Fostering the creative spirit and personal artistic expression within the educational environment is imperative for student motivation. Promoting personal ownership plays a significant role by encouraging students to take hold of their own personal experiences and stories, and develop them with passion and commitment. The question remains though, when education is over and business begins, […]
Fostering the creative spirit and personal artistic expression within the educational environment is imperative for student motivation.
Promoting personal ownership plays a significant role by encouraging students to take hold of their own personal experiences and stories, and develop them with passion and commitment. The question remains though, when education is over and business begins, how can students translate “art” into profit? A question posed not only by the many parents who would rather their children in business, finance or IT, but also the industry these students hope to join.
The need for creative individuals to work television, film and media is gathering momentum; career paths are starting to open up, and government support for media is growing throughout the UAE. The announcement of new money and a burgeoning industry here has peaked the interest of the international film and TV communities. Will education be able to supply the local and regional media market with strong candidates who possess not only the artistic skills but also the business mindset to compete in a global marketplace?
Successful filmmakers are entrepreneurs by birthright. Many have started on small, low-budget features, music videos, commercials and shorts that act as a calling card. They have sacrificed time, sweat, personal money, called in favours; all in the name of seeing their story completed. Many have a creative team behind them that are as committed to balancing art and the efficiencies of scale (ie, working for no money). They are artists in many regards, but they also understand the business of filmmaking, and more importantly, they understand where and when compromising artistic expression can mean a higher return on investment.
With this in mind, students might be better served to have a tighter brief to work with, thereby learning the importance of working to a budget and a deadline, and understanding that their creative input could be limited to just moments of creativity. Accepting the challenge of a client-driven project is where many “artists” in the business can still find creative satisfaction while making money.
For example: a shot of a climber that may have taken five hours to set up, using a three-metre scaffold rigged to a 30-metre precipice in a blinding snowstorm in a part of the world few people see might appear a beautiful vista cut seamlessly into a documentary; but to the gaffer, grip and camera crew that make it happen, it is as much art and creativity as any painting might be.
What students should learn is that a film is not just the result of a single persons vision; it is the artistic expression of everyone in the team. Those supporting artists find their own moments of expression, pride and ownership, and thats what makes the business so exciting. The underlying respect for artistic expression does come at a cost.
In the above example; five hours, not five days to set up that shot, a six person crew, not 60. The tighter the budget, the shorter the timeline, the more specific the audience, the more demanding the client, ultimately the greater the challenge; and the more ingenuity and creativity needed.
But whose job is it to share this perspective? Is education willing to teach artistic expression under the guise of a business model? Some media programmes may have completed corporate videos with companies, and these do teach some of the business aspects of the industry; but they are not for large-scale audience consumption and appreciation, and for the most part, students rarely get excited or motivated to accept them as a creative learning experience.
Media programmes in the UAE that are currently incorporating a business framework into their curriculum, even in a small way, are taking a positive step forward. This bodes well for their graduates who will begin to contribute to the economic and future growth of the media community here. Broadcasters and the film industry need to engage more with education and the curriculum, and invest at the grass roots level where filmmakers learn to tell stories and the skills to craft them. It is equally critical that educational institutions listen, and find ways to collaborate and feed the needs of the industry as it grows. This will create a cohesive and unified force, finding and creating filmmakers who can move successfully from art into business.
Gregory Unrau is the head of Production and Training at Abu Dhabi Film Commission (ADFC).