How To Produce An (independent) Movie


I feel greatly indebted to the Blender community. I have come along very late in the chain. I am very new to this community and I have always felt that I was getting something for nothing. I can’t really believe how wonderful it is to have something like Blender at my finger tips.

Prior to using Blender I have always used commercial software. But frustrated with the package I was using I turned to Blender in late 2008 to continue working on a very personal project that I never tell anyone about. Some of my closest friends are the only people who know about it. It is just something I work at quietly on my own time between work I do for money. So forgive me if I don’t post WIP and contribute in that way. That may change in the future.

In any case I don’t think the Blender developers get nearly enough credit for what they have done and what Blender really means to the art world and thus to the world at large. Open source software is definitely going to be the new wave of the future. In many ways in already is. And now I use almost exclusively open source.

But there is no more apt truism to apply here than “Nothing is for free.”

I have thought about it. And I can think of nothing I could contribute more than some of my general knowledge about producing films. I am no expert in Blender, learning is still a WIP. And there are plenty of gurus contributing in this area. So I hope I can fill somewhat of a void here with the following writings. I hope they are of some use. And I hope they do not repeat too much of what is already available. In any case, it is my contribution, for better or for worse. You can be the judge.

Obviously people can comment and contribute. This is an open forum. But I will mainly use this as a vehicle for some things I have lying around that I have written or thoughts that have not seen the light of day. It will take a while and I will keep it updated as I have time.


I have been in the filmmaking feild as a professional hobbyist since 1991. Two years prior to that I ended my 15 year career as a professional musician and began to take up acting, directing and writing. I had gone to school for music, and was a professional drummer by trade. I also wrote songs and composed score music. My Most notable achievement up to that time was working with platinum recording artist Maxine Nightingale from 1988-1989.

(No it is not me in the video. But I did a few such concerts with her as a drummer)

I bring this up for two reasons, neither of which is to “drop a name”. 1) I want to illustrate the skill level I had achieved as a musician - mainly as a reference point. I was a professional drummer. So when I say professional level, I mean being able to work with world class artists. 2) I learned from working with her, a woman who had been working professionally since the age of 16, that true pros always give 200%.

One day she approached me to write some songs for her. I did and we went into the studio. It was here I was treated to the experience of seeing a true professional at work. The engineer and I would be sitting there after a full take on the song from start to end with our jaws on the floor. How could it possibly be any better? She would say, “Let me do it again.” We’d save what we were sure was the keeper and let her do another. This would go on for 5 or 6 takes. Each time the best it could be, (so we thought) yet each time again even better until she was satisfied. The end result was a world-class performance from a world-class talent. I never forgot that. It validated what I always thought was true. You always to your best, always. And you always give 200%. And you never compromise when you know you can do better. Then comes the wisdom to know when something is good enough and not to go overboard with perfection. It is a fine line.

This is an important lesson I will refer to many times. Because many people never even approach the 100% mark.

When I later decided to work as a filmmaker. I did exactly what I did with music. I worked to achieve a professional level skill in everything I was doing. Be it acting, writing, directing and so on. And when I began working in 3D, I then also continued this approach. And it is now currently on going. I am not yet a full-fledged professional 3D artist.
This is a WIP.

But I do know quite abit about the production of films from doing it over the years. Much of this knowledge is transferable to 3D production. I have completed 3 films. And in each film 3D animation has played a role to one degree or another. My first 3D animation was very simple and basic back in 1992-1994 and was used primarily for special effects shots in my first short. That was my first introduction to 3D and the love for it has stayed with me ever since. And now I plan to work exclusively in 3D.


This should also be associated with be self-aware, honest with yourself and other people. In that order. And this is the first lesson.

When you do not do this, you make trouble for yourself and for other people. Too many times people post advertisements here to get “help from the Blender community” on a project. These postings use words like “commercial” or “successful” and so on. The intent of this language is to convince people that they are serious and want to do professional work, therefore the time people contribute for free will not be in vain.

Unfortunately, 99.99 percent of these people are not first self-aware. And probably worse, have other intentions and have no intent on doing anything actually professional whether they can or can not. Some of these people may simply be in denial. They think they are professionals when they are not. I am sure we have all run into these types in life. It makes one wonder what is going on with these people.

