Filmmaking – Inspiration, perspiration, or both?

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We’ve all come across this famous quote by Thomas Alva Edison, who said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Recognized as one of the greatest and most prolific inventors of all time, having invented the light bulb to the phonograph, Edison held over 1,000 US patents in his name, not to mention hundreds of others around the world. His major contributions to electricity with the incandescent light bulb, power, the motion picture camera, sound recording and even the Xray machine, along with improving the telegraph and telephone, have changed and molded the world we live in today. He famously once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” when describing the painstaking process of inventing the light bulb.

Why are we quoting Edison here, you might wonder?

Well, let’s share some more information first and then describe the relevance.

In 1888 Edison met Eadweard Muybridge to view Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope. This machine used a circular disc with still photographs of the successive phases of movement around the circumference to recreate the illusion of movement. Edison decided to work on his own motion picture camera at his laboratory, instead of collaborating with Muybridge, and said “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the ye what the phonograph does for the ear.” The machine itself was invented by Edison’s associate William K.L. Dickson, who initially experimented with a cylinder-based device for recording images, before turning to a celluloid strip. In Oct 1889, Dickson presented Edison with a new device that projected pictures and contained sound. After more work, patent applications were filed in 1891 for a motion picture camera, called a Kinetograph, and for a motion picture peephole viewer called a Kinetoscope.

Learning about the history and origins of the cameras we use today in filmmaking and Edison’s quote on what constitutes a genius is very relevant to our profession, we believe.

As film producers, we may have a great idea for a film – an inspiration that hits us like a bolt out of the blue. After probing around, turning to Google and to traditional sources of information for research, if one is very fortunate, we may discover that our idea is an original one. The realization that one has a brand-new idea, that the story has never been seen before, that feeling is euphoric and absolutely exhilarating. After all, with 8 billion people on the planet, what are the chances that an idea is unique? Even more so as filmmakers and producers, when this happens, we feel on top of the world, all charged up to make that idea into a story, an original film for the world to see.

That’s the inspiration part. That’s the 1 percent.

Let that sink in.

The rest of it- the actual processes involved in making that idea, that story into a film – that’s the 99 percent. That’s the perspiration part.

Let that sink in too.

Making a film is hard work. It requires focus, clarity of thought, perseverance, patience, communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, diligence, and hard work – both mental and physical, along with emotional
intelligence and maturity from start to finish. The sheer number of processes and people involved from idea to the finished film is voluminous.

When you work with people, you’re dealing with not just what they bring to the table in terms of work, but you’re going to also have to deal with the person in their entirety – each one with their mental make-up, vision, style of working, opinions, attitudes and emotions. If one can understand, accept and embrace the unpredictable chaos teamwork sometime can lead to, then one can handle collaboration. If one is willing and equipped to deal with the unpredictability of teams, and being willing to listen, learn, adapt and adjust
one’s actions and expectations, then one is better equipped to handle the vagaries of the filmmaking process. If one is willing to persevere against all odds but also know when to move on, if one can evaluate when to hold on versus when to let go, and take decisive action, then one is better adept at handling the filmmaking process.

As producers, we’re currently working with different teams in India, UK and the US currently, on a variety of projects. Each director is different and each project is different too. We’re balancing and learning to work with a varied spectrum of experience and expertise, as some are well-established directors while others are debutants. We respect each of our director’s vision and believe they will translate their ideas into a great film, a story worth telling.

The actual process of making the film – that’s a whole different ballgame altogether. The countless number of hours and mind-boggling amount of effort that goes into planning, pre-production, production and post-
production of a film, and then getting the film to distribution, along with the myriad other steps in building and managing a films production company, can only be categorized in what Edison referred to as 99% perspiration.

Then why do it? You might wonder what drives us?

We make and produce films because we have stories we want to tell, stories we believe in and that we hold dear, stories that we want to share with the world, with the audience, with you.

We make films in the hope that our stories connect and resonate with you, that they impact you in some way, and hopefully lead to a positive outcome. We hope that at least 1% of the audience is moved, enthused, empowered to affect change, even if the rest 99% watch the film for its entertainment purpose alone.

So here we are, making films, knowing that it’s probably always going to be 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, building on the shoulders of all the genius filmmakers, writers, technicians, cast and crew, who choose to collaborate with us, for each of our films at 3 Peepul Productions.

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