How To Build Your Filmmaking Team Without Crooks

What I’m about to share is a cautionary tale, which should hopefully provide insights on how to build your filmmaking team, so you don’t get screwed in the process.

Picture this – A few friends get together to make movies.

One buddy liked to write screenplays. Another buddy 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 another guy wanted to produce. Oh… And for the sake of writing a good narrative, let’s also imagine one friend wanted to direct.

I’m gonna focus on the director in a bit. (Hint: He becomes a criminal.)

Anyway, as this completely fictional story goes, the friends got together and had an awesomely talented team. They made movies on the weekends, each playing to their strengths. They started small, with shorts. Then they eventually graduated to making features.

While these friends had a lot of fun and actually made a few movies that people enjoyed, the director friend had slightly darker intentions. Sure, he was talented. But there were a few red flags. On several occasions this (totally fictional) 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 then he failed to pay for the services.

Small stuff, right?

When confronted, this director always had reason for these lapses. And being good guys, the team simply gave him the benefit of the doubt. Besides, he was a good director. Maybe he was just absent minded and bad with money. But the filmmakers would learn they were wrong… Very wrong…

The filmmaking team made excuses because they thought working with this director could further their career. It turns out this was a bad decision. (The error of their ways will be completely realized years later, when this “director” steals a few thousand dollars from them and flees town.) But enough of this story… You get it.

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How To Build Your Filmmaking Team Without Crooks

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 – this fable was designed to help you avoid common mistakes.

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 talking bull-crap. Go to any “networking” party and you’ll meet a dozen people bragging about their relationship with Paramount. Newsflash, they don’t actually have a relationship with Paramount!

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.

Step #2 – Learn Everything About Their Dealings.

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 vendors, and other contacts. In the fable cited above, the filmmakers could have avoided a lot of headaches by simply checking references and doing their homework.

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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ARTICLE BY Jason Brubaker

If you'd like more tactics like the article you just read, make sure to grab a copy of the filmmaker checklist. You'll get 65 useful steps you can employ to produce your next feature film.
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