How to give your work that edge

I'm working on some granny squares to add to the yarn bombing project that is growing on the tree on the boulevard in front of our house. The fairy door and fence haven't done as well - some passerby thought that it would be a great idea to pull it off of the base of the tree. You know, the fairy door made with my 6 year old daughter and NAILED to the tree with finishing nails. Takes a LOT of determination to go to the trouble to remove a child's fairy door. But I digress...

When I am crocheting or even paying bills and working on Quicken (hey, personal finance reference - keep reading, please!), I listen to podcasts. And one of the podcasts that I listen to is KCRW's The Business . It's about the business of show business. You KNOW that I love film but I also am fascinated by the business side of film. How they are financed, sold, distributed. How the tension between the creative and the business is managed. And how that tension between making what you want to make but ALSO having to earn a living applies to any creative pursuit.

While I was crocheting this week I listened to a podcast from September 24th - sometimes I fall behind in my listening. It was an interview with director Derek Cianfrance whose film The Place Beyond the Pines was one of the first sales at TIFF this past September. You see, TIFF isn't just about film VIEWING - it's also about filmmakers getting distribution deals for their film. 

You may know Cianfrance as the director of Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

What I loved about his interview was his story of reconciling business and art. When he first graduated from film school he freely admitted to having contempt for the producers. He vowed not to take a job just for the money. Oh no, it was going to be ALL about the filmmaking.

But then like with all of us, life intruded and when he found himself buying diapers for his new baby with money from the change jar, he decided that perhaps making a few commercials and documentaries for MTV might NOT be such a bad thing. Paying the rent and eating are good too.

He had thought that business and art were battling dualities. That the money people were less than the creatives. That they were, in other words, barriers to the creative work. That they were limiting what he could do.

And as creatives ourselves, or even as bloggers, don't we sometimes have a bit of a bad taste in our mouth when we consider the financial side of things? That somehow taking into account making a living, whether it be from our art-making or even from a regular job, is the dirty, messy part that we'd rather avoid. That if we were TRUE artists, then we could just create and make art. Tra la la and all that.

So what stood out for me in this interview? What did Cianfrance say that give HIS work that edge?

Embrace limitations as an ally

I loved hearing him say that he learned to "accept and embrace [financial] limitations as my ally". That he needed to "plan the movie that he was able to make". That struggling those limitations gives his work that edge, that struggle.

We ALL have limitations. Are you still living alone in that basement suite able to work round the clock on your creative pursuits? Me neither. So there's the limitation of time.

And money too - like Cianfrance, we all have to eat and pay the rent too. 

Financial constraints are no longer a reason NOT to create

Derek decided that financial constraints were no longer a reason NOT to create. That the cost of filmmaking had dropped significantly with the ability to make movies using a relatively inexpensive digital camera. Add in the editing software and he COULD make movies.

Cianfrance said to "plan for the movie that you can make". In other words, in your situation, what can YOU do? What are your constraints? Is it time? Money? It'd be great to have unlimited supplies of each but who has THAT life? So what can YOU do with what you have today. 

I've mentioned the blog Still before but take a look again at what Mary Jo Hoffman does with 20 minutes a day. Inspired yet? 

The finance person and the artist are on the same side

Cianfrance realised that EVERYONE, creatives and business, money and art, everyone was there for the art. They were collaborating for the art, for the film. They ALL wanted to make movies together. It wasn't a situation of "arty people good, money people bad".

Hot and cold streaks do not necessarily have anything to do with the quality of your work

You know THAT person - the one with the photography site that is taking off? Or the blog that is going like gangbusters? The one who is getting all the advertising and speaking engagements and interviews. Yes, THAT person. The one whose follower list is growing by leaps and bounds? While you are working round the clock to up your game and improve your writing and photography and layouts? Working hard to put out top quality content on your blog or artwork? While you are stalled? Jealous much? 

Of course you are! At least I am. Well, take heart. There are cold streaks and hot streaks and sometimes it is JUST out of your hands. Keep making the best work that you can. Hang in there.

Preparation is everything

But just because there are cold and hot streaks,  it doesn't mean that EVERYTHING is out of your hands. Cianfrance spoke of how "sometimes things are going to be easier and sometimes they are going to be harder". I love the matter-of-fact-ness about this. Sometimes easier. Sometimes harder. Get used to it. No one gets a smooth ride ALL the time. But you'd better be ready for when the bumps smooth out.

It was a great interview. And when I listened to it I KNEW that I had to share it with you. Like I learned in preschool, I'm good at sharing.

So my friends, what are your thoughts? Discuss amongst yourselves. And I'll be here too - you know me, I can't NOT contribute to the discussion! And by the way, do you listen to any podcasts that I should be listening too?