This writing is intended for people that are first self aware and then can be honest with self and with others about who they are and what they are capable of doing.

For those people reading, who are not self aware or honest or worse have other intentions, be forewarned. The people on these boards are very bright. They can smell a rat from afar. If you have a scam or SPAM, take it elsewhere, otherwise sit and watch your scheme die a slow and painful embarrassing death.

But this writing is for anyone who wants to produce a movie. Be it an open contribution project or a private one. And I will cover the basic points you should be addressing in your decision to make a movie from the beginning.

The very first thing you should decide is to be professional. Doing anything else is a waste of time. Not just for you but for others as well.

You say but I want to just do this for fun and hobby. I say go for it. But be self aware - “I am just an amateur”. and be honest with yourself, “I’ll only be able to produce shoddy amateur work not ready for commercial consumption”. And be honest with everyone else. “I am working on an amateur unprofessional project for fun.” If this is the case you can still read this and get something from it.

But if you want to do something that will eventually be enjoyed by other people and if lucky, distributed, or taken seriously at all at any level, then be a professional.

And know in advance what it takes to be a professional.

Hard Work


Long hours

Study of materials related to your job


If you don’t think you can do these things, then be self aware, and self honest. And most of all don’t lie to other people and waste their time.

Referring to my skill level as a musician, I often walk into clubs now and sit in with bands. One for one, they think I am a professional drummer. They are very surprised that I am not working. Now later in life this is a fun enjoyable hobby. It took fifteen years of hard work as a kid to get there. When I started out at 14 I was practicing 5 hours a day after school. I did that for 2 years before my mother forced me to take lessons. I continued with an education in College in music with continued practice sessions daily well into my 20’s before I was getting good strong work professionally. And eventually I found myself working with world-class level musicians. To get there it took all of the points I laid out above. And to become successful as a filmmaker, I am simply repeating that line of action. I am not there yet totally. My last film did however get distribution and it took 10 years to achieve that much. So I have made much progress. In in doing so I have learned quite a bit I wish to share.

To make a work of art that will be accepted professionally it does not have to be perfect. But it should be technically proficient enough to convey a message. That is a wide range as I will discuss further later. But suffice for now that it does not have to be Pixar quality, but it should be professional, done with competence and skill, and tell a good story. These are all things that take time, dedication, skill and talent. Things you have to work hard at to learn. Talent of course is not something that can be taught. But you can always get people to help in your weaker areas.

So if you don’t like working hard and you think things should come to you, then stop reading now. This is not for you.

In upcoming writings I will be discussing many subjects including nuts and bolts information about casting, directing, sound recording, editing and so on.

I will start out however with the things you should be considering first before you even embark on a project.

I hope you have found this useful so far.

I would like to see more professional-level projects big or small done in Blender. If I can contribute to that by making this information freely available, I hope it will be acceptable as a contribution to the community.

Till next time…


Now, I thought about this. I know some people will think that this stuff is pretty obvious. I mean most people who do good work, just approach things professionally, naturally. Just the way they work.

You would not think that you would have to point this out. But I think a lot of projects that get started, or may I say, attempt to get started and never get anywhere fail to grasp the large points. The most obvious and glaring points that will be obvious to other people, but completely amiss in the minds of the people who start projects.

So rather than have people read on and get into some of the nuts and bolts, let me stop everyone at these beginning stages because these are far more important.

Bigger broader questions need to be asked it seems to me based on some of the ideas presented here. Like, “Do you even know what a quality work of art is?” “Could you at the very least point to something and say, ‘That is what I am looking to achieve.’ ?”, “Had it even occurred to you to look at what you are proposing from a profesional standard?”.

I know this is rather ridiculous isn’t it, to most of us.

But this is important I think. First and foremost, you have to be able to envision what a quality work of art is, and compare that to your current skills. Do you even have the skills to do professional quality work? Has it even occured to you that it should be quality work?

Now there is this next line of thought. And that is once you have passed this stage, that you have decided to move forward and you know you should do quality work as an ideal, then you have to be able to look at what is the ideal level of quality you are looking to achieve and then ask yourself if you even know how to achieve that.

