The collaboration nation

Pondering on the future of collaboration – to ditch design by committee and embrace the creative possibilities of crowdsourced production houses.

By: Alfie,   3 minutes



Collaboration is one of those words that means something different to everyone. Some people thrive on the chance to make new friends, share ideas and pull together to produce something the whole team can be proud of. These people are, in my opinion, the worst thing about collaboration. With their stupid can-do attitude and childlike optimism they only serve to exacerbate my weary disdain for the imbecilic notion that committee thinking results in anything other than a vomit-inducing smorgasbord of compromise.

Shockingly, I don’t play well with others.

Well that’s not true. I like others. Just not when they say things like “Everyone’s opinion is valid” and “Let’s take a vote!”. One could, at this point, make a strong case that all my negative experiences of collaboration have one common factor.

“Perhaps, by opening up the team to literally everyone, we open up the opportunity to produce great work.”

Whatever. The point is, I discovered a new type of collaboration recently that bypasses all of this. I spent my Feed day looking into HitRecord, a company run by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I think the most accurate description would be calling it a crowdsourced production house. The idea is simple, but genius. You can upload any piece of original work – scripts, illustrations, bits of video – and other users from all over the world can turn them into whatever they want. They can modify your script, edit your video, or mash images together to make an animation. There’s seemingly endless potential on there, and some really cool short films have come out of it.

Looking through the Explore section is like having access to the most creative stock library on the planet. Like DeviantArt without the floppy hair and snuff poetry. But it’s the collaboration on the site that makes it what it is. People working together out of the sheer love of creating cool stuff. There’s very little judgement, just different interpretations of the work.

I gave myself an hour to write a short script and upload it. Nobody’s made it into a film yet, in fact at the time of writing it only had two likes. But it’s still exciting knowing it’s out there for anyone to mess with.

So is this a realistic alternative to the current team/ agency model? Basically, no. The fact that anyone can do anything to your work would make it nearly impossible to answer a brief. But its potential is undeniable.

And this seems to be the direction the industry is going. As media have multiplied, our specialties have grown more specific. Everything has to work on several platforms, so collaboration is inevitable. But this can still lead to the age-old problem of too many cooks.

So perhaps, by opening up the team to literally everyone and letting them do whatever the hell they want, we open up the opportunity to produce great work.

“An industry where people work together for the love of a project.”

What comes out of the process might not be what the writer pictured. But when is it ever?

The difference between good work and bad work is love. If not enough love goes into a project, it shows. There’s very little love in forced collaboration. So by crowdsourcing collaboration, we might not get what we hoped for, but what we get will be made by people who cared enough to make it. So it will at least be good.

I’m not convinced this is our future. But it’s an interesting possibility. An industry where people work together for the love of a project. Where anyone can interpret each other’s work however they want. Where all the finished products are released to the world and the audience is left to choose their favourite. And no more meetings are spent trying to figure out how to get that one person who’s never had an original idea to stop talking.

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