Looking Through The Rubble, Ending The Silence, Celebrating The Risktakers, Hoping For A Few Good Leaders

You'd think with all the collapse in the "Film Business" we'd have a whole lot more experimenting going on.  Or at the very least the encouragement for experimentation.  Why is it that everyone wants to keep doing it "business as usual".  It's broken!  Those days are over!  The sky has fallen!  Dust yourself off and let's begin something new!  Stop sniveling. It is a different business now than what it used to be.  There is no U.S. acquisition market for films, even if the movies are good.  Library value as an asset is a thing of the past (or at least libraries being something you could base easily predictable cash flow or resale on is over).  People don't want to pay to see movies -- unless they are the sort of culture (including niche culture) unifying event film.  It is truly hard to get people's attention when they are overwhelmed with the plethora of choices -- we are a world of distraction and rapid attention shift.  It is even more difficult to get people to talk about good stories, even when more are told and made than ever before. Everything requires more work and more thought than it used to.

Which is not to say that the art and industry of film is over.  Far from it.  It is just a different business. And I believe there is great work to be done and substantial money to be made.  Particularly if we all accept a little experimentation along the way.  Trying something new does not warrant a "FAIL!" stamp.  There is more value than just monetary (and some of that is actually lucrative, or potentially).

Are the only conversations about it happening behind closed doors?  What's with all the eerie silence?  Spooky....  There's certainly a lot of discussion going on in other related industries.  But what is with ours?  From what I read, it sounded that around the proclamations of demise and change at the PGA "Produced By" conference there was very little imagining of new ways forward -- particularly methods that might support the creative community.

Can we start to celebrate the experiments?  The brave thinkers?  The risk takers?  Can we at least talk more about them? Could we ever have some sort of supportive structure that actually encouraged experimentation? Could we look more to the future, than we discuss the past or present?

Ten Things We Should All Do On Our Productions

1. Be a mentor to someone. This is more than just hiring interns. It is about really educating someone, giving them access to experience.
2. Do something "the better way" instead of the easy way. We make ethical excuses in order to say money, but we need to focus on the big picture.
Avoid 15 Passenger Vans as they are the most dangerous vehicle on the road.
Provide housing when someone has worked an excessive day.
Recycle bottles and cans.
Print less. Use less paper.
Email Call Sheets
Provide production packages (shooting schedules, breakdowns, lists, etc.) on line.
Crew Lists as Address Cards so they can instantly be in one's phone.
3. Remember that everyone is first and foremost a human being and not just a worker drone.
Learn everyone's name and what they like to do. Remember that everyone is working together.

Help them stay in contact and participating in the world around them: provide news updates at Craft Service; provide absentee ballots during election periods; encourage petitions for favorite causes;
4. Keep the crew updated as to the progress of the production -- through post and release.
Recognize they make the movie; treat them as partners.
Via email updates during post and release.
5. How can you have the movie actually help improve the world?
Can you generate charitable items that could raise money? Can you collect signatures on petitions for particular causes? Can you educate your cast and crew? What can you do with the completed work that will make this a better place?
6. Can you help out another filmmaker with your film? Invite another artist to film a doc about the process.
7. Stay focused on what the movie needs and don't get distracted by the thrill of 100 new friends.
8. Show your appreciation. Feel it. You wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for your cast, crew, and financiers.
9. Think health & saftety. Provide healthy food all the time. Have a medic on set, even if not required.
10. Follow the 20 New Rules Prior to Production so that your film might have a chance in this hyper-competitive marketplace.
Fine print: I try and set the bar high. I can't say I always succeed myself.

50* Ways You Can Do Something Different On This Production

New work, and sometimes great work, comes from thinking differently. We all get stuck in ruts, fixed ways of thinking. How do we bring a fresh perspective to our work? What are different options that we have before us?
There are certainly a whole number of different questions we can all ask ourselves when it comes to indie film production. Granted it is a tad complicated when film cost significant amounts to produce (or at least generally speaking). Here in America, without any government support, we also are obligated to deliver a financial return to our investors, and that is a great influencer on the process.
I would love to have a list of fifty to put before myself before stepping into a new production. For now, I will have to settle for this list of 13 until you all add to it. Thanks for the help in advance (and here's to hitting fifty)!

  1. How can you help other artists with this film you are doing? Can you bring others into the process?
  2. Do something stylistically just because you like it. Allow something to be "outside" the film, something that doesn't fit so right and is only there because you dig it. Why does it always have to fit?
  3. How can you help the world by the content of this film? How can you work for impact first, and business second (without ignoring those financial obligations, that is)?
  4. How can you have less environmental impact on the world with your process? Recycle. Use less paper. No styrofoam. Car pool. Carbon credits.
  5. How can you do more to show appreciation for your collaborators? What if you put people first would that change your content significantly?
  6. Are you really collaborating with your crew? Do they feel like you are? What if you listened more, and spoke less?
  7. You say it is a team approach, but what if everyone was treated equally? What if your equality carried over not just to financial matters, but also in terms of access?
  8. What if you completely demystified the process and opened it up to comment by all cast, crew, and fans? As opposed to the studio's no-twitter policy, what if you made it a requirement>
  9. What would be a different business model? Could you give it away? Free it? Never plan to screen it theatrically? What if the movie was not the main event, but something else was?
  10. Place the bar higher & reach higher. What makes something better? What if you made sure you could answer any question as to why before you started? Or maybe this would be the opposite and you should answer no questions but hold it all within yourself...
  11. Is your work truthful? Is every action, emotion, reaction honest? Are the settings truly lived in? Can you extend only from your characters, their psychology and socio-economic situation -- removing your own intent from the design?
  12. What if you built your audience base prior to shooting? And maintained significant communication with them throughout the process? How might that change your final work?
  13. Innovate. Try some new equipment on every production. Improve a simple process. Isn't production about the communication of information in the service of art, as efficiently, economically, and aesthetically as possible?

What Does It Mean To Lead Well?

We start shooting tomorrow.

I have some plans. Like all the good stuff, they are pretty hard to execute well. Why? Well....
To lead while producing means:
You motivate. You inspire. You admire. You keep reaching higher.
You will innovate and always take some risks.
You are prepared, and anticipating what will and may never.
You follow through, step forward, reach across.
You recognize you are just like everyone else, exercising your labor for what you believe in, and the hope of some security down the road.
You are concerned for everyone's health, safety, and welfare, their understanding and education.
You demystify, make things more transparent.
You delegate, and fill in the cracks.
You cast your crew with as much consideration as you have for your cast.
You never make anyone pick up after you.
You are accessible, open, and humble.
Your enthusiasm for the project is contagious.
You never forget the human factor. This isn't war; making movies is a creative act.
You treat all people with respect, and will allow others to lead you too.
You limit and reduce waste, making the most of everything you have.
You take responsibility for everyone,their situations, but allow their aspirations to be their own.
You remain focused on the work at hand-- which both here, and past, and far ahead.
You show that you know you are entering others' homes and 'hoods, that they welcomed you here, and you wouldn't be here without them.
You produce for before, behind, and all around the camera.
You are always learning and helping others to learn too.
You are strict and stern, flexible and relaxed.
You remain mindful of the big things in life, not just on the movie.
You earn your break, work for your supper, invest in others.