Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Co-op Frustration

In two and a half hours, I'm due to lead another workshop at the MeDiA Co-op; the evening's topic is camera operating, something that I particularly enjoy and like to think I'm reasonably good at.

So why do I feel so unenthusiastic?

The Co-op workshop is one of those things that sounds great, and is no doubt very necessary, and somebody out there somewhere is going to figure out exactly how to do it well. But for me, in this particular situation, I'm increasingly just feeling at a loss. A few months ago, not long after I became the workshop co-ordinator, I designed and implemented a whole curriculum, something that I hoped would keep people involved, or at least make the workshops more predictable. I based it on the production process -- first some basic concepts, then some fundamental pre-production issues, followed by production and post-production stuff. It seemed like a good idea -- hell, it IS a good idea. But at this point, it seems to be doing more to highlight the intrinsic weaknesses in our plan than to strengthen the program.

The problems:

- How do you teach people who've never held a camera how to make films in two (maybe three) hours per week? I spent twelve hours a day, six days a week for three years learning this stuff to a level that's more about competence than genius; now I've got maybe 100 hours a year to work with. Sounds like a lot, but when you consider the turnover rate and the choppiness of that time, it's almost nothing.

- How do I teach anything to a meaningful degree when I rarely have people staying around for more than four months at a time? I'd love to be working on more advanced concepts now, but by the time we've covered the basics, we've got an entirely new crowd of people and have to start all over again. We never get past a very elementary level.

- How do I deal with the inherent indifference of a typical group? Our workshops are mostly made up of people who think they maybe would like to make a film (or at least would like to call themselves filmmakers), but don't, for the most part, seem to have much interest in the actual work that goes into a film. Yes, there are a few gung-ho people, but not many of them actually need anything like our workshops; they're already out there doing all we could ask them to do. So what do I do with the rest?

- Should I even be expecting people to make films? Maybe all they want to do is sit around and talk about it... and hell, maybe that's enough. Maybe the only useful role I've got in this is to facilitate discussion and educate them in the hopes of making them better film-viewers.

I mean, seriously, what's the point? That's not a hypothetical question... I really, truly want to know what the point of this is. I can't help but think that this is genuinely important -- we're at a pivotal moment in the medium, a point when the average Joe and Jane can start making films of their own, and consequently allowing us to tap all that unused potential for innovation and originality. And I would very much like, in some way, to help facilitate this quiet revolution. But how the fuck are we supposed to revolt in two hours per week?

The usual disclaimers apply: I'm sure this is more about my lack of skill as an educator than it is about those I'm attempting to teach; the people who come to our workshops are great, etc. It's still incredibly frustrating.
5:04 PM ::
Amy :: permalink