view on this debate. We talk about the struggles and benefits of freelancing in New York City, how to pursue our creative visions while still making money, what it takes to be a good filmmaker, and how the DSLR revolution affects professional cinematographers.
Find out why Valentin will be taking a break from cinematography in NYC. He is moving back to Austria and will get a non-creative job. To follow his progress and weigh-in with your thoughts on this debate, join our conversation on Instagram or Twitter using #CreativeCareer
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*Special Thanks to Kyle Cope for his awesome photography behind the scenes of Community TV (pictured in blog post below)
The LoudaVision Podcast is inspired by people who say they can't make money in a creative job, that doing what they love has nothing to do with paying the bills. I completely disagree with that. I've spoken to dozens of artists and creative people who have successfully used their creative skills to make a living. Just go back and listen to the past episodes at LoudaVision.com and you’ll hear story after story of people who are passionate about their careers in the arts. As filmmakers, photographers, directors, musicians, podcasters, art therapists, variety seekers and everyone in between, it is a roller coaster and it is tough. But I believe that we can make money doing what we love and we should find a way to monetize what we’re good at. We spend five, six or even seven days a week at work, why should it be something we hate, something we’re not good at? Then the things that we love doing, writing scripts or painting, whatever your creative outlet is, that we have to leave that, which we love, for the small portion of our day that should go to self-care and time for family and friends.
That’s my stance on this debate. My guest today is battling me on this idea. He’s taking a break from his successful cinematography career. He’s here to provide the other side of the creativity and money argument. I know he’s not alone. As artists, you're usually on one side or the other. I want to hear from our listeners and fellow creative people; can we make money doing what we love? Tell us your story and your side of the debate by tweeting me @LoudaVision with the #CreativeCareer or use that same hashtag on Instagram and show us your thoughts on this debate. Should we pursue a creative career, find me on Instagram or Twitter @LoudaVision and join this conversation.
Today’s guest is Valentin Farkasch. He’s an Austrian-American filmmaker and photographer. He’s the amazing cinematographer behind Community TV. That’s the TV series I’ve been telling you guys about for a while now. Valentin’s beautiful work can be seen at ValentinF.com and you can connect with him on Instagram @NoRobotYet. Hi, Valentin.
We have a lot to talk about today. First, I want give the people an idea of your background. Tell me about your family roots in film and theater.
My mom was a stage designer and my dad was TV cameraman, he did a lot of news stuff. I grew up with both the technical side and the creative side of telling stories. I always had cameras around me growing up. It’s super common now, but I guess back then it was not as common.
Then Austria, right? You live in Austria.
Yeah, I grew up in Austria. I guess I was destined to get into one of those industries.
What inspired you to come to New York City?
I never intended to stay in New York City. That’s the funny part. I originally came here for an eight-week program at the New York Film Academy because I was working in TV back then as camera operator. It was great, but I want to get more into the cinematic work and more narrative filmmaking. I was like, “Let’s take a short program.” Those eight weeks turned into a year-long course and that year turned into seven more years.
I never intended to stay in New York City. I originally came here for an eight-week program at the New York Film Academy.
What was the reason you stayed? Were you just getting a lot of work? Why did you stay in New York? Besides classes, obviously New York Film Academy is really cool and their classes are really great.
One of the reasons why I stayed past my program was just because you have the option after you complete a one year class to just stay for another year and work in your field of study. I took that opportunity. Now, it’s a little bit more than two years that I’ve been here, you make friends, you have relationships and you think, “Let me see if I can take this further.” I did that. After going back to Austria over holidays and I was like, “Let’s see what else I can do here.” Of course, all my family was like, “Are you sure? Is that the right thing?” They’re sad to see me go. I was like, “Yeah, let’s leave.” New York is a great place to work, no doubt.
How has it been, working as a freelance cinematographer and photographer?
There are ups and downs. You never quite know what’s going to happen.
As a freelancer, right?
As a freelancer, yeah. I’ve been exclusively freelancing over this whole time of the past six years. I’m living comfortably. I can’t really complain. But it’s not without struggle.
Tell me about some of the struggles.
The main struggle is just that you can’t really plan on any long term basis. Most of my projects are maybe a month out, if I’m lucky. But a lot of calls are just like, “Are you available tomorrow?” Planning anything or budgeting anything is a little nerve-racking.
