Innovation Grows When Creatives Are Constrained

Over Indulgence May Not Be the Path to the Best Work

In an attempt to attract talent and drive innovation, today’s leaders often give seemingly endless perks to creatives. But as Eric Weiner argues in his Los Angeles Times OpEd “All those office perks? They’re ruining creativity” the investment might not be getting the desired results. So what is the best way to encourage creative, innovative work?

Weiner describes the benefits landscape: “We are living in the Decade of Perks. Companies are falling over one another offering workers such goodies as squash courts, hoverboards, lap pools, nap zones, pet care and more. What began as a Silicon Valley fad has spread to corporate America writ large. […] Urban planners, meanwhile, are doing much the same, only on a larger scale, desperately trying to lure the so-called ‘creative class’ with hip restaurants, theater districts and other cultural bonbons.”

Is the net impact of all these comforts in today’s creative offices worth it? In Weiner’s view, the outcomes aren’t necessarily commensurate with the investment. Overall, he estimates, today’s creatives fall short in comparison to creative masters in the past, many of whom had significant struggles and discomforts.

“Although well-intentioned CEOs assume the best way to foster creativity is to remove all obstacles, considerable evidence suggests the opposite is true. In one classic study, Ronald Finke, a professor of psychology at Texas A & M University, asked participants to create an art project. Some people were given a wide range of materials, others little. Finke and his colleagues found that the most creative work was done by those with the fewest choices — that is, with the most constraints.”

An excellent example of a group that inspired themselves and others to great lengths by invoking constraints: the Dogme 95 filmmakers. The group wrote a manifesto with rules that simplified filmmaking and were, cofounders Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg said, a response to high-cost budgets in filmmaking. In this case, dozens of films, many critically acclaimed, have been made using Dogme 95 principles. As in Weiner’s examples, it seems our creativity can diminish in the midst of excess. Perhaps more creatives might consider similar ways to pare down options in creative endeavors. While it may be arbitrary, the results can be transformational–as our creativity and problem-solving skills kick into high gear. By setting basic guidelines to constrain our tendency to overindulge, we can encourage creators to bring their best work.

Sundance 2016: New Trends Emerge

Originally published in Cultural Weekly on January 27, 2016.

The early deals have not been paltry and neither has the snow. Tempting, blanketed and idle, ski runs seemed to peer down upon Park City as Sundance buyers have been waist-deep in high-dollar negotiations. The 2016 Sundance Film Festival will be known as a historic turning point in the economics of the business, because this was the moment when digital companies showed their strength by making huge, swift purchases.

The largest deal in Sundance history, however, was made by Fox Searchlight, a traditional theatrical distributor. Its negotiations revealed the divide between traditional theatrical distributors and data-driven streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon.

Of course, there was the usual Sundancery. Uber, despite its giant tent and heated waiting area, vexed local authorties with the launch of UberCopter: apparently those helicopter rides and landing pads had not been properly permitted. There were over-full parties with one thousand of your closest personal friends, gifting suites and swag bars. Every brand had its day. You could even visit the Vaseline Lounge; I will allow you to supply the punch line.

Before the festival began, Netflix and Amazon made preemptive purchases; among them, Netflix acquired Rob Burnett’s Fundamentals of Caring for $7 million. Once Sundance officially began last Thursday, the first deals were from the streaming giants.

Prior to a screening on Saturday night, I asked an agent what she expected to get for the film she was repping. “If Netflix or Amazon want it, a lot,” she said. “If they don’t, it’s a whole different deal.”

There was a bit of head-scratching over Amazon’s $10 million purchase of Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. Although well reviewed and highly praised (Justin Chang (Variety) called it a “bold merging of ensemble drama and character study, all in service of a story about how a person — and crucially, the surrounding community — choose to deal or not deal with the consequences of a fatal mistake”), it is a tragic and niche story.

Rebellion

Netflix reportedly offered $20 million for The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s historical drama about the Nat Turner slave rebellion in 1831. But the filmmaker and his reps turned down the Netflix offer, and struck a deal for $17.5 million with Searchlight, a Sundance record. As has been widely reported (see this play-by-play in The Wrap), the choice came down to a matter of theatrical distribution over dollars.

While Netflix had promised a theatrical release, the filmmakers did not believe Netflix would provide the right kind of distribution for this film’s audiences. There was reason to be skeptical. Streaming and cable companies service the small screen with preferential vigor. For example, Beasts of No Nation, another Netflix film, barely got any marketing push for its theatrical run. (Beasts of No Nation played in 31 theatres for two weeks and grossed $90,777.) Similarly, Discovery Channel barely promoted the theatrical exhibition of Racing Extinction. They did achieve their biggest viewership ever when they aired the doc worldwide on December 2, and that was their objective, but this example points to the differing priorities of small-screen vs large-screen companies.

