Leaving Home for the Creative Industries

Pittsburgh_WEO_Night_1One of the things that really struck a chord with me in Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class was the discussion of place. For those of us who aren’t from New York or LA, or newer hotbeds like Austin, there’s a decision to be made in the near future about where we’re going to move in order to get a job. I mean, I’m sure that that thought has been in the back everyone’s mind. I know for me it’s been something I’ve been mulling over, but not seriously. But Florida’s mention of Pittsburgh in the reading really made me start thinking about it seriously. Florida taught at Carnegie Mellon for numerous years, which is a four minute walk from where I went to high school. I spent more than a few lunch breaks my senior year on their campus. So when Florida writes about a student being recruited to leave Pittsburgh to go to Austin and states, “what struck me most forcibly at the time was the spectacle of yet another talented young person leaving Pittsburgh.” (Florida 184) it feels somewhat personal. I’m a Pittsburgher through and through (with the exception of the accent) and there’s certainly some pride I have in being a Pittsburgher, as my housemates can tell you, I only begrudgingly accept living in New England. The problem is that to succeed realistically I have to leave home. Florida interviews a student as saying the reason he chose to leave Pittsburgh for Austin is that he could, “‘have a life in Austin,’ not merely a job,” (Florida 185). For me this is a little flipped. I can have a life in Pittsburgh, but not the job I want.

I know all the late night places, I spent a frankly uncomfortable part of my life eating O-fries and watching the Pirates lose. So, it’s tough to leave that even for a dream job. The thing is, the business is already filled with enough precarity to go around in the industry, so dodging one of the bigger cities just isn’t a smart move. So, I’ll probably move at some point, but I’m not happy about it.

Pictured: an unhealthy amount of my diet.

Pictured: an unhealthy amount of my diet.

I was actually having a conversation with my roommate about this: as an artist and creative person I’m ambitious–I think any good artist is. At some level, you want your work to be appreciated–by a large group of people, if possible. The struggle with staying back in a city like Pittsburgh is that at best, you’re a big fish in a small town. If I wanted to just make small films on the side while working a 9 to 5 job, or if I was fine working for a local station and shooting weddings and commercials, this wouldn’t be a problem. Pittsburgh has had its fair share of film projects in the past couple years (Perks of Being a Wallflower, Batman, and Jack Reacher come to mind) but that’s nothing compared to the amount of films that come out of New York or LA and the infrastructure just isn’t there in terms of a stable film industry. One second people are flocking to Pittsburgh for the tax credit the next they’re all heading down to Atlanta.

If we’ve learned anything about the creative industries in the past couple of months, it’s that you don’t get involved with them because you want to make money, it’s because you need to have a creative outlet in your life. Things get a little more complicated when you realize the other sacrifices that you have to make to succeed.

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