Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury
‘Killed’ by Education
When we were of 10 or 12 or 14 years of age, our parents and teachers almost gloated on our abilities to draw, paint, dance, sing or write a poem, and we were paraded before our relatives to ‘showcase our talent’ or perform on school stage on Annual Days. Do you remember that?
But alas, when we turned 16 till 18 and faced two Board exams of X and XII standards, all these much-touted talents took a back seat. They were dubbed as ‘hobbies’ and declared not to be pursued much as we were to focus on our careers, and education that will give high marks and grades, make us logical and rational and put us on a great professional track as the best managers, engineers, doctors, lawyers or stock-brokers of sorts.
And in no time, even before we could realise, we were adults, into a rat race, and have forgotten that once upon a time we also did sing, danced, draw, write poetry, act, or speak on stages. We were lost in the big bad world because in a rat race, you remain a rat wherever you are at a point of time.
The world taught us one great lesson: to compete with others and turned us into logical, very rational, evolved structured thinking, in effect, turned us into what the world believed to be ‘reasonable’. Many a time, we ceased to laugh in abundance, or dance with the wind, sing when our heart wanted, or act funny every now and then, in life and at work.
Many of us were conditioned to think that anything which is creative, which is right-brain, which is aesthetic or artistic is meant mainly for appreciation, admiration, a tool to break ice with others, for social charm, and only that much and no more. These do not make money, create careers, or be valued in the economy.
The Few Glorious Exceptions:
We heard of some exceptions though. An artist’s piece of art sold at thirty lacs you hear. A singer sang for almost half a crore one night with ten thousand people crooning live. A fiction-writers wrote a story whose film rights went for twenty lacs. And many more. However, still, these were not enough for your ‘security’ seeking parents and your ‘marriage market’ will not consider you having a recipe of ‘success’ ahead just because someone made a fluke fortune with a creative expression.
Times are changing. Now is the time to declare a beautiful, colorful and bold war against all of these which went against your grain if you are an incorrigible creative soul from inside, with no competition with anyone except yourself, dedicated to your own creative work, aware of the technologies that you need to make this work a great one, and conscious of the ways and means to take your work to millions and earn your livelihood with joy and abundance, and for a lifetime. Monetizing your creative content is the crux of the matter though.
What do you or rather your well-wishers look for? Career Security? Sustainability? Career? Money? Fame? Name? Network? Recognition? You name it and it is there for the taking on the creative path, today. But only for those who would go the full hog to turn their die-hard dogged passion into a marketable sustainable admired profession with saleable content for people’s consumption. Dog is my favourite animal indeed.
Today the digital revolution is sweeping across the world of creative expression. There is a whole new world of web entertainment on the internet and through OTTs, mobile and online journalism, reputation and branding online, radio online, et al. In addition, lower entry barriers and lesser legal compliances till date are making content through digital media almost a cottage industry. Yes, the revenue models for all digital media properties are still not in place, which perhaps is a question of time to evolve.
Create a Bold New World:
Its time now for the artists on canvas or stone or wood or glass to stand up and create a brand of their own through social media, place themselves in the marketplace through corporate art,art curating, art gallery, art foundations, media cartoons, restaurant art, or art and literary festivals.
Then there are storytellers around and they have the best time as story-telling is the most impacting communication today. They need to stand up and choose the preferred medium and audience to tell their stories: whether in audio through podcasts and radio, in pictures through photo features and creative photography, or visually through computer-generated graphical or animated visuals. They can tell their stories audio-visually through short stories, feature films, and web series. The stories can be told for-profit and also for not-for-profit organizations through branded content. Tell your story on different platforms and contexts, say on the streets, or on stage. Tell it in whispers, tell it in small groups, tell it to many, tell it to all, tell it loud and clear. Tell it in silence, tell it with sound. Tell it in tears or with laughter. But tell it nevertheless, with all your charm and boldness. Also making good money in the process makes every consumer of your story pay for it either directly or indirectly through your advertisers.
