Unhype

If you're interested in learning how to create electronic music you should try these 3 Masterclasses:

Grammy-winning music producer Timbaland takes you behind the boards to teach you his process for creating iconic tracks with artists like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, and Aaliyah. In his first-ever online class, learn how to collaborate with vocalists, layer new tracks, and create hooks that stick. Step into Timbaland’s studio and learn from one of the industry’s most innovative hit makers.

Every week, Armin van Buuren puts 41 million listeners into A State of Trance on his radio show. In his first-ever online class, the platinum-selling DJ breaks down his hits and builds a track from scratch to show you how he produces, performs, and promotes dance music. You’ll learn his technical process for using samples and plug-ins, mixing, recording vocals, and how to DJ a set. Your crowd is waiting.

Before he was deadmau5, all Joel Zimmerman wanted for Christmas was old toasters to take apart. Now, you can watch him take his music apart. In his first-ever online class, Joel teaches you how he approaches melodies, mixing and mastering to make unique sounds you can't find in a cookie cutter sample pack. You'll not only get his lessons, you'll learn how to create your own music without spending money on million dollar gear.

Lessons include topics like: Making beats, creating songs, layering drums, chord progressions, manipulating samples, musical influences, melodic inspiration, building a home studio, working in the studio, working with pads and leads, creating a groove, working with bass, mixing and mastering, arranging, working with lyrics and vocals, singles, club mixes, and edits, mashups, advanced techniques, performance tips, hosting radio shows, growing your career, working with synths, and the future of electronic music.

How to start making electronic music at home

Start slow, go easy on yourself. Acknowledge you're not going to be fantastic with your first efforts unless you're a musical prodigy. Jimi Hendrix didn't pick up his guitar and instantly record Hey Joe his first time playing.

Anything worth doing takes time and practice. I gave up several times and regretted it so much I always came back. Create to create until you learn the ropes and finish a project you like. Save everything, sit on it and come back to it. I had stuff I was ready to trash but liked months later.

This is what you should do:

  • Buy a decent pair of monitor headphones like these ATHs:
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black, Professional Grade, Critically Acclaimed, With Detachable Cable
14,662 reviews
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black, Professional Grade, Critically Acclaimed, With Detachable Cable
  • Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers
  • Proprietary 45 millimeter large aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper clad aluminum wire voice coils
  • Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response
  • Get yourself a MIDI controller so you can have more expressive notes, and get one preferably with pads so you get more control over the drums as well. Akai MPD226 is FIRE:
Currently on Sale −13%
Akai Professional MPD226 | 16-Pad USB/MIDI Pad Controller With Full Complement of Fully-Assignable, Production-Ready Controls
878 reviews
Akai Professional MPD226 | 16-Pad USB/MIDI Pad Controller With Full Complement of Fully-Assignable, Production-Ready Controls
  • Pro Beat Production, Anywhere - Ultra-portable feature-packed pad controller with 16 Thick Fat RGB illuminated velocity and pressure sensitive MPC pads
  • Expandable Banks - Easily accessible dedicated controls for 4 pad banks provides a total of 64 assignable pads
  • Assignable Control - 4 assignable faders, 4 assignable Q-Link knobs and 4 assignable Q-Link buttons with a total of 36 assignable controls accessible via 3 banks
  • If you're looking for something cheaper with more keys, try the Launchkey Mini:
Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3] 25-Mini-Key MIDI Keyboard
228 reviews
Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3] 25-Mini-Key MIDI Keyboard
  • Deep and intuitive Ableton Live control - including device Macro control, track select, record, capture MIDI, clip and scene launch, stop/mute/solo, volume, pans and sends
  • Creative arpeggiator – easy to use but deeply controllable: change rhythm, beat, pattern, octave, Gate and more
  • Fixed chord Mode – play a chord with one finger - assign a fixed chord shape to the keys and it’ll transpose as you move up and down the keyboard
  • The more you know about music theory the better but in a lot of cases the basics will do to begin.

  • I recommend starting with FL Studio or Ableton to most people. Ableton has a steeper learning curve, but is more advanced. This is an amazing list of tutorials that you can learn FL Studio from:

  • Other than music theory and structure, I'd say good quality drum samples and at least one synth you really know inside and out.

  • Lastly, really knowing how to make a track sound full but not having different sounds occupy the same space.

Making electronic music is more about technicality than musicality

Lots of people will disagree with me, but the truth is, you NEED the technical skills now more than ever. EDM today is so crisp, powerful, clean, full, and energetic. You can only achieve that level of quality (and therefore compete professionally) by having incredible technical skills. In my opinion, it's technical skills first, musicality second.

Here's why:

If you have amazing technical skills but 0 originality/creativity, you can just copy song structures/sounds/ideas from other producers, and you could produce generic house, trap, dubstep, etc. and land yourself on Trap City, Proximity, etc.. You won't be the next Skrillex, but you'll do pretty well.

Conversely, if your originality/creativity is on point but you have 0 technical skills, well... you're pretty much out of luck. Not much you can do with that. No one wants to listen to music that's horribly mixed, muddy, unclear, dull, harsh, etc. even if the ideas are good.

What's my workflow to actually create an electronic song

Here's how we do it at my home studio.

Load absynth get a sound scape. Basic idea is a single short press of root note and it has long release, it will fill out the spectrum and be random not lopping stale letting you get out of loops from the very second you open a synth.

Load up absynth again. in Playlist I set a time marker. First one is intro. Second one is chords and I'll right click and set "srart" on this time marker so fl thinks this is the start position for now. (careful anyone who sound designs this will change your LFO's)

So we have the first soundscape playing one note lasting about or under 4 bars. I'd paste this to 16 bars long.

In the middle (so 2 patterns in) I added that chord / set start on time marker. lay down a chord progrssion that is 8 bars long. Maybe 16.

Copy the 8 bars of chords and soundscape to 32 bars.

Then I'll grab a piano and play a lead solo over it too in seperate pattern. Usually 16 bars. (Half of our intro do far. time marker added if u want)

Doesn't have to be perfect just get something down for now and move to next part. I'll change it later.

Then I'll load up an 808 I usually make them myself in serum with a self oscillating filter. I'd probably remove lead solo. get drums too. make a fat bassline that works with my drums while pads and soundscape play in background. Also 16 bars long nor repeating the fills.

Then I'll google accapella dub. Find a phrase I like. Load it into Playlist last one I used said like "and the world keeps burning"

Place it at end of the drum loop before the measure ends.

I'd shift the bassline over so it don't play over the intro drums or this vocal phrase (so it gets moved just after for drop)

Then I'd play with reverb automation on my intro drumz. Maybe cut up that lead and play little bits over,the drums.

Ok confusing mess above so it's soundscape pattern pasted throughout. pads start on measure 8.

Measure 16 drums reverb lead sprinkles. like 20 has that vox ending at 24 24 you cut away the reverb maybe filter the drums too a bit.

Have vox phrase sing into drop. You'll want to match your pads cadance with the vocal by pitching it half steps till it works. Makes drop more profound hard hitting.

At drop 808 drums lead soundscape pads. Pitch edit drums to make it less stale.

The machine library with battery 4 has nice dance drums that aren't processed (so u can still pitch them etc) but are very loud and snappy. Makes everything easy.

This is how u write a track. Then go back and sound design it better or use the presets call it a day and make a new one. It's fun sound designing I think I do it well. But it's also hella fun finishing a song without touching an eq.

What to buy for your kid if they're into electronic music

If you have the budget - a trio of pocket operators by Teenage Engineering would do. I've seen a couple of kids on youtube get to grips with them no problem. They look like calculators.

Teenage Engineering PO-30 Pocket Operator Metal Series Super Set Bundle with 3-Pack of CA-X Silicone Cases, and Blucoil 3-Pack of 7' Audio Aux Cables
9 reviews
Teenage Engineering PO-30 Pocket Operator Metal Series Super Set Bundle with 3-Pack of CA-X Silicone Cases, and Blucoil 3-Pack of 7" Audio Aux Cables
  • CREATE A POCKET OPERATOR BAND! - The PO-30 Metal Series Super Set includes the PO-32 Tonic, PO-33 KO, and PO-35 Speak. The portable synth/sequencers produce a wide range of synthesized sounds, including drums, percussion, and vocals.
  • PROVIDES A BUILT-IN MICROPHONE - PO-33 records up to 40 seconds of sampling, while PO-35 can save up to 120 seconds. On the other hand, PO-32 uses the onboard microphone for data transfer.
  • OFFERS REPLACEABLE DRUM SOUNDS - The PO-32 Tonic and PO-35 Speak Pocket Operators are compatible with Microtonic (sold separately). You can replace any of sound 1~16 via Microtonic VST/AU plug-in.

Korg Volcas are easy to use too. More expensive though.

Korg Volca Modular Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer
34 reviews
Korg Volca Modular Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer
  • The Korg Volca Modular Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer
  • The compact body of this volca synth features eight modules and 50 patch points. While learning the basics of a modular synth, you can use popular features of the volca synthesizer line to control a unique and different flavor of analog sounds.

The cheapest option is music software. Something like Ableton Live Intro is the cheapest, and iirc can be used with the many free VST (a file format) instruments and effects.

Ableton Multitrack Recording Software, Green (Live 10 Intro)
26 reviews
Ableton Multitrack Recording Software, Green (Live 10 Intro)
  • This item is shipped as a download card with a serial code and instructions on how to redeem your software from the Ableton Website
  • Multitrack Audio recording and MIDI sequencing of software and hardware instruments
  • Unique Session View for nonlinear composition, flexible performance and improvisation

Propellerhead's Reason is more expensive and well loved. The kid could probably pick that up easily too.

Propellerhead Reason 10 Music Production Software
41 reviews
Propellerhead Reason 10 Music Production Software
  • 2 new powerful synthesizers & 3 new instruments
  • Full VST plugin support
  • 3G of cutting edge loops & samples

I know others say "dont buy pro/semipro music software, for a kid" - don't assume they won't be able to pick it up! Kids are more clever than you think!

