Monday, April 3, 2023

Forget the door. Find the bridge! (Part II)

Recognizing bubbles and understanding one’s perspective
Founder/President Utah Filmmakers™ Association

(Start at the beginning!)

"professional movie maker bubble"
Image by Craiyon
Filmmakers are often motivated by the movies that they love. Since the name most closely associated with the title is that of the director, many enter the field with aspirations to be the next Patty Jenkins or Taiki Waititi. However, once they spend time on a working set, perhaps starting out as a Production Assistant, they may find themselves showing a greater interest or having an unexpected affinity for a different—but still integral—filmmaking discipline. This author recalls the moment they realized that they felt right at home in the producer role, content to define the parameters of a project, bring other creative and talented individuals aboard, and see what they can do. Some may have what it takes to be in the director’s chair. Others find Production Design more rewarding than being a Production Manager, etc. There’s much more demand for experienced filmmakers in the lower echelons of the production chain of command than for directors. There’s nothing wrong with being motivated by one position only to find one’s true calling in another.

Looking at our Venn diagram, it’s important to note that within those two intersecting bubbles are smaller bubbles. This diagram is labeled so that it can apply to just about any creative industry, not just filmmaking. In the center of “Industry,” we see bubbles for “Mainstream,” “Commercial/Corporate,” and “Independent.” Professional filmmakers can find themselves making a steady living in any one of these subcategories in “Executive,” “Management,” and “Specialty” occupations—and still find opportunities to cross over and work in the others—while also being part of their local film communities.

The bubbles labeled “Geography” and “Market” are placed outside the “Industry/Community” intersection and may appear to suggest no connection with “Community” at all. In reality, they represent different parts of the Industry that intersect with other local film communities, separated by geography and/or specialty markets they may cater to.

For many, the goal is to find the professional bubble that best suits them. There’s something to be said about the security that can come with knowing and developing one’s vocational strengths to a degree that allows one to make a living.

Photo by Alexas Fotos from Pexels

It’s also important to remember that bubbles can warp one’s perspective. Just as the physical structure of a soap bubble distorts light, appearing to change the shapes and colors of objects seen through them, or reflected on their surface, our own experiences, circumstances, and implicit biases affect how we perceive the world around us, personally and professionally.

The film industry can look and feel very different depending on the bubble one finds themselves in. The “Market” bubble of the Utah film industry differs from that of New Mexico, as New York differs from Georgia and Vancouver from L.A., and they all differ from one another. The differentiating factors will also vary from field to field and person to person.

Filmmakers who have found their niche in “Commercial/Corporate” work can do well in Utah. “Mainstream” productions—i.e. network TV and feature films—can be found in all markets but are often drawn to states with more robust tax incentives. This is the nature of the industry, but it does not make anyone in any particular bubble more or less of a filmmaker.

For example, as the principal administrator of the Utah Filmmakers™ Association, the author divides their time between filmmaking and working to strengthen the connection between—i.e. bridging—“the local film community [and] Utah’s film industry.” One of the more visible aspects of this is community engagement through social media—which has proven to be its own peculiar type of bubble, with other bubbles nesting within.

Utah Filmmakers’s Mission is intended to complementnot compete with—entities and organizations, like the Utah Film Commission, the Utah Film Center, and the Salt Lake Film Society, et al., represented byIndustry/Community Resources in the diagram. The UFA also champions reputable, Utah-based businesses within—or adjacent to—the film industry through the Utah Filmmakers™ Associate Program. These efforts align with the organization’s Core Values in that Professionalism includes “Acknowledging one’s own limitations,” embracing collaboration, and “Recognizing and avoiding conflicts of interest…”

Whenever a potential resource for local filmmakers comes to the attention of the UFA, before any effort is made to acknowledge or promote it, its policy is to determine whether or not that project or program offers something that isn’t already available to the community. In some cases, more can be good, like new studio facilities and other industry support services that can strengthen the local filmmaking infrastructure. In other cases, more can be confusing and/or redundant.

Utah Filmmakers has implemented several programs over the years—some with more impact than others. Still, other local organizations are better equipped to implement things like youth programs, production workshops, and vocational training. Promoting those organizations and programs serves the UFA’s mission more effectively than attempting to do both. In short, the last thing that any individual, organization, or business should do is to try and reinvent the wheel.

Sometimes, what might appear redundant at first may actually be innovative. Instead of reinventing the wheel, it could improve the design or its implementation. An organization or program initially set up to serve a particular purpose may have discontinued its active engagement for several reasons. If the purpose for which it was implemented still needs to be served, a new organization or program with similar objectives might be implemented to meet that need.

There are also cases where a project is undertaken ostensibly for purposes practically identical to existing programs and organizations. Sometimes this happens because the organizers recognized the need—or needed something like it—and failed to consider looking for an existing resource.

There are also situations where organizers are fully aware of the redundancy of their efforts, and it’s fair to ask what was the motivation behind putting their time and energy into such an endeavor. Sometimes, it’s because they honestly think they can do it better. If that’s the case, time will tell if their implementation proves more effective and beneficial to the community than what’s already available. It may also evolve into something that serves a more specialized purpose worth promoting. Unfortunately, there are also those whose motivation has nothing to do with benefiting others.

(Part III)

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and—especially where guest posts are concerned—do not necessarily reflect the official policies and/or practice of the Utah Filmmakers™ Association, its officers and/or associates.