April 19, 2006
against keeping your film production secret
by sven at 8:39 pm
[I just wrote a long post over at StopMotionAnimation.com that's worth repeating here. Leevi Lehtinen is working on an excellent stopmo film, and my blog brother Ale suggested that Leevi shouldn't show us any more clips from the work until it's complete. I've been roughing out an essay about why I'm against keeping film projects secret -- Ale's comment just opened the floodgates.]
Keep it up and please don't show so much about the film! I love it, but prefer to see it completed!
Oh! I must respectfully disagree with Ale! PLEASE, don't hesitate to post work-in-progress shots! If a viewer does not want to see the film until it is completed, then it is their own responsibility to not click on those files.
I am of the opinion that getting to see the film as it's being made only enhances the experience. Rather than spending five minutes of attention on your well-crafted work of art, I get to spend months or years enjoying it bit-by-bit. I'm cheering you on -- and when it is completed, I feel that in some small way I was able to help make it possible -- by being a supportive ear / eye.
Telling artists not to show their work until it's done -- this doesn't help them at all! Isolation is a terrible motivator. Look at SMA itself: when we get to share our energy, we are reinvigorated and inspired to do more! Sharing encourages sharing -- and that's where we get our spark.
"Keeping it secret" is NOT a step towards professionalism. Look at Peter Jackson's online "making-of" video diary for King Kong. Look at how Joss Whedon showed rough cuts of Serenity to eager audiences... Sharing the process of creation -- as you're creating -- is an excellent way to build your audience prior to release.
...And after your film is released, showing the "making-of" doesn't somehow spoil the magic. Pick up almost any DVD, and you'll see "making of" documentaries. The viewing public knows movies aren't magic -- we're curious to see how they're made, and only gain respect by learning how well-crafted the film is. The "making-of" is part of the product, just as marketable as the film itself.
The film-viewing public is literate and should get to make their own choices where "spoilers" are concerned. For example, when the new Star Wars movies came out, myself and lots of my friends knew that there would be spoilers -- and we conscientiously avoided them. In the world of blogging, there's an etiquette whereby you warn people that there may be "spoilers" in your post so they can decide for themselves if they want to read on.
The movie itself is only half the story. I want to know about about the people who made it. There are movies that I go to not because I know anything about the film -- but because the film is a Peter Jackson- or George Lucas- or James Cameron- or Steven Spielberg- or Jim Henson- or Joss Whedon- or Martin Scorsese- or Whoever- film. As filmmakers, we shouldn't try make ourselves invisible. Ultimately what we want is for people to be invested in US. Hopefully I'm not going to make just one film. I'm going to make several or many films -- and I want my audience to follow ME as I grow and create.
I don't know what Nick Hilligoss' next film is going to be about -- but it doesn't matter! I already know that I want to see it! Same goes for the the next film by Mike Brent or Alejo Accini or Jeffrey Roche or Shelley Noble or Dave Hettmer or Lio Ivan Orozco or Marc Spess or (forgive me, folks I'm failing to name)... I want to see WHATEVER these people do next, because I've come care about them and what they're doing.
And I want to know about their work as it's in progress, too. So, please -- everyone -- keep sharing your works-in-progress!
that's pretty much how i feel about most things that are "secret." secret projects are generally projects that don't get made, in part because they're so secret that you stop yourself from being inspired or encouraged by others! art that never gets made isn't art. better to set small & gentle goals and be able to acknowledge your progress.
Posted by: gl. at April 19, 2006 9:57 PM
Posted by: Darkstrider at April 19, 2006 9:57 PM
-- blush --
Posted by: sven at April 19, 2006 10:25 PM
I just wrote in the SMA forum this:
Sven: I've done some thinking, and you're totaly right...If I don't want to see any more of the film then I just won't...Sorry
The thing is that I noticed Leevi is showing the film itself, and I'm not sure I want to see that yet. I love the behind the scenes: testing, how it was made, etc, but I'm not sure about seeing the film like that...It's just my opinion.
Specialy in stop motion films, I've realized it's really fun and interesting to read (and try to be helpful) in the process of the making: how many of you are logging daily to Zombie-Pirates, Scarlet Letters, Darkstrider, Ubatuber, etc just for the fun of it? Well, I'm one of you too. But as I said before, I think I don't want to be shown the film itself till it's done
So sorry if it wasn't clear :( "
Posted by: Ale at April 20, 2006 7:05 AM
You know, this touches on something that Mike said in a comment on my blog...."I think the community spirit helps drive the individuals farther than they can go alone. By uniting like this, we become more than the sum of our parts."
