Thursday, September 25, 2014

Be Smart About Your Work

This may be an epiphany to some; to others you may already know this:  making a movie is tough business. 

The reason why so many people think they CAN make movies is because we (professionals) make it look easy. Because we know what we're doing. 

And how do we do that? SIMPLE. 

You surround yourself with people smarter than you, and you trust them when weigh in. 

If you have a demolition expert that graciously donates their time to come to your set, and he says to you, "Hey, when they take out that building, they would put the charges on the beams, not just leave them on the floor,"  what's the correct response?

A.  Oh, it'll be fine.  No one will catch that. 
B.  We don't have time to change that.  (When it takes like, fifteen seconds). 
C.  Oh, that was a PA's job.  (curses furiously and continues with scene)
D.  Really? Thank you for that! (calls over AD, shares info, and lets AD handle the change). 

I'll give you a hint. It's:

It's ALWAYS D!  Listen to those around you who KNOW what they are doing! Believe it or not, they want to make a great movie too. They don't want to be attached to a piece of dog poop. And if you're making a film and you're ignoring everyone around you, that's what you're going to make.  

I'm not talking about your expertise, because I don't care where you went to school, or who you know, or what you've worked on in the past.  

Listening will be the difference between you making a good movie and a great movie.  

I'm NOT saying to give away your creative control. Or your status as producer to have the last word. Or as director to determine what the shot is.  Obviously, you don't lose control of your set by making it a collaborative frat party.  But if your DP says, "The lighting won't work for this shot," and your answer is, "We'll fix it in post."  Then the entire set will know that you are not a dedicated director, but lazy.   That you have unattainable expectations.  And that you do not value those around you. 

And that word travels fast. 

If you're producing, you're over a bunch of departments. If one is lagging behind and your answer is to publicly call them out and chastise or blame them, you probably need a different job. You keep everything running smoothly. And by having those smarter than yourself in the key positions: DP, Set Design, Editing, etc., you allow them to make calls, and you stand by them... unless absolutely necessary.  If there's a reason for the delay, ask the department head. It could be something easy for you to fix. And that IS your job as the producer. 

No matter the position you are in on a set, you are making magic. You're transforming worlds and bringing an audience with you.  

Why micromanage that? 

So be smart.  Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. And tell them that. They love it. And listen when they talk. 

And always be grateful. That will weather storms and any trials that come up on a set. 

If your crew feels valued, there is nothing they won't do.  But they can't and won't feel valued if they are ignored. 


How well do you think Band Of Brothers would have fared if Spielberg had not listened to his advisors and crew? Food for though. 

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