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Cracking Creativity Episode 26: Katy Walker and Joel Mejia on Taking Action, Working with Limitations, and Empowering Others

Katy Walker and Joel Mejia are the co-directors of the Time is Art documentary, a film that follow’s Jennifer Palmer’s journey after her aunt’s death and her exploration of synchronicity. They are also the minds behind Things Are Changing Productions, a creative collective that produces youth media programs, indie films, and music videos. In this episode we explore what you must do to take action, why you should work with limitations, and the benefits of empowering others.

Here are three things you can learn from Katy and Joel:

You should look inward for answers

Looking inward is one of the most empowering things people can do. Many of us go days without taking the time to look within ourselves for answers. We are so busy trying to be productive that we forget to think things through.

Most of the time, the answer we are looking for is already within us. The next time you are stuck looking for answers, pause and look inside yourself. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Limitations make you more creative

Big budget blockbusters have an almost an unlimited amount of money to work with. They are given every resource they may need, which might be the reason so many of them fall flat.

Joel believes the best way to get the most out of an artist is to give that artist some limitations. When you are up against a wall, you are forced to come up with a creative solution, which often lead to the best results.

Most of us believe the more free you are, the easier it is to be creative. The problem is, this gives you t oo many options. The next time you are stuck, give yourself some limitations. You may be surprised by the results.

The benefits of empowering others

Katy and Joel are big believers in empowering other people. They believe apprenticeships are a powerful form of teaching. When someone becomes your apprentice, they are not being forced to learn. They are looking for long term value and a longer term education.

They are also running a series of workshops along with the film. This encourages people to engage and collaborate with others, which leads to a more powerful experience. They want people to connect through the film and the workshops and create long terms connections from it.

  • group of loosely related creative minds under Things are Changing Productions
    • releasing the Time is Art documentary on 11/11/15
      • film that follows writer Jennifer Palmer after having a mystical experience that has been labeled synchronicity
      • she talks to authors, researchers, mystics and artists about what makes us all interconnected
      • explores the idea that time isn’t money but time is art
    • environmentalists, creative thinkers, & educators who believe their mission is to empower people through their work which lead to a more sustainable world
  • 7:26 Katy’s upbringing and background
    • didn’t grow up in creative environment, grew up with sports and competition
    • discovered she was a filmmaker at 11/12
      • was given the opportunity to do a video instead of a book review
      • she wrote a screenplay and enlisted friends to act in it
      • she shot it and did voiceover work on it
      • recorded on two VHS decks
      • she got an A+ and teacher screened it in front of the class
    •  got transmedia degree at UT
      • used those experiences in filming documentary
  • 12:40 Joel’s upbringing and background
    • traditional immigrant story of  Dominican Republic family in NYC
    • parents and brother weren’t familiar with American way
    • grew up watching television and thinking it was cool
    • took acting classes in school
    • family didn’t have any artists
    • didn’t feel like an artist
    • was involved with company working with musicians
      • got into the business aspects of it
    • studied economics in college
      • wanted his own business
    • had psychedelic experience that led him back to music and a band
    • wanted to do music, but ended up in corporate job for 5 years
    • realized Things are Changing and named his company after it
    • wanted to hear his music on video
      • shot himself and edited himself into videos with music
      • people started contacting him wanting him to shoot their videos (documentaries)
    • meeting Katy brought back the musical component to his videos
  • 19:34 only connecting the dots when you look back
    • has books dating back to when he was 16 and didn’t know what they mean but have significance now
    • 21 Lessons of Merlin – Carl Jung quotes
    • knowledge came to him that he couldn’t understand, but kept those books and wrote his thoughts down

“It’s cool what comes through when you don’t use your logical mind so much. When you’re young, you’re not overthinking. You’re just coming from your heart and sometimes that’s why some of the most brilliant stuff is written by people who are 21 and 22, because they don’t have that filter of the world.”

  • 21:39 – childlike curiosity
    • Joel had teachers that were instrumental in his life
      • gave him foundation of critical thinking, being decisive
    • Katy talks about the impact of a teacher she had at UT
  • 23:12 – empowering people to take action
    • people need to go inward and look for answers
    • people who are inward thinkers need to look outward, outward thinkers need to look inward
    • “Traveling is huge in terms of inspiration”
      • you tend to find people who are like you when you travel
      • your winning to take risks and you’re in an exploratory mode
      • a lot of the music in from came from traveling

“You can go out and talk to people, but at the end of the day, you have to go in and find that true purpose that you’re seeking and the answers that you’re seeking. Because if not, then you’re going to keep looking externally, and that isn’t always what’s serving us. Sometimes going inward will create the right opportunities for the outward world to manifest the way you want it to.”

  • 27:42 – finding your purpose in life
    • big part of the film is Jennifer Palmer finding her purpose
    • you have to channel your feelings or you will go crazy

      “I am what I choose to become”

    • using uplifting music in the film
    • documentaries as an agent for change

“Art gives a lot of people purpose in their lives. It helps them breathe… it helps you express those feelings of powerlessness.”

“When you look at patterns and you’re able to flow with the natural, with the natural flow, then things happen… Time is not this finite construction. It’s a  malleable thing. “

  • 32:10 bringing people together to create the film
    • people working on things that they love and want to work on
    • using aerial photography and GoPros
    • choices they made attracted the people working on the film
    • working by their own intuitions and making all the decisions
  • 37:13 Christopher Nolan and Robert Rodriguez making films on limited budgets
    • Nolan’s Following and Rodriguez’s episode on the Tim Ferriss Show
    • Joel’s philosophy is “Fake it til you make it”, “Think like you have it”
      • believes you get better results when you have many minds working together
    • Maia’s  instrumental work on the project
    • bringing people onto projects
    • the leadership qualities of getting things done

“To me, it’s about trying to achieve mastery.”

