The second job of a professional artist

Interview with Dream, Girl documentary director Erin Bagwell

Two years ago I covered the premiere of a documentary ahead of its time, or maybe, right on time: Dream, Girl

dream girl.jpg

Since then Dream, Girl has been featured all around the world, including being honored on Oprah’s #SuperSoul100 List and shared at a private screening at the White House in 2016.

And today, for the first time, Dream, Girl is available right here for everyone to see, for free. The film features the stories of entrepreneurs - women doing creative work, building businesses, and sharing what it's really like to be an ambitious woman in today's world. 

As I shared in my initial review: This documentary is for "any woman who has ever tried to do more than what is expected of her." (You can read my full review here.

This week I caught up with the film's director, Erin Bagwell, to talk about the release of the film to the whole world this week (you can now watch it for free right here), and what advice she has for artists and anyone working on a big creative project.

Erin remembers what it was like finishing the Dream, Girl documentary and being so exhausted and so full of doubt. "When we're finished with a project we never want to release it...I really thought nobody was going to see this film."

In addition to the doubt, there is also a baffling disinterest that can occur: "You finish and the magic is gone. It doesn't emotionally bring you joy. And you're tired!" Momentum dissipates, and doubt reigns. 

Erin felt all these things when she first finished making Dream, Girl

But it's what Erin did next that ensured the self-doubt did not become prophecy - a mindset she kept at the forefront, a mindset that led to her documentary being featured in Forbes and Vogue and being screened in 40+ countries:

"You're only halfway done with a project when you finish it."

If your project is a hobby, when it's done it's done. But if you want it to have an impact - to be seen, heard, and felt by other people - there is a second job to be done. It can feel like it should be someone else's job (or we wish it could be), but in the end, it's success depends on our ownership of the second job: marketing. 

Even with publicists, agents, and marketing teams, there is groundwork, and a sense of true connection and storytelling, that can only be done by the artist herself. 

For Erin it was essential to keep this at the forefront of her mind - to remember that once the art was done, her next job was to share it. "It's your job to get it out in the world. It's your job to do marketing. It's your job to tell your story.  It's your job to find your audience."

Erin knows how painful this can be. "A lot of artists give up at this point. It takes time. It takes recovery to get back into gear after you've created something."

Erin didn't wait for the joy to return or to feel different before releasing her film for others to see. She just released it anyway, knowing it was part of the second job. "You have to let it go. You have to let it do what it's going to do." 

This mentality has allowed Erin to make a living from her art, full-time, for the past few years. There are so many reasons Erin is doing this well, and she'll be the first to tell you she doesn't do it alone - her amazing producer Komal and distributor Diana are two women she talks about constantly - but what stands out to me most about Erin is her fierce dedication to the business of art, and how she transforms it.

She understands that finding and helping her fans is what enables her to live her life as a full-time artist and creative entrepreneur, and the idea of those fans is also exactly what helps her recover from post-project burnout and find the energy to do the kind of marketing that gets Oprah's attention.

"Marketing" is usually not a word that gets an artist excited. It sounds a lot like emails and press releases and posting a lot on social media and talking about ourselves.

But what Erin has done is replaced that image in her mind with another one, the image of who she created her art for in the first place: "I made this movie for the high school version of myself- a sensitive artist who wanted to know it was okay to be ambitious, to want to be your own boss, and definitely didn’t want to follow the rules."

Erin wanted to reach those young women today, and that is what set her alight after the project was over, what gave her courage to take on the second job, and is what has kept her going all these years.

She made this film for you, and I hope it inspires you too to make your art, find your audience, and keep going towards that dream.

Watch the Dream, Girl film for free here.

invisible background small.png

Join the Dream, Girl newsletter if you'd like to keep in touch with Erin and hear about what creative projects come next!