If imagination is the seed that grows into a creative mind’s most promising work, then what acts as the garden that hosts, nourishes and helps that seed grow? For many, that garden is a place of endless possibilities, where daydreams become tangible and ideas transform into masterpieces.
In a city as populated as Indianapolis, there is no shortage of creative minds eager to produce their next body of work. However, with some, there is a fundamental lack of tools or space necessary to bring their vision and imagination to life. Derek Tow, owner of The Box Media Production Space, as well as its parent company, The South 40, is all too familiar with the feeling of simply wanting to get a foot in the door of the creative industry. Tow knows the sometimes-deflating feeling of being from a small-market place and having big-city aspirations. For Tow there was an early switch that was flipped, a switch that would forever change his life, both for himself and later for the creative minds of people around him.
“In high school some friends and I saw the movie ‘Koyaanisqatsi,’ which was this incredible non-narrative film,” Tow says. “I had never seen anything like it or had anything hit me like that. I watched that movie and felt like I was driving 30 miles per hour on a highway. It opened my brain up about how I saw humans, nature and art. It opened me up to a whole new concept of life on Earth.”
After finishing high school, Tow graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis with a bachelor’s degree in film and media studies, and after years in and out of classrooms and hours in and out of textbooks, decided it was time to roll the dice. At 24, Tow packed up his entire life and headed south to Florida, with only the belongings in his car and a dream to make his mark.
“It’s funny because up until college I wanted to play the drums for a living, but I specifically remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how I can make a difference in the world being a drummer,’” Tow says. “Sure, I would be a talented one, but I wanted to make my mark on a much bigger scale.”
Tow found an opportunity to be a production assistant all around Florida, and after five years began working as an assistant director on sets of high-end music videos for acts like NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Dave Matthews Band. He also worked on sets for a multitude of films and commercials, and acted as a production coordinator and producer throughout his career.
“I felt I had arrived, though it was never about the money,” he says. “I was happy to be in the room and to be around other like-minded people. I did nearly every little thing I dreamed of wanting to do, and that feeling of wanting to be in the industry and having all of these dreams, I captured them. I realized that my real dream and calling was to own a creative space where other people’s dreams could be made.”
And that’s exactly what he did. After a move back north to Indiana, Tow opened The Box, which now serves as the garden that helps grow creative seeds that people in Indianapolis plant to grow.
“There wasn’t a studio in the area that I knew of that could not only host these artists’ creative processes, but also potentially teach and let them grow in their craft, and not be questioned while they’re here,” Tow says. “It’s an open canvas for these artists. It’s not even so much a ‘money making first and foremost’ thing for me as it is a space for our city that finally acts as a place to host these creatives. That door wasn’t open for me and I want to make sure it’s open for others.”
Though not as large as cities like Los Angeles or New York City, Tow finds that with the help of The Box, Indianapolis is just as capable of cultivating talent as any city in the country. At 3,000 square feet of space, there is vast room for photographers, videographers, directors, actors and other all-around creatives to do what they do best – create.
“If you’re good at what you do, no matter where you’re from, I promise that you can make it work,” Tow says. “I was able to make it work here because I do multiple things well, which is something I encourage others to think about. The easiest way to have longevity is to become multi-disciplined. With that said, I’m advocating for up-and-coming, amateur and professional artists to keep that feeling flowing, that dream to build and continue their craft.”
Advocating for artists and advocating for each other is an important principle that Tow built The Box around. He wants to create an environment that inspires other artists to keep the creative spirit alive in Indianapolis. Owning a place that nurtures the talents of new artists, and helps turn those talents into careers that can last a lifetime, is the actual dream for Tow. He is an artist first and a business owner second. That kind of mindset allows seeds of dreams to blossom into trees that branch creative opportunities.
The Box is a 3,000-square-foot production facility designed and built by artists, for artists. It is located at 1413 East Riverside Drive, halfway between downtown and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, near some of the best food, drinks and hotels in the city. It’s ready and waiting for your video, photography, music, corporate gigs and more.
To schedule a tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to follow them on Instagram @theboxindy to keep tabs on upcoming art showcases, meetups and more.
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