If you’re burnt out, stuck, or in need of inspiration, collaborating with your peers is arguably one of the best actions you can take.
Farnham, UK / 2010 /
I studied my Bachelor’s Degree in Film Production at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham from 2010–2013. Whilst I was there, I often collaborated with music artists from the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford.
During my time in Farnham, I used to frequent a Facebook group that had been created as a bridge between the two institutions, a group where artists of all different types could collaborate on anything from music videos to photoshoots and graphic design projects. This group allowed us access to amazing talent from both UCA and ACM, and thinking back, it’s a shame it didn’t kick off the way it could have done.
The group, “Collaboration Works” is as good as dead in 2018, though a couple of original members still post into the echo chamber of times gone by. This group gave me the first taste of a system of working that would inform a large part of my career to date, and I wanted to give it a shoutout for being a great resource, if only for a few years.
Los Angeles, USA / 2014 /
I stood as another face in the crowd, probably not the only English person in the huge music venue, but probably the most awkward. I was two months into a ninety- day adventure in Los Angeles, and had come to see one of my favourite artists, Kimbra, play live. This was no normal gig, because Kimbra wouldn’t be singing any of her hits (if anyone tries to say she doesn’t have any hits other than “Somebody I Used To Know”, I will fight you). Instead, she had invited a few of her musician friends to come and play music with her, in an experimental, raw setting. Space Jam was its title, and I remember being stood in awe as she swept onto stage, her eccentric outfit dragging on the floor behind her.
Two or three hours later, I was stood in the exact same position when the lights came up, and all the artists bowed out. I had just experienced jamming for the first time, and it was fucking beautiful. No-one knew what was coming next, not even the musicians, and that feeling of nervous energy, a whirlwind of creative potential dragging the audience further into the experience, was infectious.
If anyone tries to say Kimbra doesn’t have any hits other than “Somebody I Used To Know”, I will fight you.
There were moments of disharmony of course. No sane person could expect a group of artists from different genres to hit every beat or note with a one-hundred percent success rate. But that didn’t matter. Perfection wasn’t the aim of the game across the four Space Jam event nights, instead, the main draw was the magic of collaboration, and what could be produced under such circumstances.
Portsmouth, UK / 2016 /
My hometown is on the South Coast of the UK, a city called Portsmouth. I moved back here in 2014, after a stint in London and my adventure in LA, and I haven’t looked back since. Of course, being outside of a main city can be difficult in the creative industries, but luckily London is well within reach, so don’t pity me too much.
In 2016, having bounced from awful day job to awful day job, I was lucky enough to pick up a contract as a Producer for a Korean online TV channel. This remote work allowed me to focus on the projects that really mattered to me, which were music videos and horror films. Around the same time, I was asked if I would like to submit a short film to the horror anthology film “Maniacal”, produced by local filmmaker Sam Mason Bell.
With no real film contacts in the area, I posted to a group called “Portsmouth Filmmakers Forum”, stating I was looking for crew and cast for my segment of the film. Much like the hey-day of the “Collaboration Works” group I used at university, this community was full of passionate people at different stages in their careers, who were looking to collaborate and partner up with other creatives.
I was lucky enough to meet an awesome DOP from that group, and our working relationship is still as strong two years later, if not more-so. I also met a wonderful set of cast who hop in and out of my projects today, and this wouldn’t have happened if I had just kept to myself.
So I’ve told you a few random segments of my life, what am I getting at?
You see, for most of my career, I have been a lone wolf, tackling every skill across the board, relying on Me, Myself and I. There comes a point where creative professionals need to open up their networks, and start mixing with people and ideas we haven’t been exposed to.
Each of the events and communities I was exposed to earlier in the story were flashes of inspiration, that have fed into the business I run today. My projects only started to get traction and improve in quality when I opened up my art to my peers, and allowed them to be part of its creation.
Too many cooks spoil the broth, there’s no doubt, but you know what else spoils the broth? Someone who can’t cook and doesn’t have the skills necessary to pick all of the ingredients and prepare the dish.
Collaboration is one of the most powerful things you can do for your career, and indeed for your own development. It comes in many forms, whether it is unpaid group projects working towards a certain shared goal, or indeed paid work which needs a shared creative direction. Of course, it is up to you to decide which jobs you take or don’t, however don’t dismiss working with people outside of your comfort zone out of fear or because “it’s not my usual way of working”.
Collaboration can be a leap of faith, there’s no debate, but one thing is for sure…