Exploring Creativity: A Dive into Filmmaking with Caleb Shaw

Unveil the creative process of Caleb Shaw, delving into his storytelling passion, music's pivotal role, and the art of crafting compelling narratives.

Filmmaker Caleb Shaw

Whether it’s a music video, short film, ad campaign, wedding, commercial, or a simple personal photoshoot, Oregon-based filmmaker Caleb Shaw applies his signature style. Read his interview below to hear more about what sparked his interest in filmmaking and how he utilizes Musicbed to find the right music for his work.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Caleb Shaw: Back when I was 9 years old, my older brothers would create these stop-animated claymation videos, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever, so I started creating my own. Using my parents’ home video camera, I created my first stop-motion video utilizing my favorite toy at the time, Legos. It was a blast. From there I was hooked. Several years later, I discovered Dude Perfect, and I was inspired to start creating YouTube videos similar to theirs. It was trickshot videos and a lot of my friends and I just being kids. It was so much fun. For some reason, YouTube struck a nerve with me, and I never really stopped creating on there. However, at a certain point in mid-high school, I realized I wanted to create my own films—full-feature films at that. Years passed, several iterations of style went by on my YouTube channel, and eventually, I was struck with an idea that changed my entire trajectory. Mainly in short form, I decided to start documenting my journey of becoming the writer and director of my own films called, Becoming a Filmmaker. And within a month or two of making that decision, my pages started taking off. So I guess that was a sign that I was doing the right thing.

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

Honestly, a huge one is music. Music curates my mood as I write out my ideas and sets the scene for where the given story is going. Along with it, recently I’ve been setting aside time to let my thoughts flow undistracted. Practically this looks like opening up my journal and just “brain-dumping” my thoughts without any judgment towards myself. It’s helped a lot. Also my relationship with God. It’s crazy actually, having conversations with Him always blows me away. Like how can I talk to the creator of not only me, but EVERYTHING, like He created creativity. So I’d definitely say God plays a massive role in why I create, how I stay motivated, and how I continue to be inspired.

What makes a story visually appealing? What role does music play in storytelling?

I believe the key is intentionality. Getting to the point where you have a clear vision and you know what you want to say with your film, the next step is figuring out how you’ll tell it. A big piece of that is the visual, and the visual always has to serve the story in tandem with the score or soundtrack. With that clear vision in mind, you purely know what vibe you’re going for, and the music selection will just make sense in your process. Searching deep and wide for just the right track, and actually finding it is an amazing feeling. It’s so amazing because it’s proof that intentionality pays off.

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story?

The main element I typically start with is figuring out my “why” behind even creating the story to begin with. Oftentimes the things I make are strongly connected to my life and past experiences which deeply align with the greater human experience. Focusing on the emotion of it all is incredibly crucial. Pairing the right visuals with the right music can really make the viewer feel something which is amazing. Story over everything, and inherently, real, deep, and raw emotions have to be involved. It’s art after all.

How important is music in your work?

I create a lot of short-form content, and with those videos, it’s one of the most important things about them. It sets the whole tone of the video and puts the viewer in rhythm along with it. As for longer-form videos, or even films, it’s a huge role as well. It lays down the flow of the video or film, keeps the pacing, helps hit the emotional beats, and can tie the whole piece together. As an editor, music is my lifeblood. I genuinely have a bad time piecing together an edit if there isn’t any music in the timeline. On almost every editing project, I pick the music first. If I don’t it feels like I’m losing my mind.

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators who are just starting their careers?

I’d say make sure you know why you’re wanting to create videos, films or tell stories. Once you know why, operate from that motivation and stay centered on your values. Once you’re aware of your “why” become incredibly consistent without any expectation of things to be metrically successful for a long time. Instead, focus on telling the best stories you possibly can. You have to see your creativity in filmmaking like practice or working out. You have to build up that creative muscle. It also takes a long time to figure out what it is you really like artistically, I know that for myself even still. I know for a fact, there are decades still ahead of me until I can confidently say I know what I like artistically. In all honesty, I think that should be an ever-growing, ever-evolving thing.

How do you find the balance between pushing boundaries creatively and delivering what your client wants or audience wants to see?

This is a strange balance for sure. To be fully vulnerable, with client work, I tend to be insecure about my boundary-pushing creative decisions, so I tend to stay away from pushing those boundaries in the client’s scope. That’s something I’m working on specifically. Now with my own work, once I started gaining an audience, specifically on Instagram, I began thinking a lot more about what I was doing, and what was doing well on the platform. Which in some instances has hindered my stories because it causes me to not want to post as often, or it will cause me to create things I know for a fact will do well, which ultimately can hinder the stories themselves.

A piece I recently created that I’m incredibly proud of was this YouTube video on my channel titled, “For those who feel alone in their creativity” This video took months to make. From thinking about it to writing it, to shooting, editing, and re-editing. Even though it felt like it took forever, I think it turned out great. People really resonated with it which was encouraging. Immediately after having those positive comments paired with a decent amount of views, the temptation comes to create lots of videos like it. But even with this new YouTube video I created a couple of weeks back, I cut back on the level of production to convey a simple idea I’ve been thinking about without overthinking the creative process. Creating something just to create it out of a desire to do so can really quench that cycle of just making “what does well.”

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

Self-doubt is my biggest challenge. I have endless ideas, but I find myself doubting those ideas or even my abilities as well. I’ve had that my entire life, and I don’t think it’s gotten any easier, I believe I’ve only gotten better at dealing with it. The thing is with self-doubt, we think in the moment of intense doubt, that we are the only ones doubting ourselves, but the reality is that we all are. That being said, I think the creative world could really benefit from a more open conversation on the topic of self-doubt.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?

I mentioned this earlier, but it’s gotta be the YouTube video I posted earlier this year, “for those who feel alone in their creativity” I feel like my heart is intertwined with that video. Seriously though, I really do love what I created there, and a lot of times I don’t feel that way about things I make, so that’s a pretty big deal for me. So excited to continue telling stories of that caliber.

How do you search for music on Musicbed? What are some tips that you’d give other filmmakers to search on Musicbed?

I’d say first understand the emotion you’re going for in the given part of the video, and work from there. Searching by emotion is great. If it’s a somber and melancholic moment, a tasteful simple ambient track with some piano, maybe even some strings, would work perfectly. Maybe it’s an intense scene but you want it to seem more artistic and out there, you could find an intense jazz track with crazy drum breaks. Really the sky’s the limit, and more often than not, I think you should take the more creative route.

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

For most tools I use, there are two things I look for, and that’s quality and ease of use. For quality, well, there is such an emphasis on quality, and I’ve never used a music-providing service on the same level as Musicbed. For ease of use, I love how easy it is to search for songs and to license them as well. The UI is excellent, and not to mention the super simple yet complex, non-overwhelming layout is brilliant. It’s a super seamless process overall, so that’s why I chose to utilize Musicbed.

Explore a curated playlist of Caleb’s favorite songs to use in his work—available to license only on Musicbed.