Amen. Well spoken.
We watch, we learn, we influence and become influenced by, we share and prosper, it is the nature of an artist, and something that I have not been a part of since graduating from Tulane. I really missed those critiques, and now I've got them back in a sense. So I say go forth, create and be merry, and be sure to tell me all about it...
Posted by: ubatuber at April 21, 2006 12:32 AM
At the risk of sounding churlish, remember the flip side of that which is as follows: If you've posted the entire progress of creation - post the final piece! IN that case of say.... the LSGL trailer, and not so much a piece made for the purpose of profit. Haveing a set of readers follow along and then not see the final is just a tricksy as not showing the progress! Although, I supposewe have only ourselves to blame if we (meaning I) don't actually attend the festival at which said final piece is shown...
But in general, in this case, I have to agree with Sven.
Posted by: Markalope at April 21, 2006 9:36 AM
I couldn't agree more, Sven. Another facet of this discussion is that there are some who fear being ripped-off by sharing too much of their "intellectual property" in a public forum like this. Everyone has to make their own choices based on what matters to them. I said in a comment recently that since I'm not in this for fame or money I find total disclosure of my process to be most valuable for me. Especially given the unforeseen advantage of this community of support. I never saw this coming and I couldn't be happier for it!
Thank you! Shelley
Posted by: shelley Noble at April 21, 2006 1:49 PM
Hey Ale --
No worries. Your comment prompted my little speech -- but it wasn't really directed at you. :-)
...Btw, thanks for the shout out to Scarlet Letters in your SMA post!
Posted by: sven at April 21, 2006 5:14 PM
Yeah, I remember seeing that comment from Mike on your blog and liking it a lot. ...Although I confess to feeling a little confused. Back on Feb 16 Mike wrote this on his blog, in the context of his collaboration with Scott Radke:
"We've got a lil project in mind that should be a lot of fun. I don't want to talk about it any more than that though... I'm learning to actually keep my mouth shut about a project while it's still in the early stages. I think I'll just spring this one full blown when it's done."
I was dismayed to hear Mike say he was going to keep us in the dark. This has been simmering in the back of my head (along with a bunch of other things) for several months, and contributed to my desire to make a statement about sharing process.
Um, Mike -- say more?
Posted by: sven at April 21, 2006 5:33 PM
LOL! Point well taken. :-)
I have just done a web-compression of the Let Sleeping Gods Lie trailer and written up a post. It will auto-publish tomorrow at noon. ...Wasn't my intent to withold.
Thanks so much for the nudge!!
Posted by: sven at April 21, 2006 5:39 PM
Hey Shelley --
I remember reading that comment on your blog and really liking it. :-)
...I wanted to go more into the financial angle of secrecy -- but it seemed too tangential for the original post. Consider this an addendum:
There are folks who seem to think that if they share their ideas, then someone else might go and make the film before its originator can. It seems like paranoia to me... But even if a "competitor" stole the idea, there's no way that it could be the same thing that your own hands would produce. And even if two films were very alike -- I suspect that your own project would actually benefit. The Amazon.com principle: "if you liked this, then you might also like..."
In general, giving away bits and pieces of your film free-of-charge seems like a very good idea to me. Yes, they will get the pirate treatment -- being duplicated and spread beyond your control. But what's the difference between this and publicity? Isn't a word-of-mouth campaign the most valuable sort of publicity you can get? Sure, you aren't going to have an iron grip on what people are saying about you -- but you have to have faith that what you're doing is good work, and trust your audience to speak well of what you're doing.
...And after the film is actually complete and you're trying to sell it? Let's face it: the majority of people aren't going to buy your product, no matter what. Few are going to buy your film sight-unseen. The people who are most likely to make a purchase are the ones who've already seen it (or most of it) and liked it enough to want their own personal copy. So, yes, I can see there being a limit to sharing -- if you're selling DVD's of your film online, you might not want the entire thing available for free. But for the most part, the more worms you can give away, the more fish are likely to bite.
