#CreateYourOwnWork: 5 Questions with Jarod Facknitz & Erin Flynn

Today in this ongoing series of people I know creating cool stuff: meet Jarod Facknitz and Erin Flynn. They’re the Chicago-based creators of How Do We Sing?, a uniquely quiet, contemplative webseries showcasing three puppets finding their way in the world. I’ve been a fan of theirs for some time (I interviewed them previously for Indieactivity), so I was only too happy to speak with them again for this blog.

These two are remarkably good at articulating the process of creating one’s own work – the good and bad alike. Read on to find out why they’ve devoted themselves to a life of “no money, no audition, no compromise.”

How Do We Sing? JPG
Harumph, Fantashtick and Bellabird, the puppet stars of How Do We Sing?

1) Who are you, and what do you do?
Erin Flynn: I am Erin Flynn. I teach young children; I design and manage music programs for children at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago; I write songs for children; I make music with my friends; I mother an 8 year old boy; I dream; I make puppets; I puppeteer; and I help create How Do We Sing?  

Jarod Facknitz: I’m referred to as Jarod Facknitz. I compose, film, do voiceovers, and find artsy ways of passing time. I’m also the Co-creator of How Do We Sing?

2. #CreateYourOwnWork: what does that mean for you?
EF: It means making art on your own terms.  Super challenging and brave.  It means creating something out of nothing.  It means hope and cardboard and puppets and art in nature.  It means no money, no audition, no compromise.
JF: Staying true to your impulses by eschewing pre-determined notions of what constitutes right or wrong, striving to avoid compromise, if only because you’re convinced (within your warped mind) that you have something to say, and others might benefit from hearing that voice speak honestly instead of sounding like it’s held at gunpoint.
3. What have you gained by creating your own work; on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
EF: We’ve learned to produce art at our own pace; to allow ourselves time in the process – to make everything mostly how we dream it should be. We are careful with the art; it is precious and bigger than us.  We’ve learned to say no to invitations we realize won’t be a good fit for our vision for the project. We’ve learned to stay focused on our stories, vision and energy for the project; and not allow others’ intentions to alter that.
JF: The benefits come from self-actualizing, taking something from your imagination and incorporating it into reality. The challenge is getting from start to finish; all the pitfalls, roadblocks, and unforeseen blunders that stand in the way as you focus solely on that goal when what you should probably be focusing on is mental health, world problems, and personal relationships.
4. What do you think is the most important skill for a creator building his/her career from scratch?
EF: Character traits would be confidence, passion, and trust.  I suppose diligence is also a character trait – to have a rigorous practice of studying the art form and then to work with great care and patient understanding.  So, the most important skill would totally depend on the art form.  Musicianship, camera skills, editing, writing, and puppetry are all necessary skills for our project.  But, above all, you have to be a learner!  Staying in the growth mindset and having your heart open to learning – to working hard, to trying again and again, to grow with each step on the path.
 JF: The fact that a great deal of art can’t exist without money is a terrible shame, because in order to get money, we often compromise ourselves. When you’re creating something from within, it’s a sacred exchange between dreams and reality. A career is more often about financial stability. The more money we expect or agree to, the less freedoms we usually have. I’ve rarely made money for anything deeply personal (I’ve lost much more, in fact!), but no one can tell me what to do, make me do ads for fast food chains or turn my characters into plastic toys manufactured by kids in China. So if anybody wants a career in the arts, I’d advise them to do something in which they have little to no personal investment, but I might be the last person they should ask.
Which project of yours are you proudest of?
EF: I’d have to say How Do We Sing? I’m smiling every time I see these creatures come to life and as much as I am proud of the puppeteering moments that hit their marks on the screen, it all comes together because of the keen eye behind the camera and the magic in editing – like a perfect poem.  In second place is my work with Redmoon Theater in The Cabinet in 2005.  We would have run that show for months on end but had to close in late July because the theater had no air conditioning.  We puppeteered inside this fantastic enormous Cabinet.  In that theater, I was safe and free to play.  Even though the piece was dark and solemn, working with those gorgeous puppets and my four dear friends, I was in my happy place.  I could have done that show forever.  In third place is playing Peter Pan in seventh grade.  All I can say is that I truly believed.  I loved being Peter Pan more than anything.
JF: I’m proudest of How Do We Sing? It’s the world where I drop my cynicism, hangups, reservations, and permit myself to fall in love. That’s harder to do as we get older.

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