Thursday, October 18, 2007

Feedback Screenings

Hopefully, it's clear already that I'm all about community. I don't get anything done - personally, professionally, politically...or creatively, of course - without community.

When I finish a script, I have to give it to others for feedback. And I do that at various stages - giving it to different kinds of people at each stage. I do the same when I am editing. When I made "Transaction", I actually gave it to two filmmakers - Elyse Couvillion and Gina Levy - who made their own cut. Why the hell not? I'm always surprised by filmmakers who get freaked out by others toying with their films. We're all cutting digitally these days, so we can easily create duplicate files without affecting the "original" nor wasting any resources. You can use or not use whatever you discover in the alternate versions. Why not steal some great ideas from other talented (and generous) filmmakers and claim them as your own?

Anyway, I know people who are very protective of their work, and that's not wrong, either. Everybody has their own process. However, if you are not innately a cinematic genius, you won't create cinematic genius relying strictly on your own instincts.

Working within a community, on the other hand, may help in this regard, but it does demand a couple of things other than genius - clarity and strength. To be able to benefit from feedback without being overwhelmed by it, you need to have a strong sense of your project with a fairly clear vision - or at least, an ability to recognize what elements, when they arrive, will take it to the next level. In this way, you can take the feedback and use only what is relevant to you without bouncing around responding this way and that to the various pieces of feedback. (see my previous blog: Learning To Manage Feedback).

Anyway, the other night, my friend and FA comrade Michaela Von Schweinitz held a screening at FA of her new feature: "Diary of a Third Grade Teacher". - based on the experiences of Musician/Teacher Sabrina Stevenson and co-written by Sabrina and Karen Aschenbach. I won't comment on it because it's still in the early stages and I'm not sure how much information they want to get out about it. But I did want to briefly describe the process. Michaela showed the film at the FA offices, where we have a little projector and sound system. She invited an eclectic mix of hand-picked folks - about 15 or so - then put together a questionnaire for us to fill out afterward. She and her husband also made food for everyone and brought drinks. I've done many of these and this one was particularly well-organized and considerate of the participants.

We all watched the film, then wordlessly filled out the questionnaires. I had hoped there might be some open discussion, but with eating/drinking, screening and writing the evening had grown quite late. Many had to leave, but some of us did stick around and chat, however, and the ideas were exciting. The questionnaires were submitted anonymously, so hopefully everyone was usefully honest. I know I was. Not brutally, just usefully. This, by the way, is a new term of mine that I intend to apply to all aspects of my life. There is a certain inconsideration, selfishness and even cruelty in much unrestrained honesty. I prefer people being honest with me only to the degree that it benefits me somehow, even if that truth is painful. I guess you can argue that even cruel, seemingly purposeless feedback can be beneficial even if it is just to remind you that you don't want to get feedback from that person anymore. But time is short. Life is short. I'd rather skip that step, if possible. So, now, I engage in what I am terming useful honesty and try to solicit the same from others.

Anyway, Michaela was pretty nervous beforehand and I'm sure wading through all that feedback was a bit of a task. But hopefully she read all of the things she needed to read and processed them to her (and the film's) benefit. I know there was a lot of good energy and good ideas in that room. It was truly a community, if just for one night, and the collective creative power of that community was, for me, very evident and very inspiring.

3 comments:

  1. Indeed, I will never forget the night I showed the movie to my friends for the first time. I don't recall having felt anything before hand, but I grew more and more nervous throughout the screening. I just knew the film wasn't there yet, that's why I had called for help. I grew nervous because I was afraid it was a helpless cause, nobody could really help fixing it. Guess what, I got enough feedback to make three different movies. Just kidding. Some of the feedback I anticipated, other comments came as a surprise. But what fascinated me most, some of the ideas I haven't anticipated and they didn't surprise me either: they sounded familiar. There had been thoughts I've had at some point or an other, ideas I've pondered but didn't act on. I think I was rather being lazy than protective. With all the feedback, verbally and in writing, my fabulous friends, movie lovers, artists, helped me realized the movie: what was missing, what was too much and they helped me find an angle to make changes. I'm editing by myself, it just happens to be that way. After the feedback screening I didn't feel alone anymore. I had my first little audience. The movie spoke to them and they spoke to me. After two weeks of work, I have a different movie. It's not a different story, its the same story but in a new dress, faster moving, shorter. I'm ready for the next test screening. Just don't know yet what we'll be having for dinner and if we should serve dinner after the screening...

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  2. Hey, Jacques!

    Uhm, where's the links for JOINING the organization?

    Peace & Creation,

    JT

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