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Substance Over Style

I’ve heard this phrase used too many times in conversations where an upper level manager or director tries to tell their creative subordinates that the message is more important than the way it’s delivered. As if art is merely a conduit for a message, and not the message itself.

I spent the better part of a decade trying to figure out style. In film school I wanted so desperately to make video look like film. I studied, researched, and experimented trying to get my stuff to look like Hollywood. Then I did it. I figured it out. I could make a real movie… now what. What the heck do I shoot?

I so consumed myself with style, that I neglected the very thing that drew me into filmmaking: story, the substance of film. We’ve all seen movies that look spectacular, but are crap because the story sucks.  I’ve seen movies that lack much style, but are good films because they have incredible substance. That said, a good story, or a worthwhile message, can be completely undermined by a total lack of artistic excellence. When both style and substance are perfected in a work, that, dear friends, is when the game changes and something truly remarkable is created.

This is true in any creative field. A photo, a painting, a song, a dance, even an ad hits us the way only art can when the message–the substance–is good.

Anyone can perfect style. It takes an artist to perfect substance.

Thumbtack

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