Documentary 'Make' Reminds Us Why Photographers and Videographers Create Art

Sometimes being a "creative" really sucks. But it's also the best thing to be in the entire world. But did I mention it can suck? Well if you feel like you're in a rut, then watch this preview, and prepare to be inspired. Today, Musicbed released their feature-length documentary, "Make," which explores why creatives continue, well, creating.

As far as cinematography goes, the documentary is super well done. It's got that gritty, handheld feel that everyone loves, and the sound design is to die for (wouldn't expect anything less from a powerhouse like Musicbed). The film doesn't cover the creative process, which I am thankful for; we already know about the creative process. Instead it explores something I think is much deeper. 

We didn’t necessarily want to talk about the process of creating. We wanted to talk about why we create. I do think a lot of people talk about the creative process, I don’t think anyone has talked about what drives us to create... My hope is that creatives can see the film for what it is, and that they can see themselves in each one of these characters. Not everyone that watches it is going to be a filmmaker or a musician. I think the act of creating is so basic-level human, that if you see it from the big picture, it doesn’t matter what you do as a career.

—Musicbed CEO Daniel McCarthy

If you're on this website, reading this article, it's likely you're a creative (quick aside, I really hate that term, but perhaps it's just a bit less pretentious than "artist"). And if you're a creative, you've probably experienced crippling self-doubt and self-loathing. Being a photographer or cinematographer, or any kind of person that creates art, is not easy, and it's not a walk in the park. You're constantly putting out work, wondering will anyone care, or even worse, comparing your work to others, and trying to get the same god damn look that sells. When we fall into that wretched cycle, we're either hanging on to our passion by a thread, or lost it completely.

An idea that is tossed around in the documentary is to "...write what you love, write what you're passionate about." Sure, that sounds easy enough! But it can be a really scary thing, because, like exposure, passion doesn't pay the bills. The artists interviewed in the film are super transparent about this too, mentioning you should be ready to go without for about 10 years before anything happens. That yes, cleaning dishes for even a summer will break your heart. Sometimes we have to take jobs to help pay those bills that passion doesn't, but it's a promising future if you just keep making things that make you happy.

Social media has had a huge impact on how we as creatives interact with the world. Here at our fingertips is this giant audience we can reach. But almost everyone in the film, before they "made it big" have put decades of heart and passion into their trade. One band was together for 12 years before anyone really noticed them and thought, "Hey, check out this brand new band!" When the truth was there was so much work and failure before.

Danny Yount, Title Designer

In Western culture, we have this obsession of recognition; if only my video could get Staff Pick on Vimeo, then people will know I am a filmmaker. Danny Yount, a title and graphic designer made a great point. To a student, Yount is seen as a rock star of his industry, truly one of the greats. But to the director of the film he works on, Yount might only be seen as the equivalent of a janitor. If you're creating so that others "recognize" you, it might be time to consider a career change.

Musicbed believes, and I agree, that the question "Am I doing this for the wrong reasons?" is a really difficult question we have been ignoring in our industry. Sure, getting caught in a rut is just a part of the creative process, but if you find yourself day in and day out wondering what the hell you're doing with your life, and seeing that your work isn't what it used to be, you really have to step back and evaluate the situation. If you try and make your work "cool" it will never happen. Instead, you have to focus on what makes you happy. Only then will the cool factor start seeping back into your work. Because people don't half-ass passion.

I really appreciate the absolute honesty in this film; it is mentally helping me, and after screening "Make," I'll be making a bunch of lists when I get home (I'm a list girl) to help me get back on track of my goals. One of the most honest sections of the film was talking about profits, and when to expect them. So, I'm young, and my generation is a bit entitled, and born into a life of pretty instant gratification. People who aren't willing to work for what makes them happy are weeded out very quickly in our industry. But that's just the thing; you can't stop working, creating, you have to keep pushing and figure out how you can make what you love work for you. Throughout the documentary, artists were saying they didn't see a real profit until decades after they began. Which hello, that's terrifying. Art isn't a cheap industry (I say looking at my meager photo gear trying to pass as a cinema setup). Obviously we all know there isn't a huge profit, but if you're just starting, or hell even continuing, you may have some more time to wait until you can think, "Yeah I can totally get that lens, it will pay for itself in three weddings."

