25 January 2010

Fueling the Creative Economy

by Tyler Weaver.  Follow me on Twitter.
I don't need to regale you with tales of how bad the economy is right now.  It's a frightening time (the relaunch of this blog as a blogazine is the byproduct of my own unemployment in the "real world.")  For many, many years we were in the "drug addict economy" as I call it - the quick fix, make a quick buck without any investment in the future well-being of the country/state/individual.  Sustainability and longevity were sacrificed for a quick fix by those that deign to tell us to live by the rules, get a 9-5, follow the pack, be part of the institution. 

My least favorite phrase is "in the real world..." It has been uttered to me more times than I care to remember.  There is a difference however, between "the real world" and "reality."  The Real World dictates that I must go to college, and go into the workforce educated and with paper in hand.  As evidenced by the high unemployment rate among recent college graduates, this is simply an untruth and not the only way to go about things.

I attended music school, and left when I had amassed what I needed to go out and pursue my own "reality."  In this case, it was the abandonment of my musical training, and working my ass off at any job to make money to pay the bills as I continually educated myself in filmmaking - then eventually being hired as an intern at a non-profit, and two years later, becoming Executive Director and departing last month with the largest month in the NPO's history in terms of visits, Google ranking, and page count (two million plus) - and three shorts, untold hours of interviews, promotional films, a realized publishing company, and my first feature film, Gather 'Round the Mic from my own production company.

"The Real World" mentality cultivates an abandonment of calculated risk for comfort.  Of innovation for status quo, and of analysis over feeling.  The "Artiste" mentality (and the accompanying negative connotations), which I had long been guilty of subscribing to (I went to music school for chrissakes), advocates the starving artist, selling paintings on a street corner, sacrificing everything for your "art," in the hopes that one day you will "make it" - which is a useless term.

My question - is it too much to ask for both?


What this decade needs is balance.  Balance of work and life.  Balance of left and right brain.  It needs not merely a re-writing of the rule book, but a rule book that is re-written in real-time.  We are in a "real-time reality" of the present, not of the future, not of the past, and not in the traditions and regulations imposed by those whose very success was in the abandonment of their own ethics, rules, and principles for the quick fix.

Creatives are in a position to rewrite the rule book, and have the ability to improvise on top of the chord structure imposed.  We work best in the cracks of reality, skirting the edge between "real world" and "reality," bringing both a maverick business sense of resourcefulness and survival, and an unyielding dedication to our own creative output, a desire to learn, and the understanding that the ultimate success lies not in a short term quick fix, but in a career that spans the entirety of our limited time here and in the enjoyment of the work we do now.

By our very nature, we create.  We innovate.  And if we don't, we cease to be fully realized human beings by denying that which makes us unique.  We're either part of the solution, part of the problem, or part of the landscape.

As a content-creator, I create content for one reason, and one reason alone.  Because what I want to see I haven't seen yet.  And I don't feel like waiting around for someone to do it for me.  All of the films I've made, and this little blog came out not of a desire to "change the world," "make art for the ages," or "become a great filmmaker/whatever."  It came out of a desire to see what I hadn't seen, and my own disdain at waiting for someone else to do it.

The films I create are a product, as an iMac or iPhone is an Apple product.  A piece of content is a product of the brand I've created for myself, a brand I want to share.  And quite honestly, a brand I want to make money with.  Because that's the reality - do something you love, work your ass off, and eventually you will be "successful" in the "real world."  The trick is being successful in your own reality at all times by doing what you love and loving what you do.

All that aside - the reality is that we creatives have it within ourselves to create our own economy, now moreso than ever.  With social media, the walls between creator and audience are gone.  The middle men (distributors, record companies, et al) are scrambling and becoming increasingly like cornered three-legged tigers, their only roar being "I'll sue you!" 

In a music business class at Berklee, the professor said one thing that's stuck with me.  It's all about who has the trucks.  Who has the trucks to deliver the final product?  When the final product was primarily a shiny disc or a clunky video tape, the middle men.  Now that the product is becoming more and more digital, we are not only the content creators, but the truck drivers.  We're becoming the ice cream salesman - without the annoying music.  We can deliver our product on our own terms to whoever wants it whenever they want it.

In the age of access, the content creator is king.  And we must take responsibility not only for creating things we want to see, but for taking the brand we've created and stimulating the economy that surrounds our products.  It's all in our hands now, and we have to take that multi-hyphenate resourcefulness and apply it to our own reality - the future, as John Connor said, isn't set.

There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.

And yes.  I'm very proud to have worked a Terminator reference into this post.

Tyler Weaver is a filmmaker, writer, contributor to the pulptone.com website, and is the founder and EIC of Multi-Hyphenate... which you're reading right now.  He's currently making new things and yaks about that and more on Twitter under the creative guise of @tylerweaver.

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