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Who would you rather work with…

Who would you rather work with…

On a thread recently, someone raised a point that I thought was absurd at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I questioned my own position.

The point was around the importance of self-education over experience. Which is more important? So here’s a scenario:

Theoretical filmmaker vs actual filmmaker

Over 20 years both people have indulged in gaining knowledge of filmmaking – one via books and self-education and the other by boots on the ground on sets and in studios.

Both are fairly likeable individuals. Both know their stuff inside and out, albeit from different perspectives. One has a couple of amateur level films on a website and the other more than a dozen professional level projects completed and distributed.

If you were the give one of them £100,000 of your own money to produce your film, who would it be and why?

I know this is a very simplistic scenario (which reflects no one specifically), and I was a bit loathed to even ask the question till I posed it to a couple of people I know. The replies were quite mixed when you take the filmmaker aspect out of it and compare just two people in any industry.

But film is a bit peculiar like that… isn’t it?

Perhaps I’m a bit stuck in my ways and in the current climate, education is deemed more valuable… “He who holds all the knowledge controls the future” type thing…

So, I’d love to hear what you think.


  • It's an interesting question Wozy, and I am torn.

    Hundred grand - is nothing. The experienced producer is more likely to tell you that a hundred grand isn't enough, being tempered by experience, whereas an enthusiastic amateur may not have felt that pinch yet and have more inclination to mop up all the roles they can't get at mates rates. At £100k, you may only have the option of enthusiasm to carry you through.

    I've worked on £100k projects and somewhat bigger. The fee I could take on the lower end meant it was seriously not worth my time in any commercial sense. I used the fee to pay for my own hotel. How did the film turn out? Well, it didn't get an English language deal (sold in a couple of territories, mind). The money was so low that we relied on everything going right at every stage, and got lucky. Things could have gone much worse. Would I repeat the situation? Unlikley. I'm happy to cheer on a team of enthusiasts and give steering where helpful, but I can't do the all of everything again.

    So who would I go to with £100k? Probably not the guy/gal who'd made bigger movies already TBH. Rather, I'd want her/him to oversee with a notional fee for guidance, but am going to need someone a lot cheaper and hungrier to do the gut-busting.

    Or I might change my mind by morning, it's an interesting question :)

    2 years ago
  • Like Paddy touched on I don't think an experienced producer would be able to do anything with 100k while an enthusiastic amateur would be in heaven.

    I doubt an experienced pro would even see the point in making a film at that level unless they had some kinda sentimental connection to the project so you probably wouldn't have a choice to begin with.

    Maybe that's a little cynical...

    2 years ago
  • I get the points made above. Perhaps I should add some more context. Look at this from a client point of view. Both Producers are happy to take on the work offered, for the budget available.

    Who would you trust more?

    2 years ago
  • I know some time ago there was a study on pottery students. One half of the class had to work on planning, designing and making one perfect piece of pottery. A very theoretical approach. They wouod be graded on how artful, clever, and impressive the pottery was. The other half had to make 100 pieces of pottery. They were marked simply on getting the quantity of pieces done.

    The end result? Those who had to do the large quantity ended up doing better work. Whilst they were simply making pieces, they ended up learning through experience all the little pitfalls that the theoretical approach didn't cover.

    So my view, for what it's worth, is experience over theory gets a better result. Theory AND experience together is even better!

    2 years ago
  • Then I'd take the experience in a heartbeat!

    2 years ago
  • Self-education: Tarantino before Reservoir Dogs. Lucas before THX (and Lucas as a writer before Star Wars).

    Experience: Ed Wood, Guy Ritchie, Uwe Boll.

    What was the question?

    2 years ago
  • We've had over 300 people come to us on either short courses or on various forms of extended attachments. With plenty of exceptions the majority of those who I would value most as collaboraters or crew have not been those who've spent three years in an academic film making process, even though usually that process included lots of practical exercises. For the most part great collaborators are born, or born of an eclectic life experience, than processed.

    Having said that we once had two people who had been directing a prime time BBC factual series for eight years and still absolutely needed our two day camera short course. That story and the fact that more times than I can remember film graduates just out of three year degree courses told me that they had learned more in two days with us than in three years at uni are truths that one could hardly make up.

    There's always lots of exceptions, to the extent that each case can only be discerned on its own unique merits.

    2 years ago
  • The Lumiere brothers, and Chaplin and others, taught themselves to make films.

    I personally think, in film as in other endeavours, experience (or training) of doing things the wrong way is sometimes worse than a blank slate. People who read too many websites (rather than books) are often impatient, and so are those who take seminars rather than courses, but so are people who made a lot of films too quickly.

    Sometimes, a Chinese professor who has only spoken English for three years is easier to understand than a native speaker.

    So, I'd really have to meet more with both people, learn more about them.

    That said, if they want to, some film schools can teach the basics very well (and are selective about who they graduate). If I was in a pinch, and didn't have time to research, I'd hire a grad of NYU, USC, UCLA, some of the top French and Scandinavian schools, or NTFS, rather than someone with a long imdb page of films I'd never heard of. Same goes with some of Britain's top acting academies, and top music academies.

    (that depends on the job of course. For some jobs, the unions are better judges than the schools.)

    2 years ago
  • I think it depends on which grades you are talking about. I can't really talk about Producers. All I really know is Camera and Electric (as IMDB calls us). In my department I'd rather have experience over research. Also, we have a differnet way of doing things in the UK than they do in the US, yet, if you watch a bunch of Youtube videos as preparation for working on a UK set, you would learn the American system and the American terminology. I have encountered people like this on Shorts and you end up having to retrain them; which slows everything down.

    2 years ago
  • Experience, every time. If you are reading this and thinking of doing some film degree, get a camera, tripod and mic, go to the local paper and announce that you'll film anything, any time. 5-10 hour a week.

    You'll finish your course as the best practitioner and able to work fast, well and under pressure with inadequate kit AND in the interview when everyone else talks about their student projects, you interviewed the MP, gopro'd the new zip wire, shoot a dozen bands and gigs, covered several local charities and worked on a shoot to edit tinmescale of a few hours. Guess who'se getting the job, (OK, internship).

    2 years ago