The Sheer Joy of Creating vs The Biz, October 14, 2014
Last week, I realized that my greenscreening skills have outclassed my setup. Fortunately, I have been doing this long enough (and already had a wall in my kitchen painted Chroma green), that I know how not to spend a fortune when I upgrade my tech. As I tweak my new setup, I remember the first two movies that I shot in the kitchen, TYFTB (thank you from the bottom) and Lucy the First Human.
I am trying to be businesslike about getting my work out there, and as my first art dealer told me, there is a point at which your work has to be for sale. I get that, I do. But what about sharing the joy you got from making it, i.e., showing the work and dialoguing about it? The strength and grounding I got making TYFTB and Lucy completely by myself, not to mention the fun I had, make me feel like I owe them to be seen.
As I made them scene by scene and blogged them, I met other artists who have helped me tremendously, that I wouldn’t have met if the scenes had been “private” or viewable only via password. It is a sin not to show work that you know gave other people joy – once you put the work out into the world, having created is something nobody can take away from you and by the same token, what other people take away from it (good or bad) is something that you can’t and shouldn’t try to take away from.
I have decided to reduce the prices of TYFTB and Lucy for online downloading (which allows people to watch stuff at their own speed) and take the locks of them on Vimeo and YouTube.
Lucy the First Human is on Indie Reign athttps://www.indiereign.com/v/ac9a4.
TYFTB (thank you from the bottom) is on Indie Reign athttps://www.indiereign.com/v/d7cdf.
Thanks for watching!
Independent artists vs. Analytics, November 12, 2014
Not trying to sell YouTube or Google – they don’t need my help. But I do try to pay it forward in regard to artist self-publicity.
It is fantastic when you have a friend, mentor, curator, arts writer etc., on your side. If you are independent, however, there is a professional end for you to hold up. One of those things is knowing your audience. It can not only make a curator’s or writer’s job easier in trying to showcase your work, but can also help you help yourself.
This is a “grab” from my own YouTube analytics (Sylvia Toy St. Louis on YouTube). Pointless to ask me why my top demographic is my top demographic – I don’t have a clue and don’t look gift horses in the mouth. (The top six countries for me in a normal month – i.e., a month when I’m not promoting a video – are quite often Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine, not always in that order.) So knowing this, why when I promoted my Sylviatoyindustries FB page did I stupidly pick the top five countries for my videos on Vimeo, which is a more professional and likely, on-average, older than my YouTube audience, a populist, more widely representative venue like FB?
Poor results and I wasted my ad money – small amount, only five dollars on the first day, but too much to waste for four days. Today, I split windows in my browser to show the edit page of my FB promotion and my YouTube analytics stats. I edited the countries with the top 15 countries of my audience and by the end of the day, I had tripled hits and likes on my page.
Two more points. First, as I have said before, this is the real world in which a lot of folks who might enjoy your work and walk away uplifted will never go see it if the path to your work doesn’t have rock star traffic.
Second, I have been doing arts PR, marketing and publicity for myself, other artists and theater companies for a really long time. I am a snob and an old lady, and it is difficult for me to get my head around how young and male my audience is. But I have suspected for over a year something I discovered to be true this morning accidentally on the web (all over the web, I must add) what is best summarized as “Millennials Are Not Impressed With Your Content Marketing,” the title of the article at this link. It may make you mad and it surely will surprise you. If you do self-publicity and are a snob and/or old, you need to read this.
Artist vs. Venue, December 1, 2014
First, I have no problem with entering video art competitions and will continue to do so because I have direct connections with and inhabit that neighborhood. However, in regard to the filmmaker neighborhood: when I see how many Lucy’s have been downloaded on Amazon and I consider the fact that 4 of the viewers went to the trouble to give it a star and write their opinion in a public online venue, I wonder why I should go to the expense and trouble of entering film competitions? In my first art career as a sculptor, I learned that getting your work out there is part of your job. I am getting my own work out to “the people.” I feel that I am doing my job whether I enter film competitions or not.
Mike’s and my movie, ‘running out,’ was selected by the Pineapple Underground Film Festival and shown in Shanghai in July with 60 other shorts. I will give PUFF a little more slack than other festivals, but they still have not published the names of all those shorts and they have not sent me a confirmation that our movie did not make it to the final 25 shorts being screened this month. In my opinion, when venues do not pay basic courtesy to independent artists, not even artists they have selected, they create an us vs. them situation – Artist vs. Venue.
