Our Wildwood, Winter 2018, Volume 42

a l u m n i v o i c e

by James Dayton ’14

The Art of Collaboration

production: I borrowed my dad’s camera, we shot in Gabe’s house, and we cast our friends. In a day we’d shot it, and over the next week, Gabe and I put together what we thought was a pretty effective little movie. With a full audience of parents, teachers, and students, we presented our film on a large projector screen. Listening to the crowd—their attentive silence occasionally interrupted by a sudden gasp—was deeply gratifying, and with that came my great appreciation for everyone who helped out. I knew I couldn’t have made this film on my own. My realization that night was not that I loved film or that filmmaking was to be my career (I’d realized that long before) but that part of what I love about making movies is how collaborative it is. And herein lies my problem . with the auteur. A Billy Wilder movie isn’t a Billy Wilder movie without Charles Bracket or Jack Lemmon, and a Paul Thomas Anderson movie isn’t the same without Joaquin Phoenix or Robert Elswit. Part of what makes these filmmakers unique are the people who they collaborate with. As a student of the arts for the last three years, I find myself constantly applying the Habit of Collaboration in my films. Wildwood’s project-based structure, such as the Hamlet project, prepared me for my films at NYU. Wildwood didn’t just give me an appreciation for collaboration; it gave me an understanding of the necessity for it.

As I enter my final year at the NYU Tisch film and television program, I’ve been thinking about the theory of the auteur. It’s a term reserved for only a handful of prolific directors in cinema’s history whose individual style and complete control over the elements of production result in their distinct and personal stamp on films. Essentially, the director becomes the sole author of the movie. Some of my favorite filmmakers are considered

{ Wildwood didn’t just give me an

appreciation for collaboration; it gave me an understanding of the necessity for it.

auteurs—Billy Wilder, Paul Thomas Anderson, Richard Linklater—yet the notion of sole authorship of a movie feels off to me. I find myself searching for answers in Wildwood’s Habits of Mind and Heart, particularly in the Habit of Collaboration. In my junior year at Wildwood, we were asked to create a project based on scenes from Hamlet . Gabe Jacobs and I decided we were going to make a horror film, and working together, we carefully planned our

Wildwood taught me that when you’re making something, you shouldn’t be afraid of not knowing what to do next. Embrace “I don’t know”; allow yourself that gift. Because chances are, a friend or colleague will know you well enough to point you in the right direction. The best ideas don’t always need to come from you. You can identify them as they arrive, from whatever source: family, friend, teacher, student, stranger—the best idea wins.

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