You are what you do, not what you say you do

Breaking down the workload of film projects is never much fun. Usually it uniformly breaks into a codified and established hierarchy of jobs and tasks that is the organisational structure of film. I’ve written loads about it in the past but I want to just quickly reflect upon one element of it here.

In Australia we had a slightly abortive attempt at renaming the roles associated with the filmmaking process which quickly subsided once we were on set and dealing with the pressure of the movie. To be fair, the titles were quite generic, like Camera Leader, and not something dynamic and memorable like Thunder King or Scorpion Zap. Perhaps this would have made it more catchy. The reason for this name change was that the roles in a 72 were different from usual film, and they should therefore be detached from the connotations attached to them.

Over the years since Melbourne, I realise that this is perhaps more difficult to encourage within people than we imagine, because we like to categorise and generalise. The problem with changing the terminology to Thunder King or Scorpion Zap is that it can’t fit in with the taxonomies that exist elsewhere, like IMDB for example, where your title is a drop-down choice from a box. This flattening and homogenous system makes all production CV’s seem the same, even when there are differences between them. It’s like the relationship status on Facebook, you have a load of different options to choose from (married, single, widowed, it’s complicated etc) but there isn’t a box to write about your preference for animals, inanimate objects etc, because it is deemed inappropriate in society. Like I said, we all like to categorise and generalise and we like it to conform to our impression of society (please).

But it that doesn’t mean that the role cannot change. So we can keep the titles, but the job is different. I like to think that this will be easier than Melbourne, but we’ll have to see. People don’t like tend to like change. It is easier to keep it the same and then say ‘you’ve never done this before’. Using the same terminology suggests that they have done it before, and then they come a cropper when they realise what we meant by ‘never like this before’. We’ll find out in six months time.

I realised the problem the other day when I was talking to a student. Because I asked what he wanted to do when he was younger. He answered that he always wanted to be a filmmaker. And so I asked him again about what he wanted to ‘do’, because his response was about what he wanted to ‘be’. If he’d said he’d always wanted to make films, I could understand him. But his response implied that he had an identity in mind, a role that he wanted to fulfil, an act to imitate. ‘You are what you do, not what you say you do’ and all that.

Overcoming the distinction between those that want to ‘be’, and those that want to ‘do’, is our task when selecting the cast and crew for the 72. One is more useful than the other.

James

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