I am troubled by this. And after a young man joined Vimeo last week apparently for the sole purpose of “liking” Lucy Finds A Potato, why should I enter film festivals? I am not quite a populist, on the one hand. But on the other, I also learned as a sculptor that your audience may not be who you expect, and so I am definitely not exclusivist, either, because experience has taught me that is fatuous and ridiculous. Not only am I getting my work out there, but I am finding my audience and my audience is finding me back.
Simply, it means more to me that 4 people have given Lucy a one-star rating, which they could not have done without signing in, filling out forms, and buying the movie, than having a movie screened once in Shanghai without any recognition by the venue on its website. Seriously.
All’s fair in love & internet video, December 4, 2014
I do not have high overhead as an artist. I don’t need to try to make a lot of money off my videos, either. I made my over 300 videos accessible to other folks on the Web because I want other folks to watch my videos.
Unless a curator requests that I make a video temporarily private during an exhibit – which I believe is completely fair considering the longterm benefits of having my work selected – all my videos are public and free. However, anyone with an Amazon or IndieReign account has the option to download Lucy the First Human or TYFTB (thank you from the bottom) as a purchase or a rental. Otherwise, those movies are free.
I believe in fair play for both audience and artist: if I put my movies on Amazon, purchasers have a right to write a bad review if my movie disappoints them. By the same token, I believe that if I get good results on YouTube or Vimeo, I have a right to use my results in furtherance of my own interests.
“Fairness” to all posted below in this jpeg, which includes both the 3 one-star Amazon reviews of Lucy the First Human and the all-time stats for “Lucy” (3rd version) on Vimeo.
Be the Institution, December 12, 2014
The year slowed down and I finally feel like I have time to submit to a few art competitions. I had saved links to some art journals; and this morning reading the prospectuses, I got so annoyed that I zapped the links. If I was rich and all my stuff was backed up, I would have zapped the computer, too.
Ever since I could walk, I have been tested, measured and judged in competitions for one bit of prestige or prize or scholarship or another, doled out by one institution or another. I didn’t feel I had done anything that mattered until my first solo performance in Afro Solo 1993, when I knew theater critic Rob Hurwitt was in the audience and was going to review the showcase. I knew I might get an unfavorable review and that was scary. Yeah, but: I was out in the open with my very ass on the line, finally, finally, finally not feeling like a pollyanna who always makes honor roll.
I may be done trying out for bits of prestige sponsored by institutions. After putting all that art out there, I should be an institution by now.
Artist’s Life 101: The Banksy Paradigm, March 4, 2015
The year slowed down and I finally feel like I have time to submit to a few art competitions. I had saved links to some art journals; and this morning reading the prospectuses, I got so annoyed that I zapped the links. If I was rich and all my stuff was backed up, I would have zapped the computer, too. Ever since I could walk, I have been tested, measured and judged in competitions for one bit of prestige or prize or scholarship or another, doled out by one institution or another. I didn’t feel I had done anything that mattered until my first solo performance in Afro Solo 1993, when I knew theater critic Rob Hurwitt was in the audience and was going to review the showcase. I knew I might get an unfavorable review and that was scary. Yeah, but: I was out in the open with my very ass on the line, finally, finally, finally not feeling like a pollyanna who always makes honor roll. I may be done trying out for bits of prestige sponsored by institutions. After putting all that art out there, I should be an institution by now.
Budget is a dream, May 1, 2015
Artist’s Life 101: Plagiarism vs. Branding, May 28, 2015
I’ve been branding myself as an artist for so long that it’s second nature. As a visual artist and as a theater artist, I had a few jarring moments of feeling like I’d been copied.
The Internet is a wild frontier. I make hardly any “friends only” posts anywhere anymore because branding is always on my mind. My opinion: if you post content on the Internet there is a possibility you will be plagiarized. But there have always been people who copied other people’s work, so why stifle?
There are sleazy little shits and bottomfeeders and leeches in every medium, every profession, every part of society. People will even steal your cred. When you meet these parasites at an opening or find yourself in a conversation with them during intermission or after a show, you want to go home and take a bath. And once you’ve been around enough of them, you know the creeps most likely to show up in some future venue with a “stolen” idea.