Will streaming companies continue to pay such large sums? Are they approaching movies because they care about cinema, or because they are using films as content-bait to gather more data on their customers? Their eager appetites could be temporary; in two or three years, after they experience first-hand the economics of the movie business, will they suffer losses on their investments and cut way back? Stay tuned; we’ll be watching closely.

Tarmac with patches

Like this tarmac in Park City, the independent film business expands and contracts with heat and cold. It falls apart only to be put back together.

Piracy Debate

Last week we published our Sundance 2016 Infographic, which included never-before revealed data on pirated downloads of independent films.

We got a lot of comments. Indiewire picked up the piece, and Facebook discussion was lively. Some people contended that pirates actually drive legitimate ticket sales and disputed my estimate of how much piracy costs filmmakers.

On Monday, I attended an Artists Services presentation by Professor Michael D. Smith, who studies information technology and marketing. Smith, who takes the position that he has no position on the issues because he only cares about the data, revealed evidence that fully supports what we put in the infographic. His research will be published this summer as a book entitled Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment (MIT Press).

Are pirates taste-makers who drive ticket sales? No, says Smith. He and his colleagues studied 533 movies over two time periods, 2006-2008 and 2011-2013. The films included major studio and independent releases. Their conclusions? “If piracy could be eliminated from the theatrical window then box office revenues would increase by (on average) 15%…. All of the movies in our counterfactual analysis would experience increased box-office revenue if piracy were eliminated altogether.” (Ma, Montgomery, and Smith 2015)

In my article last week, I made the assumption that 5% of the people who pirate content would purchase it if there were no illegal alternative. I chose the 5% number because I wanted to be conservative, not alarmist. When I asked Smith about this assumption, he said I was probably low – the real number, he said, could be closer to 15%. If Smith is correct, the films I cited lost three times more revenue than was depicted in the infographic.

I checked with Excipio, the company that analyzed the BitTorrent results used in our infographic, to see if any of the films acquired at Sundance so far were getting illegal downloads. Sign of relief: they are not – so far.

The Free Range Reaction

Every movement begets its opposite; the Tea Party arose as a reaction to Obama’s election. While streaming giants make muscular plays, the free range distribution movement is becoming more effective and sophisticated among a growing cadre of indie filmmakers. As James Kaelan said last week, “You don’t need to wait to get picked anymore.” (Kaelan performed the hat-trick of having films in both Slamdance and Sundance this year.) In an example of the increasingly vibrant DIY movement, Quiver, a digital distribution service that charges a flat fee, not a percentage, now pays filmmakers more than $1 million a month.

In comparison to the record-setting deals I discussed at the beginning of this article, other film deals at Sundance and Slamdance will indeed be paltry. While pretty much every movie at these festivals will get some form of distribution offer, most will be for little or no upfront cash. Even with Amazon’s and Netflix’s big checkbooks, economics for indie filmmakers have not gotten easier.

We’ll continue to look at these developing trends in the months ahead.

Vaseline Lounge

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Vaseline Lounge at Sundance.

Top image from Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation. Courtesy Sundance Institute.

Not now, ok? Procrastination Increases Creativity

Do you procrastinate, or are you more likely to complete an assignment early? While it’s clear that procrastination cuts into productivity, in Adam Grant’s Op-Ed “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate” for The New York Times, Grant wonders whether pre-crastinators are more or less creative than procrastinators.

One of Grant’s students devised an experiment to determine whether procrastinators do, in fact, perform with a higher degree of creativity.

Grant describes the experiment: “I wasn’t convinced. So Jihae [Shin], now a professor at the University of Wisconsin, designed some experiments. She asked people to come up with new business ideas. Some were randomly assigned to start right away. Others were given five minutes to first play Minesweeper or Solitaire. Everyone submitted their ideas, and independent raters rated how original they were. The procrastinators’ ideas were 28 percent more creative.”

I’m not sure how to quantitatively assess 28% more creativity, but we’ll go with the findings for argument’s sake. I’m impressed: not consciously thinking about a task has a positive impact on our creativity.

What were Grant’s takeaways? “Minesweeper is awesome, but it wasn’t the driver of the effect. When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity. It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.”

