Monday 9 January 2012

The Scott Macaulay Resolutions

Scott Macaulay has published the same New Year's Resolutions for Filmmakers in Filmmaker magazine for the last two years. If Filmmaker magazine think they're worth reading and thinking about, so do I. The thrust of the list is that we all need to keep growing, as people as well as filmmakers. Here's the list, with a couple of tiny adjustments.

1. Amplify your voice. You have a voice. Make it bigger in 2012. Spread it wider and connect it to more people. If you are working within your own little crew, spread out. If you've gotten into a pattern of relying on the same agents or producers or colleagues, enlarge the perimeter of that circle. If face-to-face is your preferred medium, get out more. Do you email or text too much? Call people more. If you’re an online presence, define the ways you’ll be able to reach more people and do those.

2. Improve your social. Review your online practices and make them better. Do you blog? Blog more. Or blog less, but more meaningfully than you do. Is your online voice scattered and diffuse? Make it laser-sharp and specific. Or, are you repetitive and one-note? If so, mic it up. Does your Twitter "voice" work? If not, make it better. Is your posting frivolous? Figure out how to make it a bit more pragmatic and effective. Too dry? Loosen it up.

3. See the Essential 100.  Great films are nourishing. There are treasures for the present in the past. Don't get caught up with only the newest — make 2012 the year you fill in the cracks of your cinephilia. An easy way to do this is to watch all the films in the Toronto International Film Festival group’s “Essential 100.” It’s a list of classics selected by critics, curators and audiences published alongside the opening of its new Bell Lightbox facility. For most readers of this blog, I’d imagine committing to what you haven’t seen on this list would mean adding less than one film a week. The top ten: The Passion of Joan of Arc, Citizen Kane, L’Avventura, The Godfather, Pickpocket, Seven Samurai, Pather Panchali, Casablanca, Man with a Movie Camera, The Bicycle Thief

4. Work for a friend. Take a page from Lucas McNelly and his Kickstarter project — don’t just obsess about your own work, make yourself crew for someone you know. UPM, do locations, cast, take sound for a project of someone other than yourself. Commit to the level of your free time. If you’re not working and can manage it, work on a no-budget feature. Or, perhaps just do a weekend short. You’ll not only help another project make it out into the world, but you’ll also re-ground yourself in filmmaking basics while meeting new people who might assist you out at some point. 

5. Make more than you did last year. I’m talking about work, not money. How much did you make last year? One film? Make two. Six shorts? Make seven. Don’t worry about format. If you made one feature last year and it looks like it will be two years of development before the next, make two shorts instead. Commit to just shipping.

6. Make one piece in a different form. Have you only made features? Make a webisode. Are you a narrative filmmaker? Make a doc. Do you only do long-form? Make a short doc or web video instead. Get out of your comfort zone for at least one piece. 

7. Read more. At his conversation in Toronto this year with Errol Morris, Werner Herzog said that you can't be a filmmaker without reading. And no, not scripts. Books. So in 2012, read more. (If you want to take more of Herzog’s advice, you can read these titles from his Rogue Film School: Virgil’s Georgics, Ernest Hemingway’s The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, The Warren Commission Report, Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, The Poetic Edda, translated by Lee M. Hollander, Bernal Diaz del Castillo True History of the Conquest of New Spain.)

8. Review your productivity and alter your creative behavior. Conduct a review of your own best practices, the circumstances and behavior that lead to your greatest level of productivity and/or creativity, and more purposefully engineer the creation of those moments. If the best work you’ve ever done was at a mountain retreat when you were unplugged from the world, do that again. Do you need to go to an office, a library, a Starbucks? Are you better in collaboration with someone else? Do you need more structure? Or less? Does being plugged in all the time create a kind of false productivity? If so, remember to take regular walks around the block or trips to museums and let your mind roam. 

9. Learn a new skill. Both beginning filmmakers and veterans could do well in this economy to enlarge their skill sets. If you run a blog, learn SEO. Learn more about mobile platforms. If all of your scripts are features, read some television scripts and learn how they differ in form. Learn to edit. Learn to shoot with a DSLR. Learn to podcast. Learn something new.

10. Change your viewing practices. Do you watch a lot of movies? If so, then your viewing practices may be up for a review. Via Twitter I asked folks what their resolutions were, and Eugene Hernandez replied with, “See more movies on the big screen, old ones as well as new ones, in a theater with an audience.” That’s a good one. For me, it’s to stop three-screening and concentrate more on what I watch at home. In other words, turn off the Blackberry and iPad while the movies run.

I have a rule that I do something new every week. The older I get, the greater the claims of inertia on my aging body and mind. I'm a homebody, so I force myself to get out. I'm a writer, so I take photos, just to force my mind into a different groove. 

The movie list I have been slowly working through for many years is The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made, by the Film Critics of the New York Times. (The list is drawn from the second edition of "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made," St. Martin's Griffin, edited by Peter M. Nichols and published in 2004.) There are 1,002 films on the list, including seven from Australia. 

A few days ago, a friend complained about Citizen Kane. He didn't like the character; couldn't see why people raved about the film. Within 24 hours he was back, saying he'd solved a problem with his current screenplay with an idea he took from Citizen Kane. And that's how it works. While we're focused on something else, our subconscious is making it's own connections and finding something new. Just feed it with good material and you'll be amazed by the results. 

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Great films are nourishing - great blogs are nourishing!

I heartily agree with your advice:

Just feed [your mind] with good material and you'll be amazed by the results.

Thanks again, Henry.