You’re constantly working here in New York City, and that alone to a lot of people seems like you’re winning, you’re doing well and you’re successful. Tell us about your choice to take a creative break.
You never really get to a point where you’re satisfied because there’s always the next thing.
I was thinking about that because on a certain level, and I know a lot of people see me as successful and probably envy me for what I’m doing, but I obviously live through everything and know all the internal mechanisms. While New York is a great place to work, and I’m really grateful for everything that I’ve had the chance to do here, but it’s time for me to rearrange or rethink what I want to do. Because it’s so easy getting trapped in this freelance rhythm of just, “I’m doing this this month and then next month is going to come and next month.” Overtime, everything gets better in general. I have more projects, better projects. I'm making more money than in the beginning. But you never really get to a point where you’re satisfied, or at least I don’t, because there’s always the next thing.
Very similar to me, there is a graphic designer who’s originally from Austria and is very successful in New York. His name is Stefan Sagmeister. I saw an exhibit of his, where he’s been a lot delving into the theme of happiness and work-life balance. There I learned that every seven years, he takes a sabbatical. Which is just like he closes down his whole office, nothing gets done. He just travels around and learns new techniques or just hangs out with other creative people and just takes a break from the regular rhythm. I’ve found that very inspiring. I was like, “I think that’s a good idea. Just take a break for a while.”
You’re taking a break, what does that mean for you? Because when I try to go on vacation and I bring my camera, it’s not a break.
That’s very true. When I go on vacation, I tend to not look at my phone. That’s a key part of that. But for this longer sabbatical, for me the key is really to get out of the worrying about what’s going to happen next month. I do want to look into other creative things to do and I have couple ideas that I want to accomplish in that time, but I’m also taking a regular job. I don’t have anything solid yet. I have a couple ideas that I want to follow through. They’re all very menial tasks where you’re just clocking in and out. You just know you have your pay check at the end of the month and have the rest of the day to yourself.
Here’s what I stand on that. I think there are compromises. Because for me, I couldn’t see myself doing something that I’m not good at, something that I don’t enjoy and then going home. That time for me would be time to that I want to spend with my family or time that I want to spend relaxing, self-care, all those things that are really, really important to me. If I had a job where I didn’t get to be creative, I wouldn’t have any time for myself because I’d go home and want to work on my projects. Do you see what I mean?
For me, that’s how my brain works. Your thoughts?
A big reason for that is just to free up my brain space to be creative. Because talking about compromise, so many projects of what you work on, if it’s your full-time job, is about making compromises. You never have enough time, budget, people and location whatever. Especially as a cinematographer, you’re always tied to somebody else. I have a couple of projects that I really want to do by myself. I just want the freedom of not worrying about money. The creative part is going to come by itself. I’ve never not made anything, if that makes sense.
I definitely understand.
If I was in school, I was drawing around on paper. Basically since I’ve been thirteen, I think, I got my first own camera. Since then I’ve been taking photos basically every day. The creative part is I don’t really worry about that.
For a lot of artists and for anyone really, creativity is an outlet for stress. We’re learning about ourselves. It can be art therapy, which I spoke about on a previous podcast. Creativity is a great tool for anyone and for everyone, especially dealing with anxiety. I understand you’re not going to give up being creative, but it sounds like you’re going to limit the amount of hours you get to be creative, because we spend a lot of time at work.
The time I get to be creative or allow myself to be creative will be more free. I have to worry less about all the implications of a certain idea.
Maybe in terms of hours, yes. But the time I get to be creative or allow myself to be creative will be more free. I have to worry less about all the implications of a certain idea. I don’t have to worry about, “If I do this, am I going to be able to pay my rent?” That part is taken care of. This whole thought has just occupied a lot of my brain, just worrying about the basic living expenses. It just takes up a lot of energy.
It’s a huge source of anxiety, especially living in New York City where everything is so expensive. Freelancing, not knowing where your next pay check is coming from, if you’re going to work tomorrow or the next week. It’s very scary. You’ll have to report back about how it goes.
I want for us to debate a little bit and talk about this question of creativity changing when you add money to the picture. When we’re working for someone to make money, doing something creative, it’s different than if you’re a photographer for yourself versus if you’re a photographer being hired to do something.
