Sunday, February 07, 2016


True wisdom, the kind you deem worthy of repeating to others, is hard to come by.

How is this possible?

In a world where universal access to information has become a reality on a global scale, no-one seems to be able to agree on anything anymore.

Even, strangely, when the facts are established.

It doesn't matter what the science says about climate change, vaccinations, or the safety of wind farms; someone, somewhere, will say they have an inalienable right to disagree.

So, here we are.

A mountain of data at our fingertips and no answers beyond that which agenda-driving, talking heads bestow on us.

Scientists should be put through media training as a part of their qualification. We wouldn't be in this mess if a white-coat wrapped savant could speak to camera.

But instead, those of us who wish to keep our synapses at least partially firing must seek out new ideas. Be it courses, newsletters, fortune cookies...whatever.

And that is how you end up at an 'industry panel'.

Generally, a group of experienced industry practitioners, gathered together on a stage to give their views on a particular subject, to a live audience.

It's the film industry equivalent of the post-match sport interview. You know the ones. Where an exhausted athlete - scarlet faced, heavy breathing, and sweating profusely - is asked to give coherent answers, while their lungs try not to explode.

The television reporter smiles, asking complex questions about the two minutes between the third and fourth quarter, where the tempo of the game changed, and the sportsperson does their best impression of a deer in headlights. To escape embarrassment, well-trodden answers appear:

"We had to give 110% out there and just play for each other."

"The forwards went forward and laid a platform for the backs."

"We knew they had plenty of points in them, so in the end we realised we had to score more points than they did."

In interview after interview these lines appear. Tropes. Warm, well practiced, and safe.

If you go to enough industry panels, the same pattern emerges.

Occasionally there is some insight worth writing down. For the most part, however, it's the same platitudes on repeat. So few insiders are willing to be honest about their experiences, for fear of shame or a sullied reputation, after all.

The most common cliche on display, the one used over, and over, and OVER again, is 'just make something good'

Q: 'How do I get the ball rolling with representation as a director or screenwriter?'

A: 'Well, you simply have to make something good, and you will get noticed'.

Q: 'How do I get cut-through with my film in a crowded screen entertainment marketplace?'

A: 'The answer is to make something good, and audiences will come.'

You get the point. This sort of bland generality is bandied about like the vodka of panel responses.

The irony, in this case, is that it's actually good advice.

Creating work of quality to engage an audience IS the hardest part. But it's also the key to everything.

I've heard breakout filmmakers and industry stalwarts talk about it. Audiences make it happen by demanding more of it. Investors look for it to throw money at it.

'Make something good'

Obvious, yes. Vanilla, definitely.

But true?


So, seek out the magic bullet answer all you want. Keep practicing the rain dance that you hope will bring success cascading down on you, from the career guidance deities.

But know that the wisdom you seek is likely hiding in plain sight. Even in a cliche.

You just have to be willing to embrace it.

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