Monday, October 17, 2011


The blessing and simultaneous curse of the digital era is that we have all turned into digital "packrats".

My Grandmother understands. She can't (or won't) use a computer, but she is a hoarder. Part of being an Irish-Catholic depression era baby, I guess. I have numerous memories of watching her sort through piles of "stuff". My favourite is the enormous bottom drawer full of random newspaper pages - articles she felt were worth keeping.

Occasionally, she finds a gem. The functional Super8 camera with three rolls of film, for example. Brilliant.

For every terrific retro camera, however, there are 40,000 'commemorative' teatowels.

With my genetics in mind, I thought I would share something I found buried in some old papers of mine. I was spring cleaning, and found an old production report from a short I produced in film school:

On 'Tarzan the Deaf', I learnt three things very quickly.

One. There is more than one way to skin a cat. In this sense, there is more than one way to be a producer. There are those that focus purely on logistics. There are those that focus purely on story, and become a pseudo script editor. There are those that want the power. There are others who wish they had never signed up in the first place. There are no end of people telling you how to be a producer and how they would have done it better. But, as I learned, no-one is actually “wrong” in having a different approach. Producers need to work on outcomes, not methodologies. As long as the film gets delivered in the best, safest, and most cost effective way possible, you can produce any way you like.

Two. If your first impression is that someone is lazy and likes to make excuses for why they are lazy, it will probably turn out to be true. This is a killer, especially when these people are in key roles. A lazy person who is simply absent is actually far easier to deal with than someone who tries to cover their laziness by claiming it is everyone else’s fault. The second option makes for a toxic situation, as the crew gets increasingly frustrated with the lack of results and lack of taking responsibility. On a professional set, I would give them a window of improvement and then extricate them quickly if they don’t change.

Three. Put your crew in a situation where they feel trusted, empowered and responsible, and 99% of the time they will deliver amazing results. I can say this having seen some colleagues ruling their production with an iron fist, and then wondering why the crew are on edge. Pressure is necessary, as is pushing people to produce their best work, but micromanage and patronize people at your peril. They will give you the bare minimum of effort, at best. Empowering your crew will inevitably mean that things happen, while they are in charge, that you wouldn’t have wanted to happen (e.g. too many takes and burning through footage a little too quickly), but the benefits of giving them creative freedom far outweigh the negatives and most certainly show on screen.

Like I said, sometimes you find things worth keeping.

In that sense, being a packrat isn't all bad, I guess.

Assuming you like teatowels, of course.

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