Yes, 100%. If you’re working for somebody else, you have to think about so many things. Making sure that they like what you’re doing, that you meet their needs. You also want to build a relationship with them so they come back. It’s not like a one off, which is very common for me.
You’re a salesperson too.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s probably true for any field of work. But you can’t offend anybody even though sometimes you work with complete idiots. It’s almost like politics.
It’s every job.
Of course, it’s every job. But also surprisingly, the film industry in New York or at least the independent film scene is actually pretty small. Once you get into it, you talk to one person, “Yeah, I know this and that guy.” Your reputation travels pretty quickly.
It does, definitely. I’ve been creating videos professionally for ten years now. For me, having to do that is a compromise, but it’s also something that I really enjoy doing. Because for me, it’s about percentage of my time. I’d rather spend my time being creative even if I have to compromise a few little things here and there rather than not get a chance to be creative. For me, the only in creating my own projects is that I have the final say in it. When I’m directing something, I am in charge of everything. I get to make all the decisions and not have someone overseeing all of that. But that’s an added weight on my shoulders as well. There’s marketing. If I’m in charge then I have to pay for all of it. It’s a lot of pressure and it’s a lot of responsibility.
That’s true. It depends what kind of project you're doing. For example, I’ve started again getting really into photography just for myself. I’ve always been a photographer, but I’ve never really made money being a photographer. It’s always been just a passion, I guess. I have a problem with that word, but I guess it’s been a passion.
Because it started to have a little negative connotation to it when you get asked a lot of times to, “Come on my passion project.”
It means that they don’t have money.
Yes, you don’t have to leave that part in.
This happens a lot. People say they have a passion project that they want people to work on it. In the freelance world and in New York City where everything is so expensive, that’s not really fair. If it’s your passion project, that’s fine. You have to fund it or get crowdfunding. Make the money somehow because you have to pay your crew. I don’t believe in not paying your crew. Even something, as much as you can pay them, I believe that it’s good to do that.
The problem with passion projects is, of course, everybody who has their own idea thinks it’s the greatest idea ever. But in the grand scheme of things, there are a few very good ideas that are properly executed and a lot of mediocre ones.
Something I’m learning from the pitch class I’m taking at the School of Visual Art is that every idea has been done before. It’s not that it’s a bad idea. It’s, how do you articulate your idea? How do you package it and make it different? What’s your spin on it? It’s mostly about how do you pitch it to other people so that they understand what you’re saying. Because it can sound just like the Simpsons, for example, unless you give your spin on it. Unless you’re properly explaining how it’s different, then it just sounds like every other idea. That’s where the salesperson part of it comes into filmmaking, which a lot of people don’t like having to do any of that stuff.
I can make stuff and not worry about any financial implications or accomplishing anything. It’s something I can do completely by myself.
That’s definitely a problem of mine, just doing the marketing and getting things out there. Having ideas and writing them down is the easy part. But then executing them properly and getting them to be seen is whole other thing. I don’t think I’ve actually finished that thought about the photography and just doing stuff for yourself. I’m just putting stuff on Instagram now and it’s just been really rewarding. It’s a social network and you can play the game and get more followers and whatnot. But I don’t really worry about it too much. I just stuff on and I’m really excited when people like it. There are some really genuine comments on it and I’m like, “This is great.”
In that sense, I can make stuff and not worry about any financial implications or accomplishing anything. It’s something I can do completely by myself, which is great. In film, you always need people, which is a good and a bad. It’s mostly a good thing. But it’s always, you need to get those people. Going back to the passion project side of things, you want to compensate those people for their time.
The space and food and all the million things that costs money when you’re making a film. I just wonder, you don’t have to say Community TV, but have there been any projects for you that you enjoyed doing, even though they weren’t completely your own?
Absolutely. You can’t do anything by yourself. Most of my work, even stuff that I direct because I do a lot of music videos, are in collaboration with a musician. Yes, it’s sometimes my own idea, sometimes it’s a combined idea. Absolutely, there are many projects that I’ve not been in-charge of that I’m very happy about. Sure, Community TV is one of them.
there are many projects that I’ve not been in-charge of that I’m very happy about. Sure, Community TV is one of them.
