The awesome Sheri Candler tweeted yesterday to STOP MAKING FEATURES and turn that energy to other formats. In the tweets that followed, she contextualised her argument, all of which made sense. However, as someone who has always championed features over other formats, I figured I should say something.
Firstly I should go through some full disclosure. I mentioned that Sheri is awesome because she commented on this post that I wrote for Ted Hope three years ago. Secondly, I designed a masters course called Digital Feature Film Production, which obviously doesn’t want people to stop making features! Why?
Well, I have various reasons. Let’s take the communal view; I think feature film production is a valuable method of forcing people to collaborate collectively in a way that other art forms don’t always encourage. In the same way that the rise of digital music has meant that bedroom musicians have emerged, digital technology has meant we see a similar rise of bedroom filmmaking too. I don’t think the content is all that bad, but there is still a value in the collaboration towards one artistic goal. In a society where we champion ‘connectedness’ and ‘social media’, we are in fact witnessing a bizarre reversal of that.
Collective problem solving, interpersonal relationships, trust. There are so many qualities that come from working together on a feature project. Why does it have to be a feature? Why not any other form? Well, the volume of work with a feature is difficult to do alone, especially within the context of the 72 project, where it is impossible. The educational value of working collectively upon these projects often develops different skills than simply working individually, and a lot of these skills are transferable to any form of project management.
If I steal Nicholas Carr’s arguments about books and applied it to feature films, I imagine there is a synaptic response to the constant stream of disruptive short form media. It doesn’t encourage us to immerse ourselves in more complex story lines, it doesn’t encourage us to reflect. However, I’m hijacking an theory on books and applying to features.
Then there is the economic argument, which I understand independent filmmakers are struggling to make money, all the way up to the top producers, like Ted Hope and Christine Vachon. However, studios are still making money (allegedly, depending who you talk to), and for as long as the other possible formats don’t prove the potential for money, new entrants to industry will still strive for features.
However, it is a pertinent point that Sheri made, and what better way to explore it than a bloody big discussion. So, next week, as part of Stoke Your Fires film festival, we’ll do just that. At 2pm, we’ll ask, ‘why make feature films?’. We may even film it and put it up here. Can’t say fairer than that.