Wednesday, April 27, 2011

“Let’s Celebrate The ‘Collapse’ Of The Indie Film Bubble”

The following is another repost of a guest post from Ted Hope's awesome blog....

From Ted:

Is it necessary to earn a “good” living creating ambitious work? Should it be enough just to get the opportunity, to hear the calling, of making films outside of the mainstream commercial industry? Can we ever give enough thanks and appreciation that we don’t have to weld, lift, push paper, or aid in the killing of civilians and instead can inspire, instill hope, develop empathy in others? I struggle with this, as you know, and am thankful that friends and collaborators like producer Mike Ryan join in this discussion, as he does below.

Dylan baker and Lauren Ambrose in “THINK OF ME” - currently in post production.

From Guest Poster Mike Ryan:

Ted, We’ve talked about this before, you seem to refuse to accept that the “collapse” of the indie film bubble was a good thing. It actually for me is a cause of celebration and has actually renewed my love of the fiction feature drama.

The years between Clerks and Hamlet 2, though they also produced many great films like American Splendor and Old Joy, were years in which corporate aesthetics undermined the whole indie film medium. Now that the profit mongers have left the space we are seeing less twee crap like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine. AS for the issue of making a living from non corporate sponsored art…what would Ida Lupino, John Cassavettes, Kenneth Anger and Oscar Michieux say? They struggled their whole careers, they are my indie godfathers , not the grab the cash and run to Hollywood soulless hacks which Sundance produced in those ‘glory’ years.

The struggle for financial stability is a given in all arts in which you are attempting to speak honestly in a manner that is in opposition to corporate “popular” commonly accepted aesthetics or themes. I talk about our ‘troubles’ to my friends in the Jazz industry and they raise an eyebrow and say ‘welcome to the real world”. There are living Jazz legends who produce masterpieces throughout their life for whom financial struggle is just part of everyday existence. The record label owners, the club owners, the artist reps, in jazz they all struggle , not to make profit, but to get by financially so they can continue to work in the field.

Success is being able to do the job full time. AS for what one might need to live then it sounds like you are comparing your yearly income needs to what you got in the ‘old days’. I look at what my family members make as public school teachers, cops and social workers, in NYC, and I cannot complain. In fact if I were to complain I would talk about the ridiculously low pay NYC cops and teachers get, and their job is way more important and harder than mine. So, I don ‘t compare my income level to what someone made from films five years ago, I compare my self to what friends in the Jazz, Dance and teaching fields make. I think we all need to face the reality that film was once the popular equivalent to rock and roll medium and now it is more equivalent to jazz. Consequently if you can’t commit to the vow of poverty that those fields require then your expectations are unreasonable and out of line with the whole purpose of ‘truly free film’.

Mike S Ryan has produced 14 films in the past seven years. He currently has Kelly Reichardt’s MEEKS CUTOFF in theaters and Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime is about to be released on DVD. Last year he shot two films, LOSERS TAKE ALL and THINK OF ME that stars Lauren Ambrose, Dylan Baker and Penelope Anne Miller. He is currently in preproduction on two films that are about to start shooting in May.

Friday, April 22, 2011

FA Screening at Echo Park Film Center May 9th!

Films and Filmmakers - that's what it's all about!

The next Filmmakers Alliance Screening at The Echo Park Film Center (1200 N. Alvarado St.; Los Angeles, CA 90026) will be Monday, May 9th at 7:30 pm.

Come and see what FA members and other members of the LA and global filmmaking community are up to creatively, and support the great work that the EPFC people are doing in our community. The center is a volunteer run organization that offers fantastic super 8mm film classes, youth classes, and much more, so we do ask that you leave a $5 donation at the door to help keep the Center going.

There is a brief Q&A after each film, not to mention complimentary food & drinks. So come on out and eat, drink, connect and watch!

Here is the line-up:

Lana Turner Overdrive
13 mins.
Director: Michael Frost
Screen legend Lana Turner takes a hallucinogen-fueled journey deep into overdrive in Michael Frost's latest mix-up. Life becomes stage becomes cinema as Lana spins out of control over loss, regret, spiteful teenage stepdaughters and LSD. Later, the Lana mythos is explored into a revealing excursion into her self-imposed exile.

