On creative collaboration

“I always find that if two (or more) of us throw ideas backwards and forwards I get to more interesting and original places than I could have ever have gotten to on my own”

The above quote is from John Cleese’s ‘A Lecture on Creativity’. One crucial aspect of the entire Media course, and in particular the Studios, is the encouragement of collaboration among students. I suspect it is so highly valued for precisely the reasons suggested by Cleese – more voices offer more opportunities to provoke discussion and to bounce off each other’s ideas. Especially when looking at what is an inherently collaborative process like filmmaking, it’s important to understand how this collaboration can aid creativity. The most notable instance I’ve seen so far in Another World was when we made the short photo essay ‘Look Both Ways’

We set out with no real plan in mind, simply wandering aimlessly and spouting out ideas as they came to us. An idea was raised for a story about a couple who are trapped in RMIT forever. We laughed about this concept and decided it would be too hard to convey eternal imprisonment in a handful of pictures, but we did begin, perhaps subconsciously, thinking in terms of couples. I don’t remember ever specifically saying ‘this definitely needs to be about a couple’ but since we had briefly discussed one idea with a couple at its core, we seemed to naturally gravitate towards more. That was the first real step we took in the creative process – one idea, although not used entirely, mutated and became the base for our future ideas.

The bulk of our story was decided because of the location we found – again, we ended up there through no real process apart from drifting away from the areas where the most people were. We turned into an alley and all seemed to decide it was a pretty cool spot, and began independently walking around. Michael noticed the sign saying CITY MORGUE, and showed everyone. This gave way to an onslaught of creativity for a few minutes; everyone was suggesting ways in which we could link the Morgue into the story. I think that as soon as we found the sign, we all collectively decided that it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Interestingly, while brainstorming about how the morgue could play a part, we were still operating on the basis that at the heart of our story was a couple. Down the other end of the alley, someone noticed a ‘beware of vehicles’ sign – that’s when the plot really came together. It was originally suggested that perhaps both of them should die, there were talks about a gay couple, and about more than two characters, and so on. But after five or so minutes trying to devise a plot using a couple, a morgue, and a (potentially implied) car accident, we realised we were overthinking for a small series of photos.

The end product is very simple – boy and girl holding hands, walking along, oblivious to the outside world because of the joy of each other’s company, so much so that the poor girl gets struck by a car and dies. The boy is very sad and pays her a visit, evidently on the same day, at the city morgue. Almost every variable in that plot comes from someone suggesting something, and another person building on it or altering it. Very few ideas are completely useless, and ideas are certainly not required to be used in an ‘all or nothing’ sense. You can pick them apart and combine them, and that process is much easier and faster when working with multiple people.

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