And I know this sounds ridiculous again, but it seems that some people bypass this entirely.

It goes without saying that it makes a difference if you are trying for Avatar or Anime. I will cover that later.

I think however also that some people might be on the fence with this issue. And here is the time to make the decision. Don’t waste your time. Plan on and prepare yourself for doing a quality work of art. This will take as much time and preparation as you need. And this should all be done on your own time. Do go posting help wanted for your big dream when in fact you have not even produced 1 second of animation, much less anything of quality. That would apply to you personally or even a partnership with another artist.

You really have to be honest with yourself and ask if you and/or your partner if you have one, have what it takes to produce something of quality. Do this before you start dragging other people in. Do this before you even start wasting your own time because you’ll just be frustrated and likely give up.

Know that it will take time to build up your skills. You can do it. Once step at a time.

Once you’ve gotten this far, once you have decided you’ll make the sacrifices need to achieve this aim, you are ready to move on.

If you are not committed to this then there is nothing I or anyone could say to make a difference. Humble yourself to the idea you don’t know everything. (I do every day.) There is much to learn ahead.

(no point in bumping the thread now I’ll just keep adding)


Next up is research. This is a big subject. And it comes into play at many points along the way.

So assuming you are still with me and are interested in putting together a quality project, the next thing for you to do is to research. Depending on your knowledge of 3D or filmmaking in general, this could be something that takes as long as the number of things you need to know in order to understand this field as a general activity. So what are you looking for? You are looking for as much information as you can find to get a feel for how long things are taking to get done, what techniques people are using and so on. Start learning some terminology and become conversant with this as a subject. Get involved in the 3D arts community, follow threads about works in progress, look around in the gallery section and feel free to ask artists questions. At this point in the game you probably have many questions. You should. It would be also a help at this stage to start learning Blender. This would be a part of your research for sure. This thread when complete would be another resource.

Just remember this is not training per se. You are not looking to be an expert in some area yet. You simply want to be intimately familiar with how things are getting done.

And why is this?

Because this is a very key essential part of being able to predict in some fashion the mess you are about to get into. For people that are already familiar with 3D and or fillmmaking techniques, this may not be as big of a step. But if you know a lot already, it can’t hurt to make sure and fill in any blanks now.

The end result you are looking for is enough familiarity with this field to be able to make some kind of sound judgment with regard to the project you are about to embark on and come to conclusions that are at least somewhat realistic.

This, believe it or not, is something that some people never do before even starting on a project and many assumptions are made that are simply unrealistic.

I am going slow and deliberate for a reason. I am trying to make sure these larger things, that may seem obvious to most people, are not missed.

And you’d be really surprised at the number of threads where people run into problems with even very small projects that are due to a lack of familiarity with how certain things are best approached. That is all a part of the learning process, but if you start looking specifically for these things at this stage and continue to open your eyes to this as you go, you’ll avoid many snags. It is perfectly OK to make these mistakes now. It may have more repercussions in the middle of a large production later. And yes, that happens anyway sometimes. But at least be smart enough to go into this with as much information as possible.


I think in a lot of ways these two things go hand in hand. Research and Discovery here is more specific than just research. It is the process of exhaustive testing with the tools and techniques you will be needing to produce your film. Animation rigs is a big area of R&D. Also techniques for animation may be as well. Cloth and Fluids for example need lots of testing. Any effect that will be needed needs to be worked out before you go into production on that aspect of the film.

This does not have to be done before you start on the project. I am putting it here because training starts now and this along with R&D is an on going process throughout the production.

Everyone is going to be in a different place as far as training goes. But at this stage you should read the entire Blender manual, do as many tutorials as you can and begin experimenting with the various aspects of production as I will outline below.

Again, I know this seems obvious, and I am sorry for dragging this out, but you’d be surprised…

More to come.

Or you could invite the entire planet to come and scribble on your art…

@Richard - I think the only criticism I have to your thread at the moment is that you have specified “movie”. I think you ought to broaden your target audience to anything collaborative and of a especially grand nature. I have read nearly half of your posts, some of them I have copied and pasted into my own repository of things to live on.
If it’s any help, my ambition is to do a personal comic of my own using free resources, I am getting through this at a rate of a panel a week due to family/work committments. And sometimes when I come across a tidbit of information that I feel I should not lose, I keep it.


