As his charming and endearing figure appeared on screen, the students of the Puttnam School of Film (especially the first years) took a deep breath, sat up in their seats, and looked straight into the eyes of the Lord David Puttnam in all his digital glory.
Surprisingly enough, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence in LASALLE’s film school. One of the perks of attending The Puttnam School of Film is being able to take part in these infamously exclusive seminars by the man himself, be it in flesh or digital flesh.
If one hasn’t noticed already, the namesake of the educational institution that is “PSOF” is Lord David Puttnam himself; an acclaimed and lauded film producer who’s career spans an illustrious collection of decades.
As the room fell silent, Lord Puttnam cleared his throat, looked into the webcam with a smile, and in a true filmmaker’s spirit said “Well, there’s only one way to start this whole thing, right? Action!” The hall erupts in agreeable giggles and the people within it come to life.
In his past visits Lord Puttnam would enthusiastically cover topics concerning the generation of ideas, the social and cultural concerns of filmmakers, and the technical and creative process of filmmaking from the ground up (phew!). As interesting as these topics are to creative bodies, what struck me the most was the underlying message that all of his topics shared; and that is the art of collaboration.
One would think that a man of his stature would have much to share about himself; but what is even more interesting is that in his seminars, Lord Puttnam is ceaseless in his praise of the creative collaborators that he has worked with.
Case and point: 32 years ago, in the 54th Academy Awards, Lord Puttnam walked up the pearly steps of the Oscars stage to accept the Best Picture award for Chariots of Fire. Speaking into the mic with a quivering yet excited voice, he said “Three and a half years ago, I started this project out with the director [of Chariots of Fire] Hugh Hudson. We’ve been together for three years. I’d hate not to be with him now.” To a round of applause, he beckoned to Hudson, and had him join him on stage as both basked in their minutes of film glory together.
This attitude for the deep appreciation of collaboration and partnerships has definitely not escaped Lord Puttnam to this day. Of collaboration he tells us: “It’s very much like a marriage. If you’re going to endeavour to do a project with someone, make sure you’ll both get along, because you’ll both probably be stuck together for quite some time.” The students erupted in laughter as the married lecturers smiled and nodded in sage-like agreement (or so I like to think).
All jokes aside, Lord Puttnam’s immeasurable respect for those he’s worked with tells us that there is indeed a profound truth in what he is stating. He continues by saying “I’ve been blissfully fortunate with who I’ve gotten to work with. Your career’s going to depend on the people you create your films with.”
The amount of collaborators Lord Puttnam has worked with is astonishing; and he generously spares no one from his praise. From his directors Alan Parker and Ridley Scott, to his musical composer Ennio Morricone, all the way back to his sound mixer Bill Rowe, the point gets clearer and clearer that Lord David Puttnam’s pedestal for those he’s worked with is indeed an incredibly lofty one.
All this, in a word, is inspiring. For an art student in a learning environment where collaboration is the centre pillar that holds it all together, Lord Puttnam’s words only invigorate us more to cherish the ability to connect, synthesise, and cohere with creative collaborators.
Of course, a Puttnam seminar wouldn’t be complete without leaving us with sage-like advise. “You musn’t give up,” he insists. “We’ve been talking about the 30 films I’ve made, but there’s another 30 unspoken films that were misses. You can’t have it all, but you have to keep trying. You have to. Be patient. Be blissfully patient.”
And with that, the seminar ended. It’s without a doubt that there were many heads filled to the brim with inspiration and creative fire. That’s a Puttnam seminar for you.
Many talk about the magic of movies; how movies captivate one’s spirit and transports an entire audience to a whole new universe exploding with ideas and emotions beyond their wildest dreams. This is true. But to those who toil behind the camera, something is just as enchanting as the silver screen.
Yes, movies are indeed magical, but so is the act of making movies. Those who partake in the delicately choreographed dance of filmmaking know all too well that when the pieces click, when the ideas collide into a cohesive unit, and when the creative juices begin to flow, something magical happens, and the film turns into a force of nature.
Lord David Puttnam’s regard of collaboration is not in vain, as there is a profound truth in it. Filmmaking does not belong in the hands of the selfish. In fact, it doesn’t belong in any pair of hands. It is meant to be shared, passed on from person to person, and when completed, turns into something pure…and dare I say: something magical.
Aron is a second year film student. An admirer of the likes of Tornatore, P.T. Anderson, and Miyazaki, he’s even more excited by the filmmakers he has yet to discover. Outside of film school, he indulges in good meals with good company, as well as “friggin awesome” television series like Breaking Bad, True Detective, and House of Cards.