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The Path To The New Model: Share Our Failures

by Ted Hope
March 4, 2011 1:15 AM
1 Comment
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Yesterday, James Fair guest posted here on "The Path To The New Model: Join The Community". Today he returns with an important recommendation for all us to share not just what works, but what doesn't. We can get beyond the repetitive culture of remakes of yesterday's hits. We can find new stories, new formats, and new ways of working, but it takes the willingness to be both FAIL and SHARE the experience.

Perhaps the barrier to a successful ‘revolution’ is our own inability to share our failures. We are always keen to promote our successes to others but we rarely want to admit to the mistakes we’ve made. However, the mistakes are arguably more valuable if we can learn from them. Ideally we should all share our mistakes so that we can all collectively learn from them, but it goes against our conditioning. We don’t want to appear unsuccessful. We don’t want to admit to failure, yet it is a fundamental component of the scientific method. This method emphasises the construction of a hypothesis, and then a process of trial and error testing followed by conclusions from the findings, good or bad. Encouraging mistakes, understanding their causes. This then indicates progress, and a move forward.

Placing an emphasis upon success means that filmmaking gets locked into a process of repeatability – namely ‘hit’ culture – whereby filmmakers are always under pressure to repeat the success of something that went before. There is very little emphasis upon encouraging or understanding failings; there tends to be a rejection of anyone who fails to deliver the success. How do you deliver such success? The easiest way is to use the tried and tested model. And then we get into a situation where we have lots of movie remakes and sequels.

The ‘slow-climb up the hierarchy’ model, or the ‘fantastic short director who then gets discovered’ model result in one shared outcome – a filmmaker who finds themselves making a feature for the first time, with pressure and expectation on their shoulders. There have been very few steps established within industry that actually encourage new filmmakers to experiment with their filmmaking, and stay with them until they establish a ‘voice’. This may be why critics feel that conventional cinema is becoming so homogenous and boring, because the pressure is there to deliver a solid performance from the beginning. Little room for manoeuvre, little room for mistakes.

Digital technology has made amateur experimentation affordable, but it is only when we share the experiences (the good and the bad) that we collectively feel the benefit. It is an Open Source project in search of a new model – Truly Free Film – the same way that Linux is an operating system that benefits from collective contributions. I personally benefitted a great deal from reading posts upon this website when making a feature in 72 hours in Australia last year. In turn I contributed a series of posts about the experiences to complete the loop. These are the ways we can collectively move forward. Sharing the failures is contributing to a cumulative success.

James is a lecturer at in Film Technology at Staffordshire University. His latest feature, The Ballad of Des & Mo, was shot and edited in 72 hours at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2010 and was in the Audience Top Ten. The film screens this weekend (Saturday 12th Feb) alongside the Berlinale Film Festival – people interested in going along can register here or email james@hellocamera.ie

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1 Comment

  • mike newman | March 8, 2011 4:30 AMReply

    i'd be glad to share my failures, but i don't think people want to hear about failure b/c of their own insecurities. we've been conditioned to avoid failure like the plague, which is sad b/c a lot of the time failure is simply success in disguise.

    i actually don't think the barrier is our inability to share our failures. the barrier is the failure of the entire film industry to build an infrastructure that allows room for artists to find their voice.

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