The following Career Dispatch essay was written by Joanne Zippel, a producer, manager, and career coach who helps creatives find their artistic voice.
I have worked with hundreds of artists over the last 25 years, and I am frequently asked the same question, especially by those starting out after film school: What can I do to hone my artistic point of view and differentiate myself in the crowded, crazy, often arbitrary marketplace that is the film industry?
1. Have a clear vision of what drives you creatively.
I don’t mean vague goals like “I want to write and direct features and win an Oscar.” I’m talking about which specific stories have meaning to you and what motivates you to tell them. Your vision will evolve and change over time, but it’s important to maintain clarity around what motivates you aesthetically. Who and what are your influences? Understand and be able to articulate to others what has value to you.
A specific vision gives you a direction for your work—and your life. When opportunities come up, you will have a standard by which to judge: Does this fit with my vision? This is also important to know as you begin reaching out to potential collaborators, and it’s a way to help them find you, too. Ask yourself: If I could work with anyone in this industry who shares my aesthetic and values, who would it be?
It can be helpful to write a personal artist statement that describes why you do what you do and what you hope to put out into the world. It will also be useful as you’re putting together your website and establishing your social media presence.
2. Develop your own creative discipline.
Make it a priority to always be progressing in your own work. How do you do that? Well, let’s say you’re a writer: Carve out a designated time in your routine to sit down and write. Understand how you like to work, because everyone is different. Some people write first thing in the morning for an hour or two a day. Others schedule longer blocks of time over the course of the week. Make it doable so that you will stick to it—and make it sacred.
If you’re a director, always look for ways to make something, even if it’s short-form content. Build a cohort of other artists, and take turns writing, directing, and producing each other’s ideas. There is no substitute for doing the actual work.
3. Understand that you are a multihyphenate—and that includes the word “producer.”
Just as you need to work on the creative side, you need to develop the entrepreneurial skills to make your projects happen and get them out there. No one is going to pluck you out of obscurity and do it for you. Even if you are lucky enough to nab an agent or manager, you, the artist, must still be the primary driver of your career. It’s your job to provide direction and partner with your representatives to realize your vision. At the end of the day, only you know what is in your creative heart.
This story originally appeared in the Apr. 21 issue of Backstage Magazine.