pursuing interest

In the ‘teacher’ part of my professional life, I spend a lot of time working and talking with students about the nature of assessment in performance. One of the main problems we encounter is finding strategies to help the students avoid the kind of thinking that results in questions like, “Do I have to …?”, “Should I …?”, “Do you want us to …?”

Below is a slightly ranty attempt to empower the students (in the screendance module I run) to pursue what interests them. I originally posted it on the module blog (http://skellis.net/ed/screendance/autumn2012/some-things-about-first-assignme…, and below is the last part of that post.

If you have an idea (normally we think of them as ‘good ideas’, but please put aside what you think about the quality of that idea (in other words, all ideas are created equal), and find a way to put it to the test. That is, say your idea is to make a film that is a series of still images with a sound track from the 1930s. First, make a version of this film quickly, it only needs to be 10 seconds or so, but make it quickly, and then look at it, and show it to others (including me). In design, this would be called a prototype. Think about its look, feel, sound, and even the kind of films that it ‘refers’ to. How could it be better? What are other ideas that come out of this ‘test’? Is it as good in reality as it was in your mind? What if the answer to this question is always ‘no’? Don’t settle for what you’ve done. Don’t be easily satisfied. Keep asking difficult and easy questions of what you have done. Challenge yourself to make the best fucking thing you can possibly make. Then, make it a bit better. Or, start again on a completely new thing, and then make that one better. I don’t know what ‘better’ is, but part of learning and practicing is starting to understand what ‘better’ might be for you as an artist and person. It’s exciting, and difficult, and thrilling, and impossible, and it’s a never-ending challenge. I love it. And I hope you love it too (or will grow to love it).

Shit in means shit out. In other words, strive to produce the best quality footage you can when you are shooting. Don’t end up polishing a turd in the edit suite. You should focus your attention on your capacity to work with the camera – and the people who are your ‘subjects’ – so that together they might act as a spur to your imaginations.

I’m repeating myself here, but if you can leave this module with an understanding of your own taste (as well as the chance to develop your taste), then this will be very useful to you. Remember, I am effectively paid to be interested in what you are interested in. So, don’t make films for me, make films that interest and excite you, and I’ll do my job by attempting to challenge, prompt, support and frustrate you!

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