There are TONS of tutorial videos on youtube for each bit of software (usually refered to as a DAW). I've been writing electronica for about 25 years and I'm still learning, as I am sure we all are.

Are there electronic music producers who balance technology with organic sounds?

Jon Hopkins is an obvious example for me. He creates some of the most organic-sounding electronica I've ever heard. It's not about using samples of real-world sounds (though he does that much and masterfully as well) but about making the synthesizer textures sound and behave organically. A good example from the world of techno/house/minimal is Stephan Bodzin.

Listen to this piece, Phobos (Synthapella), created by Marc Romboy and Bodzin:

This is a purely electronic piece, but to my ears it sounds profoundly organic and rich.

For the record, there are of course many artists who use more "nature-y" sounds, and incorporate them into an electronic setting. Here, I'm more concerned with artists that are able to make traditional digital/electronic sound sources sound organic.

What were the early DAWs that electronic producers used to make music in the past?

There were very few daw options in the 90s as the home computer hardware of that era did not have the processing power to do much and external co-processing and recording cards were necessary to get any true multitracking done.

Cubase didn't add proper digital audio to pcs until windows 95/98 with cubase vst. In windows 3.0 it was just a sequencer, I used it for my 90s live shows. In the win3 era the only digital audio stuff you could do was mostly 2 track editing with programs like SAW. I used that to compile albums prior to sending them off to press. There was cubase audio for windows 3.0 for a brief minute but it really sucked and it came out just as windows95 was taking over from 3.0 and cubase vst came out like a year later.

Synth wise there was rebirth from Propellerheads which was very cool but that's more of a stand alone emulator (two 303s and an 808/909). In the 90s macs had a bit more of an advantage for digital audio with pro-tools but it was more of a multi-track recorder rather than a full DAW and you needed external hardware to use it. pro tools never really worked well on PCs until late in the xp age. we used to call it "slow tools".

So Cubase is really the only program during the late 90s that could be considered a Daw as we know them today, but it was pretty clunky both in os8 and win98 and I remember faceplaming a lot and just going back to hardware synths and my Adats. It really wasn't until the post year 2000 xp/os9 era that daws became usable at all.

Are we in the golden age of electronic music or will it become even more mainstream?

Mass acceptance means there's more people trying to make a buck and the people who are doing it for the sheer love have a harder time making ends meet, so I'm not sure about any golden age existing in the first place.

There still aren't massive amounts of people flocking to small electronic gigs; the EDM moneymakers pick very certain, easy to digest, energetic forms of electronic music to promote and the real envelope pushers get even further ignored than they did before "mainstream acceptance" as standing out from the crowd is harder and more expensive than ever.

Record sales for people in the long tail are still very minimal, and in a lot of artist's cases even smaller than they were when they started as labels get polarized towards certain types of music that sell better. It's a mixed blessing for sure.

Electronic Music is always evolving. As an European born in the 90s, I've seen so many Electronic music waves, usually starting from the underground, then reaching a mainstream level, then slowly dying. Then a new trend appears and the same thing happens again.

It's funny to see how Dance Music took over America. For the most part, American people have just been exposed to the mainstream side of that Music. Now what happens is that people who love Electronic music dig deeper and find a niche genre they like. Electronic genres have become so much more fragmented. You have so many sub-genres or trends. Internet amplified that phenomena.

Also, what drives Electronic music are technologies and fresh ideas. As long as some people develop new synths/plugins/programs/tools... and artists that push the thing forward and come up with novel ideas, break the mold... then the music will continue to evolve and be different.

A lot of it seems pretty cyclical to me. Like dubstep was kinda out for a few years and it's making it's way back in now with fresh new sounds. IMO, as long as there are fresh new artists, EM can't really die.

How do you make music that doesn't sound like it came from a video game?

There's a bunch of tricks you can use to make music feel more natural:

  • Use better libraries or samples (east west stuff for example)
  • Try making your sounds more natural/acoustic by (only when NECESSARY) cutting some high and maybe adding some (low-) mid frequencies.
  • Add reverb
  • Play with release so your instruments sound more fluent and not chopped or whatever
  • Don't use video game synth edm annoying sounding stuff
  • Put synths more on the background when you use them

Is electronic music an art form?

Is it "real" music?

Electronic music is real music, absolutely.

So if your view is "electronic music is equally music to physical music" then of course it is.

What I want to change your view on is your opinion that both are equally difficult to perform, I think this aspect of your argument is weak and is only used to cover for a portion of your post that you know is weak compared to your other points. Looking at a "physical musicians" hand eye corrodination, dexterity and general physical use of body on top of already performing music that is created just the same as EDM already puts it a leg above. Electronic music is created in a studio, it comes from the mind, while physical music comes from the mind and body.

Also, the idea that an EDM artist has so much more potential sound to work with (endless possibilities on an empty track) is also silly. The human ear only likes certain notes (sounds) that go together. As you said, an EDM artist still needs to know about music. This already confines them to a certain extent. At this point they aren't offering any melodies or sounds a guitar or keyboard offer with effect pedals which are essentially creating the noises and sounds that are used to alter and create sound in a studio by an EDM artist.

Despite what your grandparents might say, electronic music truly is an art-form. It can range from pleasantly simple to incredibly complex. It allows for the ultimate self-expression, the crowd is loving and accepting, and the songs can go from incredibly happy to dark and brooding.

I've never had a bad experience at a live show (knock on wood), in fact I would even say that attendees at an electronic show are more likely to look out for each others well being. People here don't care what you wear, they're ultimately there for the music. It's a pretty amazing community to be apart of.

Can you create electronic music on Linux?

I love Linux and use it from time to time, and though the learning curve is pretty steep, I actually now prefer it to anything else. The JACK sound server alone is worth the hassle in my opinion, and the available software for production on Linux has really come along in the last few years. I'm quite fond of Renoise, and Ardour is good too. ZynAddSubFX is hands down the most powerful synth I've ever used and it's native to Linux.

The downside definitely is lack of VST support, and I don't see that changing any time soon, so if you've invested a lot in VST software you may want to consider that.

The other thing, and this is neither a drawback nor a benefit in my opinion, is that the Linux attitude to production is different, there's less reliance on having one DAW that does absolutely everything and more of a modular approach of using different tools for different jobs.

There is a small yet quite active community of Linux musicians, and as a whole, the tracks that come out of it are just as good as anything else you might find. I think Linux production probably suits the kind of person that likes tinkering under the hood and has a bit of a DIY ethic. If simple, out of the box solutions are what you're after, I'd stick to OS X or Windows.

What are your experiences with Bitwig and Studio One for electronic music creation?

I have used it a lot for recording electric guitars. I constantly switch between Bitwig and Studio One depending on what mood I'm in. My best recommendation is use the numpad for shortcuts.

As a guitarplayer you often sit in positions not comfortable for using both hands on your keyboard/mouse. The damn guitar is constantly between you and your keyboard, and on top op that I often sit a bit angled, to avoid having my pickups, picking up noise from motherboard and monitor. This gives an annoying workflow.

You won't to have as many of the most important shortcuts available for your right hand without having to move it around so much in weird finger yoga positions on the keyboard. Or having to constantly reaching for your mouse. In that way Studio One has some better planned native shortcuts, that just works out of the box first time you launch it.

But after tweaking around and experimenting with bitwig shortcuts and stealing ideas from my other DAW, I managed to get a pretty good workflow for the way I record. I do most stuff in the Arranger timeline, like traditional daws, and only use the launcher for multitakes, and then move them to the Arranger right after.

I love Bitwig, but in my experience it needs a lot of tweaking and experimenting if you have these "one hand needs". And therefor I find it best suited for the more producer oriented workflow where you have both hands close to your keyboard/mouse/midicontroller. With this statement I primarily have focus on having a comfortable, fast and efficient workflow as a guitar player.

How my electronic music career worked out

I started producing many years ago, but was able to generate a steadier revenue stream mixing/mastering and mobile recording for people. It's not a great career. You can't bet your life on becoming the next deadmau5.

You work when you're needed, there is no retirement plan besides your own, and your income can fluctuate greatly.

I've honestly entertained going back to school as someone who's "aging" in the industry but, that being said, there are ways to make it a career. Post-production can always be a more steady avenue. Just some stuff to think about.

If you're interested in becoming a filmmaker, I would recommend you give these 3 Masterclasses a try:

Watch, listen, and learn as Martin Scorsese teaches his first-ever online class.

Spike Lee open the doors of his Brooklyn office to teach filmmaking through scripts and storyboards from some of his greatest films.

From storyboarding your vision to collaborating with actors, learn filmmaking from an Oscar-winning Hollewood legends, Jodie Foster.

Lessons include topics like: film education, filmmaking process, filmmaking influences, developing your style, directing and technology, working the the script, discovering a story, casting actors, production design, working on locations, costume design, understanding cinematography, shooting on a budget, working with crew, film editing, color grading, black and white, sound design, the power of music, marketing and promotion, the future of film making, finding your own way, the art of storytelling, improvising with actors, vision and big ideas.

Everybody wants to become a filmmaker, but nobody wants to work to create good films

One of my favorite quotes is from Darren Aronofsky when he was talking about making The Wrestler. He said it was the first time he realized all you need is one camera and one actor to tell a story. He made that movie with resources, sure... but it was a skeleton crew and with actors working for scale.

If you have an iPhone and a $90 microphone, you can make a a small feature. You just need a great story that uses locations you can get for free. Then, you just need to discover local talent. It costs nothing to hold open auditions.

Rian Johnson spent years trying to make brick for $3 million until his longtime producer Ram told him “there’s no difference between a 3 million and $300,000 movie except what people get paid.” That inspired him to make Brick for $300k and they still shot on film. He had a great story to tell and that’s what ultimately mattered.

Go make movies, don’t let money stop you, but make sure you have a great story first. Get people to give you honest feedback on your script, and when enough people tell you “oh my God, you have to make this” then you’re ready to go make it no matter what equipment or crew size you have.

I think the point is with today’s technology you don’t need the $300k anymore. Robert Rodriguez made his first feature in the early 90s on film for $7k. Image what he would have done with an iPhone and a cheap microphone?

