Finding Your Career Path: Four Lessons Learned From a Creative Professional

Evan Mann is a filmmaker and the owner of Denver-based Otherworldly Productions, a commercial video production company. When he first enrolled in college as an art student, he had no idea that he’d end up doing video production in any capacity—in fact, he studied printmaking, and even earned an MFA in the pursuit of becoming a college professor.

Mann visited RMCAD on February 1, 2018 to talk to students about the path that led him to his current career. Here are four lessons he’s learned as an artist and a creative professional:

Explore art forms outside of your major.

While earning his MFA in printmaking, Mann said he found himself gravitating toward digital media. Instead of letting his area of study hold him back, he explored his interests and started making short films on his own. While you might feel like you should stay within your area of study, playing with different mediums can help you grow as an artist, and potentially open doors to new opportunities.

There’s no “right way” to start your career.

After graduating, Mann wanted to move back to Colorado, but initially felt it might not be the best move for his career.

“I was tempted to go to New York City…or go to L.A. because that’s what everyone does,” he said.

But because he had a skill set he could leverage, he decided that he could make a path for himself anywhere. He made the move to Colorado, took on internships and jobs for various companies, and found a way to support himself as a creative professional while he figured out what he wanted to do long term.

Know how to pivot in your career.

Mann’s original goal in earning an MFA was to become a professor. After working as an adjunct instructor for a while, he realized it wasn’t the right path for him. This led him to explore the option of doing video production work.

Mann started small shooting weddings and other events. Eventually, he was able to grow his portfolio and hire contract workers to help him on projects. Now, his company, Otherworldly Productions, has done commercial video production for high-profile clients like Clif Bar and Ralph Lauren.

Find a balance between work and personal endeavors.

Mann learned how to produce videos by making short films as a student. Upon graduating, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to support himself the way he wanted to off of his personal projects alone.

“You have to think about what your goals are.” Mann said, explaining his decision to do commercial work.

But there’s a balance. Now that Mann has a viable way to leverage his skills and earn a living, he also has time to create his own art, too. He gets to use his creative skills to execute other people’s ideas through his commercial work, while still having the ability to bring his own ideas to life as an artist.

Show up for clients.

As the head of a video production company, Mann primarily works with outside clients. The nature of this type of work requires a person who can be responsive and fit into the rhythm of other people’s workflow and process. Mann said this requires listening to the client’s ideas, asking a lot of questions, and taking ownership to help clients figure out what they need out of a project.

Want more advice about navigating your career as a creative professional? Watch Mann’s full lecture here.

Join Career Services for the next Wayfinding Lecture Series event on March 15 to hear a talk from Barth Quezner, Visual Arts Instructional Curriculum Specialist for Denver Public Schools.