The Pact
11 mins.
Director: Nicholas McCarthy
As a woman struggles to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother's death, an unsettling presence emerges in her childhood home.

David and Goliath
12 mins.
Director: George Zaver
Based on a true story, David, a Jewish resistance fighter, flees for his life as he is being hunted down by Nazi soldiers. A ferocious German Shepherd ultimately becomes his unlikely savior.

Ella And The Astronaut
7 mins. 33 secs.
Director: Robert Machoian
Ella and her best friend, Astronaut Henry, prepare for a journey into outer space.

13 mins.
Director: Daniel Cardenas
The story of a seven-year-old boy who believes in a portal to an alternate reality where all his dreams come true. But are they dreams or nightmares?

El Doctor
24 mins.
Director: Suzan Pitt
EL DOCTOR is a dark animated poem set in a crumbling Mexican hospital circa 1920. Inhabited by surreal characters, the film celebrates the nature of perception and the miraculous. Over five years in production the film was entirely hand-painted by artists in Los Angeles and Mexico.

Total program running time: 70 min. 33 sec.

Screening sponsored by CAZT -

Monday, April 18, 2011

All Of My Films On YouTube!....

Well, almost all. Yes, YouTube has finally allowed me to post all of my shorts in their entirety (without being split in half). Now, I just gotta figure out how to post my feature.

I know, I know, some people like Vimeo better...or other video upload sites. I guess I'm just excited YouTube finally lifted it's film length restrictions...:)

Check 'em out if you haven't already -


Friday, April 15, 2011

R.I.P. Ricky Leacock… Long Live “FILM TRUTH”?

Another repost of a repost from Ted Hop'es blog. This lovely spotlight/eulogy is also offers some thought-provoking insight on documentary filmmaking perspectives.

R.I.P. Ricky Leacock… Long Live “FILM TRUTH”?

What is it that a camera sees? Do we need to accept and conform to the dominant storytelling paradigms, or is there actually more that we can be striving for? Perhaps no life and work embodies these questions as well as Ricky Leacock. Filmmaker David Van Taylor guest posts today with an examination of him and these issues, and the difference between documentary and essay film. There is a lot that can be said about these subjects, certainly enough for a six hour documentary AND many blog posts.

For over a decade, Lumiere Productions has been working to create TO TELL THE TRUTH, a 6-hour history of documentary film. As the title suggests, we’re not interested in appreciating documentary just as an art form, in “film for film’s sake.” We’re exploring how documentary operates in the real world, where non-fiction films have both causes and consequences.

One joy of this project was our in-depth 2004 interview with the late lamented Ricky Leacock. Ricky was part of a small group that helped invent “Direct Cinema” (aka “cinema verité”) in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. For many, this was the beginning of “real documentary,” since much of what came before entailed what we now call “re-enactments” or other intrusions that Ricky and his colleagues found a way to avoid.

Here’s a clip where Ricky describes his awakening, with the help of Bob Drew, to a new documentary concept. Note—he’s not talking about equipment or even technique. He’s not talking about intrusion or reenactment. No, the most critical shift was his understanding of what constitutes an interesting subject and a worthwhile impact on the viewer.

The (much-deserved) postmortem ado about Ricky has stressed this ability to be “fascinated,” and his lifelong quest to convey “the feeling of being there.”

But … it has been scarcely noted that these core convictions about what makes a good documentary are, if not dead, then distinctly out of fashion. We are in the midst of a documentary renaissance in theaters, on TV, at festivals. It is dominated, though, not by Ricky’s brand of cinema verité, but by essays and exposés on distinctly important topics—in Ricky’s words (not mine!), “films that convert people to this that and the other thing … all this left-wing, politically-correct bullshit.”

This opposition—between films “fascinated” by human stories and films that aim to change people’s attitudes about a critical issue—is not new in the history of documentary. It wasn’t new at the time of Ricky’s epiphany, either. For all their innovations, Leacock et al. were also standing on the shoulders of Ricky’s erstwhile mentor Robert Flaherty. The director of Nanook of the North, Man of Aran and Louisiana Story—whose work prompted the popular coinage of “documentary”—created observational, character-centered story films before the technology existed to do so. He believed the essence of filmmaking was “non-preconception.”