Be creative and make cool shit. Stop trying to figure it out and just go do it with whatever it is that you have. No one cares what camera you shot with or what actors you have as long as you can connect to them with relatable characters and a compelling story.

Look around you. What do you have? Can you write a story based on what you can get for free? Do you have friends you can use as crew and teach them to hold a mic or drag a camera around for you even if they’ve never done anything on a film before? If you have a story to tell, go tell it. Even if no one ever sees it, go record hours and hours on your iPhone, and cut it together on your iPhone (yeah, there are real editing programs on mobile phones now that rival software used on desktops).

A camera, a microphone, an actor, and a story that connects.

Oh, and food. Pay for lunch. That’s it. Go shoot your story. Practice your craft every chance you get.

How to jumpstart your filmmaking career

Don't spend too much money on gear just yet. Find another job and during this time you should read, write out your screenplays, study film history and technique, watch films, and live your life while grinding out the bucks.

Don't spend anything untill you are comfortable with a few completed scripts and then is the time to go into production. You will be better prepared and will perhaps be able to spend more money (time) on your work. Listen to music. Particularly classical as a great deal I believe is public domain.

Buy a DSLR and learn photography in your free time. This will be very helpful in understanding the fundamentals of image making and will apply to cinematography.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm is II Lens Bundle + Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Lens and 500mm Preset Lens + 32GB Memory + Filters + Monopod + Professional Bundle
239 reviews
Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm is II Lens Bundle + Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Lens and 500mm Preset Lens + 32GB Memory + Filters + Monopod + Professional Bundle
  • This Canon Camera Bundle comes with Manufacturer Supplied Accessories and One Year Seller Warranty.
  • Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera - 24.1MP APS-C CMOS Sensor - DIGIC 4+ Image Processor - 3.0" 920k-Dot LCD Monitor - Full HD 1080/30p Video Recording - 9-Point AF with Center Cross-Type Point - ISO 100-6400, Up to 3 fps Shooting - Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC - Scene Intelligent Auto Mode - Creative Filters and Creative Auto Modes
  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens is a sleek and flexible option for everyday shooting. Spanning a 28.8-88mm equivalent focal length range, this lens covers wide-angle to portrait-length perspectives + Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Lens + 500mm f/8 Telephoto Preset Lens

Forget that film school is out there. Watch films, write, read and learn about film production and the business end. Be curious about everything and apply yourself with great pressure to your passion. Arguably, and this my well be false, but you are 28 years old and may have more life experience then the younger welps that are able to attend film school (i'm not knocking it or trying to offend). Do not relent and continue to study and envelop yourself in film.

Books to Aid:
Stanislavsky Directs
Painting With Light by John Alton
The 5 C's of Cinematography
American Cinematographer Manual
Film Technique and Film Acting by V.I. Pudovkin

Film Documentaries:
Lost in La Mancha
Hearts of Darkness (Apocalypse Now making of)
Burden of Dreams
The Making of Alien
The Making of Star Wars

If you truly want it, never relent. Peruse with honesty and a irrevocable passion.

Oh, and having a grounded perspective of both what is likely to not happen for you and what possibly could is important. You need money to live, but it's not everything you NEED.

"However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light" - Stanley Kubrick

Oh, and buy this, get you phone out, and start making films:

Movie Film Clap Board, Hollywood Clapper Board Wooden Film Movie Clapboard Accessory with Black & White, 12'x11' Give Away White Erasable Pen
132 reviews
Movie Film Clap Board, Hollywood Clapper Board Wooden Film Movie Clapboard Accessory with Black & White, 12"x11" Give Away White Erasable Pen
  • Film clapper material: Made of natural wood, Color:Black & White, Packing List: 1 x Clapper Board,1 x pen
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Can you create a good film without paying for crew?

If everyone is in it on a shoe string budget, then it’s an amateur project and no one should expect to be paid as a professional as long as they’re willing to volunteer. Now, if that movie ever gets sold by some miracle, then a good producer should make sure everyone gets a part of that for their efforts. You can defer pay, it’s completely ethical to do so (as long as you make good on the deferment if any money is ever made) and is often the only way a no-budget movie gets made.

Slamming your fist down and saying “fair pay in every situation” is righteous indignation and gatekeeping that completely removes context of the production. A group of people getting together and equally deciding “let’s just get this movie made” is not taking advantage of professionals or only offering exposure. It’s a group of artists coming together and deciding not to let money get in the way.

That’s why I’m also saying to do most of the work yourself as well. YOU can grab a camera and shoot, direct, light, edit, mix with today’s technology. You often don’t have to involve a lot of people, and certainly not many professionals that should be paid.

You’re not a Daniel Day-Lewis level director yet, so you shouldn’t expect your actors to be yet either. Remember, someone gave DDL his first shot at some point, and I bet he wasn’t that great... but maybe he was pretty good? You’ll challenge yourself as a director as well on how to pull the best performance out of the actors you do work with. Have an open audition for actors and non-actors. You never know some person that always dreamt of being an actor but never had a chance walks through the door and you discover the next Jennifer Lawrence.

The great thing about young and hungry actors and shooting on a cheap medium is you can do 100 takes until they get close to that place in your head. Wear them out, keep tweaking, keep working. If you saw something special in them at the audition, you know you can get it from them.

I’d also say don’t be too precious about what’s in your head. Truth is truth, and what’s in your head might not be the truth of the scene in the moment. Know what you’re trying to say emotionally and story wise with the moment, and then go discover the performance with your actor. Even if you had Daniel Day-Lewis to work with, he’d never want to conform to what was in YOUR head, he’s want to go with what was in the character’s head (if that makes sense).

Kevin Smith got a bunch of local knuckle heads together and made Clerks. Robert Rodriquez found a dude with a cool look that had never acted in his life to be the bad guy in his first movie.

Go audition people, go find that waiter or waitress that has an interesting look, pan for gold. The point is, you can at least make something for no money and you never know where it’ll take you. Just make stuff.

How to find actors to work for free?

Yes, it’s good to pay people, but artists will often lower their wages to minimum wage happily to help a new young filmmaker. You can also make a movie with a skeleton crew with the right script.

It’s always good to watch out for people, but you’re also promoting a type of gatekeeping by discouraging people from making movies until they can pay professionals a “living wage.” I hear you, I agree with you that it should be the norm... but guys like Adam Wingard went out there with friends and a handful of actors they knew and made feature movies for less than $20k to get their start. Now they’re in positions on giant studio features where they can hire people at full rate.

I’m talking about getting out there with friends and shooting a no-budget feature as amateurs for practice and if things go magically maybe you get noticed and get a small release and some money for your efforts.

I volunteer happily for no or little pay on passion projects all the time as long as that person is willing to do the same for me some day. It’s called community. You’re conflating greedy indie producers with struggling artists and that’s wrong headed.

No one can force someone to work on a movie. If someone agrees to work voluntarily or under scale then that’s their choice. Even the unions have low budget agreements where people can even work for free. It’s not entitlement to get out there and bust your ass to make something happen. Thankfully there are artists out there willing to help others and not gatekeep people from entering the cinema arts.

Pay when you can, yes. Ask for help when you can’t, but go and do it. It is possible and there are people happy to help if you’re upfront and honest with them.

Should you go to film school?

The ones who want to make films have been making them since they were kids without people telling them to "just go out and make movies." From my experience, most people in film school were either rich kids who didn't know what they wanted to do, or people who thought that going to film school is a free ride to becoming a director or major producer.

Here’s the thing, a lot of film students don’t realize truly the work you have to put in as a filmmaker. They all want to be directors and to do none of the work that comes with climbing up to that step. And with film school, EVERYONE writes and directs. So what happens when these students go out into the real world and realize they can’t just become a director overnight or write a film and sell it for millions? They leave to do other things.

“I didn’t go to film school, I went to films.” - Quentin Tarantino

I dropped out of FS after I realized that it does absolutely nothing for you in the real world. Nobody on a film set is checking your resume or cares about your emphasis. If you're truly dedicated in the field, you've already taught yourself the basics you learn in film school through genuine interest and research, and what you don't know, you'll teach yourself on your own. In the end, the people who aren't passionate will weed themselves out.

Film school teaches you the basics like lighting, editing, etc. It doesn't teach you how to be creative, and it doesn't teach you passion for filmmaking. If you have passion and creativity, it has already pushed you to understand most of those things on your own and what you don't know, you will learn quickly on set. Unless you don't already know those things, then film school will be useful but if it's something you're genuinely interested in and you don't know the basics of lighting and editing, what have you been doing the whole time?

What I'm saying is you get all of that same experience on set for free and there is no reason to pay for it. You're not going to be looked over for a job because you don't have a degree from a film school - you're more likely to miss out on a job because you don't have experience. A natural interest will drive you to look at your work and compare it to the films you admire, to see how you can get yours to the same level whether it's lighting, sound, composition, storytelling, etc. Film school is good practice for that stuff, but it is not a requirement and that's all I'm saying. I left film school my second year in, finished at a state university for my BA, got a job as a PA on set and worked up from there. I promise you, nobody has EVER asked about my degree qualifications regarding a film/TV job. Not once.

Why the story is more important than your budget

I’d trade one amazing story for all the money in the world. Those are the things that are truly hard to come by. So many people try to make movies that are “cool” or “look amazing” but at the end of the day that will ALWAYS fail on a no-budget shoot.

What will succeed is truth, characters dealing with life and emotions (love, sex, fear, poverty, humor). Try to be human not hip. Tell a story that breaks someone’s heart, uplifts them, or makes them feel like they cheated death and got away from the killer. If you can tell that story, you can make it for zero dollars and still move people, then you’re a filmmaker.

How difficult is it to become a filmmaker and turn it into a living?

Although I don't think this is what most people like to hear, but, as with any creative field (or most fields in general), your ability to NETWORK vastly outweighs your actual skill in the field. It's truly a sad thing, but actual ability doesn't mean much when you are looking for a lucrative job in the Film Making industries.

