It’s been approximately a month since we wrapped up The Future Is Now events with the screening of The Fly, so it’s as good a time as any to recap everything that happened and what we learned in the Future Producers course: we made some masks of Jeff Goldblum’s face to go with our replica teleport pod; we lay on a bed with a backdrop of Montauk behind us; we played with lights and transformed the atmosphere of the bar; I went to Secret Cinema, Hugh went to see The Man Who Fell To Earth, and a group of the others went to Future Shorts at the BFI; we set up a telescope on Watershed’s balcony for people to gaze in wonder at the moon before watching Moon; and we had long, meandering, just-shy-of-full-blown arguments about what actually counts as sci-fi cinema. The list could go on and on and on.
With a bit of distance though, it’s clear that the most valuable part of the experience was having responsibility for our own events. We learned a lot from the guest speakers int he introductory weekends and the sessions that followed, but to then produce events which depended on us applying the lessons from each guest speaker ensured we have practical experience to take forward into the next stage of our careers.
Speaking of which – I moved to London the day after The Future Is Now: The Fly, and I’ve already found that it’s a great advantage having Future Producers on my CV. I’ve had a number of promising offers and opportunities, and it’s definitely giving me an edge when it comes to applications and interviews. I’ve also made some strong, long-lasting friendships with my fellow Future Producers, who I’m sure will continue to be a good source of contacts and networks for the rest of our careers.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the first two development weekends that hasn’t been covered already – it felt like a few weeks of intensive production training squeezed into four days, with a whole host of special guests, workshops and ideas to take into consideration as we embark properly on our own projects. Of the many lessons I’ll be taking away, the main one right now is to not be afraid of language and terms against which I instinctively have knee-jerk reactions. I have quite recently left an academic environment, where terms like ‘target audiences’, ‘brand identity’, ‘content dissemination’, and of course, ‘storytelling‘ are seen as anathema to good work, a sign of popularizing or monetizing art and culture. After these two weekends, it’s clear that those terms are as useful or as hollow as the purposes they are put to, and they are not always a signpost for empty rhetoric. I will probably never fully lose that prejudice, but knowing that it’s there has been an essential lesson for me.
It was also good to learn about the structures through which many producers devise and develop projects – if there was one unspoken theme across each of the presentations, it was the importance of a planning process. Taking the BFI Days Of Fear And Wonder brief as an example, I think that we, as a group, felt a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities on our first planning meeting. However, by the second, after the last of the presentations and workshops had time to be absorbed, it was easier for us to define our ideas, and to start knocking them into something workable.
One of the fantastic things about Sci-Fi as a genre is that the best work is built on ideas – as a producing group, are first major hurdle will be to whittle down all of our potential development opportunities into a single plan. There are just too many good themes and strands to explore, too many films to screen and too many good ideas for bringing audiences into Watershed.
But there’s one important question that really needs an answer now, before I can move on to the next stage of development: Sci-Fi or Sci Fi? To hyphen or not to hyphen?