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Your Vision — or Someone Else’s?

I was just asked for advice from a young creator. He is frustrated. He has come to the realization that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life living in the world of someone else and creating their vision. He wants to create his own worlds and his own vision. He knows the entertainment biz on the whole is in a state of major change but he’s going to take a gamble that his decision is for the better. His project is going to be quite a risk but, nevertheless, he is going to try.

He asked for advice (I think he was hoping more for encouragement, actually and initially) and the opportunity to pepper me with questions over the next several months in an attempt to navigate through these possibly treacherous new waters. After agreeing to be a sounding board for his forthcoming queries, this was my initial reply to him:

A friend came up to me a couple of years ago at Comic-Con. He said, “I just wanted to thank you for the advice you gave me when we first met; it completely changed my life.”

“What did I say?” I recalled my first meeting with the lad at a convention in Florida so many years ago. He was a bright young illustrator back then, bubbling over with enormous enthusiasm.

“After showing you my portfolio, you asked me what I wanted to do. I told you I wanted to work for Jim Henson, drawing all of the Henson characters.”

“What did I say?” I had a suspicion as to what I had said but I wanted it confirmed.

“You said, ‘Why on earth would you want to draw someone else’s characters and make them money when you could be creating and drawing your own characters and worlds, something which you would own and could profit from yourself?'”

The young lad took my advice (in a major way) and went on to create several bestselling books and series, including The Spiderwick Chronicles (which was turned into a big budget studio motion picture).

If you’re a fantasy fan you know his name — Tony DiTerlizzi. If Tony had just worked for Henson as was his original dream, no one would have ever heard of him outside the industry and he wouldn’t have the DiTerlizzi creative empire (films, books, merchandising, etc.) over which he currently presides.

The film/entertainment business, like nearly all businesses right now (especially comics, book publishing, television and music), is in a state of flux and change. Creative job markets rise, fall and disappear with alarming regularity. One thing I’ve learned is that nothing remains the same in this world.

I don’t think there’s a good time or bad time to get into film, for example. There are better and worse times, certainly. My philosophy, though, is that if you’re trying to break in at one of the not-so-good times, you’ll stand out because there won’t be as much competition when it’s harsh out there. And if difficulty and timing can discourage you from entering the film biz (or any chosen creative field), then face the fact that you’re probably not cut out for it.

It’s tough out there — but it nearly always has been.

Those who persevere, survive. And, eventually, hopefully, flourish.

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