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How Many Ways Can We Collaborate Around A Single Film?
By Ted Hope
We will work together to build it better. We will use the tools we have, but not let them restrain us. Let’s turn our limitations — financial & otherwise — into assets (may our chains set us free). We will not let ego drive us away from an ambitious and interesting cinema. Let’s acknowledge that defining a true author in cinema is hard, and the act of creation is rarely original. Everything is a remix.In an era of Grand Abundance, it is best practice to be even more generative, but less authorial. And if all that is where we are, where does it leave us?
I am always looking for new methods of collaboration and new ideas of how someone else might riff off of one artist’s work. Multiple authors have multiple arms and louder voices; their success is everyone’s & their failure no one’s. If we encourage others to use our work for their own work, everyone wins. Our work will get more traction and enter the cultural dialogue more fully, and the artist behind the secondary work is remaining productive, inspired and given new room to experiment with a tad less judgement swarming around it.
I love collaborative works like Star Wars Uncut. I love cover songs for the same reason (but unfortunately the laws in this land are more restrictive for cinema artists than musicians). I got inspired by Electric Literature’s Single Sentence Animations for the same reason; the author picks a favorite sentence from a work, and then the animator and composer go to town.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. A leaping off point. I want to see work travel and evolve in other people’s hands. How many ways can we collaborate? Do we know our tools? Our potential?
Hal Hartley had mentioned to me recently that he was doing a series of shorts by the greatest American playwrights. I was thrilled to then read about in the NY Times last week.
To celebrate its 50th season, Baltimore’s Center Stage has commissioned a series of 50 short films, written by 50 established and emerging playwrights, starring well-known stage and screen actors directed by the indie filmmaker Hal Hartley (“Henry Fool”).
Mr. Hartley shot the films in New York and Los Angeles over the course of about three weeks. Mr. Kwei-Armah said all the participants were paid “a token couple of dollars,” and several people donated their money back to the theater. The entire project cost about $50,000, which came from donations made by the theater’s subscribers and patrons.
Read the whole article here. Watch the first video here, written by Anna Deavere-Smith. I think it is great, harrowing, thrilling. You’d be a fool not to stop reading this now and go watch it (just wish I could have embedded it).
As I said these are all just the tip of a magnificent iceberg. The YouTube Symphony was just the beginning. We are sure to have many more such experiments in the years ahead. Some will be full on narrative features. Some experimental tone poems. Others scandalous hilarious sketch pieces. The gates have been stormed.
The tools are being built. On a similar note, Clay Shirky recently expressed the hopes that the Internet can now transform government and truly advance democracy (hat tip: Chris Dorr).
“T.S. Eliot once said, “One of the most momentous things that can happen to a culture is that they acquire a new form of prose.” I think that’s wrong, but — (Laughter) I think it’s right for argumentation. Right? A momentous thing that can happen to a culture is they can acquire a new style of arguing: trial by jury, voting, peer review, now this. Right?
A new form of arguing has been invented in our lifetimes, in the last decade, in fact. It’s large, it’s distributed, it’s low-cost, and it’s compatible with the ideals of democracy. The question for us now is, are we going to let the programmers keep it to themselves? Or are we going to try and take it and press it into service for society at large?“
Political change. New art forms. A better world. It all takes my time, but we do push it forward, together.