Are Filmmaking Teams the Future of Auteurism?

Are Filmmaking Teams the Future of Auteurism?

Jul 24, 2012

Yesterday we posted a trailer for a live-action Three Little Pigs adaptation called The Brick House, which is produced and directed by a filmmaking collective called Pocket Full of All Stars. Basically this team, which consists of graphic artist and animator Gustavo Cervantes and musician Doug Layne Anderson, is just a production company. Techincally, Cervantes is the film's director, while Anderson is credited with sound and music. But they cowrote the script and seem to be an inseparable duo as far as the vision of the project, so it will likely be best to think of The Brick House as a Pocket Full of All Stars film rather than something created by a single auteur. 

That sort of collaborative filmmaking might just be the future of cinema, as more and more of these kinds of partnerships are coming up through team-based festivals and competitions like The 48 Hour Film Project, which Pocket Full of All Stars participated in three years ago. There was also the now-defunct Winnipeg Short Film Massacre, which united five former rivals now democratically working together as Astron-6. That team recently released a feature for Troma called Father's Day, which they adapted from their own fake trailer. 

Other collectives appear to organize for either artistic endeavors or commercial projects, like television advertising. In between you find guys like Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith, aka Hammer & Tongs, who started in music videos before making the movies Son of Rambow and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Now there is also Radio Silence, a four-person team that has directed a segment of the upcoming horror anthology V/H/S. Regardless of who technically performed which exact tasks, they are collectively credited as the director of their piece under the Radio Silence banner. Formerly known by the less-singular-sounding name Chad, Matt & Rob (Rob left the group), this collective's origins are in online videos, another arena that understandably includes a lot of multi-minded auteurism, especially if comedy troupes can be included in the concept. In interviews the Radio Silence guys talk about having similar tastes and intuition, which allow for such synergy. 

One could argue that filmmaking teams and collectives are neither new nor do they seem much different from all the sibling and marital duos who codirect movies. And there have been plenty of long-running partnerships between directors and producers, directors and screenwriters, filmmakers with consistent collaborators on-screen and off, etc. So what is different now? Maybe it has something to do with either the Internet-influenced increase of anonymous voices or increase of collaborative voices -- or, considering open-source media, both. Some of the Chad, Matt & Rob stuff I've seen also appears to be inspired by the ensemble nature of Jackass and the collegial aesthetic of found-footage films. 

But will such partnerships last in the longterm and in the longform, as well as they do with quickly produced shorts for the Web? I'm especially anxious to follow the career of Radio Silence, which is moving up to feature-length projects starting with a film for Lionsgate. Two people codirecting a movie seems normal, but a quartet seems complicated and makes me think of bands who start out lacking egos and believing they can all share responsibility and songwriting credit only to eventually break up messily. 

An alternative, more traditional style of film collective could be the key to finding balance if any among the above teams wishes to embark on more individual-minded output. Success stories right now include the production companies Blue-Tongue Films, cofounded by actor Joel Edgerton and known for such titles as Hesher and Animal Kingdom, and BorderLine Films, which consists of three directors taking turns helming solo features, each of which is produced by the whole team. Their work includes the Sundance premieres Simon Killer and Martha Marcy May Marlene and is evidence that such groups can be a collaborative and also involve and cater to distinguished tastes and intuitions. 

I'd love to learn about more filmmaking teams and collectives of this sort and also hear from readers about their thoughts on this growing concept of collaborative directing. Meanwhile, I wish groups like Pocket Full of All Stars and Radio Silence the best of luck. 



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