Creativity & Collaboration

Filmmaking is all about teamwork.

No two ways about it; get a bunch of like-minded folks shooting for the same goal, and there will be significant forward progress. In pre-production, production and thru to the post production process, it’s all about teams; small to large and often times, back to small again. It’s embedded in the filmmaking DNA, collaborative teams. Of course there are folks doing everything on their own, for one reason or another; finances, vision, they run solo cause they like to/ need to, but there are a great many more in need of some help from their friends and/ or professionals (who often become friends). Or at least friendlier.

I’m a big believer that creativity & collaboration go hand in hand; with every great creative endeavour, each creative success story, you’ll find a group of folks working passionately, raising each other’s game. Just so happens that the fine folks at 99U think so too, and they’ve knocked it out of the park with a great article on just how to achieve a creative, collaborative team to create a successful creative project.

I’ll summarize a few of the points below.

People being present pushes your performance!

It’s no wonder creative, productive people like to work in busy cafe’s– it’s proven that a bunch of people working independently, but in the presence of one another (think small space, long table, etc), prove more industrious than working in isolation. I know I feel that way, as do my writing friends. It’s called ‘social facilitation‘; just having people around us engaged in similar tasks (say, writing) will boost our own productivity. How cool is that? I’ve seen this in action to great extent with a friend running a company out of her home/ office; every day, there will be upwards of 8-10 people working on differing tasks for the company, all seated around a very large, oblong dining table in the center of the house just a few feet away from the kitchen. Brilliant. Folks busy working on their laptops, fielding Skype calls, sending emails-  all happening at the table. Coffee, snacks, water, etc just a few feet away. Productivity is full on. I loved that environment over my own home office, where just it’s me and a sleepy cat. I got far more done in the presence of the group, working on wholly differing aspects of the job, than on my own. Amazing. Try it for yourself.

Build your team and stick with them.

Part of what makes landing film/ tv production gigs is the fact many, many producers, directors, and on-set department leads have a roster of folks they like to draw on as needed. Some are key hires, on each and every gig, others are working their way deeper into the fold as they go. For the newer folks on the scene, this makes landing gigs a very tough, competitive and often frustrating experience. Many wonder just why the hell this is happening, why the crews feel so clique-ish? Well, one reason is, they are. Closely knit, working teams are The Way. For the folks who want in from the outside, I offer an insight.

Producers and department leads work repeatedly with the same film/ tv production crews because they know them; I’m not saying nepotism rules the roost (thought it does happen), but working with folks -repeatedly- makes for familiarity. Familiarity means you get to know each member of your team’s strengths and weaknesses; you share experiences, develop unspoken processes, tasks and habits; the team members develop a mutual understanding. Getting into the first draft picks for a team is a game, of sorts; you need to know somebody- some one- who can put in a good word for you, based on your skill set, motivation, work ethic and of course, personality.

See this in action with a tight-knit camera crew; the Director of Photography, Camera Assistant, Camera Operator and Dolly Grip working as a single organism, reading each other’s subtle gestures, movements, glances, etc. Stuff gets done fluidly, all while the camera is rolling. It’s a ballet, rehearsed over lots of time spent working together, hanging around, getting to know one another thru experiences, good and bad. Of course the DOP hires the same folks (The Team) every time he/she goes out! You would to, so try to do just that.

If you’re on the outside getting in- 99.5% of the time– you have to be a hard worker (proven), know what you’re doing (to the best of your ability/ research/ learning on your own), be absolutely dependable (you are always early, ready, and prepped), and a pleasure to have around. You don’t have to be funny, suave, or even charming; just be a solidly good person to have on hand for 12+ hours a day, without whining, complaining, gossip or too much talking. Do the job, be cool, and pay attention to the details.  Get to know folks on the job– work hard, know your craft inside and out, be wide-eyed and intently aware of all that’s happening with the team.  Practice the process, and make yourself indispensable– the good word will get around. Great teams are built on consistently great performance.

Grabbing a coffee break to chat is a good thing.

Engaging with one another off the job, or in less formal situations than being on set, increases energy and opens communication among the team members. This might seem a bit obvious, or maybe no, depending on your personal perspective. In a rigid hierarchal chain of command, this is less of a good idea– but then, we’re not talking about military operations. Creative folks getting together to share ideas, insights, perspectives on how to up their game is what all we’re doing. Wrap a gig and go for a beer, coffee, etc. Talk it over, what could be done better, differently, more streamlined? Have a laugh– mistakes will be made, so move on and do it better next time. Applaud yourselves of a job well done! You’re among compatriots– this has an amazing power to bring folks together, welding a disparate bunch of freelancers into a well-organized team. Hey, you’ll likely make a bunch o great new friends by the end of a gig.

Gleen the full monty- swing by 99U to have a look. Enjoy!

– M

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