Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Why do you wear old pyjama pants even though new, shinier and less tattered varieties are available?

One word: reliability.

Reliability is an underrated commodity.

Reliability makes millionaires, creates household names and builds empires. Lack of reliability destroys brands, companies and careers.

Woody Allen coined it best: "90% of success is just showing up."

In speaking to producers, I have often heard them say variations of the same theme: they would hire someone who is competent and reliable over someone who is freakishly talented yet completely flaky. 9 out of 10 times.

If you are reliable, people want to help you in return. Similarly, if you let people down badly, they tend to have elephant-like memories.

For example, a small crew and I were shooting a key interview for a short documentary last Sunday. Our cinematographer had booked and confirmed a set of lights we needed for the interview.

Nothing too exciting so far.

Sunday rolls along. It's a beautiful day, our interview subject is recovered from an unpleasant looking facial infection (true story), the location in Bondi is ready to go and we are enjoying a wake-up coffee.

Seems harmless.

Then the cinematographer arrives. Apparently, the guy with the lights had lent them to someone else at the last minute. No problem, we just had to pick them up from the person who had them.

This person, however, was either either hung-over, still drunk, in a coma or dead. Perhaps a combination of a few of these.

"So what?", you say. "It's just lights! Don't be so over dramatic!"


No lights means we can't shoot our footage, unless we want the interview subject to look like he is in witness protection and having his identity protected (i.e. a completely black silouhette).

Reliability issues, no matter how trivial, are not victimless crimes.

In order to fix the problem and track down new lights, we lost 3 hours. That 3 hours cost us proper breaks for the crew; made the interview much tougher on the interview subject; and eventually meant that we could not cover all the information we needed in the interview. This now means we will now need another shoot day to complete the interview.

One small poor decision had a drastic flow on effect. That's why reliability is a commodity. That's why unreliability is a major risk to any Producer trying to build a business.

I don't pretend to know why some people are unreliable. It could be something locked deep within their genetic code, or it could be a choice.

I do know, however, that I will not give those people an opportunity again, if I have a choice.

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