How To Build Your Filmmaking Team: So you don’t get screwed in the process.

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How To Build Your Filmmaking Team: So you don’t get screwed in the process.

About a decade ago, I met some friends who were into filmmaking.

My buddy Jared liked to write screenplays. My buddy Owen had a camera and was honing his craft as a DP. And each of those guys knew people interested in other careers, like wardrobe, locations and special effects. And I wanted to produce. Oh… And we knew this one guy who wanted to direct.

I’m gonna talk a lot about our director friend in a bit. (Hint: He turned out to be a criminal.)

When all of us got together, we had a team. So it just made sense to make a few movies. Each of us played to our strengths. We started small, with shorts. Then we eventually made features.

While we had a lot of fun and actually made a few movies that people enjoyed, our director friend was a thief. Sure, he was talented. But in retrospect there were a few red flags. On several occasions the director promised small things and failed to deliver. He showed up late to set and made excuses. And on one small project, he hired a website designer to create a movie website, but failed to pay for the services.

Small stuff, right?

When confronted, our director friend always had reason for these lapses. And being a good guy, I just gave him the benefit of the doubt. Besides, he was a good director. Maybe he was just absent minded and bad with money. I was wrong…

I realize now that I made excuses because I thought working with this guy could further my career. I was completely wrong. The error of my ways were completely realized years lager, when this “director” stole a few thousand dollars from me and fled town.

How To Build Your Filmmaking Team

As a filmmaker, it is important to realize you cannot make movies on your own. Partnering and collaborating with other professionals who share your vision is essential for success. And if you’re wondering how to build your filmmaking team, so you don’t get screwed in the process – Consider this is a cautionary tale.

Enter any industry and you’ll find people at the top of their game and people at the bottom. In no other industry is this more true than filmmaking. In Hollywood people at the bottom are notorious for bragging about bull-crap. Go to any “networking” party and you’ll meet a dozen people bragging about their relationship with Paramount. Newsflash, they don’t!

Here are some steps you need to take.

Step #1 – Make sure they are legit.

Most professionals carry business cards. Grab one. Then after the meeting, do your research and find out if these prospective collaborators are full of crap. Some likely sources would be Google, IMDB, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you’re really serious about doing business, make sure you dig deeper. This may include background checks, talking with past collaborators as well as suppliers, and other contacts..

Step #2 – Learn Everything About Their Dealings.

After  skipping town, the idiot film director I cited earlier appeared in small cities all over the United States, bragging about his Hollywood success. In response to his con, local hopefuls happily invested in his movies, which resulted in a trail of unhappy business dealings, as cited on his IMDB page. A simple glance at IMDB would have prevented a lot of this.

Step #3 Create an Initial Project.

If everything seems squeaky clean, then it behooves you to get to know the person. Go out to dinner and for a few drinks. Play a round of golf or get him into your next poker game. What you’re looking for are flaws in their character. Do they treat food servers with respect? Do they cheat at golf? Are they a reckless poker player? I know some of this may seem trivial. But it’s not. I’ve found that people reveal their character in small ways.

Test Your Team

While not always possible, it is better to collaborate on small projects before you jump into bigger projects. My suggestion is to get the team together on a weekend and produce a music video, or a two minute short for YouTube. Getting into the trenches with your team on small projects will reveal how everybody will work on the bigger stuff.

During this time, if you see anything wacko, make sure you address the problem. But before reacting, take a moment to understand any issues. Sometimes hiccups are a result of minor misunderstandings. But sometimes the story doesn’t add up. Sometimes you’re working with a jerk. In these cases, get rid of them.

I cover how to build your filmmaking team in further detail in my professional filmmaking guides. But keep this in mind – In business, there is a saying: “Hire slow and fire fast.” It behooves you to adapt a similar mantra when building a team. This will help you avoid unnecessary headaches.

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In case you are interested, Owen has served as the Director of Photography on several shows and also co-owns a successful lighting and camera rental business. And as a writer, my buddy Jared is now represented by one of the top agencies in Hollywood. The director, sadly, is no longer relevant.

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