Posted by: sven at April 21, 2006 6:06 PM
Aw geez Sven, you're gonna go an' put me on the spot and make me defend my decision now? ; )
First let me say that I think it's fine to share every step of progress in the beginning, when you're just starting out and learning your chops... doing tests and taking your baby steps.
But things are a litte different when you're getting ready to make an actual "film" (not just tests). Then I think it becomes a more critical matter to decide how much to share, and it depends on several factors. First and most obvious, if anything in your film depends on mystery or surprize, you don't want to spoil that for viewers. I'd like to keep something in reserve, keep them anticipating rather than spill all the beans right at the beginning.
There's also the jinx factor to consider. And keep in mind, in the quote you pasted in above, I said "while it's still in the early stages." My ideas for this are pretty vague right now, and subject to change, and I find that writing about them at this stage creates a certain sense of expectation... once you've written something on your blog, you feel like people are expecting to see it that way, and it makes you tentative about midcourse changes that otherwise would not pose a problem.
Up to this point I've blogged all my progress, and sometimes I feel like it would be nicer to shut myself away in the secret sanctorum and shut out the world, just be completely alone with a project, at least through a certain critical period... sort of nurse it through it's infancy until it's ready to stand on it's own feet. I'm going to try it that way this time around, just as an alternative to the constant bloggage method I've always used in the past, and see how I like it. But I have nothing against dropping a few teasers along the way to keep people interested. You just have to decide on a per-project basis how much exposure to give it and what should be held back in reserve. It comes down to a gut instinct, and on this one my gut says not to reveal too much, at least at this prenatal stage.
Posted by: Darkstrider at April 21, 2006 10:17 PM
Totally cool, Mike. I caught the "in the early stages" part of that quote -- but wanted to draw you out and just generally hear more about what you were thinking there. Trying it out both ways -- I can get behind that.
And the jinx factor... Hoo-boy -- I understand that one! Making promises about what you're going to accomplish, and then having to live with their constant weight on your conscience? Tomorrow at noon you'll see the monkey I walk around with on my back! :-P
Thanks for saying more.
Posted by: sven at April 22, 2006 12:26 AM
markalope: heh. :) you are a very patient and persistent man.
shelly: the intellectual property argument can become a block i often see artists succumb to: i see so many artists refuse to talk about their great ideas because someone might steal them -- but in the end, that often just means their ideas never become something real. one of the reasons why we've adopted the creative commons licensing is because we -want- people to be inspired to make stuff from what we make -- even if it means they actually take whole elements or unfinished ones. i've been thinking of removing the non-commercial element and possibly even the attribution requirements from our license -- what i really care about is that people share the work they create and allow others to create from it.
darkstrider: one of the interesting dualities about blogging is that tension between casual conversation and archived expectation. i'd prefer it if the archives were viewed more as the archaeology of a project rather than a contract for it. that would allow uncertainty to be a valid component of the work and release a lot of fear about prematurely committing to an idea.
Posted by: gl. at April 22, 2006 1:09 AM
Glad you get it Sven, and Gretchin, thanks.... archived expectation - I like that! I suppose if you do it right you can blog your progress without making any promises or giving too much away... but it's a delicate path to tread.
Posted by: Darkstrider at April 22, 2006 2:22 AM
I totaly understand that of the broken promises...Back when I was on holidays, a month ago, I promised to make my current film for the stopmoshorts festival...and look at me know...I'm still editing it :(
So I guess you got to be careful about your words, or you'll disappioint your audience!
Another thing is what you guys said about a morphing project: you got no idea the crazy twists my project has taken in the last few weeks! But that's another issue to discuss: Should we stick to the original story, storyboards, etc, or change them in the process? One thing is for sure: it's totaly refreshing to let it morph....
Posted by: Ale at April 22, 2006 7:52 AM
ale: don't worry about how long it takes, but also don't think you have to get it perfect the first time. pick a twist and try it out: you can always make another. :)
Posted by: gl. at April 22, 2006 10:10 AM
Gretchin: I've learned to understand that stopmo is a long process, so now I'm more calmed. In fact, I had to reshoot a 7 second scene recently, because I had to take the set out of my house for a while...
I've learnt the importance of being patient...But it's still really frustrating when you got little free time, and you use it, and the shot is not good... However, I don't consider that wasted time...at all. It's really useful to practise :D
Posted by: Ale at April 22, 2006 10:50 AM
Well, as if this comments log isn't already ridiculously long, I've thought of a few things I couldn't quite articulate before.