For my own part, on straightforward tasks, I take a straight-forward approach. But when creative results are in demand, I take a more circuitous route, often letting time pass without action. In fact, I have learned to go easy on myself, and if words aren’t flowing, accept that and have a good time doing something else. The words will come later, in a flood, and that is just the way it will be.

Many other successful artists who are known procrastinators. Many even consider procrastination to be part of an artist’s temperament. As Grant quotes Aaron Sorkin, “You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” What Grant shows is that we can achieve divergent and lateral thinking–the bedrock of creativity–by letting ourselves temporarily off the hook.

Photo above courtesy of Judit Klein.

Sundance Infographic 2016: Ample Distribution, Paltry Deals, and the Cost of Piracy

Originally published in Cultural Weekly on January 20, 2016.

For the myriad filmmakers descending on Park City this week we have good news and bad. The good news: If your film is in Sundance, it will get distribution. The bad news: Your financial return on distribution will probably be minimal and your film is likely to be pirated, further diminishing your income.

Those key findings come from our annual survey of the independent movie landscape, on view below in our Sundance Infographic. Each year, we crunch the numbers on the Sundance Film Festival and use it as a bellwether for indie filmmaking at large. When Sundance’s Transparency Project begins to share data (later this year, we hope), we will all have even more information for analysis.

CLICK HERE TO SEE ANIMATED SUNDANCE 2016 INFOGRAPHIC

Distribution Dynamics

The overall number of distribution deals at Sundance is staggering. Last year, 105 of the 125 films achieved distribution of one kind or another. That’s a twenty percent increase from the year before, and a stark contrast to 2010, when only twelve films got distributed. What changed? Massive penetration by streaming services like Netflix and iTunes and the increased appetite for cable players like CNN and Discovery to take on feature-length documentaries.

Filmmakers at the Slamdance Film Festival, which runs concurrently in Park City, will have the same experience – all will get some distribution opportunities and most will be financially minimal.

When I say minimal, I mean minimal. Based on my conversations with producers and sales agents, many offers from distribution companies have zero minimum guarantees and rely entirely on back-end participation. When a deal is made with a digital-only distribution company, filmmakers will be expected to show up with a marketing plan in hand and will be expected to help sell tickets or streams themselves.

Why are distribution deals so paltry? Two reasons. First, there is too much content in the marketplace. Last year, there were some 700 feature films released theatrically in the US, of which about 150 came from studios and their subsidiaries. Those studio films accounted for 92.1% of the total box office, leaving approximately 550 independent films to fight for less than eight percent of the box office. Then, there are hundreds or thousands of movies that get digital-only deals, via companies like Amazon or Gravitas. In addition, 2015’s audiences had the opportunity to watch 409 scripted television shows – not hours, but actual shows, each of which has four to 22 episodes. Meanwhile, the number of hours of content uploaded to YouTube each minute is approaching 500. This much content is enough to make one’s eyeballs explode, and yet, with all the tonnage, truly excellent work is still rare.

The second reason distribution deals are low is the continuing devaluation of creative content. Increasingly audiences want to pay little or nothing for content in a fixed form – movies, books, music – even as they will pay nearly $1,000 for a three-day pass to Coachella. This is a generational, cultural shift –  and that’s where piracy comes in.

Piracy Costs

We know that piracy is a big issue for studio films, and we wanted to learn how it affects independent movies. For this year’s Sundance analysis, we worked with Excipio – a company that collects forensic evidence against pirates and does analytics. Excipio analyzes data collected from BitTorrent networks and does not extrapolate or estimate.

The results should be troubling to all independent filmmakers. Excipio analyzed illegal downloads of fourteen films that screened at Sundance in 2014 and 2015. All had at least hundreds of thousands of pirate downloads; Whiplash was downloaded illegally more than 12 million times.

What does piracy cost? Some piracy proponents (yes, there actually are such people) say it costs nothing and that it even helps build awareness for films, but that argument is false on its face. There is already a surfeit of content and one more free movie does not make a ripple. Audiences must be targeted carefully with specific marketing campaigns to build awareness and want-to-see; pirated films subvert that process. Piracy directly affects the bottom line, because some percentage of people who download illegally would have paid for the film if there were no illegal no-cost alternative.

How can we estimate the cost? We decided to be conservative. We’re estimating that if the illegal option were not available, five percent of customers would have paid for downloads and that they would have paid only $3 per transaction, which is a low number for digital downloads. Using this formula, we found that the fourteen films we sampled lost between $57,000 and $1.83 million in revenue.

Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Films and Sundance Selects, and a producer of Boyhood told me: “Obviously piracy hurts every film company and any owner of intellectual property, regardless of size and scope. It is painful to look at those numbers and try to rationalize why people do this, especially to indie films.” Boyhood has had 10,383,141 pirate downloads. By our estimates, that cost the film $1.56 million. Life and death money for an indie filmmaker.

$3 Billion Invested

Each year, we estimate the budget of all the films submitted to Sundance to get a ballpark on how much is being invested in independent movies. Based on my conversations with producers, distributors, financiers, and people familiar with the festival circuit, this year we are estimating an average budget of $1 million per dramatic feature and $400,000 per feature documentary. The aggregate total tops $3 billion.

Does investment in indie films pay off? Clearly not, in most cases. But it is difficult to calculate on a case-by-case basis. For example, our infographic shows the sales price and the US box office gross, but most often films are bought for many territories – not just for the US. With Netflix now available in 190 countries, they often buy the world. Further, digital revenues are not transparent and are closely guarded. Unlike theatrical box office figures, which are publicly available, the amount of total views and income from all aggregated digital sources is not possible to track. Even insiders who run streaming companies tell me there is no way to get a clear figure beyond what they see from their own services. That lack of transparency has to change for independent filmmakers to get a fair understanding of today’s distribution economics and be able to strike deals that are fair all around.

Given the state of things, film distribution is ripe for continuing disruption. Increasingly, independents are exploring alternatives and finding entrepreneurial ways to do it themselves. Filmmaker James Kaelan, whose virtual reality experience The Visitor is in Slamdance, and who produced Hard World for Small Things in Sundance’s New Frontier section, told me, “With the advent of crowdfunding, with the efflorescing of free range distribution platforms, you don’t need to wait to get picked anymore. You can make your film on your own terms, and exhibit it directly to your audience without signing away your most-cherished rights. That’s a monumental shift.”

That shift is a trend likely to be even more prominent when we survey the independent film landscape a year from now.

SEE ANIMATED AND INTERACTIVE SUNDANCE 2016 INFOGRAPHIC

Sundance Infographic 2016

Sundance Infographic 2016

Sundance Infographic 2016 | Produced by Cultural Weekly and Entertainment Media Partners | Sponsored by Macmillan Learning

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Infographic sponsored by Macmillan Learning. Produced by Entertainment Media Partners for Cultural Weekly. Tod Hardin, special features editor; Ahmad Zaeem, designer.

Top image: Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang directed by Kevin Macdonald in World Documentary section at Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy Sundance Institute.

Writer’s Block? Switch It Up for Maximum Productivity

There’s a lot of advice available about productivity, but the idea of switching projects has been one of the most useful for me lately. This year, I find myself in the midst of a large writing project–my third book. Yet, here I am, writing a blog post on a different topic. It turns out, the best way to maintain productivity is to mix up projects, working first on one then another, to ward off the mental sluggishness that can come along with grueling “do it until it’s done” sessions.

As Theresa MacPhail writes in “Code-Switching to Improve Your Writing and Productivity” for the Chronicle blog Vitae, “Here’s the counterintuitive thing I discovered far too late into my own career: Spending all your time on one project— working on it day after grueling day without a break — can backfire. Massively. It can completely stall your writing. You’re much better off taking a break and coming back to it a couple of days later than slaving over it continuously for many unproductive weeks or months.”

MacPhail’s tips to get started with this method:

  • “Start Small” Start a journal not directly connected to your work topic. Write longhand, beginning with simple statements, and let yourself get into a state of flow. You may find yourself generating new ideas.
  • “Branch Out” Write brief op-ed pieces geared for the non-academic audience, which can result in progress in work-related writing.
  • “Really Go for It” Consider attempting a longer nonfiction piece that can help diversify your style and kindle joy in writing.
  • “Always Alternate” Once you have projects in these new arenas, continue shifting from one to another after each segment or time box is complete.

Trust me, these tips represent valuable, hard-won advice. As I reach milestones in my own work, I too am switching–between blog writing, speechwriting, and manuscript writing to maximize my productivity. This method really works, and I hope you’ll give it a chance and see your output and joy increase as mine has.

How Storytellers Value Form without Being Formulaic

Is structural theory a necessary evil in storytelling? In his article “All Stories Are the Same” for The Atlantic, John Yorke notes that a great number popular stories share a common structure or arc. Yorke teases examples of this very phenomenon from ancient and recent great works in many disciplines, asking how artists can play against archetype and win critic and audience alike.

