I first met Neill with a folio tucked under my arm for my interview I had managed to arrange at Ealing Studios in 1995.
My first job with him was making oversized Casio watches, which were fibreglassed out of silicone moulds to make G-Shock watch display units.
One thing I have always noticed about Neill is that he has a seemingly fearless approach to problem-solving. He will go directly to the source and grab whatever is the root of the issue in order to overcome it.
This seems to me to be the single best approach to fixing things which go wrong and thus continue on to better results. It is so easy for us to protect ourselves from the pain of that difficulty that it needs constant motivation and reminding to break through that in-built resistance.
The film industry is couched in problem-solving, each situation unique and usually high pressured. It is an attractive career and it rewards those involved with decent pay and pride, at the cost of many long hours and the weight of responsibility.
When things are done well by competent practitioners, it often looks like not much has been done at all – as if the ease with which something has been accomplished has been the result of something requiring little skill. The truth is, people who are highly skilled make it look easy, and it is interesting to discuss this with people who are successful and well connected to their efforts which made them so.
It does nobody any service to imply that great success is easy, yet there is no shortage of ‘get rich quick’ schemes online, dangling the carrot of instant fame at the touch of a recording button.
Truth is, people pay for what they value and solving problems is a valuable commodity. The job of all of us I think is to figure out whose problems you can solve, and how to be of service whilst building a body of work you can be proud of.
In this episode, Neill & Stuart dig into the behind the scenes stuff about what is hard and how to address the weaknesses. We also come up with three very practical ways to get started, which don’t involve massive expense or commitment:
- Sculpt self-portraits with clay, spending just 30 mins a day and reuse the clay to practice sculpting. Mirror, lamp and you. Do this for 30 days. Take a photo each day of what you did in the time, and rip the clay up and reuse it the next day. Repeat.
- Sculpt a face or creature face onto a board. Make a plaster mould of this and make a latex face mask. Avoid expensive silicone in the first instance, just stick to the basic materials.
- Highlight and shadow makeups. The cornerstone of everything, modifying forms with just highlight and shadow using a few brushes and a makeup palette such as the 12 colour ‘Supracolour’ B Palette from Kryolan.
Neill also talks about his interest in psychology and how it can best affect how we see to sculpt.
We do so many things automatically without actively noticing, so learning to do new things makes you meet those difficulties. That is the blockage when you start learning new things. There is no immediate reward, no endorphin rush of doing something you are competent at.
When starting out, most people are awful, few people are ‘natural born sculptors’. It takes repetition and powering through the crap stuff, like purging the spout of a half-used tube of glue, getting the crust out of the way so the fresh stuff can get out.
I’m a better sculptor because of how I break things down into simpler forms. Complexity is just repeated layers of simplicity. Sculpting is difficult because you have a low-resolution version of things – you can’t have a high-resolution version of all things in the world, it is too much information to retain and recall so we become adept at glossing over most things most of the time.
When called to reproduce and generate something which is believable, it helps to have a clear idea of how to break down a given subject so it can be approached and digested systematically in smaller, simpler chunks, arranged in the right order.
Asked to draw a horse from memory, most of us will realise what we don’t have stored as we have instead an ‘icon’ of what a horse is rather than a detailed, accurate schematic. You know what constitutes a horse so you can recognise one when you see it, but recreating one will require more resolution than you have, so feed that when needed by studying reference material
Lastly, a few words about social media enterprises.
YouTube sells the idea that it’s easy, but there is a lot of unseen work, effort and equipment which needs to be used correctly.
The illusion of social media platforms is that they make you think of them as accessible. In the entire history of entertainment until recently, TV and media used up on a pedestal, that which was on a screen wasn’t interacted with. Now the platform has been democratised.
However, you can’t own an audience. You cannot control a following.
To be of value, have something first, and once you have something to offer, THEN use the social media outlet to promote it. After all, you don’t buy a shop and then wonder what to sell in it.
In this episode we mention a few things, so here are the details regarding them.
The ‘Corson book’ is a classic and has just come out with the 11th edition. It also has a lot of cool stuff in by a friend of the show Matthew Mungle so we recommend that:
Richard Corson (author), James Glavan (author), Beverly Gore Norcross (author)
Psychology book recommendations:
Your Deceptive Mind:
A Scientific Guide To Critical Thinking Skills
By Steve Novella
Black Box Thinking
By Matthew Syed
How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean
By Kim Scott
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
By Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
VANESSA DAVIS – THE SKULLTRESS™ – @skulltressbeauty