Why it's sometimes best to keep quiet, at least until you're completely secure in your project:
When you're unsure how to proceed, the wrong feedback can lead you astray.
When you're going into a new project (especially when you're noob-a-licious) and haven't fully ironed out all the details yet, you're especially vulnerable to advice. And unfortunately, no matter how well-meaning it is, some advice just isn't right for you or for this particular project.
But you can easily be swayed by it, especially if it's
A) delivered with authority
B) repeated by more than one person
C) given by someone you respect
The problem with A is that certain people just speak with authority... all the time, even when they're completely wrong! Some people are just very persuasive, and when you're unsure how to proceed and waiting to hear the inner voices... the "little music" , a convincing line of reasoning can easily push you in the wrong direction.
B)... people repeating advice. This seems to lend weight to it, but don't be decieved. Many people are quite sheeplike, and will parrot what's already been said. Especially if it's been said on a convincing, persuasive way (see A).
C).... Even though you may have a world of respect for someone, that doesn't mean they understand you or your particular project, and the way they handle things might be different than the way you do.
I generally try to avoid commenting much on the artistic aspects of people's projects other than to give praise where I feel it's due, because I don't want to sway them in what might be the wrong direction. I tend to restrict myself frequently to technical feedback when I think I can be helpful.
To illustrate the above points, here's a little story. As you may have guessed by this point, I'm speaking from experience here. Even though my blog has only been around for about a year now, I was effectively blogging on the message board a few years before that, and that's where I presented my Ahab project, which consisted then (as now really) of vague, unformed ideas... mostly a sense of atmosphere I wanted to convey. This was at the time when Jim Danforth was posting on the board, and I mentioned that I intended to present the whole film as a dream, very surreal and Quay-esque. Well, not only Jim but a few other people, most of whom I had a world of respect for and had been my teachers for a long time, all chimed in and basically professed their disdain for surrealism and dreamlike films in general. And I bought into it. Looking back now, It's hard to believe i did, because that was one of the strongest ideas I had for the whole film - it's dreamlike atmosphere. But because of the sheer weight of numbers and the esteemed nature of the people who were agreeing on the subject, I somehow decided that they must know something I didn't. And for a long time I was against surreal dreamlike films (I know... hard to believe in retrospect!).
Now something really good eventually came of all this.... I ended up re-examining some ,of my beliefs and ideas and spent a long time on the other side, learning how to present stories clearly and avoid confusion. And this study did influence me in a positive way because now, even when I develop an idea for a dreamlike film, I understand better how to do it so that people won't get lost or angry because they can't follow what's happening. We've all seen way troo many amateur stopmo films like that.... all atmosphere and dreamlike surrealism, and nothing with any substance. If you go back and watch some of the early classics of surrealism you'll find that (at least the ones I'm aware of) they do make sense, they'rre actually sotries, but with added twists that make them dreamlike. You still need to tell a story that engages the audience and gives them something to work with.
Wow, sorry... I didn't mean to ramble on this much! Once I started I couldn't stop myself... I guess I drilled a little hole in the dyke. And you all got splashed in the resluting deluge! Anyway, I now seem to have contradicted my original intent, but all I meant to do was advise caution in announcing your intentions early on... just be aware of the dangers. Wrong advice isn't necessarily the end of the world, and as i demonstrated can lead eventually to better things, if you're able to assimilate it, eventually see it for what it is, and move on.
Posted by: Darkstrider at April 23, 2006 8:29 PM
darkstrider, this is an EXCELLENT analysis. you -can- get damaging feedback when your art is still embryonic. when asked for an opinion, it's easy to trample on a fragile idea. but isolation isn't the answer. the trick is to find the right supportive audience: perhaps SMA isn't the place to share a tentative idea, but your blog brothers may have good feedback for you. the other trick is to specify the type of feedback you want and to learn to recognize, as it sounds you have, the feedback that feels true for you and your project. and then do it, anyway. creation is the only cure for criticism. :)
(btw, i keep meaning to write an essay called "three non-critical ways to respond to art." and i loooooovvveeee dreamlike films. :)
Posted by: gl. at April 24, 2006 5:10 PM