Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Film Collaboration and Creative Conflict

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Film Collaboration and Creative Conflict

Article excerpt

SCENARIO: THREE STUDENT CREWS SPEND a weekend creating short group projects. They have all received the same technical training and are using the same type of equipment. There is a balance of previous experience, strengths, and liabilities in each crew. Crew A returns glowing with pride in their production, feeling connected to each other and proud of the strong footage they produced. Members of Crew B no longer speak to each other; their footage is incoherent and far from their initial intentions. Crew C is in neutral-they experienced a safe and cautious shoot but felt no excitement about their project and their mediocre footage.

If so many factors were relatively equal going into the shoot, why such a disparity in the outcomes? One factor became painfully clear to the instructor: each crew had a markedly different level of collaboration and degree of conflict. In their written reflections at the end of the project, many of these students considered effective collaborations to be due to the luck of the draw and the makeup of the crew; conflict was largely attributed to a few difficult personalities. They had little sense of what they could do another time to either reproduce successful interactions or negotiate disastrous ones. They had come to believe that conflict was to be avoided at all costs and that real cooperation and effective communication required more time and effort than they could afford to invest in a film. Ultimately, many believed that being the director was the only way to have real creative impact. The class discussions and critiques concentrated on logistical and technical problems. Even when asked to share their most valuable learning points, no one addressed their difficulties with collaboration or conflict. The very factors that had the most impact on the success and failure of their projects were not a conscious or articulated element of their filmmaking process.

Imagine, instead, collaboration presented as a set of specific skills that could be developed and insights that could be nurtured in all filmmakers, and imagine conflict analyzed as a complex web of energy-potentially creative if shorn of its destructive components. What if skilled collaboration and conflict negotiation were essential elements of our production curriculum equal in value to technical skills and aesthetic talent? What if the philosophical beliefs about the value of collaboration in our film program descriptions and class syllabi were translated into a more conscious, concrete set of skills woven into our technical training, our assignments, and our critiques of student work? What if, as teachers, we shared more of our professional experiences and struggles with artistic collaboration, our successes and failures with conflict negotiation, and our resulting hard-won insights? Our students could be motivated to explore the deeper aspects of this mysterious thing called collaboration and the multiple ways that even the most disastrous conflicts can be negotiated.

Beyond the practical use of skilled collaboration to avoid disasters, there is much more: the enhancement of a filmmaker's ability to work well with a rich variety of personalities to consider a wider set of artistic possibilities, resulting in the realization of a more compelling artistic vision. Film editor and sound designer Walter Murch says it well: "Each of those moments of collaboration, each contribution by someone other than the director, adds a slightly different perspective to the work, some chisel mark slightly at an angle to the central vision. And each of these moments, these facets, has the potential to make the work 'sparkle' in a creative sense, and make it accessible to a greater variety of people over a longer period of time" (Ondaatje 242).

Realities of Student Filmmaking

Collaboration in student filmmaking is, of course, significantly different from collaboration in industry filmmaking. Student filmmakers must work with some critically important differences that add to the complexity of collaborating. …

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