Think about it this way: say you saw a terrible, terrible movie trailer. It was so bad that you had to open up three other tabs and go on Facebook and Twitter while the audio was playing in the background just because you couldn't stand to actual watch the horrible thing when, all of the sudden, you get a call from a good friend who's opinion you entirely trust.

He told you that this movie is a must see in theaters, and the trailer doesn't represent it at all. He tells you how amazing the movie is and you have to go see it while it's in iMAX. Chances are, you're going to go see the movie in theaters if you really trust his opinion. This is the way the industry works.

Most of my gigs went down through this scenario in the early years it took me to get a lucrative film making career off the ground: I made friends with a guy, let's call him Joe. One day, Joe grabbed lunch with Sarah, who told Joe that her boss, Scott, was looking for someone to film something for him. Joe told Sarah that he knew a person (Me), and gave her my number.

Sarah gave my number to Scott, who, in turn, was actually asking on behalf of his friend Charles who was getting married. Charles calls me up, and I get hired to do his wedding. At his wedding, I meet John, Rick, and Kate. And the cycle begins again, and again until a bunch of people are telling their friends, who trust their opinions, to hire me - which gets me more gigs than any film reel or killer advertising could have ever done for me.

The sad truth of the matter is, if you are not good at making friends and being able to network, you will (most likely) not make it in the industry. Even now, I have friends calling me about opening positions at networks like NBC-Universal, Hallmark, El Rey, etc - and, chances are, if I applied to any of those positions, I could easily get it due to the recommendation of my friend who already works there. It's an unfair advantage that screws people who may have more talent than me out of a well paying position, but talent doesn't pay the bills.

Now, since you are asking "How" to become a Professional film maker - here's a quick little cheat sheet that'll help you start to roll out a network:

  • Get a business card. First and foremost, get a business card with your name, number, and email.
  • From there, Film Weddings. Your cousin's wedding. Your friend's wedding. Your Manager from McDonald's wedding. Weddings pay well, the standard of "professional" video isn't far beyond adding some sappy sentimental music on a montage of lens flares and the bride and groom kissing. As long as you are confident in your skills, and competent in your shots - you're going to great at it. At weddings, you will always have people come up to you and tell you how they may be getting married soon and how they want you to film their wedding for them. Give them your business card, and you just started branching out. I mean, at most weddings, you're going to get a ton of ladies coming up to you telling you how they are planning to get married soon, it's a hotbed for it.
  • Easiest way to break into the industry.
  • From there, music videos. Music videos are similar to wedding montage videos - and there is always a demand from amateur artists looking to pay a couple hundred dollars for a relatively good looking Music Video. From doing weddings, at least in my experience, at least one in every three weddings will have some sort of aspiring musician in it's mix, who will ask you how much you will charge to film a music video. It's an easy side step into a more creative (albeit more competitive) space.
  • And from there, just keep growing your network and business. Keep up to date on Social Media, upload samples everyone - and, within a few years (I'd say, if we are playing it safe - 3 to 5 years), you should be getting booked enough to make a career out of your film making.

But remember, never stop aspiring to chase your real dreams. If you want to make movies, always jump for those gigs, even if they pay less. Nothing is worse than being stuck filming things you absolutely loathe for the rest of your life - at least, in your free time, always try to do what you actually want to do. And remember: at first, any gig is worth taking as long as it pays - but as you become established, you need to take gigs in the industry/path you wish to take. You aren't going to make movie connections filming a wedding video, nor are you going to make music video connections filming a documentary. Plot a course to take you where you need to go.

How to become a film director?

The list of ways is ever growing because there is no real set 'way in'. Every single person who has gotten into a position like that has done it slightly differently than the person before them.

Lots of people get in on account of money and nepotism, but for those of us who don't have that luxury, we have to rely on things like the internet -- make short films, get them out there. Tons of directors have made their way in starting with a short film that got just the right attention - and the internet has only widened that window.

Other folks have written scripts that turn heads, although this often requires the help of at least an agent or a connection who can get it on the desk of someone who can actually do something with it.

Others have transitioned from smaller careers directing commercials and music videos (although this is no easy feat to enter either)

And still others have entered the business through strokes of luck and coincidence - (James Cameron stepping in to direct Piranha 2 after the original director left).

At the end of the day you have to find your own way and it's going to be uniquely yours. It may be like some others, but it won't be the same. Network, strategize, read, study, but most importantly, make shit. Go film something!

You need to know someone. But it's not that hard to know someone. I got one of my first jobs because I struck up a conversation with a dude at a bar. Boom. But anything higher than a PA on something like Star Wars is unionized and getting into those unions is a whole other conversation/clusterfuck.

And to be in an above-the-line creative position you most certainly need an agent. I don't know specifically Dan's story (and everyone's story is different and there's no one way to break in, mind you) but if I had to guess I'd say he worked his ass off as a crew member on a few shows, put together his short, got it done, it attracted the eye of an agent, who signed him and got him work doing 10 Cloverfield Lane. Yes, it's a lot of luck, but you can create your own luck in this business as well.

If you want to be a director, and it truly seems like you have the skillset of a director - understanding a little bit of everything so that you know your limits, possibilities and the medium you are working on, but understand little enough to let the actual professionals to master the specific areas, according to your wishes, you'll be bouncing back to this insecurity of "what next" constantly. It's the blessing and curse of our profession: you're never satisfied, and you should never be satisfied.

What I suggest you need more than anything is a producer to team up with. Head over to film festivals and meet with producers. Forget everyone else, forget the writers, composers, actors, distributors, even agents and managers, and whoever flock the festivals who have very little to do with your next step, and focus on meeting producers and talking about films with them. Not necessarily your films, but films in general. Find a person with whom you click together. Establish a relationship. More than going to the forest with a mushroom book in your hand, as we say in Finland, see what comes to you - most important is to find the person you feel comfortable with, artistically, financially, sense-of-humour -wise, someone you feel you can trust (you never know, but you have to take a leap of faith during your career a few times).

Then, see what this person has. Maybe he/she is looking for a director for his project he can finance; maybe he/she has a script he'd like to develop with someone. And he/she will for sure turn to you and ask: what do you have in mind. Maybe he/she has a writer you can team up with and develop your stuff.

This doesn't have to be, and shouldn't be a lone battle, team up with someone you can trust and go fight the world together. Even if you get burned, which probably will happen few times before you find the right one, you're on the right track.

Nobody makes films alone.

At what point should you give up on becoming a filmmaker?

I think it really comes down to what YOU want.

Do you want to have a family of your own? Kids?

What exactly do you want to do in film? Get into a festival? Make it big and get a million dollar maker? Win an Oscar?

I think you really need to figure out you point A to point B first. The fastest way you get from point A to point B is a straight line. But if we don't figure what exactly what we want our point B to be, than that line will be full of turns and curls before ever reaching to the point or drifting you to a new one that has nothing to do with it.

Once you figure that out, you have to figure if the commitment is worth it because for anything in life there will be scarifices. That's why I ask the family question, this could takes years to get there and hinder relationships for example. Or by trying to get to where you want, you might be sacrificing your livelihood for example, Ang Lee was a poignant filmmaker during his NYU days and getting a lot of recognition. Once he graduated he was stuck with nothing. Married and having a child he didn't earn much if not, nothing at all. Lee spent years just writing scripts before getting his first feature made. But in the process made his family go through a lot.

And ultimately if you decide to not put up with the sacrifices that need to be made then that's fine there's nothing wrong with that. Ultimately we will always have to choose what's best for us in our own interests. And even if you decide film isn't the career path you want to take you can still enjoy it as a hobby certainly. I remember listening to an employee for Fiat saying he had a chance to go pro in soccer but ultimately decided not to. Even though he doesn't play soccer professionally and does a completely different line of work he still plays the sport every other weekend so he's still able to enjoy the sport he loves. He just doesn't get paid to it. If anything film making can still be a hobby you can throuoghly enjoy.

Ultimately I think it really comes down to this. What is your dream? And I don't mean a career. But a dream. I don't mean to sound pretentious but from experience and helping my friends and colleagues' thought process figuring that out first can really help out with any life decision.

How would you break into filmmaking if you were starting again?

I do not know any other way to break in as a content creator without creating your own content and getting an agent to rep you as a director. But I'm sure there are a plethora of other ways to do it as there is never 1 path in this business.

Shorts and web series are basically commercials for yourself and the other creatives involved. If the story is part of something bigger, it could also be a commercial for a feature or tv show idea, but you will likely never profit off of the short itself. Think of it as a tool to get yourself a job or a rep. And making shorts is a hell of a lot harder than it sounds (or it can be anyway.)

I used my position as an AD (also a freelancer, welcome to the fucking suck) working with some tiny companies to rub elbows enough with the producers to get them to hire me to direct a couple shorts. And the shorts were basically commercials for these tiny companies as they build their own networks and body of work to move up to doing bigger and better things. (3 shorts with 2 different companies, almost done with post on all, they vary in quality from "brilliant" to "shit, what was I thinking?")

So if I were you, as you dive into this freelance world, try to build a relationship with the above-the-line folks that's close enough to where they will take you seriously when you say you're a creative. And also definitely try to make your own shit. Find a friend who can write, a friend that can shoot, etc.

Before I could afford rates, I only worked crews for half a day and supplied beer afterwards. (Because of this, the content was obviously short, but some of those dumb short-shorts played a part in the aforementioned tiny companies trusting me with their shit) So I'd say unless you're sitting on a war chest of funds, just do something super simple and clever.

Depending on the length and whatnot it'll either live on the web or do the festival thing, whichever route it takes make sure A) that it's good and B) that you tell every person with a goddamn pulse who might be in a position to hire a director either now or someday about it. (And C) if it's not good, go back to the drawing board and try again.) And then you do something else that's a little bigger, and bigger, and then who knows maybe you're in the running to direct Avengers 9 some day. Or you're sitting next to me under a bridge begging for change. The biz is crazy.

So yeah. There's probably different/better/easier ways to go about this but that's what I'm rocking over here and I haven't starved to death yet so somethings working.

