Voices from … The Creative Arts

Wednesday, 4th November 2015
Written by: Jennifer Evans

“The Creative Arts” is such a broad term that covers a vast range of jobs. Some of us studying the Arts and Humanities with find ourselves faced with the dilemma of figuring out what we want to do in “The Creative Arts”, where there is to do in such a field, and how we can make a living in the process. In the Arts, there isn’t really one set career path, as panelists from this weeks “Voices from…” panel proved.


Jamie Tanner – Senior Producer at VStream, Photographer, Video Producer

Jamie Tanner, a photographer for the Electric Picnic http://www.electricpicnic.ie festival and Senior Producer at Vstream Media http://www.vstream.ie, a digital media company based here in Dublin, has been in many directions in different areas of the arts. After beginning his degree at Trinity in Philosophy and Classics, he joined the DU Players and quickly switched to Drama, going on to get a Master’s in Film. As is the way of the industry, film was evolving to video by the time he had learnt how reels worked, so Jamie had to adapt to fit the fast-moving environment. Seeing that there were opportunities in film overseas, he moved to New Zealand where he worked in film for two years. On his return to Ireland he turned his hand to music photography. Like so many people in artistic jobs, Jamie pursued photography for next to no income for a few years. It took a few years of commitment to get to a point where he was reaping the benefits of all the hard work.

Jamie’s work with still photography took him back to film, leading him to music videos and live festival videos. He set up his own production company at the time, and fully believes that you should focus on something that you care about. He hesitates to tell us to “do what you love” because he knows that sometimes you’ll hate it—the difficult hours, the travelling, the hours of editing, or the instability of the job—but if you really care about it, and you care about the results you’re getting, it will all be worthwhile.

Jamie’s story also shows the importance of being in the right place at the right time. Wen out at a pub, he met a man working for Vstream who checked out his music videos and offered him a job. Since then he has worked on tonnes of different projects at Vstream and his work is always adapting. It’s not just the individuals that have to adapt to the industry, but the companies too. They need to keep on top of consumer demand and culture changes, so they hire people who have the skills and desire to do that.

Jamie warns of us being told to narrow down and specify too often. He’s found that, in these jobs, the opposite is often necessary—you have to know how to change, to figure out new technology and gain new skills, and to be okay with a job you’ve never heard of or considered before. That’s where you might find the most interesting ones.


Matthew Smith, International Theatre Producer and Events Manager

Matthew Smith, an international theatre producer at ANU Productions, has similar advice. He studied Economics and Politics at Trinity but his career has not gone in that direction at all. He joined Players and a sketch group in college and began performing in Dublin and at festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe, even considering going into comedy full-time after leaving college.

He applied and was accepted into the SEEDS programme for developing artists, run by Rough Magic: http://www.roughmagic.ie/artist-development/seeds. He was able to assist on one show throughout his time and produce one show at the end, allowing him to see the bigger picture while working on his own project.

Matthew, like a lot of us, wanted a job that let him travel in his 20s, and that’s what he’s gotten through his work. He became one of the few freelance producers in Ireland, working with companies such as Dead Centre. His freelance role lets him experience and taste new jobs and events all the time. He’s left things open, going after anything that piques his interest. Going freelance can sound like a scary dream that doesn’t actually earn you money, but Matthew shows that it can be done. The key is keeping connections and going after new opportunities, allowing yourself to veer into a different path if that seems like the right one. As Justin said, the arts are always evolving, and you should be too.


Louise O’Neill, Author

Louise O’Neill, author of two critically acclaimed books, Only Ever Yours and Asking for It, has a slightly different story. After working for Elle magazine in New York for only a year straight out of Trinity, she realised the focus on image and size in the fashion industry wasn’t for her. She started to critique the industry and became more away of feminist issues, so she returned home to live with her parents and work on Only Ever Yours. Having studied English and with her mother an English teacher, the writing came naturally to Louise and she felt confident in her story of a world in which women could only ever give birth to males, not females.

After finishing her draft and contacting agents, she received an immediate positive response, hearing back in less than a week. Her first book did phenomenally well and at the time she was already writing her second, which is has been out since September and is set to do just as well.

Louise says that it didn’t come without hard work, though. She says that a lot of this is about being driven and ambitious. This is a business, after all, and you need to be strategic about selling your product and ideas through social media, etc. Her advice is to be as professional as possible and to think about things like your target market and publicity instead of leaving it up to your agent. Louise’s proactive nature helped her get off the ground, which is such a difficult thing for new writers.

For her, though, it felt pretty easy once she’d written the book. As we writers know, the actual writing can be the hardest part. Louise spent six months doing nothing but writing her first novel, a tactic that might not work for all of us but definitely worked for her. Once you find what works for you, you just need to keep writing. Louise’s advice to budding authors is not to compare your first draft to somebody else’s published work, which has been edited numerous times. As she says, working with a draft that you need to completely re-structure or edit is a lot easier than working with nothing at all.

Louise also knows that you have to push those self-doubting thoughts aside. The artistic process is difficult and challenging, and the industry is so vast and competitive that it can seem like you are nothing in the grand scheme of it. She knows how difficult that can be, but made sure she believed in herself.


Anna Murray, Composer, Musician and Concert Promoter

There are some jobs in the arts that where it is difficult to make a well-paying career, composer and musician Anna Murray knows well. She always knew she wanted to be a composer but knew that composing on its own is not a job that many can pursue full time and make a living out of. She turned to teaching as well as composing, and joined the Irish Composers Collective, http://www.irishcomposerscollective.org/anna-murray. Her work doesn’t stop there, as she co-directs music production group Fractal and writes for the Journal of Music. Anna thrives on having a number of different projects and jobs on the go at the same time.

Anne has found that she has learnt so much from her creative education, and continues to learn in her jobs, which appears to be a theme among the panelists. They are proof that jobs in the creative arts are possible and available, and if you are an adaptable person then you will thrive in that environment. Whether you’re working only on writing, or working in freelance production, the job is never dull or stagnant. Jobs in the creative arts are there if you don’t narrow yourself down, if you make contacts and are passionate about the work you’re doing. That passion is evident in all the panelists, and is clearly a key component in all of their success.



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