MAKING ART WORK, No.13: Jeff Dixon

February 27 2018

 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 writer, filmmaker and Film & Media Arts alum, Jeff Dixon, for this episode of MAKING ART WORK.

What do you wish you had known when you were a less experienced artist?
Because this series is called “Making Art Work” I’ll steer this answer toward treating art as a career choice and not simply a hobby. Early in my attempt at an actual writing career, I had tunnel vision focused solely on the craft. I figured all I had to do was write glorious magic, and success would naturally follow. Now I know it was naive to be so one-sided. Obviously the art comes first, no question, but looking back now I wish I’d known more earlier on about the BUSINESS of my art as well. Yep, I know in the art world sometimes the dreaded “B” word gives you shivers, but don’t let it. You can be the single greatest artist in the world, yet if you aren’t business savvy as well, the only people who will ever know your skills will be your mom, your dog and maybe your Aunt Lupita. I wish I would have worked concurrently learning how the business of screenwriting/Hollywood worked at the same time I studied the craft. If you want an actual career out here, you can’t have one without the other. There’s a reason why they call Hollywood, “The Business.”

How do you find balance between creating your own art and using your creative talents for other projects (jobs, collaborations, etc.)?
Balance is key to everything. I’m a dad of two daughters and because my wife’s work has always caused her to travel a lot, I’ve been the primary caregiver at home. For me I had to find balance not only in work, but with family as well. Before I was pretty loosey-goosey with scheduling my time, but I learned early on that I needed structure or I wasn’t going to get anything done. Now I treat writing just like any other job or duty. I schedule dedicated blocks of time in my calendar every single day solely for writing. If I only used my calendar for pitches, meetings, kid’s school scenarios, doctor’s visits, or any of the other 1000 items in a day, I’d never get any actual writing time in there. If I schedule it directly in my calendar, I don’t let anyother distractions get in that time block. Although trust me, I’ll still find some time in there to procrastinate with a little Facebook or Plants vs. Zombies. I am a writer after all.

What’s the most useful advice you were given?
Don’t limit yourself. Make yourself available to work on every single aspect of your craft, and every genre. When I first started I solely considered myself a horror screenwriter. I only wrote films, and I only wrote horror. But over the years, I widened my spectrum and started working not only in all genres, but in all different forms of writing as well. I’ve since written comic books. I’ve published a full graphic novel. I’ve written for video games. I’ve written for TV. I used to write the blog/lesson summaries for the Stan Winston School. Hell, I even wrote for the WWE for a while. Guess what happens when you don’t limit yourself to one aspect? Your craft grows in all aspects. For example, when I was writing for wrestlers in World Wrestling Entertainment, I had to really focus on my dialogue. And not just any dialogue, but short-form dialogue. Live television working in exact blocks of time (as well as the limited vocabulary of a few performers) makes for the need to get the most information out in the shortest amount of time. This ended up helping me with the dialogue in all my feature scripts as well. Every aspect helps the other. Plus, if I would have only stuck with writing horror, I wouldn’t have an action movie like The Hurricane Heist coming out in March! Although, I definitely tried to squeeze a few “horror” moments in there. Can’t take that part away from me.

For more information on Dixon you can follow his blog at here. Make sure to check out Dixon’s film, The Hurricane Heist, coming out on 3/9.