The two most important things I learned in 35 years as a paralegal: always (1) cover your ass (2) with a paper trail (3). The most important thing I know about being an artist on the Internet: watermark (1) whenever possible (2) and post on multiple venues (3), being meticulously consistent (4) about your name/bio/branding (5).
People rip you off because it’s easy.
A reminder that your Instagram photos aren’t really yours: Someone else can sell them for $90,000
Budget is a dream, May 1, 2015
Budget is a dream, May 1, 2015
Most people do not have driving passions nor the focus and energy to try to realize that passion. Most people have time on their hands and, more like as not, seek entertainment created by someone else – for example, most people do not even gather round the piano to sing the evening away because it was never important enough to them to learn how to play the piano; they would rather hear someone else sing.
By the same token, most people who watch movies are neither filmmakers themselves nor movie buffs; and it has never occurred to them to be so. It is very difficult to make an actual living off being an artist in any medium; but because there are so many potential purchasers of entertainment, the opportunity to get cash in exchange for artistic craft or creativity most certainly does exist.
Back to most people: they are not intellectually picky. (If you watch much television, you have seen a lot of commercials. It is mindboggling how much variety there is and the extent to which the people who make them go to in order to capture 15, 30 or 60 seconds of attention.) However, there is a vast variety of tastes and preferences, standards about spending cash, amount of cash available to be spent and amount of desire or lack of desire to be thrilled, tickled, titillated, teased or taught by entertainment.
Back to the people who fund the budgets for entertainment, in this case, movies. There is a vast variety of standards about investing cash and risk taking. In my opinion, in the case of movies, which are so much about budget, this vast variety of standards accounts for the stratification – the almost geologically demonstrable stratification – in the landscape of motion picture entertainment.
I have said before that my father called me an “intellectual snob” when I was 14, most likely out of fear that my already acute obsessiveness about art would limit my ability to make a living in the future. But I did not know that at the time and it hurt my feelings. As a result, I tried to learn how to be open-minded about common and popular art, about the differences between artistic craft and creativity and about the stratifications in the landscape of art.
I probably have only 20 or 30 years left to live. My father is not around to argue with me anymore. I find myself regressing back into snobbery, though I will now allow that Samuel Beckett is not the only relevant modern playwright, that there are movies that are not New Wave that are worth watching, that there are English-speaking movies that are worth watching, that jazz and classical are not the only musical genres in which a musician can achieve greatness.
But though I need movies and television on in the background to think like some people need music to think, I will go to my grave believing that as much as I might be as entertained as the next guy by a movie, my expectations of movies are stratified by who funded their budgets.
Friendly neighborhood artist publicist’s Twitter advice, August 8, 2015Sylvia Toy, friendly neighborhood artist publicist here. FYI, I have been uploading up to twenty seconds of video to Twitter all week as an experiment. It has increased all my traffic. Some blog apps (Blogger in my case) let you embed the Tweet. My iPhone lets me download a video from an email to myself and then trim the video if necessary in the Twitter app. If you represent yourself, this might be helpful to know. Remember that you don’t have to be a video artist or filmmaker to benefit from video – audiences love artists’ statements, studio clips, rehearsal clips, readings of work in progress, etc.
