Remote Working The Way Filmmakers Do | Raindance

For filmmakers there is nothing new to remote working. Lacking plush offices has always meant that a filmmaker’s office is more likely to be a back-pack and coffee shop. As the global viral pandemic shuts down travel and coffee shops, many unfamiliar with remote working will be staying at home.

Remote working is a whole new cultural experience, though there are platforms to help you with it. You may have had a day or two WFH and enjoyed it. But after a week I am 100% sure that the novelty will have worn off. And after a month my guess is you will go stark raving mad. Unless, of course, you follow our remote working toolkit.

Remote working toolkit

The first thing I am going to assume is that you have a safe, clean, warm place to work. And a work station that is bright and airy with adequate power and internet connection.

Treat it like a real job

Weekends are a delight to me when Im not at a Raindance event. And I lounge in bed with my laptop and iPad Saturday and Sunday morning. This is NOT the way to WFH.

Get up. Get dressed. Get out of your pajamas. Have a healthy breakfast. Then go to your work area and start work. If you share your home with others, let them know you are ‘at work’ and unavailable unless there is a dire emergency.

It’s important to follow the group office routine. Have a 20 minute coffee break. Take a lunch break. And after work do something that breaks the day. Exercise or take a walk. Something that mirrors the transit time you would normally have during a traditional office day.

TIP: Even though the laundry has piled up and you are WFH resist the urge to jump up and take a five minute break to get the next batch of laundry on the go. You wouldn’t be able to do this in an office. Don’t fall into the temption to do that during your working day. Save the domestic chores for lunch time or after hours. Just like ‘real’ people do.

Banish Isolation

Working from home can feel unstructured and isolating. With it can come loneliness. And with loneliness can come unproductivity. And you wouldn’t want to waste time working from home, would you?

The cure is simple. Communicate with others on your project or team. If you are the leader then suggest to your group that you start and end the day with a ten minute wrap call.

TIP Why not follow a film set communication protocol: A bit like the start and end of a day on a film set. You know, with a call sheet and wrap report.

Keep up-to-date

Just because you are stuck at home doesnt mean you can’t keep learning. I’m doing a real Raindance plug here.
This website has over 1,800 blog posts. Plus our patented Live Online film training where you can actually interact with online teaching and learning.

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I really used to hate it when Raindance team members ask if they can work from home. I’d get a fliurry of emails first thing, and then a SMS saying ‘I’m on emails if you need me…’ and then silence until the next day.

Not any more, becasue we are learning to communicate.

It’s important to maintain communication with your team members. Whether it is a formal meeting or a bunch of asides as you are struggling to answer a tehnical question, it’s important to maintain an open line of dialogue. The question is to pick the right method that suits you and your team.

We have been offering an Online Postgraduate Film Degree since 2011. We have used a variety of tools to hold study groups and tutorials. Here are some of the popular ones we, and others use:

  • Slack a popular web and desktop chat tool.
  • Skype global audio and video platform.
  • Google Hangouts Google’s chat platform.
  • HomeSlice a time zone viewer.
  • Wrike one of the leading cloud-based solutions for collaborative work management.
  • Trello an online visual planning and collaboration tool for virtual workgroups.
  • Asana An online management tool to quickly capture tasks, to-dos, reminders, and ideas.
  • Zoom audio and video and online meetings made easy.
  • – this software allows teams to plan projects, assign tasks, track progress and collaborate with teams easily

Communication tips for remote working

Create a set

This is the movies, right? Even if you aren’t in the movies you want to make sure people see you at your best when you join a video call.

Make sure your background is as neutral as possible. Perhaps you can position your camera to point at a curtain or plain wall.

Tip: Video calls can raise more questions than answers. i can remember speaking to a colleague ages ago and afterwards wondering how they could fund a home with a large Georgian period living room overlooking a stately garden. it was only later I realised she was talking to me from the tea room at a National Trust property in Wiltshire – miles from her bedsit in south London

Sound and lighting

As in the movies sound and lighting are essential to making the subject (ie: you) look good.

Avoid back light. It will leave your face in shadow. People need to see your face so they can read your emotions. A lamp angled from the front at a 45 degree angle is a good fix.

TIP: As for sound, as in movies, sound makes the picture. I will leave the mic options up to you. If you think your onboard mic is making you sound tinny or full of static why not get an inexpensive mic added to your laptop.

You might also wish to invest in a webcam. Both the picture and sound quality will be better than your onboard camera and mic.

Create your culture

I’m going to wager a bet that co-working teams are more likely to bond and create a company culture than remote working teams. It’s your challenge to assess your workforce and how you can maange to foster a sense of ‘being’.

If you are working alone, lone ranger style, develop a contact protocol. Decide when and how you contact professionals like lawyers and accountants or fellow collaborators like researchers and writers.

When you are working remotely it is really easy to lose site of common objectives and goals. It’s important to set short as well as long term goals.

It’s always important to recognise each others achievements. For eample, at Raindance Bailey Graham, and her predecessor Eleonora Passelli would write blindingly good weekly newsletter after newsletter with little or no recognition from the rest of the team. It’s disheartening. And very easy to fix. All you need to do is compliment a fellow team member on something you’ve noticed has taken a lot of effort, and from which you have noticed some flare.

Every situation is different of coure. But how you manage to recreate some of the co-working team spirit remotely will pay back huge dividends.

Stick to a schedule

Remember school? Remember when you had a Geography class every other morning first thing? And then a break, then Math class and then lunch?

I’m really big on a schedule. It breaks the week down into modiules and the modules down into bite-sized chunks. And the great thing of sticking to your schedule is that it becomes habit forming.

At Raindance we have weekly meetings on Wednesday at 2pm. Anyone who can’t physically make it to the office joins online. The meetings are generally half an hour. But this week when we were discussing and debating the effects of the COVID-19 health care crisis it lasted nearly an hour. Weekly meetings are always a good idea. Not only are they habit forming, but they create team spirit. Which in turn adds to your company’s culture profile.

Fade Out

Key ponts summarised:

  1. Create and stick to a schedule: working remotely is a very different experience from co-working. A schedue will help you structure your day.
  2. Keep in touch with the team: decide how you are going to keep in touch. But do keep in touch. This will diminish any feelings of isolation.
  3. Schedule regular breaks: it’s a job, remember? Take breaks. Take lunch
  4. Learn to end the workday: be sure your work day ends. If not you’ll carry your work through the night and it can ruin your looks and your health.
  5. Choose the best work area: find the area that feels the best for you. If you are doing a lot of video conferencing make sure you have a professional looking ‘set’.


Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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