But in the same era as Flaherty, a very different mold was being forged half-way across the globe. Committed Soviet Communist Dziga Vertov, in Man with a Movie Camera, Three Songs of Lenin, and Enthusiasm, pioneered montage-driven essays about mass movements and social issues. The films, often distributed through innovative grass-roots “outreach,” were explicitly intended to change the world.

You can view documentary history as a pendulum swinging between these two poles—observational and argumentative, Flaherty and Vertov—due to shifting historical and political contexts. For example, the argument film dominated in World War II, when governments around the world sponsored documentaries for propaganda. Observational cinema returned, as “cinema verité,” in the ‘50’s, when McCarthyism (like Stalinism) made direct political expression dangerous.

As I see it, most prominent documentarians these days are children of Vertov, whether they know it or not. (Most don’t.) I’m not sure we yet have the historical perspective to know why that is. It may have something to do with a long-term conservative political tide that has left many viewers eager for a strong opposing voice. But whatever the reason, critics, viewers, film students today seem more likely to complain that a documentary doesn’t make a clear statement than to complain that it has an axe to grind.

I’m pretty sure Ricky couldn’t have been too happy about that. I’m less certain how I feel about it. Maybe the argument film is what we need as a culture right now. And let me be clear: these are not simple, black/white distinctions, even at their root. Vertov was a master of “fly-on-the-wall” filming, though he then manipulated the heck out of it in editing. (He also coined the term “kino-pravda,” which translates as “cinema verité,” now connoting a very different kind of film than those he made.) Flaherty, on the other hand, was famous for manipulations as he was filming—there’s a shot in Nanook where you can see the rifle the Eskimo would have used if Flaherty hadn’t asked him to use an old-fashioned spear—but made films that appeared as seamless and natural as life itself.

The controversy at the time about Flaherty’s poetic liberties still echoes today. HBO is about to release Cinema Verité, a (fictionalized) condemnation of how observational filmmakers allegedly exploited the Loud family in the ur-reality series. Perhaps it’s always the case that f you put something on the screen that appears unmanipulated, from Nanook to An American Family, you open yourself to feelings of betrayal when viewers discover that the documentary lens has in fact had a hand in shaping events.

Maybe that’s another reason argument-driven documentaries dominate today. We’re all convinced that everyone’s trying to spin us, from elected officials to news reporters to the kid with the Flip camera. So maybe the best we can hope for is that they’ll spin us straight—not pretend that they’ve gone in without preconception and are just trying to convey the feeling of being there.

Figuring out the last couple of decades will probably be the hardest part of making TO TELL THE TRUTH. I’d love to hear what anyone out there—documentary filmmakers, dedicated viewers, or just film lovers in general—thinks about this perspective on recent doc history. Am I on target, or full of BS? If I’m right that argument-driven docs dominate the scene now, why do you think that is? And is it something to be embraced, to be combated, or somehow to be transcended?

Right now my personal feeling is: Ricky, please don’t go. We need you more than ever.

—David Van Taylor

Kevin Smith's RED STATE Already In The Black?

Check out this report on Kevin Smith's announcement at NAB on the success of his film "Red State"'s experiment in self-distribution. I hope it's true, but there's a lot of details missing. So, at this point we're just taking him at his word.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Apple Unveils New Version Of Final Cut Pro: Final Cut Pro X

For those of you who might have inexplicably missed the big announcement, here's a couple of reports on Apple's release of it's newest upgrade (actually a total reboot, it seems) of Final Cut - Final Cut Pro X......

COLCOA - French Film Fest In LA

COL*COA, the french film festival in Los Angeles is going on now and showing some really good work. If you are in LA, check it out before it ends in 2 days -

I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of their free Happy Hour chats yesterday. It was about the distribution and exhibition of foreign films, which of course, became a discussion about the over-all state of distribution and exhibition - especially in terms of foreign, indie and arthouse films. The panel was composed of a bunch of smart guys (not a lot of women in this world, interestingly) who've been working in this world for some time. There was Ed Arentz of Music Box Films, Richard Lorber of Lorber Films, Greg Laemmle of Laemmle Theaters and Frederic Demey of NeoClassics Films. It was nicely and smartly moderated by John Kochman of Unifrance USA.

