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Crowd-Action! – Crowdsourcing in Film Production

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Illustration: www.dreammoviecast.co

Undoubtedly, the energy of crowds can be harnessed to produce tons of creative ideas, such as music, works of art and design, films and video clips. Thus, the group ‘Semantic Hallucinations’ is now working on a music video entitled ‘Everything Will Come out Fine’ in which almost anyone can take part (project site (in Russian)). Similarly, anyone can order a design layout at workdone.ru (in Russian) and choose between multiple suggestions submitted by designers from all over the world.

Based on some case studies, I would like to point out that there are two main trends in creative sector.

Firstly, crowdsourcing is being increasingly used to engage the public to participate in creative collaboration to produce creative products.  Thus Tiffany Shlain, a documentary maker, uploads video to the Internet, which subsequently becomes part of a film.  Users can edit the video and suggest alterations to it (see more here).  Back in 2011, the Dutch director Paul Verhoeven started a new project to make a movie whose script’s next few minutes may be written by everyone, and these will also be chosen through democracy.

Secondly, musicians, film directors, writers and other creative workers increasingly rely on crowdfunding websites, such as boomstarter.ru or planeta.ru (in Russian), to raise money for publishing their works.  Some people do without such special websites, for example Boris Khlebnikov has a great many famous actors and actresses at his movie “Until the Night Separates” working only for a percentage of future revenues.

The Russian project Snimaikino.ru (in Russian) skillfully combines both crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. Through this website you can contribute both money and ideas to the movie “The Reality Operators.” As opposed to conventional movie-making, you can join this project at any stage to work together with professional filmmakers.

However, the above examples have certain disadvantages.  What are these?

In the first example the crowd (people involved in the project) creates everything and there is no room for the author (individual).  We understand however that every single idea or part of it is a product of personal creativity, which can lose itself in the flow of other ideas.

In the second example, there is an author and there are people who sympathize with him and indirectly help him but do not interfere with the creative process.

Which crowdsourced movie project can be considered perfect? I have come to the conclusion that a successful creative product could be created if crowdsourcing is integrated into the following scenario.
First of all, all ideas and suggestions submitted by crowdsourcers should be interpreted, one way or another, by the author before the end product comes out. At that, the role of crowdsourcers is significant, even primary in some cases.

In this connection, collective film script writing seems to be the most suitable activity for the internet crowds, first of all, because the script for a film is practically inseparable from the film itself.  And the author can prove his ability to interpret crowdsourcers’ ideas during the filming process.  But most importantly, movie scripts have a tight structure and defined scope – that is why they can be successfully developed using crowdsourcing.  So, if a film company/production center decides on a movie script crowdsourcing project, they can set some conditions for what they want to see in the end.  Let us consider this in more detail and try to simulate what such a project might be like.

Suppose a project starts.  It has a theme.  The scope of the script is determined bearing in mind that one page is approximately one minute of screen time.  Parameters of the script are set up – the number of scenes, objects, time of action, shooting modes, which might change or reveal themselves anew in course of the project.

Having determined the initial data of the project, we may specify the order of actions in the future work.  This is what is known about the content of the script and what a group of people is to work on.  Here are more details point by point:

1. There are the following steps in the screenplay:
1.1. Exposition, an aid to the understanding of the facts from which the story action departs;
1.2. Setup, where the hero finds him in the most dramatic situation, which will lead to complication;
1.3. Complication, the largest portion of movie;
1.4. Peripeteia;
1.5. Culmination;
1.6. Resolution, followed by the end.

Following this plan, you can direct project participants’ attention to specific tasks.

2. Any screenplay has remarks and dialogues which contribute to the screenplay as a whole. After the structure and major plot lines have been elaborated, crowdsourcers may proceed to detailing elements of the script, including dialogues.

Any film usually has three authors: screenwriter, director and composer. It turns out that crowdsourcing-based film production may do without screenwriter, with the script taken to the completely new level of quality at that. So, crowdsourcing may become a dead cert way of obtaining successful and hugely profitable screenplays.

Nowadays, we can see numerous methods emerge that use crowdsourcing in film production.  None of these methods has become a standard process for film production yet, and probably never will. However, I think that it is the screenwriting that may be transferred from screenwriters to crowdsourcers.

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Vladimir Rybin

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