The bigger picture

I mentioned in the last post that the 72 is more than a gimmick. Let me expand on that a little bit.

The traditional academic approach to film has been to study it like literature. You watch lots and discuss the structure and form. There is obviously a value in this process, but any one who has read a book will know that it doesn’t make you an author. Meanwhile, in industry, there has traditionally been a skepticism of the academic study of media of any kind, as it doesn’t have much practical application. The academics who tried to tackle the issue of practical application came up against difficulties with the universities (as film equipment was expensive) and also industry (as they were making abstract films that didn’t match the size or scale of industry itself). Neither fish nor fowl.¬†Another problem with these courses is that they promoted individualism and competition. Their mantra is that it is a ‘difficult’ industry to break into and the individual’s short film acts as a calling card. The syllabus hypes the auteurs and visionary skills of celebrated directors, not emphasising the collaborative nature of filmmaking.

It was after Conor Murphy and I had studied on one such course at University College Dublin that we came up with the 72 project. It was in the months following our graduation and we were lamenting the shortcomings of the syllabus. We felt that it was hyping many of the mythologies about film and pretending digital technology hadn’t happened. We developed a way in which we could work together to make something special as opposed to working individually in competition with one another. The ethos of the 72 was then extended into the MSc Digital Feature Film Production course (which I worked with fellow 72 veterans John Bradburn and Andy Paton to validate at Staffordshire University).

Filmbase, where the MSc in Digital Feature Film Production is based
Filmbase, where the MSc in Digital Feature Film Production is based in Ireland

My point is that we aren’t working on a singular movie. We are working to develop an infrastructure to create multiple movies. And we are simultaneously looking to develop talent in our own regions with a sustainable production culture and visible progression routes for students into industry. The MSc launched in Dublin in 2011 and over 40 students have graduated from the course in two years, making it the largest postgraduate film course in Ireland. Another 40 will take it this year in Dublin and Stoke and we’ll be making three films between us (Out of Babel being one of them). Conor has led the Filmbase team to produce two features in the last two years, both of which have travelled to other international festivals.

The irony being, whereas industry has traditionally been quite skeptical about the value of academic study of film, the MSc in Digital Feature Film Production is now making more movies than most production companies in Ireland. Furthermore, the ‘industry’ doesn’t have any codified training opportunities and it remains risk averse. The hope is that we can develop a model whereby the progression from academia to industry is clearly indicated, but developing such models takes time. The 72 is just a catalyst for it.

Next week a few MSc students will begin work on Out of Babel and I’ll introduce them to you here. I’ll also travel to Dublin and start work on the film projects there. In the coming months I hope to demonstrate how engaging with a project like the 72 is actually helping to develop something bigger than an individual movie. It’s developing a new way in which to produce multiple movies for the foreseeable future.




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