I get that, because there are a lot of projects that I’ve done for a client or for a music video or even marketing videos that I’ve really enjoyed doing. Ten having that to show on my reel or on my website, I really am proud of those projects. Those are things that I couldn’t have done by myself, I couldn’t have conceptualized by myself, I couldn’t have paid for it by myself. It’s a compromise and you’re not in charge of the project; you are being hired. But for me, that just expands my body of work. It gives me more things to work on and a different perspective and things that I would have never explored on my own. For me, that is why I like doing video as my job, as 100% this is my job every single day. Because every job there is in the world is going to feel like work at some point.
Even filmmaking, even if it’s your own project, there’s one aspect of it. I know for myself at least, there’s one aspect of filmmaking for everyone that feels like work. It’s different for everyone, but no one likes every single aspect of their job.
That would be strange.
“I really love marketing.”
There are people who love marketing. There are people who love to be a dentist and I will never understand that.
This is true. I think having a creative job is the luckiest thing for me. 100%, no job is perfect. Not every project or every day is going to be fun, but I’d rather know that my day job is something that I enjoy, rather than just do something to pay the bills.
I totally understand that and I know a lot of people aspire to be full-time, either freelance or employed creative people. That’s what I have been doing for the last couple of years and I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I have. It’s just important for me now to find a different approach to what I’m doing. Because like I said, it’s so easy to just get trapped in this rat race and you can’t really plan the future, at least not in the way I’ve been working. I just want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. That’s really the key thought behind all of this. Like I said, there are absolutely projects that I love doing, that I’m happy that somebody hired or that I got on to them. But it is difficult to strike that balance between stuff. Because even as a freelancer, there’s so much stuff I make that I don’t really care about personally, but it’s good money, so of course I’ll do it. Just finding that balance, you don’t really have any control over it.
If I take that money equation out of it and just say I do whatever I feel like creatively. I just have ideas, I don’t restrict myself in any of them. I just write them down and see what is practical at the moment. That gives me freedom to have better ideas. At least that’s what I hope. And actually execute them because a lot of times there are ideas that are great, that you can do them, but they don’t get done because you have to do other projects, the timing isn’t right. I had a project at the end of last year that I really wanted to make and we had basically everything lined up. But the timing just didn’t work out because one of the main actors is not in the city anymore. He went to do a play somewhere in a different State. Now it’s on hold, but it’s probably indefinite.
I just want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. That’s really the key thought behind all of this.
Is that something you were directing?
Yes, that’s something I was directing. It’s a very intimate story. I still want to make it, but I’m not sure when or if that’s going to happen.
That’s the sacrifice we have to make sometimes, I think. To be creative people making money, sometimes the money has to come first, unfortunately. It has to take priority. It’s sad.
That’s the thing, in the world we live in, you always have to deal with money in one way or another. It’s nothing that I particularly enjoy doing, but it’s a part of it. It’s a fun puzzle solving game if you have a budget and you know you want to accomplish those things but you have to make a compromise on one end to get the other thing. You can’t get away from it, but you can or at least I am trying to minimize that for the next couple of months.
I want you to report back. Let us know how it’s going. I took a little bit of a break a few months ago just from doing as much as I was doing, I took a little bit of a break. For me, it was figuring out that there’s a second aspect to what I love doing. I love making videos but then I also love teaching. I gave myself a little break where I could just explore teaching for a bit and just be able to focus on that and figure out what I love about it and take that apart for myself. A lot of it is just trying stuff out and seeing, “Do I love teaching kids? Do I love teaching adults?” and figuring that out. For me, I needed to try those things out, try different ages, see what I liked best and what I didn’t like.
That’s definitely something that I’ve been thinking about as well. The teaching, filmmaking, photography or whatever, because it’s basically the only thing I know. The only thing I’ve really learned to do. I never had a job in any other industry. Teaching, I think would be fun. I don’t know. You probably have more experience.
I think it’s different for everyone, honestly.
It definitely depends on the group of people. If you would teach middle schoolers or college students or adults just in workshops, that definitely makes a difference. It’s something that I would like to try at some point.