A decade ago, no one would have thought that a 400 crores investment in story-telling on celluloid over five years can bring in 3500 crores. Bahubali did. Or that a 90 crores investment can bring in 2200 crores back. Dangal did. Even Marathi and Bengali films have crossed the 100 crores mark by the dozens now, whereas films rarely crossed 20-30 crores till recently.
In spite of rosy possibilities, it is also important not to gloss over the fact that one needs to know the right techniques to tell the story effectively, know the right audiences to tell it with the best-desired impact, know how to be resourceful in your work without chasing just the mundane. That is, know to tell a story that stands out. Above all, one must know not just how to produce great content, but how to monetize it seamlessly across multiple media. Post-pandemic, more particularly, in the digital medium.
Then for the dancers, the singers, the composers, and the writers amongst us, there is a world of opportunities knocking on our doors. There are no less than sixteen types of professional writing, for example, that can make money: branded content, screenplay, dialogues, playwriting, copywriting,fiction, non-fiction, journalistic, web-writing, jingle writing, technical writing, and a lot more. If you want to tell what you see, or what you imagine, or what you believe in, or what you observe: you have takers for all, if you can connect to your audience emotionally.
Today music has a robust career in playback singing, music direction, fusion creation, bands, concerts, music management, online music, and many more. So do the dancers dancing in troupes and films, for functions and weddings, running schools and events, managing operas and dance directing.
Media & Entertainment: Three Pathways:
Media and communication domain has three broad pathways: journalism, entertainment and brand communication, and then several specialization areas within each of these. While specialized skills and knowledge are always a must, one must begin from a broad base of understanding the entire gamut of communication, its technology and its business, before specializing in one segment. A doctor studies entire human anatomy and physiology before specializing in any one aspect and becomes a paediatrician or orthopaedic or gynaecologist etc. In communication too, one must first be a communicator and then a journalist or filmmaker or adman or a public relations professional, etc.
Story-telling Gets Tech-savvy:
Those among you who are creative geeks with a penchant for technology more than others: you have a longer path of fun and success ahead. Now is a world of fantasy visualized into animated images, characters and stories, or into engaging games and play stations. The stories you observed or thought of all your life, with some suggestions of your sample audiences, can be evolved into video games that engage them. Over the last one decade, virtual reality (creating a make-believe world that is not in front physically) and augmented reality (extending the physical reality to a larger canvas) are storming the creative space. They are breaking all frontiers of imaginative storytelling, with the assistance of mixed reality as well.
Today world of fashion is closer to communication than ever before. There are weaving stories on fabrics, blending nature and culture with apparel, and creating styles and fashion which are simply elegant or stunning.
We find all other forms of creative and communicative careers as well now: building images, managing crises, creating brand expressions, creating behavioral changes, creating brand trust, weaving identities or reputations of people, places, and organizations, et al.
Yes, these are exciting times. This is indeed your big time to call the shots. But there is a health check. An average half-hearted initiative will not give any outcome. It must have all your focus or none at all. You have to put your best foot forward or show no limb. The media domain needs ideas, concepts, practices, technologies and business sense all rolled into one great outcome that attracts attention and sells well.
To get this knowledge right, choose your creative education space wisely so that you walk out with a portfolio that can command a price, and acquire technical skills that will hold you for a long in the marketplace of talent. Your learning space must be intricately industry-connected, and strong in technical infrastructure and intellectual capital.
Digital Media & Skills Needed
Even before the pandemic, the small handheld screen was taking the bigger telescreen by the horns. The any-time consumption of video online is increasing fast, from news to entertainment, short video to music video, aided by the low internet costs on handsets. Digital expansion is being reborn almost every day with 1500 million cell phone users in South Asia, more than half of them being active on the internet and social media with smartphones. The pandemic has ensured that8 on 10 internet users are now regular daily users. The ever-expanding transition to the digital world ahead will be aided by Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality ad Virtual Reality, which will add visual and conceptual diversity. The phenomenon is already on and will increase in intensity.
Bon Voyage in your creative journey.
The author is Adviser & Professor of Dhaka based Daffodil International University.
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