The Hidden Intricacies of Collaborative Filmmaking

The following is a post by Unsung Voices filmmaker, Albert Zablan based on his experiences at the Canadian Spotlight screening.

Hitchcock, Spielberg and Ozu; these names are often mentioned and revered in the world of film, and with great reason. They are indisputably masters of cinema, re-constructing the way fear is elicited on audiences, paving the way for blockbusters and introducing new forms to filmmaking. They are auteurs.

Although the spotlight shines most brightly on the directors, film is known as a collaborative medium. Countless unheralded contributors, who have mastered their own respective crafts (lighting, photography, sound etc), come together and stay together throughout the vicissitudes of a production, leaving indelible imprints on the final product.

The program “Michael Fukushima: The Art of Producing Art,” put the spotlight on the titular producer, giving audiences a unique look at those who lay in the directors shadows, challenging the ideas of the independent auteur by re-visiting past projects that he had a hand in nurturing.

The program began with his own animated short film, “Minoru: Memory of Exile (1992),” a lyrical look at his own families experiences throughout World War II, during their internment, exile and eventual return to Canada. As Mr. Fukushima quips about the “rudimentary” animation of his work, he also reminds us of the political potential of animation: making tough subject matter a little more digestible with its power to sneak up on spectators.

This affinity for animation carried over into his incumbent producer role with the NFB. Despite taking full-time responsibilities as a producer, serendipitous circumstances allowed him to look for talent in Canada’s minority communities. In this role he really collapses the distinction between the producer and artist, undeniably inflecting some of his own Japanese-Canadian identity into their works, whilst keeping them true to the director’s vision.

Coming off of an incredible summer with Reel Asian’s inaugural Youth Summer Video Workshop Program, I really got a firsthand look at the collaborative efforts involved in a film’s production. From the mentors that walked us through the stages of production, to the program coordinators (Arthur Yeung and Tony Lau) that put up with our Gangnam Styling ways (lateness, laziness, requests for extra filming days, etc).The participants and I really got to experience the teamwork and camaraderie involved on set, with those in doubt having to look no further then the credits of our films for proof.

Although I haven’t quite figured out my place in the film industry, these formative experiences (at the very least) have really expanded my mind into who makes a film and how an individual can impact a project. Despite some receiving more of the glory than others, it’s refreshing to know that you aren’t simply a cog in the wheel.

I can gladly say that the next time I go to a screening, I’ll have the respect and patience to stay for the credits, regardless of how bad my bladder protests.