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Peter Jackson: find, train, & support creative individuals, especially the writers

The New Zealand film industry's been waiting for the results of the review of the New Zealand Film Commission, due 30 November. And we know—we hope we know—that the review will reflect the concerns of Peter Jackson, who heads the review, assisted by David Court, Head of Screen Business at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School.

So I was excited when I read Peter Jackson's recent comments to Michael Bodey, in the Australian:
My only advice to anybody is that it's about individuals. The strength of a film industry is based totally on the strength of the individuals, the creative individuals working within it, the writers especially, the directors and the producers and whatever can be done to talent hunt, to find those people and then train them and support them.

We're not talking about many people because in an environment where a lot of people want to be a filmmaker or think they can write a screenplay, not many people can, quite honestly, and it's a case of finding those people and nurturing them. That's what a healthy film industry is, it's not really to do with infrastructure or anything else, it's about finding talent and nurturing that talent.
Is this concept going to be the basis of the review's recommendations? That means a revolution--

'The writers especially' is the bit I most love. And I hope that those writers would include women like those who write many of the scripts that Susan di Rende of the Broad Humor Film Festival reads. She writes (and there's more in the full article of course, and similar ideas in Linda Seger's writing):
Women ... create a world into which they put a character or characters and then proceed to create the humor [or drama] out of what the world elicits from its denizens. The end result is a shift in the "fittingness" of the people into the world. This is contrary to the entertainment biz wisdom of making a script about one character's journey, building the world around the character so as to maximize the humor/drama/suspense/you-name-the-genre, and shattering the world if need be to deliver the character to his destiny.
Often women's scripts are perceived as weaker, Susan di Rende believes, because they do not deliver the monumental single climax that many men’s—and some women's—scripts do. Of all the opinions about women’s scripts I read or heard during my PhD research, this was the one that I found most useful, to have in mind when watching films women write. (There have been one or two this year that seem to be hybrids, that I think may have started as 'di Rende-type' scripts and then been compromised by development that tried to make them 'fit' the traditional one-character journey model.)

I've thought about Susan di Rende's ideas often lately, while reading analyses—in Women & Hollywood for example—of why Jane Campion's Bright Star has not yet done as well as some people—including me—expected, in various award nominations and in 'best of 2009' lists. I think the Bright Star script is a great example of the kind of script so familiar to Susan di Rende and that some people may view it—and the film made from it—as 'weaker' when in fact it's just 'different'. Another, local, example may be Gaylene Preston's Home by Christmas, which I saw and loved the other night.

So I'm hoping that if Peter Jackson's review recommends nurturing us writers, whoever nurtures us looks out for gender equity—equal investment in women and men—and script diversity. New Zealand could be the first country in the world to say: "OK: some women may write 'differently'. Let's make sure that they're nurtured to do that as well as they possibly can. There's an audience for narrative alternatives and there's no point—no need—to make women write the traditional single character's journey, with its single climax." Or men: I've heard that Michael Bennett's Matariki—co-written with Gavin Strawhan and in post-production—is a multiple narrative story, but perhaps not from a 'di Rende-type' script.

I've got a personal stake in this of course. I can write a single-character-journey script, well. But I prefer to write the Susan di Rende kind. And to watch films made from that kind of script, if they're made well. Like the wonderful Bright Star.


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