If you're serious about learning acting, there are 3 amazing Masterclasses you should check:

Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman teaches her process for creating complex characters through psychology, voice, gesture, and movement.

Helen Mirren brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

Come and listen as Sam L. Jackson teaches his first-ever acting class.

Lessons include topics like: creating characters, physical characterization, acting case studies, breaking down a script, character biographies, character voicing, body acting, emotional acting, developing characterization, acting practice, auditioning, acting career, Hollywood tips, the future of acting, theater acting, choosing roles, choosing your characters, hair and makeup, rehearsals and preparation, acting techniques, working with writers and directors, improvisation, green-screen acting, and active empathy.

How to quickly improve at acting

A few things off the top of my head that you can do towards studying acting/becoming an actor:

  • Check out your local community theater.
  • Attend a drama summer camp.
  • Read books and plays.
  • Read scripts (http://www.imsdb.com is just one site, there's a handful more) to movies you really like where there's a character role you could see yourself in.
  • Work on your memorization skills.
  • Learn, or keep progressing on, your talents/special skills (things you'll eventually list on your resume)

You can't learn acting just from reading books! You can supplement to the nth degree and this doesn't mean you shouldn't be reading books, but without any practical experience the books just won't help you. This is because the books will teach you things but until you have felt what they're referring to you won't know how to use the knowledge of the book correctly.

I would recommend reading some actor biographies like Jenna Fisher and Bryan Cranston. These will help you understand a little more concretely what a life as an actor MIGHT be for you.

The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide
472 reviews
The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide
  • Fischer, Jenna (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 252 Pages - 11/14/2017 (Publication Date) - BenBella Books (Publisher)
A Life in Parts
739 reviews
A Life in Parts
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Bryan Cranston (Author) - Bryan Cranston (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)

I also recommend this done by one of the co-founders of the Royal Shakespeare Company, John Barton, including some of the top Shakespearean actors ever, including Ian Mckellen, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, and others whose names are not so well known but should be. Even though the focus is for performing Shakespeare, I think this should be required viewing for every actor. It's long and definitely not something to just kick back and watch but it is so worth it.

Is acting something that anyone can be really good at?

It's like anything. There's always somebody who is pretty bad. There are people who will naturally be good or bad at the start with no training. We're all different and have different talents, and skills, and experiences.

But none of that fucking matters. If this is what you like to do and what you want to do, then just focus, work hard at it, make sure it's fun, and try to get better.

It's like any sport. Michael Jordan used to suck ass at basketball. He didn't even make varsity. But he was pissed off and determined and he worked at it and he became fucking great.

Now, with that being said, if you see somebody who sucks at basketball but is naturally amazing at football, you might try to point them in that direction. Because there are paths and potential possibilities here. Take this guy who sucks at basketball and if he continues basketball, he might play D3 college and then that's it.

End of the rope. He plays that, graduates, gets a real job, and hoops in his spare time. Whereas if he switches to football, and he's naturally a god at that, and now all of a sudden he's playing D1 ball and goes pro and becomes like a fucking Tom Brady or some shit... you see? It would have been disingenuous to push that guy more towards basketball.

But if that's his choice and what he wants, then hell, support that.

You can only improve if you want to improve. That comes with any skill. Not just acting. Utilize every resource for this skill that you can and stop doubting yourself. Give yourself time and don't have a negative mindset. You will improve greatly if you let yourself. I know that sounds like some blanket statement but if you really want it get it. It's your life to make. There are plenty of resources to look into and try.

It's great that you want to improve, but it's important that you are translating that into actual skills you want to acquire, rather than beat yourself up about it. To grow as an actor is to grow as a person and vice versa. Your emotional and creative life are vital to your acting. Can you be moved by a good poem? Can you breathe in what you're experiencing? Can you observe your own behavior and why you do what you do, and others? You want to have wit, physical flexibility, emotional availability, and a voice that reveals who you and your characters are.

A good place to start is reading some basic acting texts. I think Uta Hagen's are the most beginner friendly, but also a book that is escaping my mind, it has a very simple title, but it's by william h macy and it's about verbs if IRC (embarassing lapse of memory). Meisner/strasberg/michael chekhov would be useful. I think the most helpful books would be freeing the natural voice, and how to study the alexander technique.

Most importantly, stop being so down on yourself. It's hard to be creative while you're telling yourself you aren't. Same thing with good acting. How can you be available to a spontaneous response when you're thinking about how you suck? Learning to listen, inside and out are important. Remembering how to have breathing be a whole self process is important. You should be proud of not wanting to be a bad actor. Most people aren't even aware they are.

Can you learn acting without going to school?

Can you teach yourself acting?

As an actor myself I like to ask questions and learn the most I can. One of those questions was, "Do I NEED acting classes?" An actor I met responded with... you don't NEED acting classes. Most of the time, those who cast actors usually cast you for you.

They like your personality and what you bring. He added, it's always good to learn a thing a two, but don't stress acting classes. This was a famous actor who blessed me with his wisdom.

You can. Some people are naturals or they have the self-awareness to micro-correct themselves and teach themselves. But, you won't know if you are a natural or someone who can correctly teach themselves until you get in a class and find out in the heat of it. Learn and study and practice all you can until you can afford classes.

Classes are still good if you are one the these. There is always something you don't know and they build you professionally. They teach you tough skin, taking direction, and basically learning how to deliver in situations that aren't ideal. So, yeah, learn on your own and stay teachable.

You're going to learn bad habits in or out of classes, so don't let that stop you. The more you understand about the philosophy of acting before you get into classes, the better. Just stay plyable and be willing to be wrong as well as being willing to be right.

Can you be too old to pursue acting?

Last year at 24 I decided to pursue acting. It was something I wanted to do since I was young, but was never fully encouraged to do it (plus my parents would of never of been able to afford drama school). A lot of things stopped me from doing it as I got older, from judgemental peers to family trauma, but then I realised I could use what i went through emotionally and mentally and use it in acting.

Anyway I signed up for an evening creative acting class, for adults for 3 months. That led me to do a method acting class for a year, which I'm on now. Both are just once a week, but I know with the course I'm on now we'll eventually go in a few more times in the week as we do more work.

One thing I suggest is to join some acting groups on Facebook, I'm surprised with the amount of work that's posted! Last year I did a music video, now I'm looking to more voice work as I've got a brace (in all fairness that could help me with teenage roles, ha!).

Honestly doing a short course may just be all you need. Just network, be open to anything. Do stuff for free and be willing to travel. I go to the Birmingham School of Acting and it's amazing! I know it's more tough in the UK but again I think it's better to throw yourself out there. I've also gone into film making myself, so don't be afraid to approach indie film groups too.

Why is it so easy to notice bad acting?

I think it was Hitchcock who said most of acting happens in the eyes; it's nonverbal.

Since then I have paid attention to actors I think are skilled, and I gave watched their eyes. He was right. There is a boatload of information communicated by good actors through their eyes. Between one line and the next, sometimes you may see several emotions and thoughts flicker though their eyes. You just can't add that to the dialogue in a script. Sometimes you just have to shake your head in a 'wow' moment, amazed at what complexity an actor can bring to a scene.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there are tons of really good actors out there. They aren't all stars. There are lots of opportunities to see quality acting but often they are in character driven roles.

The eyes reveal the heart of the character.

It's also about whether the actor can actually "act as an character". Worst actors are the ones who are not portraying a character but rather being just themselves. For example: Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be Arnold no matter what movie he plays in. He is not acting as a character, he is just Arnold.

Watch several movies with Nicolas Cage, you will notice he is always Nicolas Cage, looks and behaves just like himself. You can say he acts the same way, but he is just really himself, doesn't act. Good actors don't bring their own personality / style to the role, rather try to be as close as you can get to 100% just being the character / not themselves.

The best actors are these who can play two or even three roles in the same feature unnoticed. For example Chia-Hui Liu and Michael Parks in Kill Bill. They both played double roles. Master acting.

Bad actors play the role, instead of the person. For example, if someone was given the role of police officer, they play a police officer. That is wrong. What you should do, is play a person who just so happens to be a police officer.

If you want to see good examples of bad acting, watch that Marvel S.H.I.E.L.D tv show or DCs The Flash. Basically, do the opposite of what they do and you will be fine.

I think a big problem is that they cast attractive young people who have just come out of acting school, instead of casting people who are actually good at their craft. That's why you get a bunch of young 20 year olds playing parts of head scientists (the flash) who can't act for shit.

What to do if you feel like giving up

I'm in the same exact boat. I love acting. I literally spend my entire day working on characters, finding auditions, reading books, etc. and I never get bored of it. My friends are very supportive. My family is very against it. I understand where they're coming from: they want the best for their children and they see how little money actors make. But what helps keep me from giving up is confirming with myself that I'd rather be broke but pursuing something I love than settle into a 9-5 that I never wanted in the first place because I was too afraid of making my family upset.

It's your life, and at the end of the day the only one who has to live with it is you. I say, go after your dream. One of my favorite Disney quotes (I believe from Fox and the Hound, not sure though) is "sometimes the right path is not the easiest one" and I think that definitely applies here. I feel like I'm speaking to myself right now lol. At the end of the day, you only get one life to live, and I say live it to the fullest and give your dreams a shot. Best of luck!

Can you learn acting just by watching movie performances?

I’m gonna be the one who will say yes— you can, to a point.

I learn by imitation, so a lot of things I do for my on camera work are basically just mimicking certain traits or tricks of various actors in different roles.

You can never learn the technical parts of on-camera acting from just watching unless you’re on set doing it. I do take in person class as well, which keeps me comfortable in front of an “audience” (which will be the Crew on a film/tv set)

You can’t learn everything from just a watching, but I do believe you can learn quite a bit.

How to memorize your lines quickly

I memorize as much as possible immediately, then when I take a shower I don't let myself leave the shower until I've correctly said each monologue 5 times. Moments where you're totally by yourself (which for me, I find in the bathroom) are great to rehearse and force yourself to think about your lines.