With that being said though, I'll quote one of my favorites, Socrates: "Beware the bareness of a busy life." It is so easy, and I mean probably the easiest thing in the entire world, to get caught up in doing the same thing, over and over again. You know why? Because it's safe. But, it's also a huge trap. You have to be able to take risks, you have to be OK with failure, because without failure, without crippling self-doubt, you won't be able to truly appreciate, or maybe even see when you've reached a happy point in your life. Again Yount (and all the other artists have amazing stories, I just personally connected the most with what Yount said) makes a great point, "Life is so much bigger than these things we get caught up into."

Our responsibility as creatives, sharing this life, is to call out a problem when we see it — a problem that affects us all. We’re passionate about living a healthy life, and we want to see the people we serve live that life too.

I could seriously go on and on about how great this film is. I highly suggest taking 80 minutes out of your day, and watch this film for your health. I know that sounds silly, but there are things in this film that you as a creative should hear. And once you've watched the film, come back and let's have a conversation about it. Why is it that we make what we make? I want to know why it is that you do the things you do! Don't worry if you're in a rut, keep doing the things that bring you joy.

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13 Comments

Christian Santiago's picture

Beautiful trailer. I've never rented anything on Vimeo before. This trailer convinced to change that.

Bert McLendon's picture

Rented it last night and it was very cool! Highly recommend watching it if you're a creative.

Calling yourself a 'creative' sounds incredibly vain & narcissistic, don't you think? Like calling yourself a 'humble' or a 'generous'. Terms better suited to describing someone besides yourself. I can pretty much guarantee that if you have to call yourself creative, it's because no one else is...

Ryan Mense's picture

Unlike Chelsey, I have no issues with people calling themselves creatives or artists. You are creating, and you are making art. Why not call it what it is. I think people got tired of those terms once everyone in the population started calling themselves that, but again, personally, I don't care.

No - I think it's become a fairly acceptable and mainstream term to cover those working in many creative disciplines - artists, musicians, designers etc.
(I wouldn't call myself a creative as I'm not full time or even close but don't think it's vain at all)

COOL! I'm going to call myself a 'humble' because that's what I am! What do I care if someone thinks I'm not?!

Chelsey Rogers's picture

I mean, let's not tear this apart like that haha! I agree, it's the main reason I don't care for the term because so many non-creative people claim to be creative. But as a whole, it's a good word used to name a group of people. But it's not the point of the article at all.

For me very relevant as I am at a stage where I have decided to do a major rethink of what I am doing and how I am doing it. In many ways, a radical change. The video tooki time to get into things for me, but in the end I am pleased I watched it. It ties in quite nicely with Ryan Cooper's "Nobody cares about your photography..." posted June 30 and also an article called "The mattering instinct" by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. What I found missing was the problem of creatives in non-creative contexts which is importnat. A brief mention at the beginning.... the best on this is John Cleese https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j-Lz0D5_ck

I got into photography as a high school student waaaay back in the early 70's. Had no musical or drawing talent. My high school had a B&W darkroom, so I got a used 35mm Honeywell & joined the other pretentious student phptographers. I don't think alot of people realize how much time you can spend in a darkroom trying to get a decent print & when you did there was all the time spent retouching of dust marks. I had no interest in color slides, so B&W photography became my form of self-expression. Once out of high school I couldn't justify all that darkroom time just for self-expression. When digital cameras came along I started shooting digital & converting to B&W, mimicking the darkroom printing processes I once worked so hard to try & master. At one point I was considering going to college to get a Masters in Printmaking. Good thing I didn't! My pics are just a means to express my very personal view of the world, my only inspiration being jazz & classical music.

I got into photography as a high school student waaaay back in the early 70's. Had no musical or drawing talent. My high school had a B&W darkroom, so I got a used 35mm Honeywell & joined the other pretentious student phptographers. I don't think alot of people realize how much time you can spend in a darkroom trying to get a decent print & when you did there was all the time spent retouching of dust marks. I had no interest in color slides, so B&W photography became my form of self-expression. Once out of high school I couldn't justify all that darkroom time just for self-expression. When digital cameras came along I started shooting digital & converting to B&W, mimicking the darkroom printing processes I once worked so hard to try & master. At one point I was considering going to college to get a Masters in Printmaking. Good thing I didn't! My pics are just a means to express my very personal view of the world, my only inspiration being jazz & classical music.

Paulius Staniunas's picture

Amazing, just shared it with my friends!

Vincent Price's picture

Thank you Chelsey to talk about this amazing documentary ! Great article!

Chelsey Rogers's picture

seriously had to write about it, such a great doc!