IKEEM GEORGE | COOL INTERN
My interest in film and photography started when I took a film class in high school. We made a music video and I was assigned the role of director. I realized I felt really happy doing it and it was the only thing I really looked forward to at school. While everything else in my life seemed to be pre-determined, this was somewhere I could “call the shots” and be in control, and that was really cool. After high school I was working at the Youth Empowerment Project and my supervisors knew I was interested in film. Once we had a film shoot with an organization called the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC), and they told me to just go stand by Darcy, the Executive Director, during the shoot. She probably thought I was crazy, but next thing you know she took me in as a mentee! Later on I found out about the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies’ (IWES) Creating Our Own Lens (COOL) internship program, and I was selected to be an intern with IWES and still work with NOVAC, where I’ve done work on dozens of different projects.
These last few years have been crazy busy. I finally took the time to reflect on how I’m doing with my work, to make sure I’m constantly engaged/focused and not burnt out by subjects that are tough to cover. I would recommend every artist have some kind of ritual that triggers their creative brain and keeps them on track to completing projects.
Here’s mine as an example:
Step 1: Write it Down
Sometimes a great idea just comes to you but you don’t have time to work on it right then. Write it down! It took me a while to get used to writing things down. An idea would hit me and I would say to myself “I’ll remember that later.” Hint: you hardly ever remember about it later.
I think about it like this; all great ideas were written down at some point. Look at blueprints - you can’t build something without them! I like to use the Notes app on my phone, one of the great things about technology! And when you write a note, make sure you explain enough to give context to your words. Maybe use your location, or if you’re at an event, what event you’re at, or even the time - that way you can retrace your steps if you forget anything. The other week at work I was hit with inspiration to write a poem about someone. I wrote down two words: “shine” and the person’s name. It doesn’t seem like much but it’s enough to take me right back to the idea.
Step 2: Get Focused
How do you want people to feel or think about your idea?
The great thing about art is that is can mean different things to different people. But to make sure your message stays consistent, determine what you want the overall tone of the piece to be. This still might evoke a different emotion in the viewer, and that’s okay. But through the piece, people will be able to see what YOUR feeling about the subject is.
For example: Heartbreak. That could be my theme for a project, even though the final product could make someone in the audience happy because it reminds them of a certain relationship. When I made my brother’s album cover art - I listened to his music first. It had a bluesy feel, so I wanted that reflected to the audience in the art. A lot of his music is about experiences from our neighborhood, like seeing violence, so the theme is dark. I knew I had to reflect that in the cover, too.
Step 3: Find your Idea Space or Thought
Your idea space can be a place or a thought that makes you feel some type of way. Your idea space and your theme for the project may be the same – that’s fine. Music helps me access the feelings I need to generate ideas. For example, if I write a poem about heartbreak, my idea space is a dark room to make me feel alone. My idea thought is my ex-girlfriend. And playing songs from Mary J. Blige helps me access and harness my ideas.
Once you’ve determined what the tone of the project will be, and you are ready to get deep into the work, you have to get your mind right. The right mind space may not be appropriate at all times. I can’t be in touch with painful emotions while I’m at work or taking a test at school. So I have to make time to get into the right space, which is a process. I have to make a real effort sometimes to switch gears so that the feelings expressed in the project are sincere. I'm not just representing the feelings, I'm experiencing them. For my brother’s album art - I listened to the music. I quieted my mind. I tuned into the pouring rain outside. Waiting for it to pass made me think about waiting for hard times to pass, and I was able to generate ideas from that thought.
Step 4: Free your Mind
Finally, it’s important to let your mind wander in the space you created so that everything can come to you. Have a system of checking-in with yourself regularly. Projects have deadlines, so not only is it important to check in with yourself, but also with the client. You don’t want to get too far along and then find out that they don’t agree with or like your direction. On my brother’s project, I tried to bring together the different elements (lyrics, sounds, rain...) in one photo. I even edited it with a particular filter to enhance that vibe. Even if you think you’re done, give yourself some time to sleep on it and escape from the project for a while. Then look at it again with fresh eyes before deciding if it is complete. If you feel trapped in the work, maybe that's a sign to step away for a while. Make sure to set a realistic timeline when you accept a project and put those days down in your calendar. There’s no set amount of time, some things have taken two days while others have taken several weeks. Either way, make sure to communicate honestly and clearly with your client about your time, especially if you can’t make a deadline, you’ll be surprised how understanding some people can be if you approach them in a straight-forward manner with good intentions.