Artist’s Life 101: Shopping to New Media and Film Festivals, September 30, 2015
“Besides, it would be impolite not to,” November 29, 2015
During the 17 years that I was active as a solo theatre artist, I had a rule that if anyone contacted me directly about a casting call – meaning, someone was looking at black female actors – I had to make an appointment to audition. At the time, I thought it would help my reputation as an actor to audition – not because I might get a part and maybe get written up, but because it was a way to participate in the community and put my “chops” on the line like everyone else. Looking back, I realize that nobody noticed I was auditioning nor cared – there are so many of us out there! – but every once in a while, someone noticed that my “chops” in my solo theatre work was better, which I’m sure regularly auditioning contributed to. After self-distributing my own performance art movies for almost three years, it has finally happened that someone directly contacted me through Vimeo about specific works and asked me to submit to a film festival. My rule is: if I get invited and it’s free to submit a film or at least cheap, I have to submit. I am good about following my own rules (trust me, you would not be reading this if I wasn’t). So I am sure that I will submit the two films to which he referred. But there will be some Sylvia-pissing-and-moaning before I finally fill out any forms, upload, or click “Submit.” Feeling intellectually superior to other people is one of the most unpleasant Aspie traits that I have learned about recently and about which I have specifically remembered bad, embarrassing experiences all the way from grade school into early adulthood. I really did not and could not understand the individuality and integrity of another person’s mind. My parents l had a gift, I think, for seeing my little Aspie mind and personality for what they were; and adjusting my behavior through patient and seemingly tireless repetition of social lessons and practice of social skills. However only living as a young adult taught me the very long, torturous, and painful lesson of just how many, many, many different ways there are to be a person in this world. It is absolutely exhausting to be around so many different people and I am glad that I don’t have to anymore! Fast forward past all the auditioning, trying to get art dealers to give me a show, trying to get reviewed (endlessly trying to get reviewed), and my relatively short career of film festivalling. My relatively short career of film festivalling was relatively short because I came to the conclusion that people mostly throw – I mean, hold – film festivals as an excuse to party with interesting people; and that the only reason for me to enter film festivals is to get official IMDb title pages for my movies that are on Amazon. There is a part of me that feels hustled and manipulated every time someone asks me to do something that is any way participatory. But there is also a part of me that steadfastly believes that people who will actually buy performance art on Amazon are probably people who don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks – nor whether an off-the-beaten path movie actually got into a film festival. “Besides, it would be impolite not to.”
Getting the work out there, January 7, 2016
I am in the habit of sharing information about film festivals even though I don’t actively pursue the film festival circuit and curation anymore myself. I do this because I believe “getting your work out there” is part of the job of an artist. I believe the two most important parts of getting the work out are, first, subjecting oneself and one’s body of work to curation, and second, learning audience.
I learned to get my work out in two completely different parts of the arts. I wanted to be a wood sculptor and after studying anatomy and sculpture in New York, I went back to Nebraska where it was a lot easier and cheaper to build my portfolio. My work is mostly life-size and shipping it to exhibitions was expensive. My first art dealer, Bill Rogers who started Gallery 72 in Omaha, told me that as soon you try to get anyone to look at your work, you are in the art market whether you are trying to sell your work or not. That was lesson number one about audience. Lesson number one about curation was a question: Are you going to keep shipping your work around or are you going to move to a larger art market (Los Angeles was high on his list) or are you going to warehouse it?
My fiance and I moved to San Francisco and became active in the gallery scene. I (who had had a love/hate relationship with theater most of my life) also got involved in solo performance, which was thriving in San Francisco. Having accepted what I learned in Omaha and witnessed in San Francisco that it was true, I quickly understood how important apprenticeship is in theater; and that both curation and learning audience are ever present parts of that apprenticeship.
Fast forward to having ten years experience as a video artist filmmaker, of which five years included actively pursuing the festival circuit, and approximately 500 videos online. Nowadays, while I always submit to festivals to which I’m invited and I have to submit to at least one qualifying festival in order to obtain an official IMDb page for a movie, once I create and workshop my movies to my peers on Vimeo (and to a lesser extent, YouTube and Facebook), I upload it to Createspace to try to sell it on demand on Amazon.
No, I am definitely not crazy, even though it perhaps seems crazy to try to sell niche performance art on Amazon. Why? Because it absolutely impossible not learn your audience as a solo performer in a black box theater where not only can you often see their faces, but also get direct feedback either formally in talkbacks and or informally in face to face conversations after the show. My instincts told me that there were probably a few people who would pay to try out performance art on Amazon and I was right.
And I am also not crazy to not to be trying harder to compete for recognition and prestige from curators. In the first place, a lot of curators are also artist peers – those folks give me feedback on Vimeo and Facebook. In the second place, I was only online as a video artist for a New York minute before I figured out that every consumer of video on the Internet is a curator.
However, I would not have realized that without having many years of experience in “getting your work out there.”
