I mentioned yesterday that the 72 works by offering an opportunity that isn’t otherwise there. However, offering opportunity is not unique to the 72 project either. In fact, lots of the media industry uses opportunity (the lack of it to be precise) to exploit workers into long hours, for little pay, in the hope that they can ‘make it’ eventually. It is an exploitation industry, based on a mythology of glamour, whereby the scarcity of opportunities can give employers an unfair advantage.
“Long hours? No pay? It sounds like the previous 72 projects!” a cynic roars. It’s a fair cop. We’ve simply made the films to put academic theory into practice. We’re not advocating that we make films in 72 hours, we’re using it as a demonstration that we can work differently.
The way opportunity works in the industry is that there are limited ways of ‘breaking in’ and if someone gives you an opportunity you should work as hard as possible in the hope that you can be taken on further. The way opportunity works in the 72 is that people can engage in whatever field they would like to explore, and in whatever capacity they feel they can do it. There is lots of opportunity for involvement, instead of very little.
We still benefit from enforced scarcity though. We don’t have much time, so it creates energy as we race against the clock. We don’t do this very often, so it creates a sense of occasion.
Exploring the relationship between abundance and scarcity, and the things we can control and the things we cannot, is at the heart of the challenge in almost all industries, not just the media. Tackling the paradigm shift with the old organisational structure is dangerous. Film has become increasingly risky as returns on investment get damaged by piracy and diluted advertising revenues.
Ironically, although many people are turning to independent filmmaking simply because the traditional route has only limited opportunities, many are keen to shape their own filmmaking practice in the mould of the existing system, presumably in the hope that they can one day be ‘discovered’ and be assimilated into the Hollywood system. This is wishful thinking, and whilst it may work for a few, it won’t work for many.