Friday, January 14, 2022

Limit Your Streams Like a Movie Director


In the previous entry we talked about looking to great movie directors for inspiration in our streams. There, we explored how an unbridled love for the craft, and combining other interests with our work, can help to establish a distinct creative style. There’s another point I’ve always found fascinating about the cinematic greats though. They use limitations to heighten their own creative senses. In this entry, we’re going back to the movies, to see how directors use limits either imposed on them, or that they set up themselves, in order to keep the creative juices flowing. During this entry, consider how your Twitch streams may benefit from a few strategically placed limits in this same way. 


Many directors keep strong opinions about their craft, and actually create their own limitations. Tarantino and Christopher Nolan for example, shoot all their movies on film, the volatile and expensive camera format of classic cinema, rather than the high definition digital techniques most modern directors use. Wes Anderson regularly uses custom miniature models in his films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch rather than CGI, which would be faster and cheaper. And in his newest film Last Night in Soho, Edgar Wright chose to do many of his most impressive effects totally within the camera, creating a psychedelic mirror dimension through simple choreography and staging instead of computer-generation. 

Fun Fact: Dune II (1992) was the progenitor
of the real-time strategy genre.

The self-imposed limits don’t stop there either- some even apply to great movie directors watching films. Fourteen years ago, David Lynch famously went on his tirade about the inferiority of watching
movies on a phone, but these values still hold strong today. Last year, Denis Villeneuve contended that his movie Dune was meant to be seen on the big screen. Even watching the film on a TV, he said, was akin to driving “a speedboat in your bathtub.” And of course, directors like the aforementioned Wright and Tarantino uphold strict rituals about the way they watch movies, keeping lists and giving out their own awards as I mentioned in the previous entry. There’s some common thread among screen legends which leads them to set limitations and rules for themselves and then follow them rigidly. It may not seem to make sense at first glance, but it’s hard to argue with the results. 


I’m a big believer in setting limitations when streaming. I think it helps a creator to more succinctly find their voice and really become unique. What are some values you truly believe in? Let those guide you toward a more authentic stream. Maybe you want to do your shows with only certain types of games, or you don’t like swearing, or you want people in chat to avoid certain subjects. If something is really important to you, it’s worth taking a stand and making that a part of your channel. The only time you should be careful with self-imposed limits is when they begin to affect your ability to go live. Many people set harmful limits for themselves, like not wanting to stream if they haven’t yet purchased the highest quality gear, or waiting until they feel 100% ready before going on the air. These are not creatively stimulating limits, they’re excuses. And you should push past those blockades to create your content anyway. But if there’s a limit that helps to uphold your personal values and might help you to reach new heights creatively, give it a shot! 

For example, I decided a long time ago that I wanted to design all my own graphics. And over the years that’s allowed me to arrive at some pretty fun visual ideas for my streams. I didn’t wait until I had created a ‘full’ graphics package before starting my channel, but instead began with a modest one or two screens, expanding as I went. This allowed me to experiment and see what worked best before making more, and the fact that I began before everything was ‘ready’ meant that my limitation didn’t prevent me from going live. I’ve had a lot of fun making my own stream graphics over the years, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the visual arts. You can find more on my philosophy about this in the entry Create Your Own Stream Graphics.  


The Warriors for PS2 did a lot within
the limitations of its hardware.

Limitations aren’t always self-imposed. Kevin Smith made his first movie, Clerks, for the near-non-existent budget of $27,000, paid for on his personal credit cards. (For reference, its sequel twelve years later cost $5 million.) He didn't make his first movie this way because he wanted to see how cheaply he could make a film, it was because he actually just had no money. And this monetary limitation brought limits of other sorts as well- inferior equipment, a single location, and the ability to only shoot in the convenience store where he was employed during his off-hours. But this all worked toward the film’s advantage. Clerks is an indie comedy masterpiece, which shines because of a strong screenplay, clear artistic voice and great characters. None of those things require money or equipment to achieve. And it’s the same on your Twitch streams. You don’t need anything fancy to make something great. Even if your limitations are from financial necessity or circumstance, there’s no reason your shows can’t be amazing when you set your mind to it. 

Of course, I recently focused on the limitations of another great film director in a Twitch Playbook entry as well. Alfred Hitchcock had to contend with the limitations of technology and the very strict film review board of his era. But as you might be able to tell from the entry’s title, Learn From Your Stream’s Limitations, I think those constrictions actually helped him in the end, to think more creatively. So whatever limits you face in your streaming career, don’t let them get you down. Use them to your advantage. Or, if you feel your streams are too bland right now, create a few new limitations and let them guide your channel into a more interesting creative style. Nothing can stop you when you limit your streams like a movie director. 

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