This week I got to speak with the talented Lucas James Culshaw. Lucas is a concept artist for television, movies, and music videos. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Aaron Iara: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Please tell the readers a bit about yourself and the work you do.
Lucas James Culshaw: Hi Aaron, thanks for having me. I’ve been a working artist and filmmaker for the past 16 years, as an artist you’ve probably seen my work in something and never knew it. I’ve worked on lots and lots of music videos, TV, commercials and movies on over the years.
Since I’ve been fortunate enough to be a successful artist it has helped me realize my passion of making movies. My first film Wasteland I was a bit unsure of myself so I just wrote and produced and worked on set, but I really enjoyed the experience of making it so I decided to direct at least one short a year to help me hone my chops, then a few shorts and years go by and I’m directing a feature film, and now we’re wrapping it up in post. Super cool.
Aaron Iara: That is quite the trajectory! What made you land on film making as your preferred medium?
Lucas James Culshaw: Art over the years became my ‘day job’ and I slowly realized most the art I drew was bringing someone else’s vision to life, so I think I transferred that creative part I was losing and missing into making films.
The biggest joy I get from making movies is all the problem solving needed, each day you probably have a hundred different things that need to be solved and its very rewarding coming up with the answers to them with some outside the box thinking. I’ve really found being on set as a director equally, if not more creatively rewarding than my time at the drawing board.
Aaron Iara: I feel the same way about running websites. There are always a million tiny problems to be solved. Since I love teaching myself new skills, tackling these issues gives me satisfaction.
What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to making art? How do you overcome them?
Lucas James Culshaw: There’s So so many, (chuckles) it all depends on the day. Just getting into that headspace can be a huge victory. Time management, tight deadlines, etc. and Creatively? Trying to find the right story to express what I want to convey to the audience and creating something hopefully we can all enjoy.
Aaron Iara: We recently discussed mixing business and art on the website. What are your thoughts on the balance between making art and making money?
Lucas James Culshaw: The money you make it has to be worth your time and then some. Freelancing has taught me to really be unwavering on what my time making art is worth.
For example if I have a client that is offering me a rate I make sure that rate is not only going to cover my rent and bills but taxes, and wear on equipment and supplies, extra money to enjoy life, and enough to put into savings so I comfortably can make it to the next job and create more art for money. Negotiating your rate can be the worst part of the job but if your firm and fair with knowing what you need to survive and thrive it can be very empowering.
Aaron Iara: Film making has a lot of moving parts. How do you approach the collaborative process?
Lucas James Culshaw: First is listening, finding out what the person I’m working with wants to get out of the experience, then going from there. I always try to hire people I know do good work and are reliable and let them do their thing.
That said, as the director I need to keep the end result true so if we’re doing it right it’s just minor adjustments to make with the cast and crew throughout the process. Then have a fun time on set while doing the job to our best abilities.
Aaron Iara: Listening is a great first step! I find that a lack of clear communication is what destroys a lot of projects.
What do you do to stay productive? Do you have any strategies for meeting deadlines?
Lucas James Culshaw: To stay productive I read, go for a walk, or exercise. Grabbing coffee with another creative person I admire is also a good one. A healthy balance of work and play is very key to my work ethic it allows me to turn that creative switch on a lot easier.
Another good trick for me is using Instagram almost solely for following artist accounts, its a quick dose of inspiration if I need it. Also a weird trick I do I keep my shoes on until I’m done working for the day, It some how keeps me focused.
Aaron Iara: Who are some of your favorite creators, film or otherwise?
Lucas James Culshaw: I kinda lean toward the Rob Schrab, Guillermo Del Torro’s of the world, and that DIY hands on filming I appreciate. I love that behind the scene of the Mist where Frank Darabont is just getting in there physically and showing the actors what he wants portrayed. I like getting my hands dirty on set.
Aaron Iara: What advice can you give to someone who is interested in getting involved with film making?
Lucas James Culshaw: My advice for new filmmakers is work every department of the movie if you can. Over the years I’ve done everything from craft service to art department to wardrobe to producing. It gives you a lot more ammunition to make your film and will strengthen your relationship with your cast and crew to understand their struggles.
Then go out and make something, treat a 1 min short like a drawing in a sketchbook, you’re not going to draw (or film) a masterpiece without a lot of practice first.
Aaron Iara: I am also an advocate for learning multiple skills and roles. Since I work with a lot of independent artists, I meet a lot of people who make art, run their own business, do their own marketing, etc.
Do you have any upcoming projects or events that you would like to speak about?
Lucas James Culshaw: I’m hard at work finishing up my latest movie, ‘Continue 9,8,7…’ Starring Yousef Abu Taleb best know for the Machinima web-series ‘Bite Me’ and ‘LonelyGirl19’. It’s a character study on a deep depression affecting a video game designer who thinks finding love will pull him out of his emotional miasma, and like most my stories has a bit of a dark quirkiness to it.
It’s been a pretty challenging process as there are a lot of animation involved that I’m creating along with help from my wife Crystal Kimberlee who’s a stop-motion and digital animator. It’s been an insanely challenging yet fun process.
Aaron Iara: That sounds like a fantastic project. I am excited to see how it turns out!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. Please let the readers know where they can find you and your work.
I also have a dedicated website for my art portfolio.
Keep an Eye on Lucas James Culshaw
A huge thank you to Lucas James Culshaw for taking the time to speak with me this week! Make sure you stay up to date with every project: