5 practices to help fuel a creative eye

 

written by Everett Thomas Fitch

Still taken from A Clockwork Orange. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Cinematography by John Alcott.

Still taken from A Clockwork Orange. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Cinematography by John Alcott.

Any filmmaker, photographer or visual creative will tell you that it takes a lot of hard work to attain a unique eye.

There is such a thing as innate talent. But no one’s born with their own pre-packaged style and perspective ready to go. Style takes time. Perspective takes experience and hard work.

It can be a long road to discover your style. And once you find it, you still have to hack through dense forest to continuously hone your craft.

Throughout it all, mindfulness is key. Presence is paramount. If you can’t focus on the video project at hand then you’ve probably missed a step in self-care along the way.

Long, hard days definitely fuel the most creative of ends. In fact, we’re positive some of the best film, photography, music video and documentary projects had many sleepless nights. But you won’t get far burning the midnight oil for too long. Your body will ache. Your mind will slow in creative thought. And your eyes will begin to lose their ability to frame the emotion in a scene.

Self-care leads to self-discovery. If you can’t focus then you can’t create. Here are 5 tried-and-true ways to consciously and consistently fuel your creative eye.

Still taken from Jurassic Park. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Cinematography by Dean Cundey.

Still taken from Jurassic Park. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Cinematography by Dean Cundey.

1 Eat what’s right for you

All we’re saying is eat a well-balanced diet. The reward will be clarity. In other words, clear sight and a clear mind. If you’re getting enough then you’ll be able to give enough. Find the fuel that you, your body and your mind connect with.

2 Run a mile in your own shoes

Our best ideas come during exercise in the outdoors. No, really. We throw in the headphones, lace up the shoes and hit the pavement (or trail). The combination of movement and music opens up our internal worlds. It shakes up our imagination. It breaks us free from the desk and into new mental territory.

It doesn’t hurt to be inspired by your surroundings all the while. Just be sure to set your visual intentions before the run. Think about the video, film or photography project at hand before you embark.

Still taken from The Revenant. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki.

Still taken from The Revenant. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki.

3 Soak up presence

The next best way to get ideas is by immersing yourself in flowing water (safety first obviously). This can be anything from a hot shower to the hot springs. Occasionally we like to throw some music in the mix here, too. But the point of this practice is to de-stress and bask in the present moment. If you’re away from familiar stimuli, away from electronics, then you’re able to tap into a different part of your creative mind. You can take a deeper dive into your imagination.

4 Carry your camera/tool with you everywhere

This one is important. It should be a daily practice for any aspiring filmmaker, photographer or visual creative who’s just starting out. By carrying your camera with you everywhere, by picking it up and framing shots over and over again, your skillset will grow. Over time you’ll begin to rely on your instincts more. You’ll know what you want to focus on in any given scene. This ultimately sets your style apart from your peers.

And remember, your camera is only a tool in telling your visual story, that’s it. YOU are the visual storyteller. (Also, any camera will do. It’s about the person learning behind the camera. Don’t get wrapped up in how expensive it is.)

Cinematographer Roger Deakins on set. He’s known for Fargo, Blade Runner 2049, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to name a few.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins on set. He’s known for Fargo, Blade Runner 2049, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to name a few.

5 Stimulate your tastes

Your taste doesn’t define your talent, it informs it. That said, one way to cultivate a creative eye is to revisit some of your favorite films, music videos, documentaries, photography pieces and even commercials.

Focus on what you like (and what you don’t like) in these visual stories. Why is a scene framed a certain way? What’s the focus in the scene? What elements make this scene unique? Why are you drawn to this particular piece? Once you can answer these questions you can then start to inform your talent with this new eye almost instinctively.