Successful filmmakers know their climb to the top has a lot to do with the people they surround themselves with.
We all love success stories like Orin Pelli (Paranormal Activity), Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch Project), and Damian Chazelle (Lala Land). Their success stories make great motivational reading. But if you met any one of these filmmakers they’d be the first to tell you that their success has a lot to do with the people they surround themselves with.
The film industry is a people industry they say. It’s not what but whom you know. And this is certainly true – know people in positions of power and you have a better chance of making it.
Filmmakers also need to know the right team players – everyone from line producer to sound recordist.
Truth be told, these are not the team players I was thinking of when I thought of:
7 People Successful Filmmakers Must Have In Their Networks
1. The Cheerleader
A cheerleader’s main job is to pick you up when you stumble or when plans for your dream take an unexpected turn for the worse. If I were you I wouldn’t spend another day on your project until you find someone who will encourage you no matter what happens.
I’ve been really lucky to have found several cheerleaders since the moment I started Raindance and the British Independent Film Awards. They range from significant others, older friends and special individuals I’ve connected with. There’ve been many times when I’ve stumbled or when planned events have reversed painfully. My cheerleaders have helped pull me to my feet and encouraged me not to forget my dream.
It’s hard making films. You’ll need as many cheerleaders as you can find.
2. The Mentor
My mentors are individuals more experienced in their area of expertise than me. Often they are the ones who have tried something similar to what I’m trying and either succeeded or failed. Regardless, a mentor is someone willing to share their experience and more importantly give their sage advice about your own plans.
When I started BIFA I had no idea what I was doing. Two extremely senior people in the film industry not only gave me learned and sage advice, but as I tried to follow their advice they also became cheerleaders. Let me tell you – there is nothing stronger than a mentor-cheerleader to get you going!
3. The Juror
In a court of law, a juror listens to all the facts and then passes judgement. Same idea for you and your career. There will be times when you need to make a decision. A helpful and honest juror will offer their best advice, based on the facts and not the emotion in the case.
Sometimes the Board of BIFA or Raindance pass judgement or act as my conscience. Decisions often don’t come quickly. I’ve learned not to rush my ‘jurors’. If I did rush them – what would be the point?
I should point out that a juror is not a judge. A judge is someone who might be the person making a call about whether or not your work is good or bad and levy a fine or sentence you to obscurity should you fail. As you might guess I don’t believe in judges for any creative work.
4. The Advisor
An advisor is someone you can call in the middle of the night or in the midst of ‘battle’ when you have to make a really big decision. Perhaps it’s about continuing to work with an individual. Other times it might be how to overcome a roadblock on a project and devise a new strategy.
An advisor is someone with experience in your area of endeavor. They’ll take the time to sit down and discuss your options and advise you.
Our postgraduate film degree utilises both mentors and advisors. The advisors we use on our MA often don’t give our students the advice they want to hear. Which is why they are so important. A good advisor will challenge your decisions and force you to think outside your box. A good advisor always has your best interests at heart. And they want you to be successful.
5. The Partner
Finding the right partner for your career is about as difficut as finding a romantic partner. A good partner is someone who knows what you are trying to do as well (or even better) than you do. They will often have complimentary skills to your own. For a filmmaker this usually means a producer. For a screenwriter it can be a director, development executive or actor who really believes in the story types you are trying to tell.
When Picasso was starting out in his Parisian studio garret, he found the perfect partner to help him launch his career in the American art dealer, poet and author Gertrude Stein. It was her collection of his early work that launched his career in America. When asked about her relationship with Picasso, Stein said “Every vine needs a wall to climb on”.
A great analogy for the perfect partner.
6. The Collaborator
A collaborator is someone you bounce ideas off and gives you their instant feedback and ideas. It’s a back and forth process where you and your collaborator quickly pass judgment on each other’s ideas.
Every single entrepreneur must have someone who can listen to ideas and quickly pass some kind of judgment. That is the collaborator by definition: someone who will help you explore new business ideas, products, campaigns, or anything in between.
Your ideal collaborators will have great ideas which they will share and develop with you. And vice versa.
7. The Butt Kicker
Remember when you started out there was someone who kept asking why you were becoming a filmmaker? This same person likely kept telling you you weren’t good enough to clear the bar. These words and this person’s opinion burns and burns in your mind. It’s the inner voice that keeps challenging you to keep going. The main role of the butt kicker is to incite action in you.
The most important thing this person does for you is to incite action. Kick butt.
Why don’t you make assembling this list of seven essential people one of your career priorities? You find these people at film networking events, like the monthly Raindance networking events. And at larger events like the Independent Filmmakers’ Ball.