Art is Free and Free at Last

Starving artists around the world have long struggled hoping that their persistence would be met with their being “discovered.”  Many spent as much time working on the art as they did jumping through the hoops of their respective industries by “paying their dues.”  It’s what artists did; they had to expose themselves in complete honesty to whoever in the world would see them, and hope that one day they would do so at the right moment, and to the right person.  For most artists in the past, those long hours of toil and struggle were to no avail.

But times are changing.

Take for example the film industry and all the exclusivity of Hollywood’s studio system.  As recently as the turn of the millennium, independent filmmakers had to raise thousands of dollars to rent substandard equipment and find capital to buy very expensive film.   Filmmaking was mostly reserved for those with financiers and studio contacts.  No longer.  The digital revolution has made big studio image quality attainable to the commercial market. An amateur cinematographer may well be able to afford a professional grade camera.

The once-arduous process of editing, which oftentimes meant the filmmaker had to have access to a professional editing studio for the delicate, time consuming process of cutting and splicing film (this after the film was processed and developed), also had to be conducted at the filmmaker’s expense.  Today anybody can shoot a few shots, sit down at his home computer, and edit a professional looking short. 

After the last edit had been spliced, they faced the frightening world of distribution, the bane of any independent producer.  Once the filmmaker poured his blood, sweat, and tears into the project, and spent all his money on production, he had to pray that he could find a distributor.  An independent film that never sees an audience is as good to the filmmaker as a pat on the back from mom.  There’s no magic way of doing it—a filmmaker doesn’t have the inalienable right to have his movie seen at every megaplex in the country.  There was a system for distribution.  There are cost projections and DVD sales agreements.  A great movie could be released as an “art-house flick” on 200 screens worldwide because major studios didn’t see it as “mainstream” enough, which likely meant there weren’t enough product placements or Happy Meal tie-ins.  

Thousands of filmmakers have struggled through the pain of keeping a cast and crew together with little money, on grueling schedules, for a long stretch of time, only to have the final reel never reach a wide public audience.  Through the festival circuit (with submission fees and the ever-present influence of the studio caste) and small self-financed showings, these films weren’t likely to have reached that one person who could give them their big break.  But even IF filmmakers impressed the guy with the green light, a distribution agreement was often conditional of “minor” changes to make it suitable for studio distribution, forcing the filmmaker to make creative compromises if he ever wanted his film to be seen.

Reaching an audience has long been the struggle of countless artisans who have trotted through auditions, talent agencies, and art galleries begging for opportunities.  Today they need look no further than the Internet.  Social media has revolutionized the world.  Through sights like Vimeo and Youtube, musicians, comedians, and visual artists of all kinds have a stage on which to perform.  Sites like Etsy and eBay offer painters, sculptors and fashion designers a gallery to show and sell their wears.  Marketing theatrical productions and band performances have been revolutionized with social media promotions and specials.  There’s no middleman, no talent scout, no art critic—just an artist and an audience, pure and simple creative communication.  Every artist can have a website, a unique space to share his creations with the world.  He can write his URL on a coffeehouse wall, scribble it on a messenger bag, and remind you again and again where to see his work (Check out RogueLumen.com).  The livelihood of the starving artist now depends on him and his talent.

The artist can now focus on art.  To create a film, song, character, sculpture or story an audience would want to receive is no easy endeavor.  It’s an arduous task that requires perseverance and faith in one’s vision.  Technology has done away with many of the roadblocks, and so the task becomes the artist’s alone.  The digital age has made the means readily available; it’s only creativity that can set an artist apart.  It is now the task of this generation to reject the archaic standards of style and branch out from the norms.  Don’t worry about being “found.”  Create for the sake of creation, lend a voice to the direction of our culture, bare it to the world and believe in one’s work.

Above all create.

It’s practically free nowadays.

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