My first job out of college was for a pottery in Bedford Virginia. It was formative to my approach to design and production and my work ethic in general. As a production potter, I made the same piece over and over and over and over…and they all had to be exactly like each other. I was paid by the piece as well, and had to balance speed with quality. One day I veered from the standard for a certain piece and my work was rejected. I lost an entire day’s fun tickets for that lapse in consistency. I made sure I only did that once.
Later, when we moved to industrialized production, I held a primary creative roll in designing products and prototypes. What I learned in the early days was that repetition led to mastering my craft, and the means of production was not the key to creativity. I also learned that repetition led to the ability to design what looked like random mistakes. I literally made tens of thousands of pots by hand the 11 years I was there and I gained insight into form and function, good composition and balance of form, time management, resourceful improvisation, creative problem solving, and trouble shooting (Ha! Sounds like a resume’ cover letter). The fact that I no longer produced them strictly by hand was not important. The creative process was still the same. What was important was that I was immersed in the craft until it became second nature and I dreamt about it at night…wet dreams even.
These days I work with images rapidly captured, 24 of them per second actually. I have to arrange them in some kind of meaningful order also. I get up in the morning, go to work, edit and shoot, leave work to go home to feed my kids, or on a weekend go to one of their sporting events, then edit and shoot more. If I’m not doing that, I’m studying film making, researching film making, or writing about film making. When I’m out in the world at large I look for photo ops, or I’ll see a movie and deconstruct it in my mind. I’ll look for b-roll for projects I haven’t even started. I’m immersed in the craft, it’s becoming second nature, I dream about it at night and….well, never mind.
During all of this immersion I sometimes get stuck in a rut of isolation and become creatively stagnant. It doesn’t happen much now, or rather, I don’t give it much time to happen. (Don’t let me forget to write about my creative death and rebirth some day. I mustn’t forget those times, really!). How I get out of it is to connect with others. Hopefully person to person but if not, I connect online in a forum or look at other people’s work on video sites and comment on it or ask about it. I let other creative ideas come into my closed, narrow, little mind in hopes that it’ll get blown WFO by some amazing work. Or I’ll get the opportunity to work on a set with folks I’ve never worked with before and watch their creative mojo in action.
I see limitless possibilities ahead of me, people to meet, images to capture and arrange, dreams to dream, sheets to clean…(did I really say that? I din’t think so).
I have a long way to go and I’m getting there. Putting one foot ahead of the other and moving forward, gaining insight into form and function, good composition and balance of form, time management, resourceful improvisation, creative problem solving, and trouble shooting. Hey, I think I really did learn something at my first job.
I’d love to hear how you are inspired creatively, what keeps you going, or what your first job was. Use the comment section below, no need to sign up for anything either.
Dave Perry is a Roanoke Virginia digital film producer, editor and photographer. His sideburns are only a hobby.