Artefact Cards Blog
Hello Jonathan. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and what you do?
I'm the co-founder and programmer of LOCO, a not-for-profit foundation that champions the craft of comedy film-making. As well as training young comedy film-makers we host the LOCO London comedy film festival, which runs at BFI Southbank, Hackney Picturehouse and The Lexi Cinema from 24-27 January.
You've been planning out the LOCO London comedy film festival using the Artefact Cards - why?
Planning a film festival is a combination of emotion, intuition, economics and logistics: it's about balancing what you love, what you want and what you can sensibly achieve. The cards are a great way to develop and discuss a huge range of possibilities — films, guests, events, exhibitions etc. — then start to rationalise them into a coherent programme. And of course to keep the ideas that might not be right for this year but could be perfect next time round.
How did you find yourself rationalising them? Was it by creating a quick version of something else? By that I mean was it as if you were piecing together an actual programme that people would see on a poster, or splitting geographically by screen, or something different?
At the beginning it's more conceptual than that. For example, the two key themes of the festival this year are Women in Comedy and Far Eastern Comedy. We began with a bigger list of themes, then wrote a bunch of ideas around each theme, some of which were inputs (e.g. a Q&A in the style of a Japanese game show), some of which were outcomes (e.g. a better understanding of Japanese culture).
This helped to define the potential of each theme; we then figured out which possible themes had the greatest potential impact, which is what helped to decide on those two. And because it's all written down on cards, we now have a deck of potential ideas for 2014 and beyond. We then mapped out a list of potential films and events for each theme, which is when you start balancing what you most want with what you can actually deliver. Because the cards are inherently moveable it stops you from mentally locking things down at the point when they're still practically up in the air.
Has it changed the way you would plan something like this? What's the major benefits in this approach?
When you start planning a large event you have several different iterations for it in your head: there are certain set elements (screenings, discussions, parties) but how they look and feel can be very different, and potentially quite radical. It's like knowing that you're creating a mammal, but that it could be a leopard, a badger or a unicorn. The cards are a very good way of testing out these different elements in different combinations, and mapping the thought process for each, to help each animal take shape.
Various folk have talked about ideas having different shapes when using the cards; not being constrained by the fixed grids of PowerPoint or excel seems to help explore ideas more thoroughly. How would you have tackled this project pre-Artefact Cards?
The great benefit of the cards is that they are moveable. I also like their 2-sided nature: I tend to use one side for a simple bold statement, and the other for subtleties / outcomes / ambiguities. Before the cards I wouldn't have planned on PowerPoint, and I'm almost phobic about Excel, but I did tend to draw giant spidergrams, which are good as a way of mapping thoughts, but quickly become quite rigid. There are apparently 80658175170943878571660636856403766975289505440883277824000000000000 different ways to deal a pack of 52 cards. That's flexible enough even for me.