At the end of last week, Joe from our team found this lovely documentary and shared it with the rest of the MSc team. It’s an interesting documentary about the lack of sleep that crew get on film shoots. Far from being an inspiration, it is a reminder of the model that we are currently working in with filmmaking, as opposed to a model that we are trying to encourage with a 72. Take a look.
One of the obstacles that we’ve faced in the past is that people ran away from the project when it became evident that they’d be demonstrating how something they currently get six months work for could be done in three days. They felt that the theory was encouraging them to work harder in a short space of time than the usual time it takes. That isn’t actually the point of the 72 Project. The point isn’t that you should work harder, the point is that you could work smarter in light of digital technologies. But people don’t, because there is a hierarchical system in place that people feel they need to preserve to secure either a) job progression, b) creative control, c) wage increases etc. The cost of researching new models of production processes are high and we operate in a risk averse industry that doesn’t like revolution, it likes product differentiation (that is imitation but slightly different). So, it leads to a lack of true innovation in the production side of things. I say ‘true innovation’ because people point at James Cameron and the growing VFX market and say that it is ‘innovative’. No, that is innovative technology being used to create spectacle in a way that cinema always has done to attract audiences (for as long as it has existed, therefore not innovative at all). Even that market is at risk too, because UK and Canadian governments offer subsidies to Hollywood studios to get the revenue into the economy. Great in theory, until another tiger economy pops up and undercuts you, and not great at all if you don’t have exposure to the profit potential (for reinvestment).
What should we do instead? Well, it’s hard to draw up a master plan in a blog post but the first step would be a sustainable production model that had a flow of money that wasn’t sealed into a handful of firms profits. Currently this exists because the point at which the audience pays (the distribution and exhibition phase) has only a small number of gatekeepers with a sizeable platform to market. And they take BIG cuts, which don’t necessarily get reinvested. The technology exists to break the hegemony but the critical mass of the audience is still at those handful of places, so it reinforces the status quo.
Independent filmmakers lament the audience not buying into the independent movie scene in any big way, and that the profits are decreasing and making it harder and harder to exist as an independent filmmaker. But all of this time, the audience is barely aware of what an ‘independent’ filmmaker is, because their product is emulating the rest of the market in pretty much the same way. No revolution, just product differentiation. And why should you pay more for the something similar but not the same? You wouldn’t.
So why are we charging more for a ticket to see ‘The Confusion of Tongues’ than whatever Hollywood movie is on that weekend? Well, we’re not the same. Whilst we are striving to make a film that you would consider quality and as good as any other you will see elsewhere in your life, both the process and the product are part of research into sustainable filmmaking production. You will see places and people that rarely get represented on screen. It will be made by people who would rarely get the opportunity to operate on set at that level, their talent wasted whilst having to ‘climb’ a ladder of opportunity that favours middle class white males with a London postcode. Your money is being spent on the action research that doesn’t come out of your regular cinema ticket. For UK taxpayers, your cinema experience is being subsided by your tax, which is offering tax breaks to US companies to fuck their own workforce over, exploit our workforce and then take the profits home. They don’t fund research into changing that model because it works pretty well, thanks very much.
We have worked on this project for six years since Galway in 2008. In Ireland, the MSc in Digital Feature Film Production will have produced four films in three years by this summer, with ‘How To Be Happy’ screening in the Irish Film Institute this weekend, increasing it’s position as the place to go to get started in the industry. A safe house to experiment and network.
When you’re buying a ticket to see ‘The Confusion of Tongues’, you’re funding a project that isn’t advocating making films in 72 hours, you’re funding a project that advocates using digital technology to make more films in different regions, with different casts and crews that reflect the population that we live in, telling stories that don’t usually get told or heard. Not to differentiate the product, but to change your entire relationship to the product in general. A film where you may actually care about what is onscreen.
You can buy a ticket here and support us.
James and the 72 team.