“you’re soul is alive but they want it for ransom..”
I’ll get to why I think that quote is so appropriate for creative individuals in a minute here.
So I woke up this morning, and noticed on my Twitterific widget that I installed on my desktop yesterday (a GREAT little app by the way) a whole bunch of interesting things going on out there in the world. None quite as interesting to me personally however, as the announcement by Platinum Studios that there is a Hero By Night live-action TV series in the works now.
My first instinct was to call up my good buddy DJ, who just happens to be the creator of said Hero By Night, and talk to him about this. I won’t get into what we talked about, where the conversation went, or any of that. Suffice to say, it was definitely a surprise I think. Especially for a creative team that was responsible for putting together that property, who were pretty much forced the hand they had to play by stopping production on the series earlier in the year and leaving a lot of fans and readers wondering what happened (and what happens next). NOW would be the perfect time for everyone involved in this entire mess to bury the hatchets, to maybe pay some money UPFRONT and get the ball rolling on continuing something like the Hero By Night universe. Get back to making the property RELEVANT in an online setting, and get that marketing and promotion engine running the way it should, and create something for TV land to get excited about. Generating even more material and mythos for them to work with. If that is even possible at this point. There IS a lot of bad blood. It has been dragged through the internet mud a lot in the last 6 months or so. Mostly because of the situation that surrounded the premature ending of the series. I STILL feel bad for bailing first on the thing, because it put DJ in a bad situation. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t justify to MY family or myself, continuing to invest so much time an effort into something that was taking time away from jobs that were actually bringing in money and helping us pay our bills each month.
Which sort of leads into what I’m thinking this morning. Artists in general, are some of the most under appreciated and maligned creatures on the planet. We are blessed with this strange ability to channel emotional and spiritual energies, whether they be our own or those that we are receiving from the Universe or from divine intervention, and portray them in a way that allows other people to transcend the limits of their imaginations. We can make people see and feel things they otherwise may not have thought of. We can move people in ways emotionally and psychologically that people who aren’t artists just cannot. In short we can share our dreams with others, and inspire dreams in other people.
In many ways, this same blessing is also our biggest curse. We often times spend nights lying awake in bed, after utterly exhausting days, unable to shut our minds down and sleep because our minds are in fact communing with some higher power. We have no other choice but to try and find the perfect form to create the vision, dream or idea that we have in our heads. Whether you want to call it a sickness or a responsibility, either one would probably be a correct categorization.
Where the real problem lies is when we as artists, decide to try to find a way to convey our artwork in such a way that it still is able to give us that sense that we are creating and realizing dreams, and yet are able to do that all the time, every day, and actually be paid for it. Nothing is a greater sense of accomplishment for an artist, than to be able to CREATE every day, and make a living doing it. We all strive at some level for acceptance. Not just artists, but everyone. We want to feel like what we do matters. That our actions make in a difference in our lives; that the choices we make matter.
So with all of that said, as an artist…our souls really are ALIVE and there is almost always a ransom involved. Whether it is a ransom to ourselves, in the form of sacrifices we make in our lives to realize our dreams, or whether it is a ransom to someone else where we trade our talents and abilities to bring other peoples dreams to life in exchange for the money which gives us the means to create and use our talents on a daily basis. Where we really put ourselves as artists into a bad position, is when our talents and abilities aren’t able to be compensated for. There are often a variety of reasons that lead people to not be able to pay an artist for their services. At the end of the day though, none of those reasons matter. We put not only our talents and abilities at the disposal of someone who hires us to create for them, but we also put our lives at their feet as well. We are by and large a group of people that rely on companies and clients to pay for our services. Unless you belong to a studio, work for a development company in film or video games, the chances are great that you are a freelancing artist. When you are a freelancer, you can only create so much work in a given time. You are not a studio, you are an individual. Your time is thus much more valuable, because the time you spend working on a project is time that you can’t get back. If you work for a month, turning down other jobs in that time, and you aren’t paid at the end of the month for your work, or you have to wait for money for weeks or months on end, then the entire time you spent working on that project is lost to you. The opportunities for other work have been lost to you as well. You don’t go and get your car fixed and then think that you can’t pay the mechanic or body shop for a month, or two or three. You don’t go into work every day, working 50 hours a week or more, and then NOT get paid every 2 weeks. 99.9% of people would walk away from a job that wasn’t paying them.
Our lives, the majority of the lives of those in this country right now, are lived paycheck to paycheck. Bills are due every 2 weeks. If you’re 2 months late paying your electric bill, they shut off your lights. If you’re 2 months late paying an artist, why wouldn’t they stop working on your project. It’s not a slam at anyone. It’s a FACT OF LIFE. Artists live paycheck to paycheck, by and large. We rely on money coming in the door. We can’t pay our mortgage if we don’t get paid for our work. Thus when we are faced with a situation where we can no longer wait for money to come in, we HAVE TO TAKE ON OTHER WORK THAT WILL PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE. It should not be frowned upon, it should not be looked down on, it should be actually a very simple concept to understand. If I can’t buy groceries because I haven’t been paid, I need to move on. If I was stocking shelves at the local Walmart, and my paycheck wasn’t there when I went to pick it up after 2 weeks, I’d be looking for a new job. It’s exactly the same with being a freelancer.
I’ve had companies not pay me on time this year. That is no secret. It’s happened on more than one occasion, it’s happened with more than one client. It’s become somewhat of a scary pattern. I AM paranoid of doing business with ANYONE and ANY company at this point, and I’m not alone. It seems that a LOT of artists, designers, painters, colorists and creators I know are feeling the same way. It’s become a sort of DISEASE it seems that is permeating a LOT of industries right now.
Creative talent is being taken for granted as it always has, but it seems that this problem is skyrocketing in direct correlation with the problems that we are facing as an economy. We have lived in a society of instant gratification for so long that now we are being forced to change that lifestyle. People have been consuming products, buying, spending and throwing money they don’t REALLY have around for years. Now more than ever, it’s become important for us to PAY for what we WANT and NEED only if we can afford it. If you can’t afford something, then you need to save your money and wait until you can. It’s one thing to buy a new TV on credit, and make small monthly payments or don’t pay for a year and then pay it all off. But you can’t have that mindset when you are dealing with freelance artists, and PEOPLE. We can’t willingly ransom our talents, abilities and dreams and give you 0% financing for 12 months. If you can’t pay an artist for their work, then just WAIT UNTIL YOU CAN.
So yeah, that might not be the most coherent rant in the world, but it’s honest. If anyone has had to put up with as much CRAP the last year as MY family has here, I’d love to hear YOUR story as well. I know of quite a few people out there that have had to deal with the same sorts of things as me already. All I can say is, we as artists and creators DO deserve better. However I also am beginning to think that we need to maybe find a way to circumvent traditional ways of creating art, and learn to make a living for ourselves. I’ve had to stop and do a few things around here this morning, one of which hasn’t been breakfast however, so if you bothered to read this far thanks. NOW I need to get around and get to work on a painting which is a xmas gift for the boyfriend of a very wonderful client who has been absolutely bubbly and actually paid 50% upfront