Award-winning filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro is a staunch advocate of freeing audiences from structure. As Yorke describes him and others whose are biased to resist structural norms:

“Del Toro echoes the thoughts of many writers and filmmakers; there’s an ingrained belief for many that the study of structure is, implicitly, a betrayal of their genius; it’s where mediocrities seek a substitute muse. Such study can only end in one way. David Hare puts it well: ‘The audience is bored. It can predict the exhausted UCLA film-school formulae—acts, arcs, and personal journeys—from the moment that they start cranking. It’s angry and insulted by being offered so much Jung-for-Beginners, courtesy of Joseph Campbell. All great work is now outside genre.’”

As an audience, we tire of the reuse of familiar structures to house the narrative, whatever the storytelling medium. We want to be surprised, even if we’re engaged in the retelling of old stories, as in the case of the incredible popularity of film sequels and sagas. Deviating from the audience’s expectations is the basis for virtuosity.

Yorke quotes describes the way artists can value formal conventions without being formulaic.

“… As the creator of The West Wing and The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin, puts it: ‘The real rules are the rules of drama, the rules that Aristotle talks about. The fake TV rules are the rules that dumb TV execs will tell you; “You can’t do this, you’ve got to do—you need three of these and five of those.” Those things are silly.’ Sorkin expresses what all great artists know—that they need to have an understanding of craft. Every form of artistic composition, like any language, has a grammar, and that grammar, that structure, is not just a construct—it’s the most beautiful and intricate expression of the workings of the human mind.”

It’s a timeless message for artists that arises often: it pays to learn the language of one’s chosen medium, inhale its essence from the masters, and emulate great minds that successfully deviate from form.

Middle C: On Hitting the Right “Creative” Note

Developing Creativity In the Today’s Digital Age

Creativity can be developed in more ways than one. A life as an artist was once essentially an academic career path, in which one would train extensively with masters and then find one’s own patrons, whether individuals or institutions, and possibly later train others. Now that lifestyle can only be achieved by an incredibly small number of artists. Today artists may have academic training, or might train themselves using available tools and materials, then set about finding and marketing themselves to their own audience–which is no small task. Is there contention among these approaches, and what can be said of elevating a non-academic arts education?

According to Jeffrey Davis, author of “Creativity Is Not About Amateurs or Academies” for Psychology Today, there are two camps in creativity. On one end are those who evangelize self-expression and see the digital world as a beneficial conduit for that expression. Davis calls this the “small c” creativity camp. On the other end are those who advocate the canon over personal expression, whom Davis refers to as “big C” creativity camp. While both may have a sense of the universal and historical, the latter focuses more on making a contribution to the traditional medium.

Davis sums up the challenge for the amateur. “The Artist, in the conventional sense, ultimately seeks inclusion within a very exclusive set of conventions, organizations, and institutions, which approve, rate, and fund the Artist. Or not. You’re either chosen and brought in and funded, or not. You either get ‘sold’ to your medium’s respective institution, or you remain a bohemian juggler.” Simply put, it’s more difficult for the amateur to win the opportunity to make a living producing creative work.

In response to this cold fact, Davis puts forth what he describes as a “bridge” option, one in which the amateur can develop a creative professional orientation. I would refer to this as a plan for hitting middle C, or a professional but non-academic approach to a creative career. Davis’s tips:

  1. Take advantage of digital media, but do not rely solely upon them.
  2. Seek out “apprenticeship” opportunities to adopt a deeper understanding of your chosen medium.
  3. Infuse sound business strategy into your art form to create a flexible and profitable creative practice.

This article resonates with me and my work with creative professionals of all backgrounds. I would even argue that whether one is a self-taught filmmaker or film school grad, a first film festival experience can be similar. More than ever before, the economy demands more self-assessment, differentiation and promotion of filmmakers and other creatives. On the bright side, while there’s less public funding available for independent artists, there’s unprecedented access to the means by which we can reach our audience and tell our own story. By taking time to learn and ultimately elevate ourselves from amateur to practicing artist, we truly win the right to broadcast our story and accomplishments, and ask our audience for support.

Photo: Courtesy of Elliott Billings via Creative Commons.

 

Prune to Grow: How writing in a second language can promote development

There’s no better way to feel fresh and awakened than to shed what’s old and familiar. For this reason, some writers take on writing–and publishing–in a second language. In her piece “Writing in a New Language, Writing Anew” for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Lucy Ferriss discusses several writers who follow this ambitious path.

