Oberlin Blogs

Steal Like an Artist

October 23, 2013

Zach Christy

Inspiration comes from everywhere. Working in video, I try and keep my eyes open all the time (well, at least while I am awake). But it's not just videos I watch, places I go, experiences I have—it's everything that inspires me—or at least could inspire me. So finding that moment, that pocket in time to figure out what "works" and what doesn't work is always on the front of my mind.

And, that's how the idea of Stealing Like An Artist came to be for me. Whether I want to admit it or not, everything I do professionally comes from something I saw somewhere else and thought was super cool or saw and thought it could be improved on.

Beginning at Oberlin College in April, I instantly was asked to steal—my first project was the Senior Supper Video 2013—and the entire project was based off of tv shows, commercials and pop culture. So, nothing I was doing was original—but I didn't want to simply do a parody—I wanted to bring them to life as Oberlin-related stories, that just happened to have a connection to the outside world.

But, even before that project, I shot something to familiarize myself with the equipment at Oberlin. I entered a contest through the Akron Art Museum called "Missed Connections," based off of posts from Craigslist's Missed Connections. Each team was given a random post from Craigslist and instructed to make a film 5 minutes or shorter based on the post. The end result was "Transit."

TRANSIT from zach christy on Vimeo.

The idea of taking someone's story and reimagining what was really going on was a definite challenge, but learning how to "steal" moments and rework them into a story was a total blast.

But sometimes it literally is just finding projects you like and trying to transform them to work for you. I have been following this guy named Jordan Scott for some time and love just about everything he does. But, a certain video of his struck me.

Hockey 101 from J-Scott on Vimeo.

This video came out almost 3 years ago now, and while the subject matter isn't particularly interesting to me, the end result is. So, while working on another project for Oberlin, I was pulled into a meeting with Ma'ayan where they were talking about making a potential video about how people would change the world if they could. The style of Jordan's video immediately came into my head and luckily, everyone let me run with it.

And while it may not be the most popular thing to directly mention where you got your inspiration, I think it is worse to hide. I am not saying rip off people's work—but keep your eyes open, your mind open, and get inspiration where you can get it— which for me is everywhere.

Steal Like An Artist. Look at stuff that people have done and reimagine it in your own way. Look at type on packaging, the way a chair curves, the color of the leaves outside. Pull from things around you and make them your own. A fair amount of my Twitter feed is single parts of conversations I overheard while being out. I don't know if I ever will do anything with them, but I knew it was things I didn't want to forget. There is a story to everything—it's just finding it, transforming it your needs and putting it out there.

Steal Like An Artist or someone else will.

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