Rethinking

Exactly ten years ago I made a series of short documentaries about nightshift workers for Channel Four with Gabby Morton Jones. It broadcast at the beginning of January 2004. One of them was filmed in Birmingham with a radio DJ. You can see it here:

I have two interesting things to mention about this project, both of which are relevant to the core of the 72 Project.

The first thing to mention is that Gabby and I were 22 when we directed and produced this for Channel Four. Not many people get a crack at directing at that age and lots of people have commented on how lucky we were to get the break. I’d agree that we were lucky to have our commission chosen, but it didn’t take luck to submit an idea; just a lot of people didn’t do it because they thought it wouldn’t work. You’ve got to be in it to win it and all that.  Both Gabby and I were taught at university that we definitely wouldn’t be walking out of uni and getting a directing job. It was taught as if it was fact. We only challenged that fact because we didn’t think it was true. I mention this because it is the same spirit within the 72. We’re fed lots of mythologies about filmmaking that lots of people just take as fact because it is repeated so often, yet nearly all of the ‘rules’, ‘principles’ or ‘facts’ are challengeable.

The second interesting element was finding the contributors. Gabby and I had put out all kinds of messages to different organisations and companies trying to find people who were willing to let us film them as they worked the nightshift. It was Christmas time and not many felt the need to help us out. We were trying with lots of individual contact to people before we realised that if we contacted a radio station at night time, and asked them to broadcast what it was we were looking for, we’d get a greater response. It seems so obvious now, but at 22 we were fresh out of the box and still green behind the ears. The same must be said of the 72 project. The power of broadcasting is still far more significant than the horizontal communication of social networks. Yes we are taught about viral marketing etc. but the fact remains that traditional broadcasting still works, which is why major studios invest big money in their Press & Advertising budgets of their ‘tent pole’ movies. Now the general consensus is that you can’t afford that kind of coverage without a budget, yet we made it into major newspapers, radio and television in Australia without any budget. Why? Because we managed in Melbourne to connect into local networks that could make it happen. Someone knew someone who knew someone else. Connections. Our task over the next six months is to work on similar and different strategies in order to make things happen here in Birmingham. It requires another rethinking of the ways in which people usually expect to make these things happen.

Let’s hope it works.

James

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