One thing that helps me is to find the inner storyline or structure of the monologue, and break it down into its component sections. The places where the monologue transitions from one idea to another are usually the most troublesome spots; being aware of those transitions helps to prevent me from getting lost.

Beyond that, I use the brute force method: I learn the first line; when I can say that line ten times without a mistake, I add the second line; when I can say those two lines ten times without a mistake, I add the third line, etc. Once I've got the whole thing more or less memorized, I alternate between doing the monologue with nuances and gestures and speeding through it robotically.

Other memorization tips:

  • I make my lines into a song because for some reason, I remember songs better?

  • I also play an audio I took on my phone (if you have an iPhone, the "Voice Memo" works fine) over & over & over again. Like... while I'm working out, cooking dinner, cleaning, hell doing homework!

  • Also, writing out my lines on paper and saying them aloud??? Tedious, but it works for me!!

  • Finally, I just kind of try to think less about the words in the moment, and focus how my character is feeling. How am I feeling in this situation? The more I "feel" what my character is going through, the easier it is to recall lines associated with those feelings.

How to make your sound stronger and more interesting?

How not to sound flat and monotonous?

This is definitely a weakness I need to work on as well.

Here’s some suggestions you could try.

Watch your body posture - have your feet planted in the centre of the stage. Don’t be rigid but not so flimsy either. I was told by my coaches I would move my hands and arms frequently out of nervousness.

Just find a spot where you can stand up straight comfortably, as if your moving around during your performance it affects the tone at which you speak.

Speak from your diaphragm - From my observation most people are not really to conscious of how they speak and do this on autopilot.

In our increasingly technological world we live in, we don’t engage in frequent good quality conversation.

In this case being aware of your breathing and really working your diaphragm rather than speaking from your chest which most of us do, I’m guilty of this.

By working on this, your speech should be more clear and project more. Speaking from your chest causes you to rush and mumble your speech. Be conscious of your breathing.

Side note (breath from your nose, keep your mouth closed, and rest the tongue at the roof of your pallet when resting if you don’t already - this is more for just general posture, but it relates to speech. Search Orthotropics in your own time.

Read aloud - Again going back to the technological world we live in, people are hardly reading physical books anymore. Is it tedious? Does it take us back to school?

Yes, it feels that way but only because we’re on our smartphones so damn much. Before all of this existed, it could be universally agreed that reading books was genuinely a fun thing to do.

Try and train yourself back into those habits, you don’t have a to read a novel but give yourself a goal of a book a week to read and increase it from there.

Read some paragraphs out aloud so you can be conscious of the way you sound when you read the text aloud. Record yourself. If there are some new words that are unfamiliar to you, research them, find out the definition, practice pronouncing them.

I was trying to get my way around pronouncing ‘adieu’ and ‘melancholy’ today.

Look after yourself - Drink enough water. Have a water bottle with you on hand whenever you can and just keep hydrated. Tea with lemon and honey in morning, soften up your vocal chords.

Again, if you want, search into Orthotropics in your own time. It covers being conscious of the way you chew, using as much of your jaw muscles. Have chewing gum on hand.

Get enough rest and...keep a book by your bedside so you can READ when you get up!

It won’t be overnight, but IF you consistently practice and hold yourself accountable to actually working on your weaknesses, you will notice an improvement in these areas.

Linear progression.

Have you started reading a book of your choice? (and reading out paragraphs aloud and recording it)

We all start somewhere.

Instead use that as fuel to give yourself a wake up call of, ‘yes I understand that I will be working with actors who are younger than me, and have gained more experience due to an earlier start in their acting career’

‘Now I can look at this as a setback, or as a means to say to myself I need to put in as much effort, if not more effort than my peers in order to match their skill level or even exceed it and be the best possible actor I can be.’

It’s all on you, just push yourself and use the factor of your age as a positive incentive to get the wheels in motion for your acting career.

Better late than never!

What to do about toxic acting classes?

Identify them and find a better class ASAP!

I was trying outdifferent acting studios a year ago. There was this one studio that had very cocky and narcissistic teachers. Like there was this one teacher in particular who tells everyone’s work sucks/terrible/“so bad”, then he saves it by saying, “that’s why you’re in class, right? I’ll fix it. This is how you do it.” And some students are so naive, encouraging him to berate their work, so they’d learn better. Wtf.

The funny thing is, this guy ups his own “achievements”. I looked him up, and he literally has ONE short film under his belt on IMDB. I’ve never heard of any of those “teachers’”names.

The studio itself felt very cult-y. I went there for a while, then moved on to a better studio, and I told them about that studio. Apparently no one takes that studio seriously, because they’ve heard those before. Can’t believe I stuck with them that long, it’s wasted time. All I learned there was the technical side. I know how to act, I graduated theatre.

Another thing is, after the very first class, they asked us to review and rate the studio 5 stars on Google. Lol. After one class. We don’t even know if we’ll feel the same way after the second class. So basically, we gotta BS things, saying we “love” it, and we “learned a lot”. Lol. They’d check it as you head out the door. I didn’t rate, nor review, because it’s ingenuine for me to say good things, especially if we’d only been there for 1 hour.

I almost signed up for a class with a guy in Denver and he called me before the class started I guess to get me hyped up for it or whatever but I could tell over the phone that he was a pompous ass.

What's better for professional acting training. New York City or London?

Drama Centre London hands-down. If you can get accepted and afford it. It's a full-time degree granting program that gives you experience in using what you're taught in full-length plays in-house plus makes an effort to get you and your classmates who were accepted through a highly selective vetting process in the first place seen by the London industry through an apparently well-attended showcase.

This is versus Esper's which is a part-time conservatory that will admit just about anybody with some cash and a pulse and costs just as much as most American collegiate drama programs when you factor in cost of living in New York and lack of financial aid and which offers none of the same kinds of perks nor performance experience as Drama Centre.

I think you have a mistaken notion about the training at Drama Centre as well. It isn't just classical theatre and even if it were, going there wouldn't limit you to only that as evidenced by three of their recent graduates booking series regular roles on American tv pilots just this year. Actually, to even be accredited, UK programs must offer contemporary theatre and on-camera as well as voiceover training as part of the curriculum. In fact, their accreditation standards are partially governed by their professional actors union to offer as best they can the skillsets a professional actor needs in the real world market.

You will also learn a variety of acting techniques from which you can pick and choose in forming your own process at Drama Centre while Esper only teaches Meisner technique which is by no means right for everyone. Meisner was actually an important part of my own drama school training, but I'm certainly glad it wasn't the only thing I was taught ...

I would also suggest that you apply to more UK schools if you can because as I understand it, the acceptance rates are in the low single digits and people often try for years to gain a place without much success, so it's best to widen your net. Also, if you think finances will be a concern, maybe look into some UK drama schools outside of London like RCS and RWCMD where they don't share London's crazy cost of living although they still conduct well-attended industry showcases in London at the end of the training.

My scene study framework

Here's a compilation of things I've gathered over the years. Use what you will. I have this all typed neatly in a word document which I have printed out and always in my briefcase.

I. Play Analysis

  1. Theme:
  2. Central Conflict:
  3. Key Events in Rising Action:
  4. Climax:
  5. Denouement:

II. Scene Analysis

A. Given Circumstances: (Whom What, Where, When)- A clear description of what has happened to the character you are playing in the scene just before your scene begins. This description should include emotional-mental state =, and the physical description of the character just before the scene begins. Evidence from the script should be offered where support is needed.

B. Intention or Objective: A description of the character’s overall motivation, what he/she wants throughout the scene- the characters Super-Objective in the scene.

C. Obstacle: A clear description of what is bloking the character from achieving his objective.

D. The Score: Mark your script indicating beats, objectives, tactics, and obstacles.

E. Result: A brief statement of the outcome or resolution of the scene

III. Character Analysis

A. Physical Description: A full description of the character, justifying the characteristics where necessary with textual references. This information includes information on the character’s age, what he/she looks like, what he/she must wear in the scenes. It also includes more active dimensions such as how thee character walks, moves, sits, gestures, talks, etc.

B. Emotional Profile: A full emotional profile of the character including habitual disposition and specific moods in the scene

C. Relationships: What is his/her relationship to the other character’s in the scene and to the central conflict in the scene.

D. Back Story: Create a statement of the most important and influential details about the character’s past history based on the given circumstances but enhanced by your own imagination.

E. Secret: Unshared- Shared-

GOTE: Basic information about the character Name Sex Age Marital status and history: Educational level: Economic/Social status: Goal: What do I really want? When do I wantit? Other: From whom (in the play) do I want it?Who in the play can help me? Who in the playcan hurt me? Who is an obstacle? Why? Whatare my deepest fears? Tactics: How can I get it? How (and whom)can I threaten? How (and whom) can I induce? Expectations: Why do I expect to get it? Whydoes it excite me? What will I do when I get it? Briefly describe the setting for your scene.

What to do if you can't afford acting classes but you want them

This job does require an ongoing investment, so you need to address your financial situation. This might not be the best sub for specific advice on that point, and in some ways what's done is done--$600/month in student loans for a degree that isn't earning you an income is a tough position to be in, but there isn't too much you can do about it now.

If you can sell your car, pay off the loan, and buy a cheap beater, that's one way to quickly save some money. $125/month for insurance is also incredibly high, unless you have a really bad driving record (not asking you to share that detail here, but you should be able to find much better if you shop around a bit and get the minimum required coverage).

In the end, though, you need a job that makes you more money and keeps you flexible, or you need to start living in your car (I have two actor friends doing this right now--one actually has a super small RV, the other a van, and both claim to be content). It's a problem every actor has to solve, and there are solutions. You might need to get more creative than looking at who's hiring in your area.

Guess what happened when I had to go back to a 9-5 bc my bank account was tanking? A few months in, I booked my first recurring on show you'd definitely know the name of. 7 episodes. I think it was because I was calm and part of me had been like, "If acting happens, it happens.

Right now I gotta eat and pay rent." It's almost like how when you stop looking for a boyfriend you get one. So many actors have to do what we're doing in NYC. We have to act, so act and say you have a doctor's appointment, pet emergencies work well, friends in town from Singapore for the day, food poisoning is great, and of course use your PTOs. I used my PTO to shoot our days on set.

