Looking Outside the Box for Inspiration

Whom do you follow on Twitter? My guess is, if you’re a wedding photographer, you largely follow other wedding photogs? If you’re an event filmmaker, you follow largely other event filmmakers? You a commercial photog? I bet Chase Jarvis, Vincent Laforet, and the like are at the top of your Twitter stream.  It makes perfect sense for you to follow those successful artists in your genre. However, let me encourage you to make a concerted effort to expand your horizons. Seek out new worlds. Boldly go where you never have gone before.

There are a number of benefits for looking outside the proverbial box. Not the least of which is inspiration for a fresh new look at doing things. I think one reason so much work starts to look alike is because we’re all following the same people. So, it stands to reason then that one of the easiest ways to break out of the mold is to take some time to study the work and blogs of other artists you normally don’t follow. And the place I suggest you start is YouTube.

YouTube vs. Vimeo and The New, New Hollywood

I’ve already commented on which of these two video sharing sites I believe is ideal for filmmakers to use for displaying their work. In short, my vote is this: post on both, but display Vimeo videos on your site. (Yes, I know there are a whole host of other solutions, including self-hosting. I’m not getting into that debate though. YouTube and Vimeo are clearly the two most popular among my audience, so those are the two I talk about.) Vimeo’s community is unequivocally more mature than what you’ll find on YouTube. Sometimes reading through YouTube comments is like being plunged into Middle-Earth during the darkest days of the Second Age (i.e. YouTube is a haven for trolls). However, there is some filmmaking talent on YouTube that represents what I call the “New, New Hollywood.”

The New Hollywood represents that generation of filmmakers that sprung up during the late 60s and early 70s. Artists like Coppola and Scorcese in their early years. The New, New Hollywood are those filmmakers who have been empowered by social media and digital distribution in ways that every filmmaker can only dream about. They have embraced the technology of today to create art that is getting them the kind of exposure that not only raises the eyebrows of the “real” Hollywood, but in many circumstances yield significant financial rewards. The top filmmakers on YouTube are earning seven-figures just from the ads that run on their videos. We all think it’s cool and neat when someone in the DSLR world gets 50,000, 100,00 or event 500,000 views on Vimeo. That is indeed amazing and I by no means want to belittle that accomplishment. But many of the filmmakers I’m talking about are posting videos every week that get one million + views. They are in essence, mini-TV studios.

And here’s the kicker. Knowing that the makeup of my audience is primarily artists with a taste for high production value, you may be shocked when you see the production level of some of these films. They’re by no means amateurish home videos of kittens and panda bears. They are well filmed and edited. But many (if not most) definitely don’t have the level of sophistication I’m used to seeing among the elite DSLR filmmaking crowd. What they do have is great storytelling and/or high entertainment value.

Pick Just Three

So here is my challenge to you. Over the next week, pick three YouTube filmmakers to follow. Find people who are doing work totally different from what you’re doing. People routinely getting hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of views every week. Follow them for one month. By follow I mean, read their blogs, watch their behind the scenes videos, watch their posted videos (of course), and follow them on Twitter. To make it easy for you, here is a list of names that I have been following. If you like, pick any of these three. Or, find your own.

Over the next few days, I’m going to highlight a few of these guys and talk about how I found them and what I’ve learned from following them. I think you will find it a very inspiring and educational experience that may not only inspire your art, but will give you great ideas for your business as well.

WARNING: I guarantee some of you will look at a few of these guys, and despite their massive amount of exposure, you’ll poo-poo them due to the low production quality and/or juvenile humor. I urge you to fight that feeling and hang with me through this series. I promise you will learn something. Heck, if I can find seven lessons out of the Justin Bieber movie, you know I can come up with some good stuff with this. 🙂