What is the correlation between business and the freedom of artistic expression?
This question, unless you are a benefactor, actually remains without an answer, i.e. it sounds nonsensical in itself, if not placed in a particular context. Even though benefactors, as we know of them from the history of art, have long since been consigned to legend, they can even appear during this time of algorithms, corporations and profits incidents, and are “threatening” to become a rule, at least in one case.
Specifically, one casual conversation between Miloš Pavlović, Dean of the Belgrade Faculty of Dramatic Arts, and Marina Deleon, communications expert for Airport City Belgrade, grew into a serious cooperation project between this prestigious 70-year-old arts faculty and a company that is the pioneer of the “City within the City” business concept in Serbia.“Airport City needed a corporate film, and Marina and I came up with the idea to – instead of paying an expensive agency that would record the film “by the book” – leave this job to students of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts,” says Pavlović speaking to CorD.
– We generally provide schooling for directors, producers, editors, cameramen and actors in both bachelor and master studies. We have the Copywriting subject in bachelor studies and teach them to create campaigns. Without any dilemma, the Faculty of Dramatic Arts has the intellectual, creative and artistic potential to satisfy the criteria of a project of this kind. Our capabilities and Airport City’s needs came together. As far as I know, this is the first time that a company has given full creative freedom to students to express themselves artistically.
When you say that they give you freedom, what do you mean specifically – considering that it’s difficult to reconcile the corporate and artistic ways of thinking?
– You’re mistaken, and I’ll explain why. I sent the first emails to students of master’s studies on media and advertising and the interest was huge. Then we arranged a visit to Airport City, where its CEO Adir El Al led us through the whole project, telling us about how he sees the development of the company, its mission and vision, and then finally telling us “Now it’s open, it’s up to you”. He gave us the complete freedom to create the film in the way we think best. I have a lot of experience in advertising, both in the country and abroad, and I have to say that it’s rare to come across such an approach. They usually ask you to work within some strict frameworks “by the book”, as it is imagined by management and corporate bureaucracy. But this is something completely different.
And why would a young artist studying at your college be inspired by the tasking of making a corporate film?
– And to answer with rhetorical questions – was it inspiring for Leonardo da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa as an ordered portrait or for Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to order? John Ford made all his films according to ordered scenarios. We are professionals and we move within frameworks that are given to us, and here we don’t even have them. I’ll use a metaphor. If the frame within which you are doing something, recording a corporate film, for example, are coasts, then the filmmakers represent a powerful river flowing between those coasts.
“The most important instruction to the Faculty of Dramatic Arts team was to freely express the visual code of their generation. We believe in their creativity and I know we’ll all be proud in the end. The shared act of giving is also important for the ACB team” said Marina Deleon, Airport City Communications Advisor
How will this project unfold in particular?
– We did an internal competition that created interest among students of directing and production, and even dramatists, alongside students who deal with advertising, media and marketing. So, it is necessary to develop ideas for the film and for the bearers of those ideas to gather together the teams they need to bring the film to a conclusion.
We encourage with points for teams formed by students from various departments and subjects within the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. They also received a budgeting framework, so students are now in a position to create the project from start to finish, at both artistic and budgetary levels. We will select the best work by the end of December while filming and the beginning of the project depend on the ideas themselves, but also on weather conditions.
I would add that I have already seen some concepts and there are very creative but also unexpected works. The most difficult part of the job will be selecting a winner.
How unusual is it for a profitable company that has no reason to be interested in art, or to have any expectations from art, to cooperate with an art college in this way?
– It didn’t use to be unusual long ago. But what we are currently trying to do at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts is for our cooperation with Airport City not to be forgotten, given that we’re recording a corporate film, but rather for it to mark the beginning of a new era. Specifically, the idea is to form a creative development centre at the Faculty and, instead of sending students to various agencies as fresh reinforcements, to engage them at the faculty to develop – alongside the regular curriculum – their professional and artistic capacities.
I envisage that Centre having several directions, from advertising, digital media and video games, and then to deal with digital and new forms of performing arts. I think this could also be interesting to the Ministry of Education and the Government of Serbia, especially the Prime Minister, as her agenda includes innovation, technological development and digitisation.
“In the case of Airport City, CSR has never been merely about corporate obligations or PR. We have never chosen the most popular activity or most visible in the media, rather we’ve considered how our help can have the best effect” said Ms Deleon of Airport City
Would the possible centre at your faculty also be the largest production and post-production centre in Serbia?
– I will give you the example of New Zealand, which became a powerful post-production force that earns huge money after the shooting of the Lord of the Rings franchise, precisely in post-production. They hadn’t previously dealt with this business at all, but now their state and economy benefit greatly from that. We already have certain capacities at the Faculty – laboratories for sound, digital arts and theatrical and performing arts.
Thanks to professor Ivana Vujić, who leads this third area, Belgrade will next year host the World Congress of the Federation of Theatre Researchers. That means a 1,000 people from which our city will have multiple benefits. Imagine that we have a Centre and are developing the area of sphere photography, how much that would help court institutions and the prosecutor’s office, or VR, to help, say, students with disabilities who could have a 3D education in their home.
Or to engage Spielberg to give us a lecture for 300 students who would sit in a hall in Belgrade and have the impression that they are in the same space with him. Let me note that the digital era, despite having many drawbacks, simultaneously has great advantages, and I think we should take the best from it and adapt it to ourselves and our own needs.