I always say, if there is something you’re not sure if you like doing, to try it out, test it out, see what aspect of it you like, because there’s a lot of different forms of teaching. For me, trying out different age groups narrowed down, “Maybe I don’t want to go and get a master’s degree in teaching right now.” I’m glad I did that, so I didn’t end up being in school right now and then realizing I don’t really like this “teaching kids” thing. It is something I can do occasionally. For me, it’s two puzzles pieces, the filmmaking and the teaching, that I always try to have, as the main part of my day and the main part of my career. Maybe there’s another aspect for you that you’re going to find, and I hope you find it.
I hope so too.
What do you love about cinematography?
I guess I got into cinematography because I think very visually. I always have images in my head. Like I said, I started photography when I was thirteen or something. It’s just been a natural progression for me. Even though I was starting with stills, my goal was always to make moving images and that’s probably very influenced by my father, since that’s what his line of work was. I’m not a writer. I direct but I know there are people who are directors. I know I’m lacking some skills in terms of communicating ideas in words. Being a cinematographer allows me to create things and tell stories but not think as much about words and structure and that kind of stuff. Just create images.
You’re showing people what you’re thinking and what you mean. I definitely agree about some people not being directors and not being writers. When you go to film school, especially if you study film production like I did, they try to teach all aspects of production. I feel like that might be misleading to some people because when you get into the industry you realize you have to pick one thing usually.
You have to strike a balance there because on one hand, it’s good to know the spectrum of what you can do. Before I really started working in this industry, I had no idea what all the different aspects are. I’m still sometimes looking at credits and be like, “What are all these people doing?” There’s a giant spectrum of things you can do within the film industry, some creative and some absolutely not creative. But you are right. You have to know what you want to do. It’s become really easy actually for people to just do everything for better or worse. You have a lot of one-man shows that are just written, directed, starring, produced by one person.
Shot on an iPhone, I know. There’s nothing wrong with those things.
Not necessarily shot on an iPhone, but yes, technology has allowed us to be a lot more free and just make stuff without necessarily knowing how everything works. That’s just a fact that has evolved over the last couple of years.
For me, bringing it up is to say, I don’t think people need to worry about if they’re not good at one aspect of it, they don’t have to feel bad. If you’re not a good writer, just don’t be a writer. Just do something else. Be an editor.
The key is everybody should get one chance at making their project. If they want to do everything, God bless them, they can do everything. But learn from that experience and take that to the next one and be like, “I really conquered this part of it and I was good at that and I enjoy doing that, but other parts I didn’t really enjoy and maybe it could’ve been a lot better.” Hire the people that can help you accomplish things. Or if you don’t want to hire people, trim it down to a point where you can do it by yourself properly.
The key is everybody should get one chance at making their project. If they want to do everything, they can do everything.
A lot of writers though have a problem, or they find it a compromise to change their scripts to be something that they can shoot themselves. I think that is the main aspect of being a good director and good filmmaker, is being able to compromise your script to still tell the story but be something that’s manageable.
There are a lot of scripts I’ve seen that are good scripts but are they have a scene in them, just this paragraph makes this really hard to do. In New York, one big hurdle is always location because anything that looks decent costs you a lot of money. The other option is you just film in the street and filming in the streets of New York is a lot harder than you might think, especially if you’re doing sound.
It’s very, very true.
You would be surprised. Once you start listening to just the general soundscape, you can’t go 30 seconds without somebody honking or an ambulance or an airplane. You have so many people, so many noises here, so it’s actually a lot harder to shoot somewhere outside than you might think. Then there’s weather.
Which sometimes ends up working to your advantage. I was shooting my Christmas movie, Give a Little, a few years ago. It happened to be snowing and so it was perfect for this one shot I was getting. But then there were other scenes that I needed someone to look like they were from the Salvation Army. It’s a week before the holidays, I’m like, “We’re going to go downtown. It’s going to be perfect. There’s a ton of them out there.” We go and none of them are out. I’m like, “Where are they? Are they on strike? What is happening?” I had to go and then, of course, set another day to shoot and make an actor play the Salvation Army where I actually had control over. Instead of just assuming they’re going to be out, which they were not. I still don’t know why they weren’t out that day. But it ended up working out much better.
It’s being flexible. I think that’s huge part of filmmaking, especially in New York City where you want to shoot on the subway, you’re not really supposed to. If you get caught, you’re not going to be able to film the rest of your scenes. This why I think being an editor is so important to filmmaking. I feel like everyone should know how to edit even basic stuff just so that they can use that creative part of their brain of, “Maybe it can be arranged certain things in this way.”