I won't go into all that was discussed, but here were the main points I came away with:
  • These guys clearly love film. It may be neither here nor there, but it's still nice to know.
  • Competition for dwindling screen space and the cost of promotion are the death knell for theatrical presentation of low-budget indies without the muscle of an established distributor. No news flash there, but important to hear again so that indie filmmakers can get it into their thick heads.
  • Although the discussion was a very sad reminder of the state of theatrical distribution for anything foreign, intimate or challenging, it's clear that seeing a film in a theater is still not quite dead for people with an appetite for non-Hollywood fare.
  • It's also clear that movie promotion in the internet age of social networks continues to confound even the experts.
Not much more than that other than some specific info about why this or that film was bought or not bought. And why this or that film plays in this or that theater on this or that side of town. That kind of stuff. But I must say, as I re-read what I've written about the discussion, it doesn't seem like it was all that enlightening, but it truly was. And I liked the speakers, too. Perhaps I've lost something in translation.

That same evening, I saw the Claude Lelouch ("A Man And A Woman") documentary/diary "From One Film To Another", which is a slightly over-long overview and explanation of his body of work that is in turns inspiring and confounding. It does, however, provide some pretty clear insight into his up and down career/aesthetic achievements. His exuberant joy of cinema is dampened by a subsequent propensity for excess and lack of aesthetic discipline. He seems to overload his films with all kinds of stuff and goes to the well once to often when he does hit on a "miracle". Nonetheless, I couldn't help admiring his passion and exuberance. I also love that he openly admits that most of his films are "first drafts" - that they are less a finished film than experiments/explorations. There is a certain courage in that approach, especially in light of the cost of filmmaking. And a number of emerging filmmakers have definitely benefitted from his reckless cinematic spelunking. Unfortunately, along with courage, there is no small bit of hubris and ego, as well.

It's all summed up in the most compelling part of the film - the opening - a 1976 short film he made in which he strapped a camera to the front of his noisy sports car and guns it across all of Paris, dangerously stopping for nothing and no one. Lelouch narrates over the short toward the end of film, using it as a metaphor for his career -- breaking all rules, taking smart and silly risks alike and often failing.....but once in awhile creating a miracle.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Genre Hacks: TEDxUSC 2011: a filmmaker's call to Action

This is a repost of my friend Sean Hood's blog. It's an awesome post. Real stuff for filmmakers to live by along with great links - an incredibly enlightening, useful and direct call to action.

Genre Hacks: TEDxUSC 2011: a filmmaker's call to Action

New and Compelling Options for DIY Distribution

This is another repost of Ted Hope's blog in which he is reposting something from Orly Ravid of Film Collaborative. I know Orly and she's awesome. Smart and wonderful! This is all great stuff!! Check it out!!!

Orly Ravid on New and Compelling Options for DIY Distribution Hope for Film

Thursday, April 7, 2011

IFP Labs Narrative Features Call For Entry Deadline in 2 Days!!!

The IFP Labs Call for Entry deadline for narrative features is April 8th! Don't be fools! Submit NOW if you have a feature narrative in post.

Click HERE for more info....

7 Reasons Why Indie Movies Matter

Nothing you haven't heard before perhaps, but something you should continue to hear over and over again!

Cultural Weekly | Media | Money | Technology | Entertainment

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Genre Hacks: Filmmakers and Music Rights

Genre Hacks: Filmmakers and Music Rights

How To Steal Like An Artist

The following is a re-post of a blog written by writer/artist Austin Kleon.

Good stuff! Enjoy!


how to steal like an artist and 9 other things nobody told me

Note: This is a slightly edited version of a talk I gave yesterday at Broome Community College in Binghamton, New York. It’s a simple list of 10 things I wish I’d heard when I was in college.

all advice is autobiographical ymmv

All advice is autobiographical.

It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past. This list is me talking to a previous version of myself.

Your mileage may vary.

Steal like an artist

1. Steal like an artist.

Every artist gets asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The honest artist answers, “I steal them.”

