“Being creative is hard. I don’t think I want to do the creative side, anymore,” she said.
A friend in LA caught me off guard last week with her description of how she felt after a few years in the film industry. We were commiserating, but I was still surprised to hear it… mostly because of how much I look up to her for her creativity. A crushing feeling immediately flashed through my body. “But, if she’s tired, then what about me? How will I make it?”
But the more I thought about it, the more I could relate on a level of emotional authenticity. After more than four years of working at a video production company in Omaha and constantly pushing our creative potential, I admit that there are days when I wake up feeling drained. You know, days when you wake up and think I could really use an extra cup of coffee today. Then you drink too much coffee, and before you know it you need a beer to calm down your jitters. And before you know it, it’s midnight, you’re still exhausted, and you don’t know where your day went, and you didn’t feel creative once today.
And yeah, don’t get me wrong, it is REALLY hard. It’s just the grind we live with. You’ve got to scope the creative, then sell the creative, then create the creative, then execute the creative, then edit the creative, then revise the creative, and then you hope at the end of the day that your client’s actually happy with it, because, let’s face it, it wasn’t really what you wanted in the first place after all the revisions.
Then there’s the issue of putting a tangible value on your creative expression. How on earth do you do that? It’s like solving a complex puzzle every single day of your life. How much is a brilliant idea worth? To be honest, especially in a place without a burgeoning film industry, it’s hard to get people to understand the value, anyway. Here’s just one example:
Client: Wait? Why can’t you do this for me for a thousand dollars? It’s only 1 minute of video.
Response: Well, hey, I’ll give you 1 minute of video right now for free. Let me just grab my iPhone. But there are tripod heads that are worth 8 grand, so if you want something thoughtful I would also like to get paid and have time to be creative for you. Thank you.
So the whole thing is tiring. Some days you just feel like you’re trying to run up a staircase in your dream. That’s why the mission is so important.
We exist here in Omaha — a place where the film-making community is small (but growing), a place where creative expression is often only be seen as a means to an end, a place where sometimes creatives feel like they have trouble being understood, a place where practicality is valued over aesthetic — because we believe that by being in Omaha we are a part of fashioning a community for creative people in Nebraska.
There are makers here with inspiring ideas. One of the reasons I love video production is that I love being around creative people. I love constantly expressing creative ideas and letting others do the same. I love seeing the value in those ideas. I believe that if we aren’t growing, we’re dying. And we need those ideas to continue to grow.
Video production is an especially good fit for that, because film is the most powerful medium available to us today. Film incorporates light, sound, motion, writing, fine art, performance, a full range of emotion, design, animation, problem-solving, talent, technology, make-up and beauty, form, and many more facets of creative expression, all of which might be combined into JUST ONE project.
So this post is for you, creatives. Bottom line: creativity is hard everywhere. Remember that there is a reason you’re creating and expressing and striving and being challenged and getting tired. It’s because we aren’t satisfied with just merely existing. We are here to thrive. We are here to grow. We are here to push. Eyes up and alight. We refuse to live in an ugly world. And when you wake up and don’t feel like you can do it, don’t be afraid. Because there is a community here that understands and will pick you up when you don’t feel strong.
And that’s what keeping sight of the mission is all about.
Michael Hennings is a director and filmmaker living in Omaha, Nebraska.