Hi Film Folk.
Following on from our last Film Doctor Monday Prescription (how a project can deteriorate if it is not given the correct amount of attention) today we are going to look at how dealing with multiple projects can affect YOU!
And we’re also going to look at practical solutions if those projects are multiplying beyond your control (sometimes the workload just IS part of the business!)
NB/ Like all Film Doctor posts (or any other on the web for that matter!) we are speaking generally while simultaneously trying to be as specific as possible. We do not believe in ONE way. Every person/project/situation is unique.
Please do share your thoughts/experiences/questions/answers with us!!
Spinning the plates
Whether you’re a writer, director or producer (professionally or not just yet), you will know sooner or later, that you are in the people-pleasing game. You must please script readers, agents, actors, crew, investors, studios, audience (!) and somewhere along the line even yourself and your family!
Of COURSE, film is an art form. Of COURSE it’s about bringing back a healthy return on investment. But that road is peppered with people who need pleasing (on EACH project) and you better have a very good idea of how you’re going to do that. And well.
The key is knowing the ins and outs of the job you’re required to do. If you are inexperienced then keep your list short. Learn your craft. Learn the business. Learn the full process. Each mechanism. Each cog.
Get ONE plate spinning. Perfectly.
And once you’re sure you’re there with it (you have a full understanding of the processes involved in your job), then maybe pick up another plate and start that one up.
Keep it simple to begin with or you’ll end up with a lot sweeping up to do!
Now, no working writer, director or producer can exist peacefully without having to deal with numerous projects/issues/phone calls/problems. You will have script notes to deal with (which ever end you’re on), budget changes, location changes, actor changes (more rewrites!). You will have your family (preposterous of them!) asking to actually see you.
These ‘plates’ are going to come whether you like it or not (most likely once you have proven to the industry that you can competently handle them), in all shapes and sizes, and things are going to get hectic.
You don’t want to become that gal/guy who never knows what’s going on, who hasn’t read emails, who can’t be relied upon and who gets screamed at by their family… do you?
The key is: MANAGE!
Manage, manage, MANAGE!!
This is the key to all efficiency and the lifeblood of any business. Manage everything. Sure, if your role is creative then maybe you’ll want to give yourself a slightly longer, looser leash but, all in all, you need to make sure that you are getting the best out of your time.
Draw up realistic lists. Stick to them. Monitor yourself, do a monthly check up on how you’re doing and see where you may have been too ambitious, too slack or disorganised. If you should be delegating, then delegate.
The expression ”if you want something doing, ask a busy person” exists because most busy people HAVE to be organised to function and so will get their tasks done!
If you’re getting busier and busier and aren’t organising, then you risk forgetting important dates/chase ups or having a nervous breakdown!!
Got two commissions with tight deadlines? The spec may have to wait. Got to direct a few commercials and a music video as well as rehearse with actors? Maybe lay off storyboarding for a week.
Yes, we can all surprise ourselves with how much we can do but don’t lead yourself in a situation where you can not keep abreast of every basic email and phone call. You don’t want your head in 50 different places at once. Your work will suck, you will be a pain for other people to deal with and you won’t enjoy the process yourself!
Decide what has to be done and what can wait and prioritise that list! Don’t be afraid (providing you’re not going against your contract) to manage people’s expectations either.
HINT: get a realistic contract!
The key to being able to manage your projects and yourself is: knowing yourself. Know how much you can handle, know how long it takes you to do things (which you’ll only get from practicing and from understanding work processes), know what is expected of you. Know where to draw the line (one person can only do so much work).
Know to say no to things (there is a temptation to say yes to everything when you’re starting out and you don’t want to not deliver and develop a bad reputation!)
This does not mean you should approach projects/situations with a ‘can’t do’ attitude, though.
“I’ve not done this before, so I won’t be able to do it” or “That’s not my strong point.”
FIND ways of becoming stronger. Find ways of performing tasks quicker. Set yourself time limits. You’ll surprise yourself how speedy you’ll become.
Create new limits every day.