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