• DC Brandon Films

The value of education in the arts

From one artist to another, some heartfelt advice: A good work ethic is not enough. You can walk 100 miles in the wrong direction. Being creative is not enough. Good ideas are as cheap as chips.

The one thing that I have realized over the years is the importance of EDUCATION.

A good education means you can take a good idea and make it a powerful idea. A good education helps you structure a story for maximum emotional impact. A good education gives you the tools you need to bring a character to life. A good education gives you the foundation to build a career on.

Art isn't just raw passion. You have to take an educated approach to what you are doing. Stand on the shoulders of the millions of artists who have come before you. Think about it this way: From Aristotle to Nolan, there have been a million stories told. With each generation, the craft improves. New lessons are learned. The human equation is more deeply understood. Why not examine what others have taken a lifetime to learn?

I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent agonizing over a project--be it a script, a commercial, a short film, a documentary--trying to figure out why things weren't working. This was my life for the first few years in filmmaking. I thought to myself, I had a BRILLIANT idea, I WORKED SO HARD, why is nobody responding to what I am putting out there?

There were many times I thought about giving up. A grown man in tears over his work is not a pleasant sight and an even worse experience to live through.

Through those tough times though, a new approach emerged. I thought to myself, perhaps I don't need to work it all out on my own. Perhaps I have been too arrogant with my creativity, with my abilities. Perhaps there is something to be learned from examining the teachings of other artists. And so, I became a student of my craft. I studied screenwriting by taking online courses. I read countless books, countless scripts. I talked to other writers in online discussion groups. I found a coverage provider. I submitted dozens of scripts and took the negative feedback with a smile. I was a diligent and hardworking student without ego. Through it all, I gained a rich and deep understanding of story. I came to respect the history of screenwriting. My perspective changed from viewing screenwriting as a creative-only process, to one that is more akin to a trade. Like being a carpenter or bricklayer. Of course, creativity is huge, but it needs to be harnessed by the power of structure and a trained insight into character, plot and theme. A wanna-be carpenter with a great idea and no training would not be trusted to build a house.

A good education allows you to start on step 50, rather than step 1. So if you wish to be a successful artist, my number one piece of advice is to get educated in your craft. Read. Watch tutorials. Take a class. Submit your work for feedback. Every year, every day, every hour, educate yourself. It's amazing what can happen when a creative mind becomes a trained mind.