Musicbed’s “MAKE”: A Doc About the Modern Creative
Watch the official trailer, featuring Sylvan Esso, Eliot Rausch, Aaron Draplin: make.musicbed.com
This documentary is a question. A conversation starter. It’s an examination of the reasons we create and the things that drive us to make something new — passion or success. As creatives, we question things. It’s time to question what state our craft is in — how we can change our creative perspective into a healthy vision of what it means to be an artist.
I am incredibly fortunate to be doing what I do. It took a lot of hard work, trial, and error, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know there are artists out there who are still giving it their all but haven’t broken into their industry. One of the things I realized, as a growing cinematographer in my youth, is that you have to keep pushing further, honing your craft, and pursuing your passion, even if you’re working part-time jobs just to make it happen. You’re not alone. Every artist worth their salt has been there.
Now here’s a company I really respect—Musicbed. Not just because they offer great services to artists of all calibers and provide some of the best music selections out there, but because they actually get what it means to create. So much so that they’ve released MAKE, their first feature-length documentary, and I have to tell you, this one really has got me excited!
I really believe Musicbed is doing a service for the creative community by starting a conversation. It’s important how we perceive success as artists, or more specifically, as filmmakers. This is a documentary that digs into the nuts and bolts of why we do what we do. For young cinematographers and aspiring filmmakers, you will get a firsthand look at other artists in the industry and really gain some perspective from their experiences.
What MAKE does is it forces us to ask ourselves—why do we make art? Do we really do it for the accolades, or is there something more human to it? Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with fame and fortune, but if your main concern is achieving one ideal destination, then you may want to re-evaluate your direction as an artist.
Winning an award and giving a speech in front of your peers is a good thing, but you have to ask yourself if this is really a fulfilling destination. That’s the beautiful question the documentary MAKE asks. It forces us as artists to ask ourselves what it is we’re chasing. Should success in our industry really be calculated by social media outreach or what’s in our bank accounts, or is it something more? I think Daniel McCarthy, the CEO of Musicbed, says it best:
“There’s this idea that a major league baseball player’s favorite and most depressing day is the same day. It’s the day they win the World Series. It’s the most fulfilling and most depressing day of their lives, because they reach their destiny and then all of a sudden realize there’s nothing else.”
A question I’m often asked by young filmmakers is how I shoot a specific scene. Other similar questions that follow usually range from camera or lens choices to how I lit a scene. Now I think it’s great to learn and expand your film knowledge. In fact, I really do enjoy these questions. Learning is something we should all be doing every day, especially as cameras, lights, and technology are ever-changing.
But what these young filmmakers are missing is the greater question. Why did I shoot it the way I did? What was the emotion of the scene? What is our character going through? Growing as a filmmaker is understanding the emotion the characters are conveying in a specific moment in time. I point this out in one of my earlier articles, Collaborative Innovations with Freefly Systems MoVI.
In it, I discuss character emotions and why I always complete what I call an “Emotional Breakdown.” As I go through a script, I will assign a camera emotion and a lighting emotion to each of the characters. By doing this, the characters become more 3-Dimensional.
When creating a style for Fathers & Daughters, I realized we needed to convey the deep emotional disconnect Amanda Seyfried’s character, Katie, experienced through the loss of her parents at such a young age. As a father, this was a scenario that really hit home with me. I never thought to myself about what other cinematographers were doing. Instead, I dug deeper into the characters, and this is where true creativity comes into play, I began to put together possibilities of figuring out the best method of really bringing out these characters’ emotions.
This brings me to a creative decision Director, Gabriele Muccino, and I came up with. We decided to take a chance on using the MōVI. Now, this was something Gabriele had never used before, but after the camera tests, he was all for it. You can read more about our decision about the MōVI: Storytelling with the MoVi
Part of taking a creative chance by using something that wasn’t widely used on a narrative level is part of being an artist. This is exactly the point Musicbed and their documentary, MAKE, is making. If art is unchanging and movies become a series of copies without innovations, then in a lot of ways, it’s no longer art. At that point, we’re all just making the same film – over and over again. Now that’s no fun for any of us! HAHA!
