Feedback is one of the most important elements of the FilmForward Free Place Residency. The participants in the Vrijplaats receive these from mentors, from guest professionals and from each other. During special sessions, participants provide each other with constructive criticism according to the so-called DasArts method. Workshop supervisor Rogier Klomp leads the sessions with great insight and pleasure. “This method is especially valuable for makers who quickly get on the defensive.”
The DasArts feedback method comes from the DasArts master’s program of the Academy of Theater and Dance of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Rogier Klomp: “At that time they struggled with the fact that feedback was often experienced as stressful and negative. There were also many students with different backgrounds and therefore different ways of dealing with feedback. So there had to be a method of giving feedback suitable for everyone, especially for work in progress, with a clear structure and uniform rules.”
Together with philosopher Karim Benammar, a method was developed for a feedback session of approximately ninety minutes, which follows a fixed protocol. “You don’t present your work, but let the work speak for itself. Before showing it, only roughly outline what it’s about. For example: this is a movie and it is intended for children. Show, don’t tell.”
The participants then give feedback in eight different rounds, according to a closely defined format. The maker does not comment, but listens. “This is intended to give the maker every opportunity and peace of mind to absorb the feedback and let it sink in. Often people are immediately on the defensive, but with this method you don’t have to explain or prove anything. As a maker, you don’t have to be alert all the time and formulate a response in your mind; you can focus entirely on the feedback. And if there are no discussions, you get two to four times as much feedback as with other methods.”
The feedback rounds include a ‘one-on-one’, where first impressions are immediately vented, an ‘open questions’ round and a ‘concept reflection’ round. There is also a ‘gossip round’ and a round with ‘tips and tricks’.
To make sure that the feedback doesn’t become negative or personal, there are rules about how you word it. Feedback is given in sentences that start with: “What works for me is…”, or: “As a filmmaker, I need…”. “It ensures that the feedback providers stay on topic and do not elaborate too much. Of course you have to deal with artists. Erykah Badu said that so beautifully at her concerts, to the audience: ‘Keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.’ That’s important.”
Although the feedback rounds are carried out according to a clear protocol, Klomp takes the space to further tailor the DasArts method to the work of the Vrijplaats participants. “There is overlap between audiovisual work and film on the one hand, and theater and dance on the other. They are all creative processes, where you create an experience and communicate a message. But theater is live, so you can always adjust it along the way. However, when a film is finished, it is finished. That is why I try to break open the creative process by having participants make audiovisual ‘prototypes’. Because of my background as a designer, I know that it works.”
It means creators need to present something that creates an experience. “For example, a moving script, a variation on a moving mood board, or a combination of raw material with music. Or an impression of possible film locations.
“By the way, this method also lends itself to more classic film processes, such as a draft script or a first edit. In the previous workshop, Jan-Willem van Ewijk had his script read with music. That also worked well. And Festus Toll and Daniël Jacoby had made a moving script and a compilation of found footage respectively. They showed them first without context. That evoked so much: gems were discovered, associations and new ideas arose. That shows the inherent strength of the material or the story.”
It is important in the modified method that the feedback questions to the participants (“What does the material do? What associations, questions and emotions does it evoke?”) are in line with the expertise in the group. “There are so many interesting, talented creators gathered together; with this method you can make optimal use of that collective intelligence.”
A personal touch that Klomp adds are the mind maps he makes. “I always take notes during the sessions, with an emphasis on drawing. They are a reflection of the discussions and the feedback that the participants are allowed to have afterwards. Then they don’t have to write too much themselves.”
At the end of a session, the creator who presented his work not only received verbal feedback, but also receives a folder with written comments, a personal letter that the participants write to the creators in the last round, and the notes and mind map of the session leader.
According to Rogier, the sessions also give the maker the opportunity to test something. “Mirella Muroni, for example, discovered that she wanted to work more experimentally. She made an audiovisual sketch with the help of fellow participants and that made what she was looking for much more concrete.”
Louis Hothothot showed rough edits of his new film about an American immigrant in China with acting ambitions. “The feedback allowed him to look more distantly at his own role as a documentary maker in the film and the relationship he has with the main character.”
Of course, the method is not always completely successful for everyone at once. “There are also participants who have a hard time not reacting, who quickly get on the defensive. They immediately refute the feedback they get and try to explain their project. This results in the creator himself speaking and receiving almost no feedback. But this method is especially valuable for these makers. Frustrating, but valuable. It teaches them to be open to feedback.”
Interview: Nicole Santé