What every filmmaker needs to remember is life in the creative industries means running a three pronged business. People new to filmmaking also need to apply the same creative Management, personal Management and financial Management rules that apply to start-ups. Ignore the three ‘M’s’ filmmakers need at your peril.
The Three ‘M’s’ Filmmakers Need
As a filmmaker you need to make films. If you aren’t making films, you have no business calling yourself a filmmaker. It’s as simple as that!
In today’s new digital world it’s also important to remember that a filmmaker doesn’t solely make films. There are many different types of films that are waiting for you to make. Documentaries, shorts and feature films are no longer the principal types of films made. In our new visual stroytelling world one needs to add web series, viral shorts, television series, virtual reality experiences and of course gaming.
It would be a bold and strategically wise move to move away from the 20th century occupation of ‘filmmaker’. Instead, why not embrace this new world filled with opportunities for visual storytelling. And that could make you a muti-format content creator.
Think of all the different ways you can tell your excellent stories:
- viral shorts
- web series
- documentary shorts and features
- social impact corporate videos
- feature length movies
- television (or online series)
- virtual reality and immersive stories
- gaming and interactive
Whichever format suits your story remember: if you aren’t making it your aren’t calling yourself a filmmaker.
Here comes the bit that nearly always sinks creative: the management side of the coin. And by manage, I mean how to manage the business side and to manage the creative side.
Managing the creative side of one’s career
Managing the creative side means to maximise. And by maximise I mean you need to maximise your personal life as well. Managing a successful professional career is tricky. Combining a full-blown career with a personal life trickier still. But somehow we need to learn how to convince friends, family and lovers that a filmmakers’ life needs a huge amount of focus.
There are many self-help and useful instructional books and publications that can assist you in developing your thinking about this important topic.
Managing the business side
Running a business of any description require a knowledge of the structures required in order to satisfy local laws. Get business help and advice from someone you can trust. Perhaps, you can emulate one of my heroes, John Hitchcox.
John has built a repution as Europe’s most innovative property developer. A multitude of inner city projects under his banner company Manhattan Loft Corporation established him a doer. But rising to the next level meant John had to become a manager as well. It was here that John excelled by teaming up with the brilliant auteur designer Philippe Starck.
As his business grew John was able to identify the demands a large conglomorate required. He then partnered with the numbers-man Lloyd Lee to manage the dollars and cents side of the complex business.
With the management side of his business under control, John was then able to sit back and enjoy the benefit of his hugely creative side. His latest project, at Olympia in London promises to be one of Europe’s most exciting developments And why? Because John’s vision of a city centre community housing arts and commerce is taking shape. And taking shape because he has learned the value of Making and Managing: two of the essential three elements of a successful filmmaking career.
A filmmaker who can make brilliant content, who can manage their career’s commercial demands can still fail if the third M – the M of Marketer isn’t attended to.
To be brief, the rules of marketing for anything also apply to marketing for film. Rather than belabour the marketing specifics filmmakers use, I want to focus on something deeper, but terribly important to the marketing strategy you might emply.
The more I think about successful filmmaking the more I think about filmmakers who understand and implement branding. It is the understanding of branding and how it is implemented that seems to be a key cornerstone to a successful career. Which means of course that this topic is a cornerstone of the business side of filmmaking.
What is branding
It’s an urban myth to think that branding is all about your website or your logo. It has nothing to do with fancy tee shirts or corporate giveaways. Branding is, simply, what people think about you. Are you honest, punctual, a good listener, and hard working? Are you all of these things yet a bore to be with? Or are you fun to be with but a bit slap dash when it comes to paying your bills on time?
Branding is branding and the rules for branding are roughly the same for films and filmmakers as they are for other products. A filmmaker has two different branding to consider. First and foremost is the filmmaker’s personal branding. Think carefully of how you want people to think of you. Are you skilled, talented, resourceful? Are you fun to be with? Can you handle crises?
Back in my pre-Raindance days in my hometown Toronto I worked as project leader on a series of high tech projects. Whenever we needed to hire someone we had the ‘photocopier rule.’ Simply put it was: Would you like to be stuck in the photocopier room with this person at three in the morning when you have a 7am deadline and the copier has just broken? Or not? What we were really doing was evaluating the job applicants personal branding
The second challenge is to decide how you are going to brand your next film project. I have found that filmmakers often ignore their film’s branding or simply do not understand it at all. Many filmmakers talk of their new drama. The trouble with the word drama is it’s too general and there isn’t enough meat on the word drama to give a marketer any ideas for how to explain what kind of film it is.
Imagine going into a real estate agency when you are looking for a new place to live. If you said to the agent “Please find me a home” they would look at you perplexed. All apartments, studios, shacks, castles and penthouses are homes in the same way that all thrillers, rom-coms, crime, horror and sci-fi are dramas. In property we define the genre of th home we are seeking by the price, the number of bedrooms and location. In movies the equivalent is tool of genre. More importantly it is imperative that filmmakers study genre and learn how the story beats as well as the look and feel vary from genre to genre.
Many creatives I know are really good at one of the 3 M’s. Some are really good at 2 of the three. In order to really blast off you need to excel at every one of these three.
That’s a wrap.