Come Create w/ Izak Berman

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Skandl’s Come Create interview series is your gateway to insider knowledge from creatives in careers ranging from directing to graphic design.

We’re a branding and communications agency, and we’ve selected the interviewees for this series based on our admiration for their work and attitude, in order for them to talk about their field and their experiences.

This time we hear from director, writer and actor Izak Berman [https://www.izakberman.com/].

My work Crimson is most representative for my approach to text and theatrical imagery. For video work, my installation Loaf, and the more recent music video for Noha Saré’s song Talk to Me, are the ones that highlight my style best. An as yet unannounced play that I am working on right now demonstrates my writing style most clearly, so keep an eye out for that one.

The equipment I use depends on the profession or discipline I’m working in. For theatre and performance, I use a large amount of style books for visual reference, they help me in the creative process. In general, I watch a lot of films and read texts that help me shape the world that I want the story to take place in – usually before the start of rehearsal or shooting. I also make moodboards and use graphic design tools to make visual impressions like concept art for theatre and film work. I just love to mess around on my computer and experiment with imagery.

My advice for novice creators is: Experiment! Make mistakes, and don’t get discouraged by what others tell you that conventional style is or should be. It is hard to develop your own creative voice when it seems like everything in the world has been done before. Try to turn that around and celebrate the multitude of sources for inspiration that are out there. Use them. And don’t be afraid to be specific or ‘niche’ in your stylistic approach. Dare to surprise your audience – take quick turns. And try to find a way of doing your work that makes you passionate about it every single day. Working in the arts is a very personal engagement and the work isn’t sustainable if you’re not having fun with it. So you better have some fun!

When I was younger I invested a lot of hours in educating myself on creative apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, Logic, Avid and Final Draft. It gave me the freedom to experiment with image, text and sound at a young age, and I’m still using that knowledge every single day. Using your days off to expand your knowledge on those kind of tools really pays off in the end. Also, I invest a lot in prints of new theatre texts and art books to see what’s out there and stay inspired. I would recommend that to anyone.

I think keeping up with certain industry trends is really important – if you’re able to maintain your own sense of style while doing it. It’s about balance, really. I like to be informed about what others in my field are doing and what all the trends are, but not too much – that makes me stress out! Using trends or new technological tools to your advantage is always great because the demands of audiences around the world are constantly changing. It is interesting and important to keep track of that. For me, keeping up with the international arts scene by looking into and researching new projects and art spaces around the world helps me stay informed.

I highly recommend Tate Modern’s podcast ‘The Art Of…’ and MoMa New York’s podcast series ‘The Way I See It’. They’re both very informative and insightful podcasts about the visual arts.

American actor and playwright Jeremy O. Harris is a big inspiration for me. He wrote his award-winning Slave Play while still in university. He combines creating important and timely work with being in the public spotlight and actively advocating for issues like racism that speak to younger generations. I like how he’s both a creator, spokesperson and style icon. For theatre and performance, I really like Belgian collective Peeping Tom. They create abstract movement pieces in recognizable but dream-like environments. Their imagery is both haunting and beautiful, and very precise. And the set designs are out of this world. One of their most famous dance pieces, 32 Rue Vandenbranden, is one of my absolute favorites.

Promoting yourself online can feel a little self-absorbed at times, but I think it’s kind of essential in the digital age we live in. I also think registrering and documenting your work for your own database (or public release) is very important, especially in theatre. But I’m not the best at that, haha. There are several projects from the past that I didn’t document well at all, and I regret it now. So I learned a lot from that! Also, accessibility is key. You want people to find you. There are so many possibilities for expanding your audience nowadays – and even for gaining new work opportunities. It would be a waste not to use them. But it’s also really time-consuming, so it’s an investment you have to make.

I’ve gotten most of my work either through my social circle or by coincidence. I like reaching out to people that inspire me to start singular projects and collaborations myself – though in these kinds of situations, you’re mostly dependent on funding. So it takes a bit more time to do research on those funds, apply for them and make it work. But when it does, these are my favorite kinds of projects.

You have to get lucky with work opportunities, though. That took some getting used to for me – the artistic field is very unpredictable in the opportunities it provides, and autonomy and self-guidance are key.

I believe staying in touch with your audience is very important. Either through a well-designed website, through socials or real-life gatherings. For me it’s also necessary to surround myself with people that encourage me and lift me up, while I’m lifting them up at the same time. That kind of positivity helps me succeed in my work, and I just love to be in creative and passionate surroundings.

I’m very lucky to have friends who are also creators and/or work in the creative field, with whom I can bounce ideas off each other and discuss all kinds of work-related things. So my tip would be; search for others who are in the same field as you and with whom you have a personal connection, and look out for each other. Oh, and keep your audience up to date about what you’re doing and tease them with small sneak-peeks here and there.

It’s important to be open to feedback. And sometimes it’s hard, because your work can be so personal to you. I try to receive feedback as openly as possible, and then I pick only a few things to take away and remember from that particular conversation. These are usually points that I agree with to some extent, or that I find useful for the further development of a project. You can’t process all the feedback you get. You have to choose what’s useful to you, your work and your particular style. Often opinions differ widely and it can be hard to digest all of them. I usually tend to find feedback that is very concrete, precise and specific to be the most useful (‘try to change this around’, ‘maybe take a look at that transition’, etc.) Broad, generalized opinions are the ones I have more problems with.