MAKING ART WORK, No. 10: Jesse Knight

October 09 2017

By Noelle Sharp

MAKING ART WORK: Advice for artists, from artists is a series that taps into the knowledge and experience of seasoned creatives from our community and beyond for the benefit of our students. We had the pleasure of speaking with Filmmaker and Director Jesse Night for this episode of MAKING ART WORK.

Knight is a multi-award winning filmmaker, screenwriter and artist. While receiving his BFA in Film/Video from Pratt Institute, Jesse Knight became interested in mythology, storytelling and, eventually, screenwriting. Over the last decade, Jesse has written a dozen screenplays including two in development and produced several shorts films and music videos, including Knock Knock, which was featured at the 2007 Anthology Film Archive’s horror film festival. His short, Waiting for Molly, premiered at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in 2013. His screenplay, A Lush Life, was a winner of the 2014 Big Star screenwriting competition, and a semi-finalist in the 2014 Slamdance screenplay competition. His feature film After Party was the Feature Comedy winner at the 2017 Madrid International Film Festival

1. What do you wish you had known when you were a less experienced artist?
It’s amazing how long it took for me to figure out all the pieces of being successful creatively that have nothing to do with your talent. There’s no question: Your talent, your imagination, your technical skill… you can’t get ahead without that. Yet, it’s the hard work, laser focus and long hours dedicated and sacrificed actually makes the difference. The older I get the more I see talent as a byproduct of hard work and focus, and success as the final result of all of this. When I was an inexperienced artist I talked a lot more about art and luck. What’s that they say? Hard work looks like luck to a slacker.

2. How do you find balance between creating your own art and using your creative talents for other projects (jobs, collaborations, etc.)?
This is the big question, right? The key for me is making sure I’m properly valuing my time. Whenever I consider working on a project or taking a job my first question is: What am I getting out of this? Why is this worth my time? Sometimes the answer is easy: The money.  But even when it’s just to pay the bills, I have to feel something. I don’t believe that artists should take “dumb” jobs so they can focus their art. I believe that any job you do, anything you spend your valuable time on, has to feed you, not just literally, but creatively. I believe that crappy jobs kill artist’s souls. 

Still from "After Party". Image courtesy of Jesse Knight.