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The Torch: In the crux- Motivation

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Are you a big production studio or film investment fund? Don’t read on please, as you already have what you need.

Are you an unparalleled genius without need for anyone’s humble advice, but just a truckload of extras to realize your prophetic vision to benefit the world? There surely is nothing for you in here.

I ask everybody else for five minutes of their attention as this time it is all about motivation as the crucial agent in making a The Torchmovie on a limited budget. It is the one ingredient on which most if not everything depends if an independent group of inspired people set out to attempt the unlikely, to make their shared dream a reality and turn it into a film, short or feature.

Speaking of a “shared dream”, the devil is in the detail. Whether it really is a goal shared by all in the party and how lofty or dreamlike the target turns out to be, these may eventually breed problems that can easily ruin your best efforts.

Let’s assume that in the beginning there was an idea. Word got round among your friends, some of them already in the industry, some maybe not, that you were embarking on turning a fiction into the closest reality equivalent thereof: a film. Depending on the level of experience and expertise already existing among that party, to convince everybody to join in and form a core team to get it started, can be regarded as a process of evaluation-to-consolidation in itself. It is the sifting-through of the most “quick-ish” of mind-sand with only the nuggets remaining; with that, there’s every reason to believe your prospects to be golden indeed.

Motivation tends to be volatile, at times it vanishes altogether. To maintain it, the psychology of group dynamics takes on a major role in the process of movie-making. The simple formula of “making films with friends” can quickly become plain ineffectual. Inevitably there comes a time where no solution can be found that is agreeable to everyone involved. When a friend’s support and understanding and endurance comes to an end – and sure enough at one point it will – it has to be balanced by professionalism’s deadpan business rationale: the thing has to work, there can be no compromising this basic truth or else, everything will fall to pieces, your entire effort (to say nothing of the money involved) will be wasted.

In these cases you should have an agreed code of conduct ready, a tool of communication with which to reach a decision that even if not to everyone’s liking, still will be accepted and respected. It has to do with hierarchy but more importantly, meta-communication is called for, the ability to distance yourself from your own point of view. An exit strategy you may call it (sometimes literally) and a standard procedure to resolve a situation with everyone sticking to the rules commonly established beforehand. Any conflict management can only succeed if the need for one is duly acknowledged, even, especially, among friends. To confront the issue head-on and well in advance is one key ingredient.

In film making you have a common goal – the movie, obviously. There are conflicting ambitions that are hard if not impossible to reconcile: the writer, who wants to see his vision come to life; the director, who aims at self-expression; the cinematographer, who reckons his visual handwriting to be the essence; the producer, who knows that hosting a party requires some solid calculation; and of course, the actors, who incorporate a human tale in all its grace and complexity. All these and many others are indispensable. It is their wholehearted engagement, their willingness to co-operate which makes the difference, for better or worse. Their demands have to be met, a compromise reached where it is possible, but it takes the resolute capacity to make a decision when helming the production is at stake. Prioritise the creative forces at work to ward off paralysing antagonisms, thus keeping the very impetus alive that drives the project.

There is a natural order to the inner hierarchy of how a films works which can serve as a guide: a solid story is important, not the writing that precedes the outcome, not the words on a page. What counts, is that which makes it onto the film, everything that speaks to the senses of the viewer – not the elaborate stylistic concept a director wants to imbue a movie with. Actors come first, then their embedding, all the factors that facilitate and enhance their on-screen performance, sound and setting. And technical aspects belong in a serving position, including the script.

Notwithstanding the liberty I take when reviewing a film, criticizing the shortcomings and praising the original, I’m always ready to appreciate the audacity of it all. Accordingly, anyone setting out on that creative journey of making a film should never lose sight of the higher, idealistic aspect of the endeavour, the passion and burning need to actually see your creation on the silver screen. Obviously you need that for yourself, but what really outweighs all the doubts and difficulties is the principal aim of speaking to the hearts and minds of the general public, your audience. You want to affect, don’t you, and pay back to your community? So overcome the obstacles and make it happen. You want to move on and grow and further develop in your craftsmanship, as a professional or an artist, as a person? So get it done and see what perseverance will do to you. Because in the end any good film will prove what it’s worth by reconnecting with real living people. When that love affair between fiction and reality turns full circle again, you’ll know without a doubt that you’ve done the right thing.

Making a movie is a process, not an event. The setbacks you suffer add value to the experience and credibility to the product. Your stamina is a virtuous quality only if you deliver; safely so, by staying on target and within the limits of the budget, that’s a safe bet. More often it’s not the numerous hardships jointly overcome, but a stunning success individually claimed which ruins a friendship. That’s the irony of life we all have to deal with, isn’t it?

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