Advice for all of the creative majors out there

Matt Damiano is a graduate from the University at Buffalo where he acquired his degree in Media Studies. Matt is currently the Assistant Project Manager at Bean Media Productions, in Buffalo, NY. During his time at UB, Matt worked on numerous film projects and was also a producer and editor at the campus TV station, UBTV. He also works on many films as a freelance boom operator all over the upstate NY area. In his free time, Matt enjoys drawing and plans on  expanding his career to other states and cities around the world


To all of my creative people; Film Majors, Art Majors, English Majors, Music, Theater, Dance, and all those who are in-between. You have picked the most head-scratching career path to follow. Everyone will ask, “Well, what are you going to do with that?” Deep down in our hearts, we know that we do this because we’re storytellers. In a very broad sense we want to play with mediums and interpret life in a way that captivates our audience, triggers their senses, and then makes them get lost in thought.  But still, everyone who’s “practical” will bring you down, they don’t relate to what they don’t understand.

If you truly love being creative, and you’re having doubts about the major you’re going into here’s my advice to keep your head on straight and remind you what to avoid.

1. Ignore the naysayers’.

From your parents to the friends you have and the friends you’ll meet, you’ll have people who will show concern in many forms.  It could go from being generally concerned to the occasional backhanded insult. You’ll notice the concern on a daily basis if you come from a family of dentists’, like I do. Being practical means to be concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas. We fall in a different category of people; we live our lives on expanding ideas. So that doesn’t really go in hand with people who don’t want to think outside the box. Best thing to do is to shut out the naysayers’, ignore them and just roll with the punches.

2. Always continue working and creating even if you don’t have a job.

You’ll want to believe that whenever you finish your last semester of college that you’ve reached your goal, you got the diploma, you’ll find a job in jiffy, and you’re just going to coast on through life. Well, not to throw a stick in your spokes, but unless you live in a Disney film, the diploma is probably just going to lay there and collect dust, not dance around the room. And that job you imagined? Somebody else just got it because in the simplest terms: they had a leg up on you. Just because you completed college doesn’t mean it’s over. No, those years in school, even high school were meant to be the years you crafted a portfolio, and if you don’t think it’s good enough, then get back to work! You’re best work is always ahead of you and having a job or not, should not stop you from flexing that creative muscle. You should always keep working at your craft, master it, and this leads to my next key point…

3. Keep learning new things.

Once again, school goes by in a blink of an eye. You’ll miss it immensely, but you’ll get over it. More importantly though, you’ll have reached the limit on what the university allotted to teach you, unless you want to be a perpetual student. There is always more to learn, and it may be outside of your field, experiment and diversify. You’ll only make yourself more valuable when it comes time for the job search if you know a variety of skills. Be a video production major, who can also draw, play guitar, and start teaching yourself animation, just like me! YEA!

4. Do what you have to do.
This is going to sting, whether you’re still in college or just graduated, you may not find money easy, especially when what you do doesn’t have a good ROI. You’re going to have to do what you can to invest into equipment, art supplies, and anything else that can help you get to work on your next big creative venture. This means, that you may need to take that minimum wage job to make ends meet. In the beginning, things are tough for everyone, it’s totally normal to get jobs that you consider “beneath” you, but “you gotta do what you gotta do.” As they always say. It will all pay off later when you’re making decent money doing the work that makes you the happiest.

5. Avoid the phonies.

There are so many people in this world that see the flashing lights and the beautiful people.  People who work in the film industry know that it’s a lot of work, long, erratic hours that either start at the crack of dawn or in the middle of the night, and you still have decades to go to reach that level of fame. They’ll also be a lot of people on craigslist that want “YOU’RE SKILLS AND EXPERTISE.” A.k.a. you’re equipment. If you’re in film, never go on craigslist looking for gigs, there are plenty on there that are all not paying jobs in sketchy productions.  So generally, Stay away from people who obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. Most likely you’ll be strung along by those people to a dead end.

6. Be honest with yourself.

At the end of the day, everything is up to you. You can either pursue this, or go into sociology like your’ Mom wanted you to. Being in any creative field isn’t easy, In all of the majors mentioned above, competition is thick, what will get you ahead is if you stay focused, continue creating, and keep learning. But you have to be your own tough critic; people will tell you don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m going to tell you the opposite: be hard on yourself, don’t be happy with what you’ve made, be the hardest critic on yourself.  It will be completed when it feels right, not when you say it’s done. That will happen when you’re blown away but what you’ve made. And when that’s done, and everyone has praised you for it; let it go.  You’re best work is always ahead of you. Also, it’s important to have thick skin in the arts, people will be very harsh, don’t get defensive- just take it in stride.
7. Market yourself.

If you decided to stick with me this far and what I said hasn’t completely turned you off to pursuing this career; great! The arts are not for the faint of heart, you need thick skin, concentration, and an over-active imagination. If you have all of those things and you’re putting them to good use, then that’s even better! I highly advise you, if you’re not already doing this, to start marketing yourself. Spread the word of what you do, the world is a big place, and the internet lets you reach out to all of it.  And even if you feel like there’s no one out there that likes the work you create, name the worst band in the world and I’ll show you 1000 people willing to die for them. Someone, somewhere, will love what you do. So make a reel, assemble a portfolio, get on LinkedIn, make a fan page, have someone build you a professional/personal website, and just get out there, and show them what you’re made of!

-Matt Damiano

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