I absolutely agree with you on the editing part. It’s also something that I’ve actually learned to enjoy. At the beginning, I didn’t enjoy it that much. It teaches you so much about what is necessary, what parts do you really need. You’re in a situation where something goes wrong and you can’t shoot it the way that you planned to. Then you immediately have to think, what’s the solution here? How can I still get that? Or is it necessary? Can this be done in a different scene and a different location?
If you’re completely stubborn about your script and know it has to be this way and “I can’t change a line,” then you just you can shoot the rest of your scene.
I was going to say that you better have a lot of money.
Yes, that’s another option.
If you look at the great directors of the last couple of decades or, in general, theater people as well, really successful people are not always the nicest and the most compromising. Just the prime example I think is Kubrick. You can’t argue with his movies. Every single thing he made is a masterpiece. But on a personal level, he was difficult to work with. As a family man, apparently he was a very good husband and father, but that’s a different aspect. I always try to think about that. I’ve worked with people that are arrogant. They just don’t back off from their idea. It’s difficult to work with them, but just because they are that way, it doesn’t make them good filmmakers. You have to know when is it worth to just stand your ground and be like, “No, this is how this has to be done.” Because otherwise it’s not what I want to say, versus just being an asshole for ego’s sake.
That’s a huge part of being a director. It’s striking a balance between being perceived as mean and being perceived as strong. As a female there’s another layer on top of it, being perceived as a bitch. Leaving that part out of it is a huge part of it. But leaving that part out of it as a director, knowing what is the story you’re trying to tell and what are you trying to come across with your film. Then a lot of times, for example, a cinematographer will come in and they’ll try to direct your project or they’ll try to take over the story and not really know where it’s going or they just want to use this camera because they think it’ll look good on their reel. They have no regard for what your story is. That kind of situation.
That’s when you have to put your foot down as a director and say, “No, this is what it is about.” That’s why it’s really important for me to have really good communication with my crew and tell them everything I’m thinking as much I can, give them as much information as I can, so that they can be on the same page.
Communication is absolute key to any decent production and making something that stands out.
Something that just gets made, period. Because if you’re not communicating, there are projects that just don’t get finished.
True, very true.
I want to talk more about some cinematography stuff with you. Do you have any tips for people who want to become a cinematographer? Besides don’t be a freelancer.
My prime tip is don’t be a cinematographer.
Just because you can buy a camera doesn’t make you anything. There are a lot of people aspiring to be creatives and there are very few people who continue to be creatives.
In the last year maybe, I don’t really have hard date on that, it’s just my personal observation. With the DSLR revolution, a lot of people picked up cameras and became cinematographers. Just because you can buy a camera doesn’t make you anything. The other side of this is, it is really hard to be a full-time filmmaker. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cinematographer or an art director or a writer or whatever. In Austria, the biggest film school, I went there once for an open house and the cinematographer teacher, he basically started his whole “do you want to study here” thing with, “80% of the people in the film industry are unemployed.”
It’s probably not true in the States, but there are a lot of people aspiring to be creatives and there are very few people who continue to be creatives. What I’m trying to say is, be sure that is what you really want to do. You can try out things. If you want to pick up a camera, shoot a couple of things, and see if you like it. If other people respond to that and say, “This is really great. I want to work with you again,” then maybe you can think about, “Let’s pursue this.” On a more practical note of things, to become a cinematographer is just go out and film stuff. Just keep doing things. Especially at the beginning, it’s hard to get on projects. But just film and then edit, so you’ll know what is working and what isn’t.
It’s so important to edit your own stuff.
The other thing for me that’s really important is learn about lighting and play around with lighting. Try to get on other sets with experienced people and just see what they’re doing. I think that’s probably one of the best advices in any field of filmmaking. Get any job as low as possible, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just observe professional people that know what they’re doing, that have been in the industry for ten years. That has taught me so much. Just be quiet, listen and learn. That is really a key for me.
It’s interesting what you said about 80% of filmmakers being unemployed. There’s a lot of creative people who love being creative, they have all this passions and all these things they’re even good at, but they don’t know how to bridge the gap into making money doing it. That’s why I’ve made this podcast, so that’s why it’s such a perfect conversation that we’re having where you completely disagree with me.
