Creative Agency and Film Processes

by Fraser Beattie – fb16960@my.bristol.ac.uk

After undertaking a project investigating how cinema and the cinematic environment can trigger certain pre-cognitive responses within an audience, I wanted to push further to investigate what control creators of film have over this process. Do they aim to create these affects or do they emerge from the final product? And how is the process of creativity involved in this? This article addresses how I initially became interested in this question of emergent creativity.

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Image: Drone Logic – Daniel Avery: Directed and Produced by Joshua Lipworth (2014).

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS0CO-yPmO4

The Society and Space MSc has given me a new appreciation for the art of cinema, film and music by interrogating difficult questions surrounding how pieces of art can affect both our physical and cognitive state. There is a myriad of literature from the 20-21st century concerned with cinema as an art form and its capacity to affect us. This literature has caused me to open myself to new types of directors like David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive). Before, these unusual cinema techniques would have baffled and confused me. Now however, I feel like I can begin to understand the director’s intent for the audience’s reaction. I wanted to continue my engagement with the politics of cinema, the moving image and how they exist within the world, yet interrogate this medium from a different angle. Studying a piece of film and its affective force in the world is a tried and tested undertaking, so I wanted to move beyond this by observing the conception of film. Using the theoretical deconstruction of film offered by Gilles Deleuze, I want to shift focus on film from product to process, and unpack the creative processes that go into the generation of film. This creative space is not widely understood, and I want to delve into this space to explore the power of creativity.

My interest in creative agency specifically was sparked by Nina Williams’ (a colleague from the University of Bristol) paper on creativity from a Bergsonian perspective (2016), highlighting how the process of creativity is not contained to the individual subject (person), but is rather an external processual agent occurring within the world, away from the subject. I’ve always had the mindset that some people are simply more creative than others and that the creative process was static and contained within the individual. I had never considered the process of creativity as not occurring within the individual, and this theory has opened a new line of understanding and enquiry when I watched more films. Thinking through how someone creates film, where the inspiration comes from, and how they interact with this entity of creativity. Henri Bergson, a renowned French philosopher, was much revered for his book Creative Evolution as theory to address some holes in Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. While not disregarding it, Bergson’s understanding of life as a creative processual force expands beyond evolution theory to ask more broader question of life, existence and our place in time expanding beyond an empirical, biological understanding of the human.

With this new perspective in mind, I explored some work of British based directors. Joshua Lipworth is a London based director who has had a hand in the production of many film music videos within the London techno scene. As my research unfolds for this project, Joshua has been one of my points of contact exploring this new perspective I outlined above. I found Joshua when a friend recommended I explored some of his work, the first of which was Drone Logic (Image 1). Created for a London based techno artist (Daniel Avery), Joshua was tasked with the creation of a music video to accompany it. The description of the video outlined:

“A claustrophobic and dystopian video focusing entirely on a woman in her bedroom save for a mute cameo from the artist.  Taking cues from the driving repetition of the track the insular life of a girl is played out over multiple variations of a theme. Using different colours, shapes, moods and textures it aims to unsettle and un-nerve and ultimately embody the title in its drone-like nihilism.” (Lipworth, 2014).

As Joshua references above, he took musical cues (repetitive, drone like quality of sound) and mirrored this in a video representation (repetitive character movements, claustrophobic setting). What interests me is not so much the finalised product, but rather this transitional state, from music to milieu, this processual occurrence. How did Joshua interact with the processual creative force? This is where the theorising of Bergson becomes important, with his understanding of the world as inherently creative (Williams, 2016), where we are always in a state of change, passing from state to state (Bergson, 1944). I want problematise the idea of creativity as something that occurs between an artist and their product (as Bergson and Williams do), and instead push to understand creativity as something more expansive than that. Creativity is ever present, and I want to explore how one might tap into this flowing force. This shift from product to process moves away from studying the object or subject of art and instead focus on creative process of art (Williams, 2016).

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Image: Knowing We’ll Be Here – Daniel Avery: Directed and Produced by Joshua Lipworth (2014).