Figure out what's worth stealing. Move on to the next thing.

I drew this cartoon a few years ago. There are two panels. Figure out what’s worth stealing. Move on to the next thing.

That’s about all there is to it.

Here’s what artists understand. It’s the a three-word sentence that fills me with hope every time I read it:

Nothing is original.

It says it right there in the Bible. Ecclesiastes:

That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.

Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of previous ideas.

1 + 1 = 3

Here’s a trick they teach you in art school. Draw two parallel lines on a piece of paper:

parallel lines

How many lines are there? There’s the first line, the second line, but then there’s a line of negative space that runs between them. See it?

1 + 1 = 3.


Speaking of lines, here’s a good example of what I’m talking about: genetics. You have a mother and you have a father. You possess features from both of them, but the sum of you is bigger than their parts. You’re a remix of your mom and dad and all of your ancestors.

The genealogy of ideas

You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see.

Jay-Z Decoded

Jay-Z talks about this in his book, Decoded:

We were kids without fathers…so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history, and in a way, that was a gift. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves…Our fathers were gone, usually because they just bounced, but we took their old records and used them to build something fresh.

You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

artist is a collector

An artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there’s a difference: hoarders collect indiscriminately, the artist collects selectively. They only collect things that they really love.

There’s an economic theory out there that if you take the incomes of your five closest friends and average them, the resulting number will be pretty close to your own income.

I think the same thing is true of our idea incomes. You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.

garbage in and garbage out

My mom used to say to me, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

It used to drive me nuts. But now I know what she means.

Your job is to collect ideas. The best way to collect ideas is to read. Read, read, read, read, read. Read the newspaper. Read the weather. Read the signs on the road. Read the faces of strangers. The more you read, the more you can choose to be influenced by.

family tree of writers

Identify one writer you really love. Find everything they’ve ever written. Then find out what they read. And read all of that. Climb up your own family tree of writers.

Steal things and save them for later. Carry around a sketchpad. Write in your books. Tear things out of magazines and collage them in your scrapbook.

Steal like an artist.

Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things.

There was a video going around the internet last year of Rainn Wilson, the guy who plays Dwight on The Office. He was talking about creative block, and he said this thing that drove me nuts, because I feel like it’s a license for so many people to put off making things: “If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative.”

If I waited to know “who I was” or “what I was about” before I started “being creative”, well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things that we figure out who we are.

Make things: know thyself

You’re ready. Start making stuff.

You might be scared. That’s natural.

There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s calledimposter syndrome. The clinical definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.

Guess what?

None of us do. I had no idea what I was doing when I started blacking out newspaper columns. All I knew was that it felt good. It didn’t feel like work. It felt like play.

Ask any real artist, and they’ll tell you the truth: they don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day.

Have you ever heard of dramaturgy? It’s a fancy sociological term for something this guy in England said about 400 years ago:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…

Another way to say this:

fake it til you make it

I love this phrase. There’s two ways to read it: Fake it ‘til you make it, as in, fake it until you’re successful, until everybody sees you the way you want, etc. Or, fake it til’ you make it, as in, pretend to be making something until you actually make something. I love that idea.

Just Kids

I also love the book Just Kids by Patti Smith. I love it because it’s a story about how two friends moved to New York and learned to be artists. You know how they learned to be artists? They pretended to be artists. I’ll spoil the book for you and describe my favorite scene, the turning scene in the book: Patti Smith and her friend Robert Maplethorpe dress up in all their gypsy gear and they go to Washington Square, where everybody’s hanging out, and this old couple kind of gawks at them, and the woman says to her husband, “Oh, take their picture. I think they’re artists.” “Oh, go on,” he shrugged. “They’re just kids.”

The point is: all the world’s a stage. You need a stage and you need a costume and you need a script. The stage is your workspace. It can be a studio, a desk, or a sketchbook. The costume is your outfit, your painting pants, or your writing slippers, or your funny hat that gives you ideas. The script is just plain old time. An hour here, or an hour there. A script for a play is just time measured out for things to happen.

