The Importance of Passion Projects
If you’re working in the world of video production, or anything in the creative industry for that matter, chances are you’re getting paid to make things for clients. And as I talked about in one of my past blog posts, these projects may not always be creatively fulfilling. And even if they are, you’re still bound by what the client needs and wants. So, every once in a while, it’s extremely beneficial to do a passion project.
For those who may not know, a passion project is a project that excites and inspires you (separate from your normal work) that you have full creative control over. At least, that’s how I would define it.
This is where you get to make what YOU want to make, the way YOU want to make it. There are a ton of reasons why passion projects are important, but I’ll just go into a few (with stories).
When working in the creative industry, and specifically video production, it’s easy to coast. You get into a rhythm and you’re often making a lot of similar videos. This is a dangerous place to be, because you’re not really growing in your craft. Sometimes, you have to create your own projects in order to continue to stretch yourself and become better. Passion projects are a great way to exercise your creative muscles and improve. You get to take risks, and test things, and go all out because you have no one telling you what to do. It’s liberating, but I’ve learned it can also be scary.
Story time: I mentioned in a past blog that I recently shot my first music video. This was a passion project, so it was outside of my job and I made no money off of it. I was super excited to work on this, because we had full creative freedom and no real “client”. However, once I got started on the project, it hit me. I have no excuses if this turns out to be bad. There’s a comfort in working for clients, because a lot of the time, it’s not truly YOUR vision. So if it doesn’t turn out great, you have the excuse of, “oh, well the client this and the client that” or “this isn’t how I wanted to do it.” You can blame shift, because you’re just doing what the client wants (unless they give you creative freedom, but that’s a different scenario). When you do a passion project, it’s all on you. You’re telling the world, “this is what I can do.” So there’s a different kind of pressure. Arguably, there’s more pressure. Because, in a way, it’s your creative identity. This can make passion projects daunting, but it shouldn’t stop you. Because if you never try it, and you never push yourself, you’re not going to grow. And I think that’s the biggest failure.
These are some screen grabs of the music video I refer to in this blog post. Watch the final music video here.
Another reason people are afraid of passion projects is because of the money involved. When you’re used to getting paid to make videos, it’s hard to do one for free. Oh, and you’ll actually lose money because you have to pay for everything to make it yourself. Yeah, no fun. Still, if you can’t spend any money, that doesn’t mean you can’t do a passion project. I have been able to make a lot of videos that I didn’t spend a dime on. I’ve also done passion projects that I’ve spent way too much money on. There’s a passion project for every budget, you just have to do it.
These are some screen grabs from a 48-hour film challenge film I was a part of with Kyle (the other Element Studio blog writer). 48-hour film challenges are a great way to stretch your creative muscles and to test how you work under pressure (and to get better at it). They usually don't turn out to be masterpieces, but they're one of the best ways to quickly grow as a filmmaker. This particular film took 28 hours, from idea creation to final edit, on no budget, with only three people (two people for 85% of it). So, yeah, you have no excuses.
The last reason for why you should do a passion project, is because it can really grow your network. For example, on the music video I worked on, I met choreographers, dancers, actors, musicians, filmmakers, business owners, law enforcement, etc, etc, etc. These were people I probably never would have met, that I made connections with. These connections can often lead to jobs where you’ll (wait for it) actually. make. money. Woah. I know. When you make a bunch of connections while simultaneously showing off your talents, you’d be amazed at the amount of opportunities it can bring. On top of this, if you were to submit your film to festivals, that opens up the door for a ton of connections. You see what I’m saying? If you do it right, passion projects won’t just be something you do for creative fulfillment and then you move on. Passion projects can bring clients in the door and give you the opportunity to work on more of the types of projects that you want.
In conclusion (my English teachers hated when students started concluding paragraphs with this, but I CAN DO WHAT I WANT NOW MRS. MORDICA!), passion projects are extremely beneficial for those of us in the creative industry. There are countless reasons why you should do one every once in a while. One thing to note. Don't do a passion project while you're already busy. Passion projects take time and effort, and you don't want to hurt the projects your getting paid for by focusing and losing sleep over a side project. Just be smart about it, and they can have a profound effect on your growth as a creative.
- Trevor Davis