When a big part of your job is creating art for commerce, it’s really easy to get busy with the commerce side of things and forget to feed the artist side. It's a common thing. So much so, that 10 years ago a friend of mine got a tattoo that said: “All Ways Create”. The spelling was intentional, he’s a versatile artist of many mediums. The point is, I’ve never known him not to be working on his own projects alongside his corporate and commercial work.
It’s been hard for me to create for myself. Pluck takes a lot of time and attention. It’s been really hard to find the time to do something not “on the clock”. And hey, I’m grateful: it’s wonderful to be able to create for a living.
But hen this November I had a big setback. A job I’d committed to got frozen for a month. I was out a lot of money and scrambling to reschedule and move other things around to accommodate. I knew this “dead time” was really bad for me and for my small team, who were expecting to get paid right before Christmas. Things felt pretty bleak.
I didn't know what else to do, so I wrote. Quickly and from the heart. A few hours later, I had a concept and a script for a very short, visual, heartfelt holiday film about family and being apart for the holidays but together in spirit. That night I put out casting notices for New York (where I was) and Los Angeles (where I would be in a week).
The only way to make this project happen was to keep things small and agile. That meant a New York crew of me, my DP friend Eric, and a PA. In LA we added a makeup artist and Jessica (one of our LA producers, who very generously donated her time and efforts) and I produced and filled in all the gaps with things like wardrobe, props, and art direction. Eric caught a free flight to LA thanks to an understanding friend who works as a flight attendant. It was total guerrilla operation, but we’re all working professionals who know how to be scrappy. It helped that we did like Robert Rodriguez says to do in his book “Rebel Without a Crew” and wrote to locations and resources I knew we could get. And we used the camera and lighting I had on hand thanks to the job that fell through, while Eric brought his anamorphic lens along for the fun.
We filmed on the streets of New York: in Central Park, at Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue, even outside Tiffany’s. It was magical. A week later, we were in LA filming at a condo, on Hollywood Blvd., and at Runyon Canyon overlooking downtown LA. Also magical, in a completely different way.
About a week later, I finished editing and post-production and we put “A Cup of Kindness” out into the world. Just in time for the holidays.
It’s been pretty freaking cool getting messages from friends old and new, telling us how much the film touched them. I love that people are enjoying it and sharing it online. It’s become the perfect “Thank You” card from us to everyone who’s made an impact in our lives. My soul feels truly fed, my creative batteries are recharged. I’m grateful for the once terrible setback that has turned into a chance to create. It gave me the chance to tell a simple but I hope universal story about family. I love that.
And I’m sure that’s not the end of the story. See, another thing my friend with the "All Ways Create" tattoo taught me is when you are creating stuff that matters to you it often leads to opportunities you’d never expected. This has proven true for me in the past. About 3 years ago I did another project for love that has unexpectedly helped my company land work with large Fortune 500 companies and a couple of advertising agencies. It seems like when you put your creative energy out into the world, it usually comes back multiplied.
So downtime? Setbacks? Yeah, they suck. But I urge you to be resilient and use them to work on your own projects. To always create. You’ll definitely hone your voice and satisfy your soul. Maybe you’ll create something that resonates with an audience. You might even create something that helps you in ways you cannot yet imagine.
Happy Holidays. I hope this season gives you and yours joy and happiness.
You can see the short Cup of Kindness here.