“My hope is that creatives can see the film for what it is and that they can see themselves in each one of these characters. Not everyone that watches it is going to be a filmmaker or a musician. I think the act of creating is so basic-level human, that if you see it from the big picture, it doesn’t matter what you do as a career.” – Daniel McCarthy, CEO of Musicbed
Many times, I think filmmakers are afraid of failure. I’ve worked with many great talents who are perfectionists, who want to get the job done, and they want to do it right. These are admirable qualities, but some of these men and women choose to recreate rather than expand a scene. The thought of failure terrifies them. I’ve said this many times before and I’ll say it again—your success only comes from the chances you take. You can’t be afraid to fail because in most cases that’s where you learn the most. I can speak of my own mistakes and how each of them has made me a better filmmaker.
You can read more about my own journey as a young filmmaker here:
I started before the digital age, back when every time you heard the roll of film, you knew you were burning cash. In today’s world, as a filmmaker, it can be time-consuming, but try different lighting setups and ways to move the camera. See what you can do by playing with gels and camera techniques. Compare your tests and see the difference between techniques and how they affect your subject and their emotion. Much of it is effort after all. Let your passion for film and storytelling encapsulate you, and take you down a rabbit hole. Keep asking yourself, why is this method better than the last, and you will be moving one giant leap forward in the right direction!
I know we’ve touched on inspiration in the past. Inspiration can come from one of many things. For me, it was being introduced to film at an early age and making films on a Super-8 during my childhood. When you see your finished product, and all the hard work and effort completed, there’s nothing more fulfilling. Yes, you’re going to have your regrets and gaffs, but when it’s all said and done, there’s something inherently wonderful about looking at what you helped create.
MAKE does a great job of getting into the artist’s psyche and uncovering what makes an artist tick. Whether it be that they’d be doing exactly what they’re doing if they were making money or not, or that desire to keep pushing themselves creatively, to acknowledging there’s just nothing else they’d rather do. This self-realization, and uncovering of our desires, is what really joins us all together as artists. It all stems from this idea of being inspired at some point in our lives.
I can relate to one of the filmmakers and stars of MAKE, Reed Morano, ASC, as she relays something her father said to him. “My dad told me when I was very young, ‘No one is going to give you the power. You have to take the power.” Now, this is something that really resonated with me because I was really close with my father. He was Superman to me and one of my inspirations. This memory Reed shares with us is deeply personal and dear to her, but it is also something many of us have heard before. It’s with encouraging words, like the inspiring advice Reed’s father gave her, that have fueled many of us in our desires to become something more, to reach higher, to push harder, to come yet a little closer to our passions and goals.
Many of us are driven by inspiration. What inspires you is what will drive you to chase your passion. In the case of MAKE, this can come from music, graphic design, filmmaking, or really any other art form, because at the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat. It’s the idea that you can’t see yourself doing anything else with your life. Looking at my own circumstances, I share much of the same attitude as these artists. I’m doing what I love, so much so, that when I’m not working on set I have the urge to educate aspiring filmmakers and share my knowledge of the industry with them.
Sharing a Passion for Creating Art
This same passion has brought me to share my knowledge of filmmaking with filmmakers all over the world. It has also allowed me to meet some really great people and form long-lasting relationships.
“If no one ever looked, I’d still be making cool shit with my buddies. Do you know what I mean? That’s as honest as I can be. Before anyone was interested, that’s what I was doing. I had a great life.” –Aaron Draplin, Designer
This is such an inventive and important film for both new and mature artists, and yet, I have come to understand that this content exemplifies Musicbed. With such a unique perspective, Musicbed works with both filmmakers and musicians. This makes them a cornerstone in the creative community. Working with more than one side of the creative industry, Musicbed coexists in the same atmosphere with artists of all ranges and sizes.
I’ve worked with Musicbed for some time and they have been such a great help with many of my personal projects. I really can’t recommend these guys enough. The insight of their first feature film, MAKE, is nothing but a testament to how knowledgeable they are of the business and how they know the creative community so well on a personal level.
It can be a tough point to make, but Musicbed approaches this piece with both patience and honesty. So go ahead and do yourself a favor as an artist and take the first step in becoming part of this conversation. Watch the film and let me know what you think about it! You can find it on VIMEO ON DEMAND. Let’s keep this conversation going as we grow as filmmakers. Because if I learned one thing as a filmmaker, it’s that you’re growing with your passion every single day!
Musicbed exists to deliver relevant music to top filmmakers, brands and agencies around the world. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, Musicbed has served more than 170,000 customers, including entertainment powerhouses like Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Netflix, MTV, CBS, FOX, and ESPN, as well as the world’s top brands like Nike, Samsung, Google, Nikon, Xbox, Lexus, Lamborghini, Verizon, and The Home Depot. Learn more at www.musicbed.com.