Also write your own stuff (I wrote my own play that won a few awards and made it into a film which is getting me noticed at different festivals.) Oddly enough, you might find yourself hustling more with a 9-5. Creatives need a schedule. It helps. During downtime at work ideas will come to you. The only bummer is plays and I've booked some but that's daytime rehearsal so I can't do them. If they are adjustable that's dope. Break a leg!

What inspired me to become an actor

Since I work professionally now, have a steady paycheck, and am somewhat established in my career (done with college and grad school, have professional work experience), it is easier for me to pursue other avenues like acting.

It also makes it easier that I'm in the Atlanta-area with a lot of creatives and film people attracted by Georgia's film industry. Thus, it is a bit easier to collaborate and work with people.

However, I must confess that I'm nowhere at the level I need to be at. I have way more learning and growing to do before I really feel that I'm as successful of an actor as what I do professionally.

In short:

  • Realizing that I had it in me to be an actor. I have been comfortable with public speaking and presentation since I was young.
  • Wanting to try something new and meet new people and seeing how happy a former coworker of mine was in being an actor in the Georgia film industry. I have met a lot of interesting people through the acting world.
  • realizing that there are lot of people with horrible acting skills and bad personalities who have become famous in the acting world because they worked hard and put themselves out there more than others. It made me realize that if they could do it (and maybe they are not even worthy of their fame), then I definitely need to do it.

If you're serious about developing your creativity, give David Lynch's Masterclass a try:

David Lynch is a revolutionary director best known for movies like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive. He also created the famous Twin Peaks tv show. He is widely regarded as one of the most creative and visionary director in modern cinema.

Lessons include topics like: pursuit of creativity, catching ideas, the writing process, educating yourself, working with people, buliding worlds, breaking the rules, sticking to your ideas, and the future of creativity.

How to quickly improve your creative skills

What works for me is to focus on one medium for a bit and express everything that I can through it. Usually I'm increasing my knowledge and skills related to that medium at the same time, which allows the ideas to flow because the rest of my mind is occupied with improving the means of expression and is therefore kind of out of the way.

Once I've communicated all I can through that particular 'language' - music, writing, painting, videography, animation, ceramics or whatever - I'll find myself naturally transitioning into the next. My cycles only last around two years so I've learnt to work pretty intensely once I'm in the zone since I never know where I'll end up next!

Don't be too hard on yourself.

For example, music creation is supposed to be an enjoyable process, not something to get stressed over. Of course, that is how I see it only because I'm not a professional musician and I don't use music to pay my bills. But still, creativity, being such an internal process, is not something you can rely on being 100% satisfactory all of the time. And that is why we all just have to keep playing, being mindful of what we do when we play (by not getting into useless habits) but at the same time saving the criticism (not judgement) for whenever there is something concrete to improve on.

Having said all that. Different things tend to work for different people. If you're more of an analytical person, getting into music theory and leveraging it to transcribe, understand and improvise over your favorite songs may be a good activity. You may be surprised when you find yourself playing those improvised bits in completely different contexts.

What books related to developing your creativity can you recommend?

If you're really interested in the topics, you should give these six books a try:

Is it possible to learn creativity or do you have to be born with it?

Is it a skill or a talent? Can it be taught?

Start simple. Simply start. Every oak grows from an acorn.

You kind of have two choices: rely on innate ability (talent) or building music foundations through training and practice, typically over a period of years. I went the latter route: guitar lessons, piano lessons, vocal coaching, college level music composition classes, and years of continuing practice. It kind of comes dow to you and what it means to you.

Creativity is, like a lot of basic skills, innate to a degree, however without a working knowledge of theory your progress will be unfocused.

Theory is a structure that informs you of what notes are available and serves as a template. Without theory knowledge it's not impossible but your creativity is going to be blindly noodling around on a keyboard or piano roll versus deciding a key, a progression and working from there around a structure that's used by the majority of western musicians.

As for the motivation to prevent stalling that's on you - you either have the determination to persist in spite of the challenge, or maybe you need a structured course & tutor to make progress if you can't find sufficient resolve to continue otherwise.

Convince yourself that theory will free your creativity and trust that it will - it's a lot easier to move a piece forward when you've the full range of options afforded by theory over not knowing how to get by 8-bar loops played by ear with no sense of why it works.

Creativity is not pure talent or a "lucky day". You can learn tecniques on songwriting and production that will help a lot. Sure, sometimes it just strikes you and you are starting to whistle a fantastic melody that just popped up in your head. Also it is probably easier to write a super happy song when you are not having a horrible day. However, you can also learn what it takes to make a melody sound happy - or sad. And also more general stuff like what makes a good melody in the first place.

Melody is just an example. Since people have been making music for ages there are theories and books on just about everything.

So yes, the more you practice and learn the more "creative" you will get!

How important creativity really is?

I’d say problem solving skills are the most important, and creativity can really help in that you will approach solving certain problems from multiple angles that people who lack creative thinking may not have thought of (outside the box approach basically).

Remember that, in general, succeeding is 90% about the execution and 10% about the idea.

How to awaken creativity in yourself?

Pick one of the many things you're interested in and actually stick with practicing one of it.

Literally not a single person in the world can just sit down and hammer out an award winning short story on their first try.

Spending the minimal amount of time on tons of different hobbies is probably the fastest way to get discouraged.

Also worth noting you're probably greatly overestimating the quality of the stories and stand up bits you did when you were way younger. Not trying to be a dick, but it'll be easier to stay on track of you stop comparing yourself to "back then" with your rose colored glasses on.

"I have to go look stuff up on google to get ideas for how to make simple things look better but then it's not even my idea."

Actually, that is a large part of how learning to be creative works. The other one is experimenting. You can't create something out of nothing, you need a source, an idea. Your mind can't create an idea out of nothing, you need inspiration. Just keep looking for good stuff, copy them, modify to your likings until you get your own, perfect creation.

If you have problems with creating, try to do it in small steps. There are many ways. For example, playing guitar does not just make you creative by itself. At first, it requires creativity, it drains it from you, then leaves you with a miserable song which you then need to expand using all your ideas and inspiration.

What to do if you're stuck with your work?

How to get out of a rut when it comes to creative endeavours?

It seems like a lot of people need to work on confidence and overall mental health. I get it.

Playing in bands stressed me out for a long time. So, I finally quit and while I still get occasionally guilty feelings or nostalgia. Overall, my life has gotten so much better leaving that part behind. At least for now.

I focus on recording and mixing for other people now. I think one thing that stresses people out is the pressure from having to to everything. Writing, recording, mixing, mastering etc. not even taking into consideration the promotion and release on various formats. I’ve done all that too and it’s stressful as hell. It might cost more but there is some real freedom that comes with just showing up to track and being “done” with it.

I think sometimes people get this idea that greatness comes from dark times. To me, it doesn’t. It might happen in spite of dark times. But mostly dark times just take from people, it doesn’t give. So it is important to work on our perceptions and mental health just in life in general.

It’s alright to just sit on the porch and plunk around on an acoustic. Just chillin and enjoying music without having to stress about it it’s something “good”. You don’t even need any ideas, just play around. It’s all good to relax, something good might come of it. Or take time to refocus.

One last thing. It’s ok to want to make music that just “sounds good” to you and is fun. It doesn’t have to be super deep or have a story to tell or anything else. I think that’s one reason people feel trapped and stuck. Well, fuck it. When I’m jamming with my buddies that’s the story... we are having fun being creative. It’s ok to just enjoy creating things. Then keep moving forward.

I do feel that more reps makes you better at any thing you are gonna want to do, so yea, “fucking around” is making you a better player. Sitting down paralyzed because “nothing I write is good enough” isn’t. Like I told my band mates; “I’m serious about having fun and if it’s not fun I’m not doing it”. It wasn’t fun for a long time before I stopped. I’m still creative, just doing it in other ways now that suit my pace and mental health.

Are schools doing a good job reaching creativity?

In the US compared to other countries we do not do a good job. The first two years of college are spent relearning everything you were supposed to have learnt in high school.

You need a foundation, but creativity can be taught. The foundation doesn't invalidate the creativity of the individual.

Our schools do a poor job at even building the fundamentals, let alone creativity.

There are things that should be abandon in high school, things that have little practical application in life. Things like advanced mathematics, it's necessary to have a foundation in mathematics, but what I've seen is math being used as a tool in high school to separate the wheat from the chaff. Math is not open to interpretation or bias, so it makes math the easiest way to determine rankings.

A student that would otherwise excel in another area is being tortured by learning something that has no practical application unless they go into a STEM field, even then, they are most likely not doing advanced mathematics on a daily basis.

Is programming a job that requieres creativity?

Of course programming is creative. Ask any programmer about elegant code. The root word is create. Are we not creating something?

I always thought programming as a creative outlet because you're able to make something out of it. Most softwares/apps we use starts from someone's idea. Programming is just a tool like a paint and brush is to a painter.

Being a graphic designer also does not mean you can go all out and disregard rules. I'm not a graphic designer or anything so don't take my words for it but I think the one that allows you to be really liberal is fine arts. Graphic design is applied arts.

I'm a programmer and a musician. I apply the same creative process in music and in computer science.

  • Define an objective (write a program that does X, or write a song that makes the audience feel Y emotions)
  • Determine which tools help me achieve the objective
  • Determine how to implement the tools to achieve the objective
  • Implement
  • Analyze my product, and determine how it can be improved
  • Repeat steps 1-5 until I have a song or program that meets my requirements (requirements are defined in step 1)

Another part of the creative process is acquiring new tools.

  • Find a new tool I want to learn (new programming language, new guitar technique, etc.)
  • Break the tool down to its basic components.
  • Understand basic components
  • Understand how basic components connect to make the new tool
  • Practice until I know how to use the new tool

What's more important? Talent or hard-work?

There's a saying "inspiration is for amateurs" - meaning that creativity can come in flashes of sub-conscious brilliance - but those people who do it for a job consider it a skill.

