Howard Wong is a writer, working in the animation, comic, marketing, designer toy and video game industries. He’s received numerous accolades including being nominated for a Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Writer. This is the third of a three-part article where Howard shares his insights on writing, storytelling and creativity through his years of experience collaborating with artists, editors and producers.
I’ve talked about using creativity to develop a compelling narrative, as well as to overcome production challenges. Here, I want to talk about how creativity can help you find opportunities beyond conventional methods and some basic contractual things you might find useful.
So when you look for a gig what do you normally do? Go online and head to the job boards and company websites? It’s a good place to start, but your search shouldn’t end there.
ONLINE PROFILE, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Most see theirs as the blog/website that they built to show their work and abilities to potential employers that they’ve applied to a job with. Besides the places you’ve applied to, there are others who search for people they want to hire or collaborate with. They will use your online profile as their initial deciding method to work with you or not. So designing your online profile with this in mind might lead to unexpected gigs.
SOCIAL & OLD SCHOOL NETWORKING
Social and traditional networking is one of the most invaluable methods in finding opportunities. No matter if you connect with people through Facebook to Twitter, mentorship programs to internships, meet-and-greets to conferences, conventions to cold calling and chance encounters (I'll get back to what this is in a bit), you get access to the newest information on opportunities that aren’t found on job boards and company websites at that moment. You also get a pulse on the current happenings in the industry you are (interested) in, which may help guide you to opportunities as well.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH A USED SOFA
The various networking opportunities I mentioned minus chance encounters, have you connecting with people who are most directly in touch to both opportunities and information you are seeking. While chance encounters is mainly about the indirect connection to opportunities and information.
Let me illustrate with a story.
Once upon a time, I went to look at a used sofa that my wife found online. As I spoke with the owner, we ended up talking about my life as a freelance writer. I bought the sofa and a few weeks later the previous owner called me. Her sister needed help. She needed some writing done, which I so happened fit the bill for. I ended working on an interesting project, which I would have never have known about had it not been for a used sofa.
This is what a chance encounter is about. Those moments in your life where you meet a random person online or in person, who connects you indirectly to opportunities. Whenever you meet someone for the first time you are laying the foundation of who you are, where you are able to build on it with what you do and sometimes what you are looking for. People you’ve met are then able to revisit what they remember of you and connect you to people they know.
I want to expand your concept of what connecting with people really amounts to. Think of how many people you know. Now think of how many people they know and keep going. So when you connect with someone you’re not just connecting with them, but instead with everyone they know as well. This is what makes networking invaluable to finding opportunities. Though many feel that industry connections are the ones that really lead to opportunities, creative thinkers should see beyond that. They are aware of the possibilities from the unexpected and understand the dynamic aspects of networking.
When you get opportunities to exploit your own work, you’ll encounter intellectual properties, copyrights and contracts. Understanding that each country has their own set of rules for their playground, I’ll be talking broadly about them.
Intellectual property (IP) is the creative product of the mind that includes design, inventions, literary and artistic works. So when you talk about something you just created, you’re talking about your IP.
Copyright is a form of legal protection for the copyright holder(s) to give exclusive rights to exploit their IP. This includes making copies, selling, performing or marketing works of art, music and/or literature, where it financially benefits the copyright holder(s).
Here are some useful websites that will give you more in depth information:
- WIPO - World Intellectual Property Organization
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office
- United States Copyright Office
- European Commission - Copyright
Contracts are agreements that lay out the framework for the relationship between the copyright holder(s) and those they’ve authorized to exploit their IP. Among other things, it defines who controls the IP copyright, how it will be exploited and how costs and profits are handled. It’s legally binding and should be taken seriously.
When you look at a contract, think of everyone’s underlying interests and see if it makes sense to you. Are any of the conditions seemingly one sided? Are there parts that aren’t clear to you? Whenever you don’t feel right or don’t fully understand something in a contract, it might be best to seek legal console for assistance.
PARTNERS IN CRIME
When you collaborate with others, you might want to use a contract to help avoid messy issues down the road. There are many stories of people fighting over things they could have avoided, had they defined what everyone expected to get for their contribution to the IP. It’s a touchy subject especially between friends, but an agreement does help avoid possible misunderstandings between everyone. I’ve work with others with and without contracts. Every situation is different and it really comes down to your comfort level working without one.
Knowing and understanding the business side of creative industries will help you recognize contracts that don’t benefit you in a positive manner, stop unauthorized exploitation of your work and perhaps help you find the best ways to exploit your work. You don’t need to be an expert, but you should get to know enough so you have a good idea what you’re getting yourself into.
BEFORE WE RIDE INTO THE SUNSET
Something I want to leave with. Many of you are striving to reach a creative plateau, but when you reach it that’s not where you should stop. There are other plateaus above that you can now go after! Your creative journey only ends when you let it. Good luck!
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