Santa’s 7 Lessons For Filmmakers

Santa's lessons for indepednent filmmakersHoliday season again.

I meet filmmaker after filmmaker on the streets around the Raindance Film Centre in London’s theatreland and they’re all lamenting the fact that this town is closing down for a good solid fortnight and they can’t get answers on their projects.

Bah Humbug.

Why moan and complain? Are you worried about what kind of gifts you’ll get?  All you need to do is learn from the master of independence itself: Hey Ho! Santa Claus!

Santa’s 7 Tips For Independent Filmmakers

1.Branding is everything

Santa’s biggest achievement was to create an internationally recognised brand – the same goal any filmmaker1. Did he await the big cheque?

Not at all. Santa Claus started from a tiny workshop with physically disabled crew from a small island in the Arctic north.

You too can learn about branding both for your film, and learn about how you brand yourself as a filmmaker to create a career strategy.

2.Create memorable characters

Develop a strong character with instantly recognizeable features and character traits. That’s all Santa did: His character show strong development of 3 distinct types of traits used by professional storytellers:

  • Physical traits with his flowing white beard, the red suit trimmed in white, the hat with the bob tail,
  • Sociological traits: he is an arctic northerner who runs a small manufacturing company
  • Psychological traits: he is a jolly happy guy when you are good but pretty mean and unforgiving when you are naughty.

3. Theme songs and jingles

The movie money is in the music they say. Santa knows that too. Although his lyrics and tune are now public domain, my guess is he raked in enough dough to keep his workshop going for centuries. Astute filmmakers will learn about music rights as a way to fund their ventures.

4. Credit where credit is due

Santa didn’t take all the glory – he gives credit where credit is due. Even his reindeer get named credits, and the lead reindeer even got his special effect with the glowing nose.

Saying thankyou properly is one of the simple things one can do and it makes a huge difference to the morale of your team.

5. Don’t forget the food.

Tradition dictates that children leave cookies and milk as a midnight snack for the great bellied one to charge up on before dashing off to the next home.

Your cast and crew too appreciate food to keep their energy up. If you have an early start make sure you get there half an hour early so the coffee, as Dov Simens would say, is “Perked not Perking” ready to set your crew on fire.

6. It’s better to give than receive

If Santa operated his workshop on the profit and loss basis that big toy companies do, Christmas would become an endless boring rhyme of profit participation, fees, deferments and buy-out dates. My guess if that was the case there’d be no Christmas.

Here’s what we can learn from Santa. If we concentrate on the giving side, and recognise the intrinsic benefits of our filmmaking, things like creative fulfillment and personal satisfaction then the spirit will have a chance to take hold and you can reward yourself with the Christmas spirit.

7. Stamina

Can you imagine the physical strain of visiting all those children in a single night? It makes traveling on the rush-hour tube seem like a dawdle.

Santa has stamina. I bet he eats right, gets lots of rest and exercise. You do this too. Why? Because, like Santa, we want to see you and your newest film next year.

Fade out

There’s lot’s of other things Santa does we can learn from. Like merchandise. Santa merch is everywhere. Wouldn’t you die a dreamlike death if your merch was at every corner of every country in the world? Like his use of social media – how does he handle all those lettesr?

I am sure I have missed something.

What have I missed?

Leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Happy holidays

Elliot Grove




Elliot Grove

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