No, I don’t think I disagree with you. I think we’re just at different stages.
I think the thing that will bridge the gap for a lot of people is losing the ego. It’s saying, “I have ideas for projects,” and knowing that you can do those projects at any time but you have to be able to compromise and do other people’s projects and maybe take a corporate job where you get to be a cinematographer or you get to be a filmmaker. Yes, you’re not working on an HBO series but you are working everyday doing filmmaking. Your skills will still grow and you will still learn and you will still get better. But you might not be on as high profile projects as you had dreamed and you had imagined. It’s compromising sometimes, but it’s worth it.
For example, I worked with a company last year. They have an in-house filmmaking department and those people are just employed by the company. They make corporate videos of just talking heads, but they do have access to a lot of equipment and they had good equipment. They can, on the weekends, probably take it out and film their own stuffs. You A) have a steady job and B) have some perks with it. Maybe the job description sounds boring, but I’m sure you can get something out of it if you want to.
Being able to articulate your ideas is very important for a lot of filmmakers. Even if you’re working in a corporate environment, you can still be creative and turn their project into something that you have fun doing. Just because it’s a talking head video, you can still make it fun, still make it exciting and make it modern. I’ve done that a lot.
If you are stuck in a line of work where you want to be creative but you don’t think you can, always think about, “How can I make this different?” One of my favorite quotes, “Don’t be better, be different.” Because everything has been done before, and better is a very subjective term. If you’re different, you stand out, people notice it. You can be different for better or for worse, but at least you tried.
It’s true. Your Instagram handle is @NoRobotYet. What is the story behind that?
Thanks for asking. I like robots. I’m following the whole AI and robot evolution. I’m interested in that field. If my parents weren’t creative people, I might have become a scientist. But that’s maybe for another life. We are maybe going into the world of becoming cyborgs. The world is becoming more automated and we have to do less. It’s just a little nod towards that.
Yeah, except that Terminator is never going to happen. Who knows? There’s a lot of back and forth currently about AI and robots and where it’s headed, but we won’t know until we know.
You’re working on a project?
I am working on a project that deals with those issues. That’s one of the things that I want to accomplish in the next year, is getting the script ready. I have a first draft, which I’m lucky to work with a writer that really understands what I’m going for. Basically for most of last year, we’ve just been working out the outline, all the basic plot points. At the end of the year, we finally got to a first draft. That’s been sitting around just waiting to be dealt with just because both of us are working. Making time for your own project is not always the easiest, especially if it’s just not you. You have to line up two schedules. It’s a sci-fi short, near future about the implications of automation and a workforce that has less and less to do.
That’s true. You’re going to be leaving New York, how do you feel about that? Why are you leaving exactly? Why go back to Austria?
I really love New York. It’s been a great place to work, but the quality of life is lacking.
I really love New York. It’s been a great place to work but the quality of life is lacking. I grew up in Austria, I grew up in Vienna. It’s continuously in the top three of most livable places in the world, so I know what good living is. Going back for a while just allows me to enjoy life a little bit more and not be surrounded by constant noise and heaven hour commute just to meet a friend. That’s the reason why I’m heading out of the States, amongst other things.
Good luck to you in Austria.
Report back, we’re going to have an on-going conversation on Instagram, on Facebook about your progress and about, “Can we make money doing what we love as creative people?” Keep us updated.
I will do.
Thanks for being on the podcast.
Thanks for having me.
I want to hear from our listeners and fellow creative people. Where do you stand on this debate? As creatives, can we make money doing what we love? I want to hear your stories and your sides, so tweet me @LoudaVision with the #CreativeCareer or use that same hashtag on Instagram and show us your thoughts on this debate. Should we pursue a creative career or not? Join the conversation. You can follow Valentin on Instagram @NoRobotYet and you can see his amazing work on his website ValentinF.com.
As for me, I’m filmmaker, artist and your host, Laura Meoli. You can connect with me, getting creative tips and inspiration on social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, @LoudaVision. You can listen to more of this podcast, even subscribe and be the first to hear it by subscribing at SoundCloud. Read my blog, watch my videos and contact me, just got to LoudaVision.com. If you liked what you’ve heard, rate and review this podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. Thanks for listening.