Sunday, April 18, 2010

Build Thyself

For a number of years I've worked in the construction industry, painting houses for the family business. Needless to say, it was not my passion, but it did give me a visual framework (no pun intended) for understanding productivity. If we understand that this framework is in all business the same, just as it is in all houses, then it should come as no surprise that industries as different as film and construction bear enlightening similarities.

The Homeowner

In new home construction, the top of the heirarchy is the homeowner. Many times a new home will be commissioned by someone with the money to have it built. They will explain their dream home and their budget to an architect, then maintain a supervisory role while the experts handle everything. Sometimes the "homeowner" is a business entity which is looking for potential buyers, and sometimes that business is also the architect and/or builder. However singularly these roles may be filled, they are always present.

In artistic and entertainment ventures like movies and television, this is no different. The "homeowner" is the person with the spark of an idea, a vision for an end result, and the money to make it happen. The most common term in show business for this is "executive producer," though this title can be used for a number of different roles.

As a independent person he represents only a concept, but is largely unaware of the process and the details. While technically a creator and never a performer, he is also not a producer but a consumer. In this way, he exists in the movie industry only as the end viewer. His money would be pooled with others' to finance the media creator's next project.

The Architect

The main creative mind behind a new home is the architect. Though is status as a "creator" is only true if he is designing a custom home for his client. If he is merely altering plans that have already been drawn by himself or another, then he is performing a task, but not creating anything new. Innovation is the stretching of what has been done, in order to redefine what can be done.

The architect of a film is the lead writer. It is, of course, possible for a writer to push boundaries as a true creator or follow a formula that has been laid out by previous projects. Many rail against formulaic movies, but the fact is that there is a market to meet certain expectations. There is a way to create or perform with distinction and style.

The role of architect represents the main creative force whether it be "never-before-seen," or merely a fresh look at an old favorite. As such, the architect or writer can lead or follow the direction of the owner or builder.

The Builder

The builder is the main performer. In the construction of a new home, there are many people doing different jobs that can be loosely called "builders." However, what I mean is the head contractor. The guy (I have yet to work with a woman in this position) who orchestrates all the labor, actually getting the job done. He follows the architect's plans, and makes sure everyone else does as well.

This is the director and sometimes the producer of a film. They certainly have an enormous impact on the creative process, but in this role, they do the work of the film according to plans that have largely been created already.

All in all, these projects work best when these leaders and their respective "subcontractors" have tight communication. The most successful homes and films are build upon a foundation of people skills. The ability for a true team to develop a cohesive vision and each fill their roles (find their FIT), is essential to developing FIT media.

It is amazing to me that people don't realize that friction among people (even actors) WILL BE FELT in the finished product. You want to build a great house, start with a great foundation. You want to make a legendary film, start with the people. In fact, start with you.
FEATURED MEDIA: The Bridge on the River Kwai - Set during World War II, this is the fictional story of British soldiers being forced to build a bridge to aid enemy Japanese forces. When he discovers the poor quality of current construction, the British Colonel sets out to build a proper bridge for the sake of national pride and his men's morale. Despite the advantage this gives his enemies, he feels his team is more important.

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