Our native tongue leads us to common ideas. Do we favor styling of affect over creating meaning? Do we become lethargic about achieving what we intend to convey? Ferriss paraphrases several writers who describe writing in a second language as going “without style”. In a new language, we are stripped bare of the comfortable spaces we can hide–among idioms and other devices that might obscure clarity and originality.

Ferriss says of the collected quotes from writers in a second language “What these comments share is an appreciation for what’s left out of the writing when composing in a second language: style, or description, or sophistication — all

things we tend to strive for when we try to write eloquently in our native tongue. I do think we tend to lose sight, in a language that has shaped our world since we were born, of language’s central task: to make meaning. We take for

Jhumpa Lahiri

Author Jhumpa Lahiri has turned to writing in Italian. Photo: Courtesy of Random House.

granted the multiple choices we have; we ramp up the prose; we lose sight of the roots of the words we’re making flowers with.”

It is as if this pruning of the familiar language encourages new vitality, much like a flowering shrub benefits from pruning back its old growth. Ferriss describes author Jhumpa Lahiri’s decision to write in Italian: “Using the metaphor of Daphne from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, she adds, ‘I am, in Italian, a tougher, freer writer, who, taking root again, grows in a different way.'”

As a lover of literature and a student of French and Italian, I have been humbled by the experience of trying to understand–and be understood–in a foreign tongue. It’s ambitious but rewarding for one to practice her craft assembling the childlike blocks of comprehension gathered in a nonnative language, and seeing what she can build.

What Defines an Artist? Should Architects Be Included?

UK Turner Prize Awarded to Architecture Collective Assemble

The Turner award, a major UK art price, has been awarded to Assemble, a collective known for its architecture and community improvement projects. The news has swept the art world, with critics taking notice of the first time an architecture collective has won in the 31-year history of the prize. It begs the question: What Defines an Artist?

Assembly

Assembly, 2014. Photo courtesy of Assembly.

For many of us, “Who is an artist” simply isn’t a question we face in our everyday lives. Even as we interact with architecture in the world around us, we might not acknowledge the creators’ intentions behind those spaces. According to Mark Brown in his piece “Urban regenerators Assemble become first ‘non-artists’ to win Turner prize” for Guardian, the collective itself does not claim to be comprised of artists. One Assemble collective member, Anthony Engi-Meacock, said: “It’s just not a conversation we have. I mean what is an artist? There is no answer to it.”

Looking at these events in the media I sense the media engaged in changing attitudes toward the arts. To satisfy my own curiosity about what the award says about the existence of margins between architecture and “art”, I conducted my own survey of the Assemble website. It’s apparent the collective offers much more than traditional building projects. Their CV includes play spaces, performance spaces, and several other interactive (again, play being key) installations. In these examples, Assemble elevates “space” in a thoughtful, meaningful way.

Assemble create spaces that make people think and bring people together, and thoughtfully employ many clever ways of encouraging new behavior in those spaces. Transformation on some level–in thought, in action–is to me the optimal outcome of interacting with any work we may deem as art. In this way, architecture by Assemble proves to be somewhat more accessible, though no less persuasive, than many of the traditionally “prize worthy” art forms.

Congratulations, Assemble, on the work and the award!

 

 Top Image copyright and courtesy of Sophia Evans.

Filmmakers: Get Ready for Film Festivals

On December 9, 2015, I did a seminar for the filmmakers whose movies have been accepted to Slamdance 2016. This seminar will be useful for all filmmakers getting ready for film festivals anywhere and hoping to take maximum advantage of the opportunity.

Adam Leipzig

Adam Leipzig talks with Slamdance filmmakers. Photo by Peter Baxter

Slamdance founder Peter Baxter joined us (you’ll hear his voice in the intro). We did the seminar in the CreativeFuture offices where I serve as COO.

In this 75-minute seminar, you will learn the answers to these questions:

  • Do I need marketing materials, and if so, what would they be?
  • Should I hire a publicist?
  • How do I pick the right sales agent?
  • How to pick a sales agent?
  • Should I stay for the whole festival?
  • What kind of deals are being make for independent films?
  • What can I do with my short film?
  • How do I answer the question I will be asked most often?
  • What about other film festivals?
  • How can the festival leverage my career?

Congratulations to all the filmmakers, and I hope you find this useful.

We did an audio recording of the seminar. Listen or download here:

Top photo: Adam Leipzig (l) and Slamdance founder Peter Baxter discuss indie film strategies in a film noir-ish parking lot. Photo by Deron Williams.