One of the beauties of working with film is that already in it´s early stages it developed into a collaborative art form. Producing a film consists of a series of specialized tasks, where it makes sense to split the work into different departments, the classical ones being director, lighting, director of photography, camera assistants, production, editing, work done in the film lab etc.
Furthermore we can see a lot of specializing, especially on the digital side of film making. We have modelers, animators, lighting and texture artists, riggers, Tds, rendering, compositors, each and everyone, especially in a big studio environment, has a very specific skill-set and it totally makes sense to split the work and
When I started out, I did some cheesy animation films with friends, I got a hold of a copy of 3d Studio Max between a pile of games at my cousin at the age of 16 and several things in that process got me hooked from then on. I learned Photoshop by some books, made my first websites started to study theatre, art and communication. I did my first video projects, worked at a film production, taught myself how to edit and do animation, I held lectures at University about animation and post production. I took photography lessons, worked as a lighting technician, had some VJ gigs, started to produce my own music, just for fun. I was organizing cultural events, film exhibitions, worked at an art house cinema, organized open air film festivals a symposium for digital film restoration, became a filmmaker and freelancer in post production and was technical director of a digital film restoration department, building up our own digital intermediate pipeline. I have a license for driving a truck and trailer, learned how to weld and do metal works
Well how this this hold up against what I said in the beginning about specializing being a good thing, you might ask yourself. Does all of this make me a better filmmaker or freelancer? If you take everything I did isolated for itself some might help other won´t, but everything somehow is connected to making films and I enjoyed every bit of what I did and keep on doing and as a whole it sets me apart from people who do a singe thing and for instance know how to use After Effects or any other tool.
Are there people out there that can do X (shoot, edit, comp, animate, texture,…etc. )better ? You bet there are, but for me life itself and my work is a long term project and i´m willing to dig in deep into everything I do. It will take time, one step after the other, but for me it makes sense and it´s fulfilling and makes me happy.
I was lucky enough to be born into an era where technology is moving fast. For what you needed a whole set of really expensive equipment 20 years ago you can do now on let´s say a laptop. Where you had to learn for years as an apprentice you can get a lot of knowledge from the web and ask to a whole community of professionals that are willing to share and help.
If i´m working i´m probably not doing every step on my own I mostly work with small teams, where I take specific tasks. There might be some personal projects from the heart, where it feels great to do different things at the same time by myself I can jump in and light, record or do the sound or do a website for a project, if it´s really necessary and that makes me pretty independent. I´m very much aware that this is the long way, not a shortcut to sucess, but i´m willing to go all the way.
But I enjoy the collaborative effort of film making and i also feel very comfortable about shutting up and let people do what they can do best. But there are moments when you need to work with people from different departments and then it can be of tremendous help to dig into their mindset and know what they are dealing with and speak a common language in order to get things done more efficiently.
Does all of this make sense, not to specialize only into one direction in a world that almost screams for specialization? Well time will tell. For me it does and it motivates, awakes and in the end makes me feel alive.
What are your thoughts on being a general specialist, how do you handle it?