As part of the preparation for the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival it was necessary for us to produce a poster for the film, so here it is.
It’s been a long and slow road, but its now a year since we filmed ‘Melbourne: A Guide to Living’, the sequel to ‘London: A Guide for the Naive‘, and hopefully only part two in a trilogy. The film is finished and will soon be submitted to different festivals.
Creative control is a beautiful thing. It’s been said that a film is written 3 times. Once by the writer, once by the director and finally by the editor. To be in control of each of those stages is fantastic and allows me to carry a project through from conception to completion in exactly the way I want it. It’s always still the case that the product you finish with is different to how you intended it, complete with added flourishes and unexpected shortcomings, but overall you’re left with an appreciation of the whole process and leave with lessons of how you’d do things next time. In a multi-collaborative project artists often complain that creative control was wrestled away from them and what’s left is a disheartening imitation of what they had first set out for.
However, it still has to be said that film is essentially a collaborative medium, and while maintaining such control of the whole process is great if you want things done exactly how you envisage them, it’s just too much work for one person to take on board and denies the possibility of something magical and entirely unimagined taking your film in a new direction.
Learning how to direct and produce films has been a great lesson and given expression to different aspects of my creativity, but one thing I’ve come to realise is that I’m essentially driven by the writing and ideas, and no sooner have I finished filming than my interest turns to getting on with the next script and pursuing the next idea. To get mired down in editing and promotion divides my attention and stunts the development of the craft I’m actually interested in focusing on.
I learnt not too long ago about the idea of the 80/20 or Pareto principle, a theory originally developed in relation to economics but soon taken on in many different fields and expanded into a general, if slightly rough, principle. The idea is that roughly speaking 80% of something’s effects, comes from just 20% of it’s causes. More can be read about it here on Wikipedia but it’s enough to say that for my purposes 80% of the time I spend, or it might be more fitting to say waste, in relation to a project comes from just 20% of the things I do for that project. Or to put it another way, editing and promoting a film takes 80% of my effort and time when it might take someone who actually knows how to do those things a fraction of that.
If you’re able to collaborate with the right people and combine your skills you’re able to increase your productivity exponentially. Just stick to the 80% of tasks you excel at and outsource the rest to someone else.
Besides, as Woody Allen says, if 80% of success is showing up, you just need to find someone else to do that other 20% and the job is done.
Melbourne: A Guide to Living will hopefully be going to a few festivals later in the year. If you’re interested in seeing a preview enter your email address in the bar at the top of the page.
Well one week has gone by since the end of this years London Screenwriter’s Festival and I’m trying to cling tight to the elated feeling of possibility. I left Regent’s College last Sunday feeling like everyone was moving in the same direction together, with the same purpose and open-mindedness. The biggest thing you get from the festival is not a potential development deal, or a myriad of business cards, or even inspiration – but a feeling that you could walk up and start a conversation with anyone and that they’d be open and interested to hear about everything you’ve been working on. I got the impression that the people on the tube as I made my way home didn’t quite share the same optimistic feeling.
Anyway, I left the festival with so much, and while I steadfastly try to avoid the pull into mundanity of daily life, I’m also doing quite a good job of keeping the ball in the air as with regards to projects and motivation.
But here are the top things I took away from the festival this year:
1) Keep in mind a clear idea of where YOU actually want to go
I found it very easy during the festival, and indeed even before it, to get wrapped up in other people’s goals and paths to progress. I know what I’m working on, but all too often I would get distracted by people talking about distributors, sales agents or even Hollywood. I would start to try to understand my own projects in terms of how they could be developed towards one of these ends. However by the end of the festival I had been given a clear reminder of my chosen route to market – namely through online content – and that the best way to guarantee an audience for my work, is by building that audience myself and taking them from one project to another. I left the festival with a much clearer and realistic idea of my own goals, and I’ve been able to dive straight into reaching them.
2) Don’t be afraid of success
I think this was something I realised half-way through the festival – that much of the time it’s really easy to subsume yourself in whatever script you’re writing, and further give yourself excuses as to why you shouldn’t currently be pushing all your projects to the maximum potential. Because I am a film-maker it is very easy for me to just concentrate on ‘writing for myself’, thereby giving myself an excuse why it isn’t necessary for me to be pitching my ideas to big producers etc. Other common excuses I heard (and made myself) were “I didn’t feel I had anything to pitch” or “I’ll get back in touch with people when I feel the project is ready”. Now there’s a lot of sense in those comments, but as Leonardo Da Vinci said, “A work of art is never completed, only abandoned”, and sooner or later you need to give yourself the push to present your work to people who have the ability and resources to take you further. My resolution from the festival is to get savvy about approaching producers, pitching and making sure my projects have the best opportunity of being a success.
3) There is no big secret to success
Besides the need for some kind of talent, success only comes through lots of hard work. I’ve always been spurred on by Woody Allen’s quote “80% of success is just turning up” – meaning you’ve got to get ahead of the crowd and make it to the finish line. By following through and finishing a script/film/project you’ve already done most of the hard work, beating the majority of people who only sit and talk about it. But more importantly, there is no great barrier to the people who can make things happen for you. The secret is to simply take the initiative of getting in touch with them, pitch your project and see whether they say yes or no. If it’s a no, then you move on to the next person, or pitch the next project. But there is no secret language, or secret way of presenting or expressing an idea – it’s just about passion and enthusiasm.
These are the things which I have left with in the forefront of my mind. 2013 is going to be a year of driving projects forward and expanding audiences – being big and bold and loud. Not doing things on a small scale, but taking them to the maximum of their potential.
So unfortunately we didn’t make the shortlist of the Reed short film competition. Down from 500 to 50 is something to be proud of though. Was really excited to make the long list, and very sad not to have gone further, but there are some really great films that made it so it’s hard be too disappointed. Now the remaining films are up for vote for the People’s Choice Award, and I’m going to watch the films again before giving a vote. I do particularly like ‘The Devil’s Apricot’ and ‘Going Up’.
I’m still very proud of ‘Lonely At The Top’ because it was exactly what I intended it to be. It whips along at a good pace, and has a lot of character. People’s universal response was that “it’s sad but funny” or “sweet”. Michael did a great job at playing the part of the boss, and really look forward to working with everyone else in the film again soon.
Next it’s Virgin Media Shorts and the deadline is in July. We’ve got an idea which has been going around our heads for a while and I think we’ve got a script together that should be quite fun to film. I look forward to working again in a way that is quick by leaving a lot of what happens on camera until on the day. The script is really a rough outline and I have confidence in everyone’s talents to come out with something which is quite fresh and spontaneous. With a bit of luck we’ll get round to filming some time next week.
If you didn’t yet see ‘Lonely at the Top’ then have a watch here:
Virgin Media Shorts has begun
Well the next competition is in our sights. With the Sundance and Reed comps behind us, both with good results, I feel positive about the next project. The problem as always has been deciding on which idea is strong enough to dedicate the next chunk of your time to and so I have been deliberating for a week, caught between several ideas and unable to make any real progress. However yesterday I managed a breakthrough with one of the ideas and so now think its this that we’ll tackle for the competition. And I’m looking forward to it a lot. The film will give us a chance to experiment with some different ways of shooting, some colour correction and different edit techniques. At last something different from a mockumentary.
Watch this space.