Planning Versus Creative Spontaneity

Anyone involved in professional media production, be that corporate, radio, television, film or multimedia, will have a horror story of a production that went wildly pear-shaped due to lack of planning. So is planning always necessary, and does it stifle creativity and spontaneity?

When I was working as an actor, and I played various roles in a training film about social workers. It was so poorly planned and structured, that we were forced to re-write the script during the actual filming. It was amazing that the job ever got finished and didn’t end in absolute anarchy! What it lacked was good production planning, and the leadership to see it through.

On the other hand, I have also been involved in a project that developed through improvisation and collaboration, which was extremely exciting and relied on spontaneity to shape the work.

So should students be encouraged to plan everything or be allowed to follow their creative instincts and spontaneous opportunities?

Let’s look at the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’. Planning is certainly the safest option and encourages a professional approach regarding logistics, budget and deadlines. The process should involve clearly structured content, a script, storyboard or programme template; which ever it is, this is the blue print from which the production team will work.

A well-planned production also requires a schedule, a production schedule and an overall schedule for meeting the deadline. Planning exactly ‘who’ is doing ‘what’, and ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ each part of the process is to be achieved, insures against lack of vision and purpose. Most importantly, it is time efficient and makes for an effective working process.

But does rigid planning really allow for spontaneity and creativity? The argument here is that good planning saves time, and it is this that allows for creative spontaneity. Surely, if everyone knows what they are doing and the timeframe involved, they are in a good position to respond to any unexpected ideas, events, interviews, sound effects or great shots, which spontaneously present themselves during production.

But is this enough? It may suit teachers or lecturers who need to control assignments, and manage a schedule, but is it appropriate for the students? Surely we want to allow students free reign to explore their imaginations and find new ways of using and communicating through digital technology? Isn’t it the job of up and coming media makers, to push the boundaries through experimentation?

This question leads to another. Should the purpose of Media Studies be the generation of professional practitioners, or a rich learning experience that enables individuals to express themselves in ways that other subjects don’t allow?

A thorough grounding and working knowledge of professional practices is certainly valuable to those looking to make a career in media. But in a wider context, the creative process is inherently spontaneous, and invariably helps us to ’think outside the box’.

Planning is vital to the professional, but so too is creativity and spontaneity. The fact is; good media making involves both skills. The challenge it presents is - how do we encourage, support and manage these skills for our students?

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Kind regards,
Mike - Media4ed.

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