Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Individual in Collaborative Media Production

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

The Individual in Collaborative Media Production

Article excerpt

FILM EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES DOES NOT BEGIN IN FILM SCHOOL. By the time students enter a college film production1 classroom, they have seen countless movies, television shows, and YouTube shorts; listened to all kinds of music; and read plays, novels, short stories, and comic books. In all likelihood, they have engaged in some form of artistic production. No doubt each student is acquainted with an array of Web sites dedicated to industry deals, production credits, and festival updates. Directors, producers, cinematographers, and editors are branded, emblematic of a particular visionary style. Having internalized the success story of their filmmaking idols, by the time students walk into a film production classroom, they do so with a clear understanding of what it takes to "make it."

The "Film School Database" on filmmaking.net lists 237 film production programs at colleges and universities across the United States.2 In this competitive environment, film schools recruit students by bragging about their students' festival awards, the quantity and accessibility of equipment, the experience and dedication of their faculty, and their big-name alumni. But many of these schools' marketing materials also celebrate the development of the prospective student's "vision," "voice," or "unique artistic identity."3 Dean Elizabeth Daley of the University of Southern California writes,

The breadth and depth of this environment [the USC school of cinema and television] will challenge you to draw from the world within you and the world around you. In doing so, you will hone your vision and add your voice to one of humanity's grandest and most enduring traditions. (1)

Filmmakers themselves perpetuate this vague but attractive precept. Chris Eyre, best known as the director of the film Smoke Signals (1998), in answering the question, "What message would you like to impart to those who wish to venture into filmmaking?" replies,

That it is not . . . about the technology which continues to change. It is about the personal vision, whether you are making a major studio feature or a low budget passion project. You have to have a vision and spirit that endows the life of the movie. Understanding this and looking at the bigger picture is as important as the tight, meticulous work that will also have to happen. It starts with a vision, not a new camera. (1)

One of the challenges forthe film production teacher is how to foster a collaborative environment in a group project-oriented film production class when there is so much emphasis on each student having her or his own "vision," or "artistic identity." The romantic notion of the artist standing outside of society is both a fiction and an impediment to quality artistic production. Given that most films are made in groups, it seems important to ask students to reflect on the constructed notion of the individual artist, on who each student is, and on what they bring to the group production process. It is equally important to provide opportunities for students to ask questions about group organization and about the influence of grading and evaluation on the group and to explore what it means to collaborate. Searching for answers to these questions opens up the possibility for new forms of production group organization, effective collaboration and communication during the production process, productively engaged conflict when it occurs, and in the end, a meaningful learning experience.

Why should we care about the collaborative environment? Because it is a dynamic space where a student's agency is asserted and tested-where a student learns who and how to be in the world. The collaborative production class is not dedicated simply to making films, but to helping each student construct a thoughtful and deeply felt version of him- or herself in relationship with others. L. Dee Fink, in his book Creating Significant Learning Experiences, identifies the "human dimension" as one aspect of a significant learning experience. …

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