In their new short film series Masters, Frame.io asked the world’s master filmmakers: “Why do you do, what you do?” In the first episode of this inspiring series, award-winning director Mark Toia shares his experience that will motivate you if you ever feel you’re creating art in vain.
Toia came a long way from a steelworker to an appreciated and paid artist. A teacher once told him that art doesn’t pay… But he couldn’t have been more wrong.
In the video, Toia talks about his beginnings. First, he fell in love with photography, and it was a love at first sight. What started as a hobby quickly turned into an obsession, and he wanted to learn everything he could. He says he was “a below average student but a gifted child artist.” He could paint and draw anything at a very young age. And one day, a teacher of his pulled him aside, and told him in a stern, teacher voice: “Art doesn’t pay.” He told him to forget about art and find a real job. I bet a lot of you can relate to situations like this.
The words of his teacher stuck with Toia. And indeed, he finished school, grew up and found a “real job” as a steel worker. He found a girlfriend, got married and formed a family. All this time, he had a hobby that was slowly turning into another career.
Little by little, Toia started earning from his images. He remembers the first $50 check he got from a small yachting magazine. He was staring at that piece of paper, while the words of his teacher were ringing in his ears: “Art doesn’t pay!” But the first money he earned from his art pushed him forward. He started learning every photographic technique he could think of. He gradually moved from photography to filmmaking, and he says that watching his photography come to life was another great love.
Over time, he started investing in gear, shooting, learning and traveling. His art took him to amazing places all over the world. But, he says that this industry is not for the meek and lazy. The gear is getting more accessible and affordable, so there are no excuses anymore. He adds that it’s not about the gear anyway, but about turning your idea into art.
You should learn the techniques and never stop creating, and share your work and ideas with the world. Toia explains that, in the modern age, video content is the “new language of the day.” Thanks to modern technologies, video has moved from dark rooms into the hands of billions of people. It’s “the quickest way to tell a story and the easiest way to share your imagination.”
From a steelworker to an award-winning filmmaker. Toia’s teacher was wrong. Art does pay. If you’re persistent, have a vision and ideas and work on your business and social skills, art can pay, big time. So don’t listen to those who try to undermine you. If making money from photography or videography is your dream: work on your skills and go chase your dream.