Andy Warhol shattered the mold that artists had been using for hundreds of years – the mold that made “art” and for many art critics, the jury is still out on Andy, but there’s one thing that nobody can deny – he shook up the art world.
I went to a screening of “Empire” in college and, I’m guessing, like everybody else, stayed until the free wine ran out, talking through the whole thing and then went home, but still, it changed the way I looked at cinema. And that’s a good thing.
What do you do when you’re in a creative rut? Here are some ways to push yourself back onto the road
1) Take on an assignment you wouldn’t normally do.
Do you normally do weddings or events? Take on a narrative. Find a piece of fiction you can turn into a short film.
“’I should not talk so much about myself,” said Henry David Thoreau, “if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.” We all see the world through our own eyes, from our own perspectives. Adding a different voice to the mix can force you, and help you, to see the world through their eyes.
3) Try a new piece of technology.
Sometimes a new gadget can inspire you to try something new or see things in a different way – a jib, a boom, a drone. Is there something you wish you could do that you haven’t been able to because of equipment? And to try something new, you don’t have to buy it. Companies like lensrentals.com will rent you that cool bit of gear you’ve been aching to try out and you can decide if it’s worth it. Or just use it for that one special shot.
4) Incorporate new camera techniques.
Ever want to try a Hitchcock zoom? Or a dolly shot? Pedestal up? Look at that giant stack of Videomaker articles lying next to your sofa. Pull some of them out and try some camera moves. (More about camera moves in this videomaker article here: https://www.videomaker.com/article/c10/15388-camera-moves-back-to-basics”)
5) Change venues!
Do you normally shoot inside? Shoot outside! Do you normally work in a studio? Try something on location. Sometimes a change of scenery can be inspirational.
6) Set up a bunch of Gopro’s in the woods and wait for bigfoot to walk past.
Ok, that might not actually happen, but it didn’t stop video artist Jill Miller from doing exactly that and capturing a lot of media attention as she sat in a northern California campsite streaming live video to the Norwitch Gallery’s 2005 International Exhibition in a performance art piece called “Waiting for Bigfoot”. Jill didn’t find sasquatch, but she thought out of the box and created a clever piece of art.
7) Watch some movies with a critical eye.
What’s your favorite film? How many times have you seen it? Well, watch it again as a filmmaker instead of a fan. How often do the shots vary from wide, medium and close? How often is the camera moving compared to how often it’s locked down? What type of lights are they using? Can you figure it out?
8) Limit your equipment.
Just as sometimes getting a new piece of gear can be inspirational, sometimes losing gear can have the same effect. Try shooting with only your cell phone, or with a single lens or zoom setting. Can tell a story only using a 200mm lens? How about using a 28mm lens? One terrific example of this is 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, which is now enjoying a fancy remake. Filmmakers eschewed professional equipment and shot their movie with a handheld consumer video camera – freeing themselves from equipment restraints and spawning an entirely new genre of filmmaking.
Getting outside of your comfort zone is the only way that you can grow as an artist. But they call it your “comfort zone” because it’s what you do well. So remember when doing all this that it’s ok to fail, but it’s more ok to fail at things that people aren’t paying you for. If you plan to experiment on someone else’s dime, make sure you have a contingency plan or create opportunities where it’s ok to fail. I’m occasionally reminded of a letter I saw in a camera magazine sometime in the 1980’s from a person who shot his sister’s wedding with a fisheye lens, thinking that she’d love it. She didn’t.
Kyle Cassidy is a writer and artist living in Philadelphia with his wife and four cats.