They wrap themselves in a process which can be summarised as understand, explore, ideate, iterate (or more / less steps).

In short if you want to do creative work;

  • understand your topic - really dig into what you're working with
  • explore connected (or unrelated) ideas, worlds, adjacent places (soak up a world of new ideas and information)
  • ideate - generate your own ideas, remix original content, ask "what if" questions, conjure up lots and lots and lots of ideas trash or not
  • finally - iterate; the an idea and hit it over, and over and over ask lots of different questions, look at it from lots of angles, try and rework it top to bottom a dozen times till it looks nothing like what you started with.

These are some of the ways the professionals drive their creative work.

I disagree strongly with those saying that creativity can’t be learned. Creativity is about practicing new ways of thinking to look for novel solutions to problems. Like everything some people may be more predisposed to it, but it’s a learned skill like all things. Look into design thinking or try something like improv, creating art, etc.

Some resources are the Stanford d.school crash course, Creative Confidence TED talk and book.

Is marijuana good for creativity?

Weed makes me procrastinate too much personally. I also can't think as quickly. Doing any upper level math or science stoned just didn't work well.

So I stayed using it as a reward system. I'd only smoke once a week at night after I finished my assignments. But over the years, I realized that smoking really messes with my REM sleep. The quality of my sleep is so bad, it doesn't matter how many hours of sleep I actually get. I am just fatigued and hazey the whole next day.

I know this is anecdotal, but I think there's something to it. I've often heard from people who smoke every day don't feel like they dream much. I hope this will be researched in the future.

Can you be a good programmer if you're not creative?

I'm a math guy. Maths is my first passion and will always be.

All people are different and learn at different pace. Some people can make shortcuts here and there because they are naturally good at this or their upbringing set them up for that, whatever. Some don't and have to work their way up.

Lower the level you are trying to learn. That's a great advice for learning anything. Practice the fundamentals.

Now, how do you beat the fact that you are not really creative enough? Read a lot of code. Like really. Tons of it. Rewrite it, change it up.

Always expose yourself to different concepts and approaches.

Backend guy? Read design book.

Constantly challenge your mind.

The thing is when you approach a certain problem, firstly your mind tries to apply knowledge and solutions it already has/used in the past.

By consistent acquiring of new knowledge you set
up your mind for the future.

But don't forget to relax and have a rest, that's the most important thing in learning/practicing anything really.

Gamedev taught me that I know very little about gamedev. For real.

I thought that knowing programming and design would be enough. It's not. I feel like a babe in the woods when I start working on a game. Even though I published 4-5 (small-ish)games and worked on 4-5 other and abandoned countless prototypes.

The more gamedev I do the more I realize I know so little about the RULES of making a good game.

Well, that's something that's about to change cause I'm reading through "Game Design Workshop" and it's an eye opener. It's the theory and rules that are very welcome to my brain's eternal question: "How the fuck do I make this game good?". There's no definitive answer but that book has started to shed some light.

Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, Fourth Edition
14 reviews
Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, Fourth Edition
  • Fullerton, Tracy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 556 Pages - 08/27/2018 (Publication Date) - A K Peters/CRC Press (Publisher)

What to do if you lack motivation and feel like you're not improving your creativity

Do you feel you're losing your creativity?

Or perhaps through this feeling, you're on the way to finding your creativity for the first time.

The trick is not to fight it, or consider it an obstacle to struggle against - but to realize these moments of total despair and helplessness as part of the process underlying the equally inexplicable moments when everything is working and effortlessly aligned. (and these moments will come again, if you simply trust the process..)

You can’t lose your creativity. We use creative solutions all day in small ways. It’s a matter of focusing your creativity towards art. It might be good to spend some time in reflection learning more about yourself and what gets you into the zone.

There are some things that you can do to your workspace to facilitate creativity. Even making the lighting warmer has put me into the zone, or artwork on the walls that I like. Even having a movie on mute in the background for some stimulation.

You can be creative with any gear, but it’s also good to know what gear makes you less creative. For example, I like to play the piano so gear that has full size keys is going to get me into the zone faster, etc. Hope you get out of the slump, and you will!

Pro tip: Don't pay attention to Youtubers at all, and don't take any 'advice' you read on forums seriously unless it pertains directly to a question or problem you've been having. The internet and especially Reddit is for know-nothing know-it-alls trying to act smart for an audience. Listen to your feelings when thinking about what you're creating.

How to get really good at creative web design

Disavow yourself of the notion the design is solely or even primarily about aesthetics. Design is fundamentally about problem solving. While aesthetics can play a role in design, it is often much less important than most web designers and/or clients think.

Next, recognize that web design is much more complex than mere visual and/or graphic design. We have to deal with interaction design, interface design, visual communication design, user experience design, navigation design, information architecture, and so on.

Finally, recognize, as others have noted, that the design process tends to be very iterative in nature.

This is demonstrated in several ways.

Play close attention to the iterative process. They try several different things and choose the one which seems to best solve the problem (e.g., communicate a specific sentiment).

In this talk, Bierut talks about how the many iterations his firm went through in designing a logo for the MIT Media Lab.

Alternatively, look into art history. Particularly look at the studies performed by the great artists before they actually undertook large works. They'll sometimes draw scenes or parts of scenes tens if not hundreds of times before they put it on the canvas.

We have this misconception that design is natural, and people simply bang out good design with easy. That's not true. Some people might be able to produce good looking work, but if it hasn't been vetted, studied, and compared with other possible solutions then you should seriously question if its good design.

Templates are generic. They rarely solve the visual communication problem well. That's because they start with visual and graphic design and are unaware of the content which will be placed into them. If you start with content and have content and visual/graphic design work with it, you will create a much more cohesive and effective message. Few web designers do this well.

Copy. Copy until you understand the process. Then abstract the process and apply it in different contexts. Seriously, go watch tutorials on YouTube for Photoshop. Practice what you see. You'll eventually start to abstract the integrated techniques and start using them in unique ways on your own work. Do the same with interaction design, visual design on the web, etc.

No skill is only for the "naturals." In fact, research on expertise shows that through deliberate practice, anyone can essentially erase the advantage naturals have over others at a skill.

Check out the The Futur on YouTube. They have an excellent channel covered many aspects of design.

Check out Jesse James Garrett's book on the Elements of User Experience.

Learn the basics of graphic design. You can find numerous websites on it. You can also take a few courses on Coursera. I recommend the ones by the CalArts guys.

Also, there is a course on drawing nature on edX. Anyone can learn to draw. I highly recommend that course for getting your started.

Anyway, that's just some quick thoughts off the top of my head. There is hope. There is hope if you're willing to put in the effort and time.

Can accessibility put constraints on creativity?

I've had discussions around this with colleagues before. Our consensus ended up around:

  • Yes, accessibility can put constraints on creative solutions
  • There is a difference between art and design
  • Design is the application of art with in the confines of usefulness (and accessibility constraints)
  • Web design is a design practice not an artistic one so you need to accept the constraints as a challenge to be met not ignored

My musical journey and creativity

I have spent 14 years trying to self teach guitar, bass, and to a lesser extent drums.I played in crappy punk bands, I took guitar classes in high school taught by teachers who literally didn’t play the instrument(choir teachers) I took a mediocre community college class in guitar, a slightly better one in piano, and I was in choir for two years as a kid. I was never what I’d consider “good” at any of it. In the past year, after not even picking up any of my instruments in a few years, I started jamming with a friend and we got kind of serious.

Then I started seeing his vocal coach, and on a whim bought a piano and signed up for lessons with a retired college professor who taught jazz composition. In less than a year I’ve gotten way better at piano and vocals than I ever have been at any other instrument. The vocal coach probably taught me more in a month than 2 years of choir practices (i guess my choir directors must’ve sucked) and learning piano and theory and practicing it constantly has gotten me to a point where not only am I starting to feel kinda decent at piano but I’m getting better at guitar and bass as well just from knowing my theory better.

My teacher put a lot of emphasis on breaking the rules, writing my own stuff, and improvisation.

I know part of it has to be that I’m just different now, more focused at this age. But seriously having formal instruction, preferably by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, and preferably private instruction over trying to pace a class of 30-40, is soooo much better and faster than trying to go it alone. It’s not that it’s impossible to learn alone but my instructors know what order to teach things in so they make sense instead of just randomly trying to learn whatever I think I might need to know next and being super confused by it. Now I’m more confident and creative than I’ve ever been before.

Practical application is everything. Learning the basics only serves to make all other things easier.

How my creative process looks like

Let's say I'm writing a book.

I take a work-ethic oriented approach. Today I came up with 100 character ideas. Just a big list of one liners that briefly describe a possible character. Most of it is going to absolute garbage, but you can usually find something interesting in this exercise. It's the same approach that freewriting takes.

A lot of them are just really plain, boring, cliche stuff like:

  • An actor with stage fright

Others are just bad:

  • A dancer with no feet

A woman with enormous breasts, like james and the giant peach enormous

It's important to write these horrible ones down anyway, because you'll find some that wouldn't work if you took them straight:

  • A professor who murders students who fail

That would be a terrible thriller, but I could see a comedy there. Finally some I think might have potential:

  • A once famous actress now in her elder years turns to prostitution to survive

This one got me thinking something like, if Audrey Hepburn were still alive and incredibly desperate, there are probably fans that would want to sleep with her no matter how old she was, so what would that fall look like? Someone who used to be an icon of glamour and sophistication forced into such a debasing situation? That's an interesting character. Maybe a bit dark for the kind of writing I'm looking for, but interesting.

  • A tyrant who lives off the charity of his once subjects

This brings up so many questions. How is he still alive if he was deposed? Why are the people taking care of him? How has he handled his fall from grace? Is he bitter and spiteful, or has he changed, reborn from his once subject's graciousness?

Neither of these will necessarily end up as good characters once fleshed out, but they're interesting enough to me to see where they lead.

I take this approach with pretty much everything. Don't like a sentence? Five variations of the same sentence.

You just dig up everything, exhaustively, until you find a turd worth polishing.

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