Monday, August 23, 2004Mistress Novena, Queen Bitch Of The Workshops
Now that Lee's film is (mostly) done, it's time I turned back to the Co-op workshops. I admit, I've been dreading it, not only because they've gone off-track while I was otherwise occupied, but also because I've been courting burn-out. I've been running the workshops for going on a year now, and the last six months have been particularly intense; in that period of time -- 24 workshops total --I think there were only half a dozen that I didn't personally lead (and that counts the recent ones that essentially didn't happen at all.) That's a lot of workshops for one person to handle.
The basic problem is this: I feel like I'm just giving the same workshops over and over and over again. Last week, when I prodded the small attending group what they wanted to do over the next few weeks/months, I got the standard laundry list of workshop ideas: lighting, shot composition, introduction to the equipment, and -- my favorite one of all -- "filmmaking 101". Like I could explain basic filmmaking in two f'ing hours.
Compounding the problem is the fact that this work doesn't pay; there's not really much in this deal for me. I already know this stuff, and the folks who turn up are thankful but not, y'know, appreciative... after a while you start to wonder why you're doing it if it doesn't produce some kind of action in those you're trying to reach. If I were making $20/hour it would be different, I would submit and answer these same questions ad infinitum as it seems I am expected to do. But unpaid, I'm under no obligation to sit still. The punters pay no money, so I figure they owe us in effort.
Most of these people care in only a superficial way. And that's cool, y'know, whatever they do with themselves is none of my business, I wouldn't presume to judge. But if I'm gonna drag my ass up from Mississippi and put all this time and effort into it, they need to fucking well do something to make it worth my time and energy.
Does that sound too harsh?
Anyway, the question becomes, how do we provoke them into ceasing to ask the same boring (for us) questions, and to begin to answer them for themselves? This is, after all, supposed to be a workshop, not a lecture series. We provide the shop; we only ask them to provide the work. The solution we came up with is this: they want to make movies? Cool. Let's chuck 'em in the deep end and see if they sink or if they swim. It's a great way -- maybe the only good way -- to learn: don't know how the camera works? 'Salright, you won't break it... keep pushing buttons till it does what you want. Don't know how to hold the boom? No problem; hold it however seems right to you, and if it sounds like crap, you know that's not the right way. We -- the self-annointed wise ones -- will be there to answer questions and guide the exercises, but we aren't managing them, we aren't running the show, and we aren't going present it all on a silver platter anymore. That didn't work anyway.
So, tomorrow night, rather than talk and show clips, I'm taking a simple scene from a (hopefully) unfamiliar film, and these demanding bastards are going to make something of it. I don't care what they do or how they do it; I only care that they do do it.
(And yeah, some of 'em might not come back; that's okay. It's a whole new crowd, and I'm not especially attached to any of 'em. Better they leave before I go to the trouble of learning their names. Gonna make 'em rue the day they said they wanted "hands-on exercises.")
Addendum: If anyone's interested, this week I'm going to take a very brief selection (about 1/8 page) from Kevin Smith's magnum opus Clerks and make a group of people who know exactly nothing about directing a scene plan out a shot list. The next week we'll shoot it and see where they went wrong. Gonna let 'em learn by fucking up, just like I did.