Fake it ’til you make it.

write the book you want to read

3. Write the book you want to read.

Quick story:

Jurassic Park came out on my 10th birthday. I loved it. I was kind of obsessed with it. I mean, what 10-year-old wasn’t obsessed with that movie? The minute I left my little small-town theater, I was dying for a sequel.

I sat down the next day at our old green-screen PC and typed out a sequel. In my treatment, the son of the game warden eaten by velociraptors goes back to the island with the granddaughter of the guy who built the park. See, one wants to destroy the rest of the park, the other wants to save it. Of course, they fall in love and adventures ensue.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing what we now call fan fiction—fictional stories based on characters that already exist.

10-year-old me saved the story to the hard drive.

Then, a few years later, Jurassic Park 2 came out.

And it sucked.

The sequel *always* sucks compared to the sequel in our heads.

write what you like

The question every young writer asks is: “What should I write?”

And the cliched answer is, “Write what you know.”

This advice always leads to terrible stories in which nothing interesting happens.

The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s write what you *like*.

Write the kind of story you like best.

We make art because we like art.

All fiction, in fact, is fan fiction.

The best way to find the work you should be doing is to think about the work you want to see done that isn’t being done, and then go do it.

Draw the art you want to see, make the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read.

Use your hands

4. Use your hands.

My favorite cartoonist, Lynda Barry, she has this saying: “In the digital age, don’t forget to use your digits! Your hands are the original digital devices.”

When I was in creative writing workshops in college, all manuscripts had to be in double-spaced, Times New Roman font. And my stuff was just terrible. It wasn’t until I started making writing with my hands that writing became fun and my work started to improve.

The more I stay away from the computer, the better my ideas get. Microsoft Word is my enemy. I use it all the time at work. I try to stay away from it the rest of my life.

I think the more that writing is made into a physical process, the better it is. You can feel the ink on paper. You can spread writing all over your desk and sort through it. You can lay it all out where you can look at it.

People ask me why I don’t develop an iPhone or iPad Newspaper Blackout app, and I tell them because I think there is magic in feeling the newsprint in your hand and the words disappearing under that marker line. A lot of your senses are engaged–even the smell of the fumes add to the experience.

Elvis dancing

Art that only comes from the head isn’t any good. Watch any good musician and you’ll see what I mean.

When I’m making the poems, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like play.

So my advice is to find a way to bring your body into your work. Draw on the walls. Stand up when you’re working. Spread things around the table.

Use your hands.

Side projects and hobbies are important

5. Side projects and hobbies are important.

Speaking of play — one thing I’ve learned in my brief tenure as an artist: it’s the side projects that blow up.

By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.

The blackout poems were a side project. Had I been focused only on my goal of writing short fiction, had I not allowed myself the room to experiment, I’d never be where I am now.

Guitar Center

It’s also important to have a hobby. Something that’s just for you. Music is my hobby. (That’s me at Guitar Center.)

While my art is for the world to see, music is for me and my friends. We get together every Sunday and make noise for a couple of hours. It’s wonderful.

So the lesson is: take time to mess around. Have a hobby. It’s good for you, and you never know where it may lead you…

The secret: do good work and put it where people can see it

6. The secret: do good work and put it where people can see it.

I get a lot of e-mails from young artists who ask how they can find an audience. “How do I get discovered?”

I sympathize with them. There was a kind of fallout that happened when I left college. The classroom is a wonderful, if artificial place: your professor gets paid to pay attention to your ideas, and your classmates are paying to pay attention to your ideas.

Never in your life will you have such a captive audience.

Soon after, you learn that most of the world doesn’t necessarily care about what you think. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. As Steven Pressfield said, “It’s not that people are mean or cruel, they’re just busy.”

If there was a secret formula for getting an audience, or gaining a following, I would give it to you. But there’s only one not-so-secret formula that I know: “Do good work and put it where people can see it.”

It’s a two step process.

Step one, “do good work,” is incredibly hard. There are no shortcuts. Make stuff every day. Fail. Get better.

Step two, “put it where people can see it,” was really hard up until about 10 years ago. Now, it’s very simple: “put your stuff on the internet.”

I tell people this, and then they ask me, “What’s the secret of the internet?”

Wonder at something. Invite others to wonder with you.

Step 1: Wonder at something. Step 2: Invite others to wonder with you.

