If you want to know how to make movies, the most important thing to know is that it’s all about teamwork. Everything comes back to how well your team works.
Teamwork helps to keep clear lines of communication between all the different departments on set, it helps actors to trust each other more in a scene, and it can go a long way in making the whole film set experience something you remember fondly years later. So what goes into creating a strong and healthy team?
First of all, any time a new group of people come together as a team, there are four different stages they’ll go through – Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.
It starts with the forming of unique personalities, being introduced to the individual quirks and characteristics that make up each person. At first, it’s kinda like a ‘honeymoon phase’. All those random and wonderfully weird quirks are things we enjoy in these newfound friends and crewmates.
Then the Storming starts, and some of those lovable quirks become something that start to grate against our nerves. It was fine for a short period, but realising you’ve got to deal with it, day in and day out, becomes something difficult. We begin to clash on how best to light a scene or pack the equipment or even how clean craft services should or shouldn’t be.
But then comes the Norming. A season where we realise that we’re all on the same team, all tenaciously pursuing the same goal – to tell an excellent story on film. As we settle into a sense of normalcy, understanding the timing and behaviours of each person on set, we then move into a season of Performing, where we see a team functioning at full speed.
This process takes time and when you’re only working with the same film crew for roughly 2 to 3 months, how do you get to that Performing season quickly?
Personally, I think there are two secret weapons to quickly become a Performing team and really make that dream work.
- Keep short accounts with your fellow crew and cast. What I mean is, give preference to them. Believe the best of their actions. I mean this is great advice for life in general, but the more we can believe the best about someone, the faster a team can form. And if the best is not what they’re giving, keep short accounts with them. Pull them to the side, when possible, and let them know that their actions have affected you. Brene Brown does a great short video about learning how to talk in the midst of conflict by using phrases like, “The story I’m telling myself is …”. By doing this, you’re not pointedly addressing someone with, “You make me feel like …” so it doesn’t come out as accusatory. And the calmer you can make yourself for that conflict resolution the better.
- Encouragement cultivates a healthy workspace. When you notice someone working hard, find a time to encourage them. It’s a simple way of saying, “Hey, I see you, and the hard work you’re doing.” We all like to be recognised for our time and energy. I’ve found that the teams that encourage each other find a way to work together in more unity. They trust each other more, there’s more of a natural flow to how they work, and there’s more enjoyment of the overall process.
These are just two ways that can help a team make the dream work, other notable mentions — if you find yourself as the 1st AD of a film set, putting your crew in the deep end, on some of the tougher locations and scenes, in that first week, helps give room for them to bond together through the hard times. Also, if you’re able to do a mock set with them before production, that can really help to weed out some of the issues before they become bigger.
Working with creative people can sometimes be a challenge, we’re all a bit more sensitive to our environments, but the more you can build a strong community, the better success you’ll have in making your film.
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