March  2005  | This Issue

Martin Challis
Scene4 The Struggle

For the past three weeks I have been working on a low budget feature film which as any who know film making, will know how time consuming and absorbing such an endeavour can be. What has been remarkable as I sit back and contemplate the process is the power of ensemble and what is possible when we creatives come together with open heart, commitment and enthusiasm.

First of all we had the script good structure, funny and human. Starting half way through last year our director Ross drew the team together using insight, connections and word of mouth. Ross applied no hard sell to the vision he portrayed and as the day for filming drew closer we could feel the possibilities for good work growing.

Ross had seen my work in a short film last year and asked me to cast the film and assist him as an acting coach on set. This happy synergy was one of many that grew over the period of the shoot from director of photography to art department, production to electrics and all those in between, the crew and cast gathered and committed to give their best.

When I speak of the power of ensemble and the act of collaboration I sense I touch deep meaning. The ensemble as it functions reflects our collective consciousness and perhaps the collective unconscious each member has a function and contribution to make. As each member of the ensemble contributes in the most excellent way possible other members of the ensemble are inspired to further strive. In this practice of excellence the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts (to use a much coined phrase). And the members of the ensemble are joined in passion and purpose and in this find deep satisfaction in a shared creative experience.

Stanislavski and other great masters of our craft spoke of the power of ensemble, adding time as the other key ingredient to great work. The proof will be in the outcome and after the edits are completed, the film graded and sound design finished we will no doubt taste the fruit and know if the work will be received commercially and artistically.

Regardless of this outcome we will live with the experience of the power of ensemble and deep satisfaction that comes from collaboration where all members of the team were focused on giving their best. We worked up to 16 hours per day and captured between 6 to 9 minutes of screen time per day. Each day's rushes demonstrated performance and photographic standards of high quality. In the three weeks of filming there were no major hitches and any obstacle that arose was dealt with swiftly and economically and in good grace. Where budget limitations arose the team would improvise and innovate. When any friction occurred it was expressed, validated and left behind as quickly as it came.  

The team of cast and crew (some 85 in all) all worked for the love of the creative experience. All payments were deferred on the basis that if the film makes money then so will the team. While I acknowledge the importance for artists to be paid for their work, it is equally important that an artist practice. And that the collaborative artist practice collaboratively. I recommend the experience of the power of ensemble as a deeply satisfying and fulfilling creative experience.

©2005 Martin Challis

Martin Challis is an actor and director
in Australia. He recently  commenced
a coursework Doctorate in Creative Industries
developing projects such as The Raw Theatre
and Training Company. He's also the director of
the Studio For Actors and Ensemble Works.

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