“To me passion should trump all, and I think you shouldn’t always look at throwing money at the problem, which is what I think is the trap of having  large budgets, and I’ve always said and believed that the best way to work with an artist is to give that artist limitations. Take away as much as you can and that artist will create the most, the best.”

“I don’t think there is any person that can do it all, or should do it all.”

“At the end of the day, you enrich your work by engaging other creative minds.”

“Leaders fail, and it’s okay to fail and get up and make new choices.”

  • 41:55  Richard Linklater’s Slacker
    • going around Austin and only filming during the golden hour
    • using natural light to make things seem more real
    • Waking Life‘s influence on Katy
      • using it as an influence for Time is Art
  • 45:25 not knowing where the documentary will take you and lessons learned while making the film
    • having a real person means you have to form the documentary about them
    • making something so ambitious with so little
    • having reasonable expectations and not getting too carried away
    • being reasonable, flexible, and open to synchronicity
    • going with the flow and working with everyone’s schedules/flexibility
    • being blown away by the way films get made
    • learning not to push yourselves until you go crazy
    • taking breaks
    • traveled to Nicaragua to work with kids
  • 51:34 favorite moment or moment of synchronicity

    “Most synchronicities sound crazy because they’re so personal.”

    • filming a UFO and no one remembering it
      • being blown away by UFO murals
      • being a glitch in reality and not knowing

“We don’t fully understand what’s out there. We’re just living in this present reality and really there is no time. It doesn’t actually exist, it’s just this 3D construct that just helps us get from point A to point B… it’s not what we think it is.”

  • 56:16 plans after finishing film
    • exploring permaculture and sustainability
      • living off the grid and still being connected
      • figuring out living spaces to share and bounce in and out of and co-create
    •  establishing co-creations and touring with the film
      • helping people connect with others through co-creation workshops
    • creating a film that can change people’s philosophy and lives
    • also working on the Time is Art book
    • Sync channel Youtube web series
    • film started as a short, began with academic ideas
    • partnering with other production companies Time Wheel

“I think we’re a new generation of artists that are living in a time of digitization but we can also have the knowledge and the insights to live off the grid and live sustainably.”

“What we really believe in is, this is a lifestyle change. This is for people who want to change their lives.”

  • 1:04:03 – workshops, mentorship, and empowering people
    • mentorship – started with young people
      • saved Joel by teaching and giving him a space to learn
      • encouraging people to sign up and learn through apprenticeships
    • workshop – innovative component to film
      • workshop tours where film makers do screening and 2-3 hour workshop
      • co-creation workshop where people would engage in collaboration with other people
        • be encourage to keep long term connection through projects
        • being a powerful part of their experience with the film
      • Facebook Time Bank group
        • instead of paying people for different skills, you set people up to exchange time
        • move out of idea of time is money
        • we should have trust each other and bonds of collaboration
        • being able to trust the person you are collaborating with for equal exchange
        • Portland, Maine volunteer time bank
        • voluntourism – offering services for a place to stay
        • Burning Man philosophy – matrix
          • integrating philosophy daily instead of only for those 10 days a year

“I believe an apprentice is someone who knowingly learns, who’s not being forced to learn. They’re in it for a long term value, a long term education.”

  • 1:13:56 morning routines
    • Joel – finds the mornings to be sacred
      • exploring dreams, being mindful, and checking in with himself
      • hear the sounds of nature to clear the mind and prepare the mind for activities
      • look at what other people are saying about synchronicity on Twitter
    • Katy – night owl
      • determined by the weather
      • gets up and rides bike to park and relaxes in the grass
      • living in a place with so much going on and so many noises around
      • listens to music they are working on and listening to music in the morning
      • meditate and yoga
  • 1:18:48 books
  • 1:21:01 creative people
    • having creative friends – music, herb blends, hemp bars, painters, festivals, etc.
    • being around people who make things with limited money
    • being inspired by people and inspiring them
  • 1:23:40 definition of creativity

“I believe creativity is when you are in touch with the spiritual side. There’s a realm that’s unseen, and that’s what’s giving you ideas.” – Katy

  • tapping into spiritual and philosophical side

“Creativity is tapping in… I’ve always remembered that in order to get closer to the creator, you have to create… For me, that’s what it comes down to. I’ve always been drawn by the unseen and my imagination.” – Joel

“There’s so many ways to be creative, it’s just a matter of tapping in… That tapping in gives you a sense of something more than you… that you can tap into as an ally.”

– Joel

  • seeing stuff in his mind and not needing to see stuff
  • art comes from nothing
  • the broadness of creativity
  • aligning with allies and realization of self
  • 1:26:47 tapping into creativity
    • you have to look at it like it’s easy
    • the enemy of creativity is can’t
    • start with thinking you can do anything
    • figure out what you want to do and do something about it
    • the importance of discipline in creativity
    • don’t overwhelm yourself, it can be simple

“Creativity is multi-faceted. It’s not just a production.”

“Creativity is so much… it’s just knowing what you want.”

“Time is what you do with it. It’s how you fill up and what you decide to do with that time is what you will get out of it, and so creativity is the same way.”

– Joel

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