A matter of trust: how do collaborations work?

My mom once told me that the creative process consists of two lines and three spaces. The first space represents chaos, the primary state. All ideas revolve around in the artist’s head, without any order, making a lot of noise. This is where we begin. To be able to create something, we need to pass through the first line: the threshold, a vertical line that separates this first space from the other two. Crossing the threshold is difficult, but it’s only the first stage. Once we do it we are face with the other two spaces: the realm of the possible and the realm of the impossible. In this visual representation, they are placed one on top of the other. The trick is to be able to find the second line: the middle line between the possible and the impossible. If we fall too much in the possible, our work of art is repetitive, predictable, and uninteresting. If we fall too much in the impossible, we get demotivated and abandon our work. It is in this middle point that creativity resides.

This whole process requires the artist to turn inward, to their own self, to their own fears and anxieties, and face them in the light of creativity. It is an excruciating process that more often than not ends up in frustration and failure, and one that puts the artist at their most vulnerable. And it is this vulnerability that becomes most present when we collaborate in a creative process with someone else.

Film, by its very nature, requires collaboration. The extreme complexity of the medium, combining light, color, texture, image composition, sound, music, words, and performance cannot be done by one person, and therefore there must be a moment where the artist, in this case the filmmaker, must share their vision with other artists (costume designer, actors, sound designer, composer, and many others) to be able to make it a reality. This is a moment where they must sometimes show things that are incomplete or not perfect to other colleagues, and sometimes this can lead to feelings of insecurity and fear. In this respect, as a composer, I realize that it is very important to be patient, understanding, and open minded in order to facilitate the creative process of the filmmaker. Paraphrasing Danny Elfman on the same subject, to make the director understand that we, as composers, are on their side, not against them. We have the same aim as they do: to make the best possible film.

Collaborating this past year with students of the film academy, I think this is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, even more than how to make music, it is extremely important to learn to be empathic and communicative with the director, and to be open about my own artistic needs and ideas. As for the directors, I think it is very important for them to learn to trust the people they collaborate with, to see that they are as much capable of delivering quality and beauty as they themselves are.

Working in the production of a film is an experience like none other. When the collaboration is good, and the result reflects the work of all the people involved, it is incredibly satisfying and motivating.

source cover image here