Artistic Integrity and Profit
SUMMARY: I expand my “create then show” mantra to include the means of producing products and distributing them. Maybe this is the way to sell out with integrity.
[bakshi]:http://www.boingboing.net/2010/01/18/ralph-bakshi-on-surv.html Recently on BoingBoing, I saw this [video of cult-favorite animator Ralph Bakshi][bakshi] at San Diego ComiCon (SDCC) on the subject of dealing with the shrinking animation industry. Bakshi, not mincing words, basically tells his audience to stop crying, get some guys together, and spend a year starving and making something. It’s quite an inspirational video as a kick in the pants. There is nothing in your way, technically speaking, except your own ideas of how you achieve success. Bakshi is known for making provocative non-mainstream animation, and in the video he outlined his strategy back in the 60s-70s as looking at what Walt Disney was not doing.
What’s appealing about this video is that it confirms what is behind my own progress: make stuff, show it to people. This is my mantra, and it’s it’s the reason I keep sharing all those productivity forms. By comparison, many people follow the mainstream mantra of get hired to make stuff. There is nothing wrong with that if you are satisfied making what you are told to make, but if you have creative aspirations it comes right back to those two things: making what you have the crazy vision to make and showing people your expression of that vision. And you don’t have to be a freelancer like me to do that. The workplace is receptive too, if you have guts and have a credibility amassed from a solid record of production. It’s actually pretty hard to get fired from a job for demonstrating a new idea, but the potential for embarrassment and political fallout keep many from even trying it.
I’d be closing this blog post right now, self-satisfied at making a connection between Ralph Bakshi and what I’m doing with my life, if it hadn’t been for two recent experiences:
Last week, I had a really interesting chat with my friend Gary, who is a successful self-made industrial designer, about his continued befuddlement at what I’m NOT doing. He sees what I’m doing as the precursor to creating a line of products, which is something I’m taking my time with, but the really interesting observation he made was that I was a new product creator with a team of associates, not a solo writer/designer. I apologize to Gary for perhaps misrepresenting the specific tonality of his observations, but what I took away from it was yes, it is possible for me to create a package but I’m not doing it and I don’t have to do it alone.
Talking to my bud Sid this afternoon about some of the comments on Bakshi’s YouTube video, I made the observation that some of the naysayers who said Bakshi hadn’t achieved anything near the kind of success that Walt Disney did were poop-heads, but they had an excellent point. Walt Disney created a package experience for a market he envisioned, and he built a business to make that happen. Can’t take that away from him.
About an hour ago I realized that my mantra was incomplete. From the conversation with Gary, I realized that my intention to create packaged versions of my work were half-assed and incomplete. If I wanted to stop waiting for success, I would have to engineer it for a specific market. That would take my vision even further into what might be actual success. Then, if I am totally serious about this, I should follow what Walt Disney did and create the process to ensure that what I package makes it to the market; in other words, that’s creating a business. It’s a different mindset.
So I’m expanding my mantra into a two-step theory; consider this version 2.0:
Step 1. The way to artistic integrity through self-discovery is making what you envision and showing what you made to people in-person. If you keep doing this, you’ll grow in unexpected and interesting ways, guaranteed. You can stop at this step if all you’re looking for is artistic integrity and finding out who you are.
Step 2. The way to financial success through artistic integrity lies a few steps beyond: apply the experience you gained in step 1 to create a beneficial package for people and then find a way to reliably deliver that package to the masses. At a reasonable profit.
I’ve practiced Step 1 for the past five years, and have been wondering what was next. Now I know: Practice Step 2 with the same aspiration to integrity I did Step 1. What is interesting is that both steps are actually the same, except the emphasis is different. In both steps, you are “creating then showing”. In Step 1, however, it’s mostly about you building a body of work that is refined through exposure to a critical audience; from each iteration you typically gain a small percentage of new opportunities. In Step 2, it’s mostly about you creating a “product” that is refined to meet a particular need, and then shown to a consumer audience whose needs are addressed; if your audience gets it, a certain percentage will buy.
In other words: Create and Show. Package and Distribute. Each complete iteration produces results that can be applied to the next one, which results in a refined product. Seems so obvious, but I had to learn this the hard way for it to stick :-)