Aging out of the fray, September 26, 2015
I have been thinking about – and a little worried about – competitiveness ever since this past summer when I realized that I did not have pre-show excitement the week before a screeningthat some of my work was in. I forgot to be excited. At first, I thought I must be in depression mode. But, no, though I felt overwhelmed and way too busy, I otherwise felt fine. And then I wondered if I was having early signs of dementia. That was pretty much that until this week when I got a better royalty report than I was expecting from my video downloads on Amazon. I was really excited about that because I had sales of four different videos. There were only 15 sales, but it’s my best report since the spring and I was so excited about it that I absolutely had to make a few crazy old woman jokes to myself in order to keep my feet on the ground. This insomniac night, when the Benadryl is having merely a tranquilizing effect, I am thinking about my latest self-disciplining campaign: not feeling stabbed in the heart by and second-guessing about “dislikes” on my YouTube videos. I do my part toward not enabling trollers by not allowing comments on my YouTube videos; and the “dislikes” are only occasional. But I feel stabbed in the heart and make up a story about each one and get into an argument with each anonymous “disliker.” That is, until yesterday, when I compared that to the white-gloved approach to reaching one’s paying audience virtually on somebody else’s – Amazon’s – website and, except for troubleshooting while submitting new content, dealing with Amazon only robotically. It is completely absurd, isn’t it, to get one’s knuckles bloody battling random invisible audience with the same hands that so impersonally collect cash from other random invisible audience? And I realized that it is (probably) neither depression nor dementia that one ages not out of competitiveness, but rather out of needing it to be personal.
Artist’s Life 101: Festivaling, Networking and Community, March 14, 2016
I often think about and write about how fortunate I feel to live in a time when an artist, in a very real way, share her/his work with the rest of the world. I have to acknowledge, also, how grateful I am for having had professional gallery representation as a sculptor for the better part of 30 years; and how grateful I am for getting paid so often as an actor in alternative & small theater. It was nice to be treated like a star at so many art openings and to get a check, however small, at the end of a theater gig. But I have never been more satisfied as an artist than my last ten years as a video performance artist and filmmaker. Except for periodically and getting cast in other artists’ film projects, I mostly am solo – i.e., I am “lights, camera, action” and continuity all rolled into one. My husband had a brilliant idea: “Just call yourself the executive producer like they do on television.” And I have never been happier as an artist and as a person than my past 12 months as a video performance artist and filmmaker who doesn’t have dayjob anymore. Simply stated, I “retired,” celebrated over a weekend and the following Monday, set up green screen at the same time of day that I went to dayjob the Monday before, and within three months had a brand new 40 minute (THE BLUE LADY, full version) and a brand new 25 minute (PASSAGES, A MYTH, full version) available on Amazon. Yeah, I know – it’s tacky to sell avant garde, “I don’t know what it is” video performance art on Amazon. But it also is tacky not to have gallery representation as a visual artist or not to make more than a few bucks in a year as an actor. As an independent filmmaker, I am represented by a seasoned arts publicist/arts administrator who only has my best interests at heart. However. Or rather, however, since I am working in solitude but not a vacuum, I do not simply point, shoot and edit. I experiment quite a lot – most of my time is spent in research and pre-production rather than in actual production, i.e., I was in pre-production of THE BLUE LADY for 1-1/2 years and then shot it totally by myself in 3 weeks. I share virtually of my pre-production: 1) on YouTube, where I receive sparse but helpful feedback; 2) on Vimeo, which often reminds me of art class critiquing and scrutiny; and 3) on Facebook, where I serendipitously have a tremendous network of curators and artist peers. People complain about Facebook but it doesn’t surprise me that my artist peers complain about Facebook less often than most intellectuals. And that probably is not because we are less intellectual. That probably is because Facebook makes possible the kind of community that most of us never had since we were in school. One of the benefits of participating in such a proactive artists’ community is being encouraged to participate at the exhibition level. I was so public and had so many shows as a visual artist and as a theater artist that I really did not want to “go through that again as a moving picture artist. Cinema is such a social sport; and I was so burned out (as a paralegal) from social interaction when I left dayjob, that except for workshopping my work to my peers on Vimeo and social media, I wanted to be anonymous. 12 months is 365 days of not riding the subway with grumpy people. And several of my Facebook contacts have gently prodded me – gently, I say, not nagging like some art dealers that I have known – they have prodded me the whole time to “put my work out there, there being the world of our peers and our fans, supporters and patrons. My friends’ gentle prodding finally led me to remember the magic of editing and the possibility of making cuttings of my movies that are shorter versions, each with its own story arc. I am pleased to share here my “festival cuttings.”THE BLUE LADY, Festival Cut: Lali’s Story from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo. PASSAGES, A MYTH, Festival cutting: The Discovery of the Pregnancy of the King from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo. VOICE, a performance art web series by Sylviatoyindustries (Festival Cut) from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.