Reinventing Cinema (or “ReCinema”)

Well, its about time I mention this, because some random person that finds my blog might find it relevant (I say ‘random person’ because I don’t have any regular readers).

One of my recent time-sucks has been an endeavour with Clayton Farr in developing a business model for motion picture production that aims to develop the process for creating the best films possible. “Sure” you say. Well, it is actually a little more holistic than just that, but that fits in a single sentence.

The idea stems from a comment made by Pixar executive, Ed Catmull, in which he asks the question “Which is more important to the success of a film, people, or story?” In his opinion, story ideas are a cheap commodity. On the other hand, quality people that have the skills and talent to shape those ideas into a great story, and ultimately into the best film possible, are precious stones that need to be discovered, cut, and polished. In further study, Catmull goes on to explain the collaborative process that goes behind a Pixar film, and why he believes that that process is responsible for the success of Pixar’s films.

ReCinema is a grand experiment aimed at condensing a variety (what we believe to be the best) of business and production models, with the goal of producing “Awesomeness”. Though not entirely limited to Pixar’s model, theirs probably serves as the best, most cohesive, and real-world case study available to date. ReCinema goes beyond just production though, as we hope to use it as study of new distribution and audience development techniques as well.

Most notable, and as the first step, ReCinema intends to redefine the traditional story development and preproduction processes, ultimately blurring the lines between all aspects of production together into a single collaborative process. Its a bit hard to explain outside of a lengthy dissertation and/or white paper, but at its core, it involves having all of the creative entities who might be involved in the creation of a film, from director to lead talent, to editor and composer involved at the very beginning of the development, rather than at the various stages throughout (sometimes, often times at the very end).

For example, rather than giving a mass of footage to an editor and asking him to cut it, we would involve the editor in the development process to get an idea of what footage the editor wants to see in order to do the assembly, thus taking his creative force and input early on to help direct the story, as well as for more mundane needs such creating a shot list. Often times the story in a film is “told” in the cutting room. Rather than “telling” the story so late in the game, let the editor cut animatics and storyboards, complete with scratch tracks and voice overs early in development and preproduction to get a better idea of how the film might ultimate be cut. Actors recording VO tracks for the storyboards have an early chance to see how lines will be delivered and for the writer, director, and actors together to address concerns about dialog, delivery, and emotion tone. The same thing might apply to sound design or the musical score. Rather than giving a locked cut to the composer and having him score to the cut, we introduce the composer early on, allowing him to provide input in the script development, so he is given an early lead on where to build up music. This also allows the composer more time to refine his contribution to the film to make it better fit in with the directors vision.

Ed Catmull’s talks and interviews (such as this one from Harvard Business Review) have been instrumental in directing us, and helping us see a bigger picture. Each time we really think we’ve got something nailed down, and we’re ready to move on, we find a little gem somewhere in one of his interviews or something that makes us realize we’ve only touched the surface. What we are attempting to do is huge, and many think it’s not possible… But we’re determined to figure out how to make it work, or die trying.

Monday, Ed comes into Salt Lake (he’s a graduate of the UofU) to keynote the Governors 3rd Annual Utah Economic Summit, I’ll be attending in hopes of gaining a little more insight. I don’t know the entire nature of his talk, but the governor is very pro-film, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there is some cross-over.

Otherwise related to the process, I’m building a team for this years 48-hour Film competition. I’ve decided to use this as a preliminary platform to test some of the concepts that we’ve explored so far. I’ll be writing about our successes and discoveries along the way. My hope it to have the entire 48-hour film process, and even some of our team-building events documented (ala, documentary/BTS) for posterity.

Stay tuned.

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~ by kylemallory on March 26, 2009.

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