Being a creative is a wonderful thing. It allows you to explore your inner passions and make money from something you love to do. However, as the year is coming to an end I’ve been reflecting on what the term means and how I embody this mysterious beast known as The Creative.
The concept of the ‘Creative’ is an industry term that can often apply to so many roles and comes loaded with so many connotations that it can easily start to lose meaning. The use of the term blurs the lines of who a creative is and what the term actually means. So much so I often look down at my not-covered-in-paint hands and wonder if I even fit into this category at all.
For those of you that don’t know me, I produce videos for musicians, businesses, and individuals usually for the purpose of marketing. This immediately separates me from many forms of creativity. For instance, I am not an Artist, whose work is to express emotion or create an impact for its own sake, what could be considered pure creativity. Instead, when producing marketing content, my job is to see a tangible return for the client, whether that’s financial or in an increased engagement.
According to the dictionary definition:
relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something.
"change unleashes people's creative energy"
a person whose job involves creative work.
"the most important people in the mix will be creatives and direct marketing specialists"
Where Technician meets Creative
When considering the term ‘creative’ against the work I produce, it often falls short of a unanimous conclusion. This comes down to the difference between the technical aspects of my job and the actual act of using my imagination.
The Technician side of my work usually boils down to the camera settings, the choices of equipment, and the process of editing. These aspects can be so laden with technical work that sometimes I feel closer to a computer technician than a creative decision maker or an artist.
The Creative Technicians job is largely indistinguishable from that of a ‘normal’ technician. Whether that’s a mechanic or a kitchen fitter, all jobs that require technical insight and where deviation from the rules could spell disaster for the driver of the car or the user of that kitchen. If you input the wrong camera settings then the video won’t work in a coherent way, like a car without brakes.
Where the creativity comes into my work is in the decisions I make throughout the process. As you will see below however, the creative and the technical can seem almost indistinguishable:
- What camera and lens combination to use?
- Where to use a tripod, gimbal, or go handheld?
- Where to place the talent?
- Utilising natural light or create an artificial scene?
- Document or direct? This in itself raises a lot of questions about creativity
- How to order the footage in the edit?
- Which colour palette to use during the colour grade?
All of these questions require a technical answer but request a certain amount of creativity to answer. Where the great question of ‘Am I even a Creative’ comes in however is that there are prerequisites to all of these questions. If you study videography, you will be able to answer these with textbook confidence:
- What camera and lens combination to use? An 85mm lens is the most flattering for medium portraiture and using a full frame sensor will gain the best results
- Where to use a tripod, gimbal, or go handheld? Using a tripod will work so as not to distract the viewer from what the talent is saying in this scene
- Where to place the talent? Move the talent 5-10 feet away from the wall
- Utilising natural light or create an artificial scene? For a beauty look, place lights at a 45 degree angle facing down at the talent and bounce light up to reduce shadow under the chin
- Document or Direct? Document what the talent naturally says
- How to order the footage in the edit? Cut the footage in a linear way and utilise B-Roll footage to emphasise what the talent is saying as a visual aid
- Which colour palette to use during the colour grade? Use natural colours to create realism
As you can see, each decision is picking from a selection of prerequisite answers. Where creativity surely plays is in those aspects that are new or unique. Combining ideas that haven’t been seen together before or possibly in a style that makes the ‘Creative’ person unique to that of another. It can be quite easy to argue that most Creatives do not create in a creative way at all.
The issue is, how often does the opportunity to ‘create’ in the artistic sense become available to those in the industry. If a client needs a video of an emotional interview, then the videographer will often pick from a toolbelt of choices to project that emotion in the best way. In this case, it doesn’t make much sense to act too creatively as the end result needs to be predictable. An emotional video calls for particularly moody lighting and sad music. If the videographer where to be too creative, the viewer may lose sight of the videos intended meaning.
Creators must Create
Something I have become conscious of is the need to practice creativity. Where the technician must implement according to the rules and produce a predictable result, the creative must do the exact opposite.
Perfecting the technical aspects and technical decisions will make you good at producing a predictable result. This is important for implementing a creative decision. But taking on truly creative projects is also necessary to understand new ideas. These new ideas can be implemented to create a style and process that makes you a unique creator.
Deciding on, or taking on a project that requires new or unique decisions to be made is where this creative practice can take place. These can be, and often will be, self funded or in some cases, the freedom is given to the producer.
The curse of this creative process is that once you have developed a new style, what was once new, simply becomes another creative decision you can pull from your toolbelt of choices.
And so the search for new and meaningful ways to play with your craft starts again.
So why write this?
The reason for writing this piece is that I was recently looking through old projects and found a short film I worked on with a group of friends in 2014.
The film is a unique take on the typical zombie horror/survival film in which a romance is in the center of the storyline. The View is written and directed by Ben Sheridan of Seraphin Productions and my role in the production was Director of Photography and Camera Operator.
The elements of creativity were implemented in finding new and unique ways of using my technical knowledge to communicate the story in the best way possible. Although I am no Roger Deakins, the work showcased my skills and creativity and helped to develop new ones in the process.
You can watch the short film The View here:
What are your thoughts on the role of the Creative? Does it all boil down to implementing prerequisite ideas into different situations or is there more we can do to nurture our creative side? My challenge to everyone reading this and to myself is to generate more Creative work in 2018 and see how it impacts your client work.