I keep relearning the lesson of how important it is for us creatives to always be working on personal projects. First, they’re fun to do! Second, they let you hone new skills. And third, sometimes they show clients a side of you that they didn’t know about. This can pay huge dividends.
For instance, about a year and a half ago I was in New York more than I wasn’t. I live and work in both LA and New York, and I’m not sure why LA wasn’t clicking for me at that time, but I was grateful that New York was. New York was keeping me busy with a lot of corporate and some commercial work, as businesses and brands rushed to finish their marketing projects (especially those that involved video) before the holidays and the winter cold hit the city.
But all good things come to an end, and I wound up with a couple of weeks left on my apartment’s lease at the end of the year, with nothing to do. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I’m a lot of things but lazy is not one of them. So, within the space of a week I wrote a short film, cast it, and shot it. We did it with a crew of three people- and one light- even stealing some locations.
The film is called ‘A New York Love Story’, and it’s about how sometimes losing someone helps you find yourself. I’d wanted to tell a simple, honest story in a personal way for a long time, so the time I spent working on it was a joy. It’s my personal love story to New York.
Since then, the film’s been in a ton of festivals in the US and abroad, and that’s been gratifying. It was a really fun exercise, creating a story worth telling, with so few resources.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about creating this film has been how this little project has influenced not only the day-to-day creative work that I do for my clients, but also the types of clients that I’ve since been getting.
See, I’ve had the opportunity to create a number of higher-profile video projects as a direct result of people seeing ‘A New York Love Story’. So much so, that I’m no longer shocked when a prospective client opens our initial meeting with “Hey, that little movie of yours? That’s my story, too!”. And there’s nothing like a shared experience to bring people together.
I think people ache for honest connections in today’s world. I know I do. By taking a risk and creating this personal creative project, my business, as well as my creative talent, has grown. It’s served as both a creative outlet and a way to relate to people who may want to do work with my video company.
Every creative should always be pursuing personal side projects. They keep you sharp, let you stretch, and sometimes they can lead to new friendships and opportunities.
Patrick Ortman leads his eponymous video agency, based in Los Angeles and New York. He’s worked with 11 Fortune 500 companies on projects ranging from tv commercials to web and corporate films. http://patrickortman.com