It’s the new year, ending my holiday hiatus as I get back into writing new posts. I’m going to revisit something I touched on a while back in Finding People.
You Can’t Do It Alone
Creativity is a lonely pursuit – most of the time we have to wall ourselves off and work. And work. And work. Finishing the piece is only the beginning – there’s going to be round after round of revision, then will come trying to get the piece published or bringing it to market yourself.
When you’re writing you’ll need an editor. A cover artist. Someone to help you write ads. With film you need actors. People who can handle lighting. Sound. Camera operation. Someone to monitor continuity (you may not realize you need this, but you’ll realize how important it is if your edits are out of whack). With a comic there are writers, artists, colorists, inkers, letterers…
I think the prevailing myth is that an artist is a solitary creature, but in reality while there are lonely stretches at the onset most projects will require a team.
This is a very, very important consideration. The right people can help you succeed and the wrong people can get a project killed – or worse, get you into very deep trouble. If you want to succeed you’ve got to screen everyone you want to work with before the project begins.
Get a sense for what these people have done. Take a look at an acting reel, an artist’s portfolio. Do they openly offer links or samples of their work, or do they give you nebulous answers when you probe for detail? Ask about how the project was managed. What did they like or not like. How do they work. Keep in mind whether their approach jives with yours.
If the person is local you may want to meet for coffee or rent some shared office space to have the initial couple of meetings. Online it’s a bit more difficult, but with Skype and other chat software it’s not impossible.
Again, in the meeting watch for red flags. Nebulous answers are obvious, but listen to your instincts. Sometimes someone who’s not what they claim to be will set your danger sense off. If things don’t quite feel right, think twice before bringing this person on.
If possible reach out to someone who’s worked with the person in question. See what they have to say.
Also consider where the person is. If they’re in a different time zone, how will you communicate. If they need to meet you in person, are they within a commutable distance? Be warned if you put out a casting call for a film, you may get replies from very far away. Be prepared for this. Also be warned some people will commit to a project far from where they live but fail to show up for whatever reason. I’ve had this happen to me so often I rule out people beyond the distance I’d commute. Your mileage may vary, but you’ve got to keep this in mind, especially on low budget projects.
I personally don’t rule out people with no experience instantly. Sometimes a passionate newcomer can work as well as someone with experience, with the added bonus they aren’t set in their ways and may be more open to your guidance.
The important thing here is most people with experience will be able to fill in gaps – the good ones will, at least. You can give them a bit to go on and they’ll deliver. Look for this in the passionate newcomer. It may be natural talent; it may be attention to deatail; it may be they’re good at reading into things. It may be a combination, but it’s worth holding onto if you can find it.
First Project – Tight Scope
I can’t stress enough: when you’re getting started and for a while afterward, have a very tight scope for your project. Don’t head out and try to make your first project a feature, a 1200 page graphic novel, or an ongoing series of novels. Start small and simplify – short films or stories are great. All the pieces in a larger project are there, but it doesn’t take as long to do. The commitment for everyone is smaller, and you’re more likely to attract good people.
Have a clear direction for where you want to go. If you’re running the show you’re the one everyone is looking to for leadership, whether you like it or not.
Bend But Don’t Break
Managing a project is all about tradeoffs. The three areas of project management are Time, Budget and Quality. Some people will say you can pick two but my mentor advised us to pick one. That aspect is the focus of the project, and it will impact the other areas. There’s no way around this and if you try thinking you can have everything you’re increasing your chances of failure.
There will also be times where you may have had some kind of vision – a shot in a film, a panel in the comic, a scene in the novel. Make sure you clearly communicate this to everyone on the project throughout the entire project. Remind people when it’s coming up. And if you’re lucky it goes the way you wanted it to. However there are going to be times when you can get most of the way there; maybe you can get some of the way there; or it just doesn’t work. Then what?
That’s a good question. It’s something you’ll have to consider when the time comes. I can’t tell you when it’ll happen, but you bet it will.
You’ve also got to take the team into consideration. Some creatives run such a tight ship they don’t want to hear from anyone else, they have a vision and that’s it or the high way. I personally try to at least consider recommendations from my crew, since they may offer something I hadn’t considered that works better than my initial vision. You’ve also got to (politely) stand your ground if necessary, and bring things back into focus if they get off track.
This being said, watch out for type A personalities who try to hijack the project. I can guarantee you’ll see this at some point and it’ll drive you nuts. Remember, if you pulled the project together, it’s your vision in the end. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Try to resolve differences before they escalate too much.
Good luck. Please share your thoughts in the comments.