The big question

Sometimes during my bath time I like to interview myself using the Socratic Method. Today I’ve decided to transcribe my Sunday soliloquy.


What do we have left to prove having done this already? Isn’t this just a tired gimmick?

Firstly, from a research perspective, it is good to get three points on the graph. Doing it once could be fluke. Doing it twice could be coincidence. Doing it three times means that we have some sense of repeatability. Secondly, although we proved it could be done, there was definitely room for improvement on both occasions, so we can do it better.

In answer to a potential ‘tired gimmick’ suggestion; I think we’d all agree that this started as a unique way of getting attention but that shouldn’t devalue the fact that there have been lots of interesting by-products from the process. But I’d argue that the ‘tired gimmick’ is mainstream cinema itself, where the ideas seem to have dried up. Film studios currently rely heavily upon the exploitation of intellectual property rights of licensable characters (mostly from comic books or existing literature) because there is already an identifiable audience attached. Product innovation is risky because it requires big money to make an impact and could potentially fail. For every Avatar that works, there is an After Earth that doesn’t. This summer has seen a whole load of flops. “So what? Who cares? Not our problem!” screams the audience who is seemingly spoilt for choice for things to watch. Except you’re not spoilt for choice, as most things seem the same these days as they are driven down the same development pipeline. Predictable templates appear even in the ‘original’ movies.

Making a film in 72 hours doesn’t solve the problems that face the movie industry, but it does offer us a different way to have a discussion about them. It gets us talking about process from concept through to completion. It gets us talking about the value of representing ourselves instead of being represented by others. We can demonstrate a way of working together in a community instead of completing against one another in short film challenges that peddle the mythology of ‘discovery’ without talking about the statistical unlikelihood of the aforementioned ‘discovery’. We can talk about the need for a transparency about the way our films are made, instead of the myriad of tax-breaks and deferments that are common place in Hollywood voodoo economics and yet unethical elsewhere. We can talk about the ubiquity of technology and the fact that we all have the means to make and distribute films, but examine how abundance may mean we value the process and the product less.

We’ve seen a wave of filmmaking prophets emerge pontificating about some of these issues but with little actual academic rigour attached to their claims. Filmmaking research has always been disconnected, with academics preferring analysis of existing texts or the creation of abstract ones instead of engaging with industry as a whole. It’s easy to understand, filmmaking is expensive and financially risk averse, so it isn’t really the playground for research or experimentation. But what we are witnessing is the growth of a new mythology to replace the old. We are seeing false prophets peddling ideas that don’t have any real solidity or value, but they are forging careers out of talking about it.

So the reason for another 72 is to build a platform for these discussions and to simultaneously shower you with the results of five years of postgraduate study into the process of making films under the new paradigm. And this time we are going to debunk some of the horse shit that has emerged about filmmaking.

I’m going to get out of the bath, the water is getting cold.


3 thoughts on “The big question

  1. Some random thoughts on the matter whilst sawing wood:
    What is so special about 72 hours other than to make a point that the laborious conventional approach leads more and more to the triumph of style over substance ? Is the idea that, like being told you’ve got three weeks to live, it concentrates the mind. In which case wouldn’t it be more interesting to include the conception and scripting in the time ? Why not 24 hrs or real time, ? Perhaps you should show the film directly as it’s being made – oops that’s theatre.
    Do the audience care ? They might in France where they like to buy jam that is marked “stirred by hand” or even more bizarre something marked “salée à la main”. I think it fair to say that, in France, the ultimate jam orgasm would be to know that the jar itself was licked out by artisans from a solid block of glass. Would it make me more receptive to a film or add to its nuances, to know that whilst it was being filmed, the director was being dragged naked over a gravel path or having lunch with Sarah Palin ? Damn, I nearly cut my finger off !

    1. Thanks for joining in David. The 72 hours was just how we started out, but it’s not really a manifesto for making films that way. You hit upon the point that no one really cares how it is made, as long as it is good. I agree to some extent, although there are plenty of people who do want to know how it is made, hence all the ‘making of’ specials, the websites and magazines devoted to the subject. However, your analogy of artists crafting the jar by their tongue is similar to the way that film directors like to be portrayed. In reality it is a group, and the 72 accentuates this as it is pretty much impossible by one self to shoot a movie in 72 hours. What do you think?

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