My good friend and film maker Oli Lewington posted an interesting article on his blog yesterday, posing the question ‘does it really matter if people do not see your work?’ The main thrust being (and I paraphrase) ‘in the act of creating art, is an audience important? Does in fact longing for an audience impact on creative integrity negatively?’
I have never seen myself as an artist.
I remember giving a lecture at Oxford University when I made this statement and there were audible gasps from the audience who clearly felt that film making IS a profoundly important artform. I ended up in a long and heated debate with a very serious young woman who was determined to make me see that I was an artist.
My position is simple.
I am a storyteller. By definition that means I need an audience.
And therefore, on a deep and profound level, yes it does matter if my work is seen or not.
This conversation goes to the heart of the art versus commerce debate that rages so fiercely in European cinema.
As a storyteller, the audience is my boss.
If I were an artist, my ego, my id, my subconscious etc. would be my boss.
Of course when you allow the audience to dominate, you end up with empty and shallow stories that ironically audiences will avoid.
And when you allow art to dominate, you end up with pretentious, impenetrable and boring nonsense.
So for me the trick is this. Allow my artistic instincts to inspire me, give me a unique spin on a story or situation, then get up close and personal with the audience. I always try to respect their intelligence, demand their attention and continually attempt to surprise, enthral and captivate them from second to second.
Anyone who has heard me speak about the importance of ‘stories’ to our culture, our psyche, our global health, will know that I passionately believe that what we contribute to the world is of significant importance.
Storytelling is fundamental to being human and helps us understand the world and get through our tougher days.
It’s easy to sweep popular culture and ‘movies that move us’ to one side, to make way for more ‘artistic’ work.
But I say to all storytellers and film makers, whatever genre you work in, be it drama, horror, comedy, sci-fi… don’t be fooled. What you do and offer IS important, IS significant and DOES require an audience.
And remember, that same audience also NEEDS YOU AND YOUR STORY!
If you are a storyteller, it is your duty to tell your stories. It’s an ancient and sacred tradition, so don’t underestimate its power or trivialise the act.
Keep your eye on the ball, tell the story you need to tell with passion, brevity, integrity and push your craft to the edge… and ironically, you know the critics may start to hail you as an artist. Oh and remember to come to the London Screenwriters’ Festival in October! http://www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com (get 10% discount with code CHRISJONESBLOG)
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author
We all want an audience though thats why I do it anyway. The problem is how do you get one and how big should an audience be? When I was an amatuer actor outside my local area we could expect a three or four day run with maybe a hundred people in the audience a night and that was very satisfying. I never got paid and I never expected that or travel allowances I knew I was getting an opportunity to potentially rise to a pro level and the company would rehease for three months in advance meeting up once a week building up more as the opening night approached.
The internet has changed that and 300 views is considered low. As a film maker what I want is to connect with an audience Not those who want to see what I did out of curiosity or those looking for new ideas or learn but those who I can entertain as well as those who might want to get involved. Out of 300 views maybe only 20 of those might be genuinley interested in watching for pure entertainment.
So where do I go to get my film staged and where is it going to do well.
Self regulated there are only a few who run a normal fair ship. Some are even exceptionally good and regulation would help them.
After experiencing one festival run and nearly through another I believe I have some experience and for the most part as things stand festivals are waste of time, money and ultimately irrelevant. As too are the hosting sites if you wish to attract an audience.
Unless codes of conduct and they become industry regulated the playing field can be as crooked as a del boy video recorder. I or you could set one up on withoutabox within a week. One festival I entered was run by a 19 year old who seemed to like what I would regard video nasties. In my hypothetical festival Thousands could send me £20/£30 a go in and I could award the winners as mates of mine let alone someone who supports me in some way. I could also out great films to make sure the chosen film wins. By biased opinion could be I like art films as I never got anywhere myself. I may feel jealous of real talent. So that’s the worst case scenario and many will have varying degrees of honesty depending on the organisers morality which everyone just seems to accept that anyone who has a following must be completely honest and beyond reproach Thats often a joke as how did many get to a top spot in the first place. You can see the biased views in many forums where Gurus try and sell you a brand and run down any dissenters.
Film choices and decisions by festivals or organisations are hidden behind the subjectivity word, but we all know something good when we see it and films SHOULD be objectively marked to an extent Maybe half the marks should be based on looking at the nuts and bolts taking into account the budget If someone has a lot of money then you expect pro levels of film making if someone a small budget then an obvious skill that doesn’t have the bells and whistles but uses cheaper equipment. SO look at the skills applied like Lighting script cinematography editing acting as well as how well it entertains. For example its easy to set two actors in a single location maybe with no crew and call it a short film but should it be called a short film and set it to compete against a fully crewed short film shot as a movie or what it really is a one room drama. Surely if you want to be a film maker then you have to be able to make REAL films and wouldn’t being judged for that be a better way.
I think it needs defining what a short film really is. In the professional world we KNOW what a film is and why an episode of eastenders isn’t a film.
The really big problem is Films don’t get the sort of audience they should because people don’t want to watch an endless stream of bad films before finding a good one So they let the popular hosting sites like Vimeo You tube etc pick for them But can they be trusted to choose the best films or have their own agenda. IE would a well made film with good acting be percieved as to commercial by many. Could there be a certain amount of jealousy.
The point is whats the point of you or I making a film if you can’t get the audience you know is out there to see your film because it doesn’t fit with everyone elses agenda OR you haven’t done the required ego massaging or been supportive enough of the hosting site. SHOULDN’T your film have the right to be judged on its merits and the audience be allowed to access it in a fairly defined category of good and bad.
If a site runs a competition and sets the rules should they be allowed to change the rules near the end by letting a film win that didn’t follow the rules at all?
This is important as Film makers thinking they will be judged on what they create begin to realise it doesn’t matter how good the film is what is important is who you know not what you know. Okay some may think yes thats fine so what.
In the end though no one wins as the talent stays well hidden in a sea of dross and those chosen who think they are doing well because of great communication skills never break in to the pro world or make a one off that goes nowhere.
More than ever we all have access to film making we need a standard Those in control like festivals need to be regulated and so too hosting sites like Vimeo and You tube Or else we all may as well not bother making films at all.
Its in everyone’s interest to have penalties and rules on large public sites Those who make films and the audience who watch them but also for the sites who host them who would gain enormously from a fair deal. Imagine if hollywood trusted a site as being so honest they knew it would be a great place to look for talent. At the moment is there anywhere Hollywood or anyone can start a search for talentend film makers?
Having said all that I’m gearing up for another short and will probably go the festival route again. How sad is that!