I was watching this very brilliant presentation from artist Shea Hembrey. It is funny, entertaining and gives true insight into a creative mind. As a Southern girl, I can relate to Shea’s background very well!

During the presentation, he talks about how he judges “art.” He said after visiting hundreds of exhibitions and seeing a lot of work, he identified what he found missing from the experience and from a lot of art. One was work that was appealing to a broad public, meaning that a lot of art is not accessible to most people. They can’t connect with what the artist is trying to show. I think many people also cannot connect with the artist as a person which helps in making the art accessible. Some art is just too personal to the artist with no meaning for anyone else and many artists are introverts, preferring their work to speak for them. If you are an introverted artist making work that only speaks to you, how are you going to attract people to you work? As filmmakers, you have to consider this. Are you making work that only appeals to you? If so, it is inaccessible and there is no business model for that. Which is fine, just know going in that you can’t sustain yourself on inaccessible art. Also if we, the audience, cannot connect with you as a person given today’s reality that everyone is personally accessible through multiple social networks, you will find it increasingly harder to exist as an artist.

I know, it isn’t a popular concept. Are there artists in history that managed to rise above the noise and become a “name” without the need (or existence) of social networking? Of course, but in comparison to all artists, you can name them on a few hands and in the past, there were very few outlets one could use to rise above the din. Traditional mass media in the form of art critics was about it. Now there are thousands of outlets and it is just too easy to access them not to be actively doing that. As an artist, I wouldn’t want to hope I get “discovered,” I would want to make sure of it and actively make it happen.

Shea says he developed 2 sets of criteria for judging art he would want in his exhibition (a biennial that he devised. You’ll hear the all about it in the presentation.). One was the Meemaw test (love the term!) which was if he couldn’t explain the art to his grandmother in 5 minutes, then it was not accessible enough and wouldn’t be considered. The other was the three H’s, head, heart and hand. Great art has interesting intellectual ideas for the head; it has passion and soul and can touch people in an emotional way for the heart; and it has great craftsmanship and technique made by hand. I think this is a great way to critique films (both independent and studio made). The work that lasts, garners audience, and succeeds must have all of these things. Just as Shea was having trouble finding these things in the exhibition art world, I have trouble finding these things in the film world. Many independent films are either not accessible or do not have head, heart and hand.

I bet if you examine the film that inspired you to be a filmmaker, you’ll find that it had all three of these things. And you can explain that film in five minutes to someone and they can “get” it. When making work of your own, consider if it has head, heart, hand.

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