You should wonder at the things nobody else is wondering about. If everybody’s wondering about apples, go wonder about oranges.

One of the things I’ve learned as an artist is that the more open you are about sharing your passions, the more people love your art.

Artists aren’t magicians. There’s no penalty for revealing your secrets.

Bob Ross and Martha Stewart

Believe it or not, I get a lot of inspiration from people like Bob Ross and Martha Stewart. Bob Ross taught people how to paint. He gave his secrets away. Martha Stewart teaches you how to make your house and your life awesome. She gives her secrets away.

People love it when you give your secrets away, and sometimes, if you’re smart about it, they’ll reward you by buying the things you’re selling.

When you open up your process and invite people in, you learn. I’ve learned so much from the folks who submit poems to the Newspaper Blackout site. I find a lot of things to steal, too. It benefits me as much as it does them.

So my advice: learn to code. Figure out how to make a website. Figure out blogging. Figure out Twitter and all that other stuff. Find people on the internet who love the same things as you and connect with them. Share things with them.

Geography is no longer our master.

7. Geography is no longer our master.

I’m so glad I’m alive right now.

cornfield in souther ohio

I grew up in the middle of a cornfield in Southern Ohio. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was hang out with artists. All I wanted to do was get the heck out of southern Ohio and get someplace where something was happening.

Now I live in Austin, Texas. A pretty hip place. Tons of artists and creative types everywhere.

And you know what? I’d say that 90% of my mentors and peers don’t live in Austin, Texas. They live on the internet.

Which is to say, most of my thinking and talking and art-related fellowship is online.

Instead of a geographical art scene, I have Twitter buddies and Google Reader.

Life is weird.

Be nice. The world is a small town.

8. Be nice. The world is a small town.

I’ll keep this short. There’s only one reason I’m here. I’m here to make friends.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best: “There’s only one rule I know of: goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

The golden rule is even more golden in our hyper-connected world.

An important lesson to learn: if you talk about someone on the internet, they will find out. Everybody has a Google alert on their name.

The best way to vanquish your enemies on the internet? Ignore them.

The best way to make friends on the internet? Say nice things about them.

Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done

9. Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done.

As Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

I’m a boring guy with a 9-5 job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog.

That whole romantic image of the bohemian artist doing drugs and running around and sleeping with everyone is played out. It’s for the superhuman and the people who want to die young.

The thing is: art takes a lot of energy to make. You don’t have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.

Some things that have worked for me:

Take care of yourself.

Eat breakfast, do some pushups, get some sleep. Remember what I said earlier about good art coming from the body?

Stay out of debt.

Live on the cheap. Pinch pennies. Freedom from monetary stress means freedom in your art.

Get a day job and keep it.

A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Parkinson’s law: work expands to fill the time allotted. I work a 9-5 and I get about as as much art done now as I did when I worked part-time.

Get yourself a calendar. (And a logbook.)

You need a chart of future events, and you need a chart of past events.

Art is all about the slow accumulation over time. Writing a page one day doesn’t seem like much. Do it for 365 days and you have a big novel.

A calendar helps you plan work. This is the calendar I used for my book:


A calendar gives you concrete goals, keeps you on track, and the nice reward of crossing things off and watching the boxes fill up.

Any goal you want to accomplish: get yourself a calendar. Break the task down into little bits of time. Make it a game.


For past events, I suggest a logbook. It’s not a regular journal, it’s just a little book in which you list the things you do every day. You’d be amazed at how helpful having a daily record like this can be, especially over several years.

Marry well.

It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make.

And marry well doesn’t just mean your life partner — it also means who you do business with, who you befriend, who you choose to be around.

creativity is subtraction

10. Creativity is subtraction.

It’s often what an artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting. What isn’t shown vs. what is.

In this age of information overload and abundance, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what’s important to them.

Devoting yourself to something means shutting out other things.

What makes you interesting isn’t just what you’ve experienced, but also what you haven’t experienced.

The same is true when you make art: you must embrace your limitations and keep moving.

Creativity isn’t just the things we chose to put in, it’s also the things we chose to leave out. Or black out.

And that’s all I think I have.

Thanks, y’all.

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