For the first time since 1997 I am about to embark on a micro-budget feature. I have made about 150 shorts since the last feature I produced in 2006 – but for this new one is really a back to basics home invasion movie.
I was looking past my old notes and came up with some new ideas. Filmmakers trying to boost morale on no-budget shoots can easily destroy it altogether unless they avoid these 3 morale building mistakes:
1. Throwing a party
Everyone enjoys a good party, but you need to explain why you are having one. If there isn’t a good reason for a party, then the morale-boosting benefits will be short lived. Rather than people networking and bonding, chances are splinter groups and cliques will form and start whispering about how you must be after something since this party is so out of character.
A better strategy would be to throw a party and tie it into an achievement, like, finishing the first 10 pages, or being able to wrap at a location.
2. Handing out ‘fun’ awards
In a tighly knit team where morale is high, sassy little awards like a tube of Smarties to someone who has saved the day can be considered charming. But in a situation where morale is low, this type of gesture can be derided as trite or inconsequential and actually have the opposite effect.
I made this mistake myself on a recent trip to our office in New York. While there I stumbled into a Marc Jacobs shop where they had perfect small leather wallets, ideal for holding an Oyster card. The were so massively reduced that I bought ten – one for everyone in the office. What an idiot I looked like when one of our staff left for another career and left the wallet I had given him weeks earlier on his desk.
A better strategy is to notice the small things a team member is doing, and make sure you single them out for praise. Have an atmosphere where everyone on the team can comment on each others work too. Each little ‘thanks,’ or ‘well done’ is another step on the road to high morale.
Offering a monetary perk to the best grip on the team, or an extra financial bonus if everyone finishes on time is another sure-fire way to crash your team’s morale to the pits. The minute you announce your scheme everyone will give up on it, thinking things like: ‘That job is impossible to finish by nightfall’, or, ‘Jake is the best grip on the team’.
A better strategy is to make sure that everyone on the team has the opportunity to win. Rather than promising one person a bonus, why not create a situation where everyone on the team can benefit financially if, for instance, the film finishes early or under budget.
I’m only able to write this article becasue I have made every one of these mistakes and more. I hope that my experience can be of benefit to you and help you avoid the 3 mistakes when trying to motivate your film crew.