Producing a film is a lesson in teamwork

Imagination Connoisseur, William La Rochelle, shares his experiences of trying to assemble a team for producing a film. Challenges abound, but William offers some tips on how to avoid major pitfalls. A “must read” for those considering producing something for this year’s IICFF.

Hi Rob and the PGS.

As people contemplate maybe making a film for the Festival, a suggestion occurs to me in terms of how to pull together a team. I’ll describe something I was involved in back in 2004 that is at its core a good idea but also a cautionary tale.

Suppose you have a handful of people who want to generate a short and get out of the rut of waiting. Maybe all of you are potentially writers or directors, but there may be others with skills outside of that. Somebody has a camera and other equipment, maybe someone else has a decent editing facility.

Back in 2004, that was more of a find. Five years later and I would have had my own decent camera and one year later, everyone had some sort of editing software. Today, DSLRs or cell phones might suffice. But the human resources of a group agreeing to work together is the main value.

The plan was to read submitted scripts that could each be done with limited cast and logistics over a weekend. A few actors, one or two locations, over two days. We first voted for the four (ended up being five once it got going) scripts. During the week we would have an event night to try to raise a small about of money for odds and ends that came up.

Five weekends in a row, plans came together and shorts got shot. The director on one short might be camera for another. An actor in one short might be directing the next. Usually people directed their own scripts.

There was enough of a small community from this, especially as actors became part of it, that locations ended up being acquired and resources were pooled.

The group leaders then pitched the idea of selling ads for the program of the screening. That actually did raise money, intended for the next batch of shorts. But this was a wrong turn because now money was raised before the scripts had been voted on.

The group had been presented as a democracy. The leaders felt they were doing more work and one of them had raised the most money, so he felt he should not have to subject his script for a vote. Of course, his script was complicated and had many locations and characters. The group fragmented and all of the money was spent on that project, which was shelved and not screened.

Had the agreement been that whoever raises the most money gets their movie made, that might have avoided some drama. But it also would have shifted the mission statement of the group. Money too often is the decider. To choose manageable scripts and ideas that are well focused had been part of the appeal and the idea of democracy was used as a lure.

Even though a person who acts in one short and is a driver for others is a vital link in the chain, someone who raised money was counted as doing more work. The human resources being focused on a project like this is actually worth a lot more than the thousand or so dollars that had been raised.

This kind of co-op still has potential to be a decent model, providing participants keep to the specs:

Write focused scripts that can be done over a weekend

Choose props and settings that can easily be acquired or that you already have.

Vote for scripts to be chosen, before raising money.

Overall, there are still some positive memories woven into the tension and arguments and some of the spin that happened. It might be an idea to have your budding group read this account just so you stay on course.

During this year of the Corona, obviously getting people together at all can be a challenge. And reaching out under the best circumstances can be an effort. I know I’d rather put my script and storyboards into a machine and have a movie come out the other end. But even if you have some sort of association or a household that are up for making something manageable, it might be worth discussing.

If you know that every weekend you are going to shoot something, even something small, it can break inertia and become a habit.

Just putting that out there.

William

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