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApeeVFWNNTw

Why ask all this though? Why is creativity important? Are some people more creative than others? Creativity proves to be an evasive concept with no set definition – it is not measurable nor objective, but an entity which emerges subjectively in the eyes of each individual body. Rob Pope outlines how, especially in the 21st century, “[C]reativity is of immediate interest to just about everyone: Am I creative? How creative am I? Can I become more creative?” (Pope, 2005 pg. 1). Whether we consider ourselves ‘creative’ or not, I want to raise questions revolving around what constitutes genuine creativity. I am not musically or artistically talented – does that mean I’m not creative? I’m attentive toward creativity because much of cultural geographies interest in creativity has been focused upon a creative product or an art piece (Hawkins, 2015) and not concerned with the actual creative process invested in creating the product. For me, the process is just as important as the product, as it through the process that the product comes into existence.

I also want to observe the Bergsonian concept of duration (1944). Duration, from a Bergsonian understanding, is recognising there is not one shared experience of time, and it is experienced differently through different bodies. Bergson understood time as being distinct from mathematics and science. For the subject, time may speed up or slow down, while in science, time is objective and empirically measurable. From this understanding of time, I want to postulate what impact durational force has upon creative processes. Does creativity fade over time, become stronger or change from its initial state? By adopting such an understanding of creative agency, we must consider its durational force on different subjects– and even if such a thing can be observed? What effect does duration have upon film and the director/creators as the process of its generation slowly transpires? As with any project (this dissertation included), the initial idea of the product in comparison to the eventual product created often is drastically different. This transpires because of this interaction between this creative force and the forces of duration and time elapsing. Being able to both recognise and monitor this state of change as it slowly unravels will also prove key in an understanding of the emergence of creativity.

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Image 3: Welcome to the Future – Ministry of Sound: Directed and Produced by Joshua Lipworth (2014).

Video: http://www.joshualipworth.com/ministry-of-sound-welcome-to-the-future

Adopting an experimental/creative approach as a method to answer these questions is a way in which we can open new lines of research and areas of study. As Williams (2016) outlines, adopting this Bergsonian approach to creativity expands the realm of what is considered geographical knowledge, both through where and how it takes place. As with my assumption of creativity, I want to engage with and build upon delineating perceptions and understandings of creativity and how we interact with it. Such a line of enquiry reveals a whole host of other questions, like our interaction with non-human and more-than-human agency, and the connectivity all these aspects share with one another. An experimental/creative approach incorporates using experimental methods into my study (interviews, participation in filming, in-depth behind the scenes work) to explore and understand a different line of enquiry. What is important about this approach is the possibility of failing to discover anything new, yet in doing so, knowledge is still gained in the attempt. By using methods outside of normally data collection, there is no guarantee that the theory I’m mobilising will correlate with the study that I am doing.

With these questions in mind, the following months will involve speaking to directors/film-makers, watching documentaries and immersing myself in the world of film generation and creative spaces to observe this emergent creativity. The aim of my project is to explore what is often unexplored when a film product is given to the public domain – an understanding of the process that went into creating the film. This process often goes unseen except those directly involved in the generation of film, and I want to bring this hidden aspect of film generation to the foreground. By using the theorising of Henri Bergson, I want to explain why an understanding of life as processual and creative has implications on politics and the world around us.

 

Bibliography

Bergson, H., 1944, Creative Evolution, trans. Mitchell, A., Random House, New York.

Hawkins, H., 2015, “Creative geographic methods: knowing, representing, intervening. On composing place and page”, Cultural Geographies, vol. 22, no. 2, pg. 247-268.

Lipworth, J., 2014, “Joshua Lipworth Homepage”, Accessed 3 July 2017, Access: http://www.joshualipworth.com.

Pope, R., 2005, Creativity – Theory, History, Practice, Routledge, Abingdon.

Williams, N., 2016, “Creative processes: From interventions in art to intervallic experiments through Bergson”, A Environment and Planning, vol. 48, no. 8, pg. 1549-1564.

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