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The Cycle of Self Doubt

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Andy Needham discusses his short film ‘Peace & Turmoil,’ and how feelings of self doubt shouldn't stifle one's creativity.

London-based Andy Needham is a well-known senior motion designer with an impressive client list and excellent training and presentation skills. It might surprise you that he suffers from self doubt, but it shouldn’t. Though most people experience self doubt from time to time, artists are particularly susceptible because putting their creative work out there means having to deal with all the emotions that go with that vulnerability.

That cycle of self doubt was the inspiration behind Needham’s short film “Peace & Turmoil,” which begins in a peaceful state that gives way to roiling inner turmoil before returning to peace that is forever marked by the experience. 

Every artist has moments of doubt that can lead to feelings of Imposter Syndrome. It is one of the most common problems to plague artists, no matter what level they’re at in their career. We talked with Needham about how he used Cinema 4D, Octane and other tools to create his thoughtful film, as well as his own experience with self doubt as an artist. Here is what he told us. 

What have you’ve been up to recently?

Needham: Covid has really changed everything. I used to work in shared offices, but now I have my own space. We built a small office for me in the garden in our backyard and it’s been really great. I used to do a lot of the same things, little bits of projects that were part of a whole. 

Now I’m doing more long-term work, which I like because it pushes my skills further. I’ve got a few older clients I work with regularly, like Amazon, Pepsi, Discovery+, Sky and, more recently, Telemundo. The short-term stuff I do is usually for social media, which is less cinematic. I really enjoy the cinematic projects because you work with a team to develop ideas and you’ve got more R&D time which I think is really important. I also create a lot of training.

Tell us about that. 

Needham: I’ve been creating training for LinkedIn Learning for many years. I’m also going to do some of my own courses and put those out, though I’m not sure where yet. It’s easier to do training now that I have my own office. I used to have to record in a very small corner of the house in a kind of a tent, and only at night, because my wife and kids are home too. Having a space to be creative helps fuel my ideas. 

I also work with Greyscalegorilla to create training for GSG Plus, and I’ve contributed to my friend, EJ Hassenfratz’s C4D Ascent course for School of Motion.

Describe your process for making “Peace and Turmoil.” 

Needham: It all stemmed from a course I created for LinkedIn Learning about Octane. As part of the course material, I made a style frame of a head that was broken up using the Voronoi Fracture object in C4D. I did nothing with it for a few years, but I always had the idea to make it move, so I took that frame and started playing around with it and doing motion tests. 

I tried lots of different ideas and threw loads of them out. It was almost a luxury to have the time to develop and experiment. When it all came together there was a peaceful pose and I thought I could do something around the words peace and turmoil. 

I made a quick storyline and started tweaking it, kind of like a production. Once I did a rough edit, I got it into a format I was happy with. I had loads of different shots to play with, so I set up the animation and put the cameras in and tried to pick out interesting viewpoints. 

The camera moves are simple because all of the motion is coming from the object. You don’t have to do too much with cameras when you have something else going on. I wanted to let the animation of the object tell the story, and I chose interesting angles to reflect the mood. And it’s all deliberately slow paced and I didn’t have the music in mind yet. That came a lot later.  

I changed the lighting slightly so there would always be a red light on the turmoil side. Red light symbolizes that turmoil is taking over. Also, the main material on the model gets worn out toward the end, and the film loops around like the creative process does. 

Talk about your experience with creativity and self doubt. 

Needham: We all create things and then have doubts about what we’ve done. Is this any good? Why would anyone want to see this? Should I just keep this to myself? Those kinds of questions always go through my mind. 

It’s a thing that you feel, like when you’re opening a new notebook and you’re afraid to write in it because you don’t want to mark the page with something that isn’t good. But then you never write in that book. Once you mark a page, you are free to add to it and go back and change things. 

I’ve learned that I have to get over myself and stop thinking everything’s got to be perfect. With client jobs, I sometimes feel anxious about what they’ll say and then they think it’s great and I realize I didn’t have to worry at all. And, really, was the worrying necessary? What did it achieve?

Not doing anything is much worse than doing something and having that to build on. Notebooks can be erased, and films can be edited. You just have to get over your own self doubt and do something. Something is better than nothing. 

Who knows? Maybe this will make it onto the blockchain as an NFT. I feel like the underlying concept is very relatable. Maybe people will see value in it in a different way. For now, I want it to sit for a bit. I can always do something more with it later. 

Did you do everything on this film by yourself?

Needham: Yes, but I shared it with a couple of friends to get their feedback. My friend Brandon Parvini gave me some excellent constructive feedback, like reducing the font size of the titles and some notes on overall pacing. 

My friend David Ariew helped me a lot with some Octane-related stuff I was dealing with. He also gave me good ideas about how to retime some shots, which he was totally right about. Yes, it was my project, but it wouldn’t have turned out as well without their input, so I would recommend that anyone who creates have a network of trusted friends to share work with prior to releasing it. 

You made the music yourself, right?

Needham: Yes, once I got to a point where I was fairly happy with the visuals, I added some music that I made on my iPad Pro using Synth One. I started with a very simple beat to provide the backbone, and then played around with different sounds. I saved what I liked and sent it to the computer via AirDrop to assemble the audio to put underneath. I was really making sounds fit with the animation, and I wanted to try something new and have a bit of fun. 

I added the narrative element to explain the story. It gave me something to do with titles, so I got to have some fun there as well. It’s too easy to just keep tweaking something forever, which is why I set a deadline. that forced me to get it done and put it online. A lot went into the making of this film but the process, while rewarding, took a lot out of me. Once the dust settled, though, there was this sense of achievement, and I guess a desire to explore new possibilities. So I would say that I have more films in my future. 

Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.