An Evolutionary view on problems and their solutions for the Filmmaker. A personal view.

Let get this straight from the outset, the word evolution correctly used really applies to a population and not an individual. When an individual changes they can be said to be transformed or maybe even undergone a metamorphosis. Evolution in the strictest sense is a positive change in a population and needs three things:

  1. A variation in the individual in the population.
  2. Heredity or a genetic memory of the individuals in a population on this planet coded for by DNA mostly.
  3. That the population Grows.

Evolution can be seen a  complex biological clockwork where we cannot assume we know all the cogs or where those cogs may  connect to others.

The most commonly know aspect of evolution is called Natural Selection which the type of Evolution that Darwin spoke about and its all to do with survival under pressure from the environment, predators and parasites. If you can survive the environment, outwit the predators and avoid the parasites then you have been Naturally Selected to survive and pass on your own individual arrangement of DNA.

So what has this got to do with the filmmaking and its population of filmmakers? One word, survival. Survival is being able to exist as an individual and then to pass on your own inheritance pattern so a little bit of you passes on to the future.

Pretty much from my first day as filmmaker, I also started working with new filmmakers, either organising projects or teaching what I had just learnt to them. I was fortunate to have started at the UCL film society which was a film making group run by current and former students of the University and with no formal supervision or guidance from any staff whatsoever. There was no official professional filmmaker or teacher at the helm….. and yes, if it was a ship it was a pirate ship but one that had rules and regulations….. but let’s not go in that direction today. This is was a really unusual situation. It was the last days of 16mm film. Making films with 16mm film was one of the most expensive and unpredictable of all student extra curricular activities that anyone could do. It was possible to waste hundreds of pounds worth of film in just a few minutes with only one’s peers to judge that, sort of embarrassing, and maybe they might learn from your own artistic tragedy. A harsh sacrifice to make for what might be to the advantage of the group. Few people managed to make more than one film, few people would transform into a filmmaker that might survive in a particular niche.

A couple of decades later its a different story, with a DSLR and a couple of lenses, a first time filmmaker can make a nice and technically good images without the cost and the fear, although there is a high likelihood that whilst their first efforts might be embarrassing in some circles, they can easily pick themselves up again without breaking the bank.

Its easier to make a competent film now: editing is faster on a computer and the film/video or story has all manners of ways of being seen now, the internet being the really new big arena for this. The word arena is deliberately used because one of the issues for filmmakers is not for the film to be seen, but for the viewer to keep watching it and not to be pulled in another direction as something else presents a stronger sensation. With all the distractions and Memetic pulls in every direction you need excellent storytelling ability to hold the attention of the person(S) seeing your film. This means you have to keep the viewer joining the dots you give them to make the line you want them to see. Good storytelling is about making it easy and appealing for them to do so.

The point of a story is as ever is to move information from mind to mind, a sort of joined up nervous system of linked individuals. The link between the minds can be varied but the point is that stories for the mind are like food for the body. The right quantity, quality and frequency of story elements is essential. To much will overload someones mind like too much food will to the body. The rhythm, is the arrangement in time of the story elements, the ideas and information. It moves the trains of thought along. An example of this is the editing of a film or the beat in a song. Something that pushes the ideas forward and holds the mind and senses of the audience in the orbit of an idea, thought or emotion.

The story itself then is made of such elements, information, idea, rhythm, architecture , an aim or Purpose. Each elements can break down further, for example an idea itself is made of information, and so is rhythm. Your desire may be to make films in the same way a builder may like to make buildings, but there has to be architecture and there has to be purpose. The cave painting of an animal is both information about the world around the artist but also of potential food sources. These type of drawing simple picture stories are what will have given rise to a drive that takes the ancients beyond hunting to farming, a process itself that requires the planning of an architect but with knowledge of time and seasons rather than materials.

Its like this for the filmmaker the drive is to connect minds to do something bigger or better with the human experience. Think of a hundred people watching a film in a cinema. Everyone watching the film will be mentally in rhythm as they watch the film, its like sharing a dream. When they come to discuss what they experience, it is taken for granted they have all seen the same thing. This is what a film does – it creates a sort of synthetic dream that has meaning to the audience – sometimes it’s about exchanging immediate knowledge and at other times it’s about showing something deeper that is waiting to be revealed.

Now that the population of filmmakers has increased beyond that of any previous generation. The right skills are easier to acquire  than ever before. But there are new pressures to survive as some niches shrink and the predators move into a space than that does not have room for everyone.    New financial constraints changes the  energetics of the whole system. The pressure to survive comes from being seen by a big enough audience to sustain the filmmaker  and to do the relevant business exchanges to survive. It’s still about linking with other minds in one way or another but as you would expect, everything has changed.