That is cool. Sounds like you have an interesting project. I see what you mean about broadening the audience and I am glad you have been able to get more broad use out of many of my posts. Come to think of it, I suppose you could apply some of this broadly as well.

My only concern here is that I don’t write/teach about things I have never done. And my posts - many of which you have copied for your use - come from direct experience.

In the beginning here, things are very broad because I feel it is important not to miss the larger obvious things. And these are all things I live by and/or learned from the mistake of not doing enough.

Very soon, I will get into specifics of the filmmaking process, because that is what I have been doing and have studied. That will start to loose the broad audience I think. And I really only want to contribute things I know about and can back up with experience.

The next few sections however would very much apply to just about any kind of project. And there is nothing wrong with you or anyone posting examples of how things might apply to your specific area of expertise.

Man what a bummer!

I thought you played with Edgar Winter


Its 1:00am right now and I cant read your post but I will


A small contribution to your thread

Have you ever done non linear edition?
Anything can be fixed with edition… kidding of course

Good night

Bigger broader questions need to be asked it seems to me based on some of the ideas presented here. Like, “Do you even know what a quality work of art is?” “Could you at the very least point to something and say, ‘That is what I am looking to achieve.’ ?”, “Had it even occurred to you to look at what you are proposing from a profesional standard?”.

This can only be achieved by watching thousands of movies

Thank god for netflix

You need to watch one, in particular, most important off all:

“Plan 9 from outer space”

And that is not a joke, although you can’t help it and laugh a lot, but you learn form the bad too.

Yeah that’s true. And yes absolutely watching films is a very big part of research, knowing the literature of your field. It is noty easy to keep up with. But at the very least you should look for things that may have been made similar to what you are planning.

Thanks for the links. In fact that resource link is absolutely perfect. I’ll be referencing that later as well. No small contribution!

Well, I played on the same bill once and got to meet him back stage. Sorry that that is as close as I can come. Would have loved to jam with him though. In fact if I could have played with some of the people I have shared a bill with I’d have an interesting resume, but I am not into dropping names so we’ll leave it at that.

lol. For anyone wondering what this is a reference to another thread.


Next up is development. What is development? Well if you are in Hollwood, “development” has many uses and one of the wonderful ones is a nice word for “We ain’t got sh…t going at all.” And spoken so eloquently as “We have many projects in development.” In many cases this means raising money. And therefore if something is “in development” it could swirl in that eddy for eternity and never see the light of day.

But how it got to be used that way is because factually the first thing you do when producing a film is enter into the phase of development. It is not just raising money.

It has basically the following practical components:

Conception of the initial idea or premise.

Development of that idea further into a story idea.

Ideas for funding.

Here you have the initial concept of the budget range perhaps and alternative ways to see this production come into being other than needing cash, or in some cases even crew. People do solo projects in 3D all the time and this is an early decision. Even in this case one must budget his time.

Initial ideas about other creative factors such as production medium (film, video, 3D). Then major players such as director and main cast.

This area would include some of the technical considerations and those could be related to funding and other limitations. And thoughts on this last part could also go first and often do.

As you can see this phase moves smoothly - or should move smoothly - into pre-production.

I will come back and edit this more to fill in some ideas here. But suffice to say that again this is a major area that gets bypassed or done poorly by people with no experience. You can’t do that.

If you have followed the earlier steps you can see how this all connects.

I will expand further on this shortly.

(since there are new posts below, I’ll embellish this later in another post)

wow, this will be a long read…thanks :smiley:

Richard, I thought this thread was in response to that thread?

No. It was just a coincidence. (something I had been planning) I happened to hop over there and mouth off about the same time is all. :smiley:

My pleasure. Hope you find it useful.:o


So what are we talking about here? We are talking about taking everything into consideration at this stage. This is a very critical stage. Marketing ideas - I forgot to mention above - would definitely come here as well.

It is a matter of dovetailing many things together. What are your interests and passions? What is technically possible? What would be a fresh and new approach to something? What is your intended audience or medium? Is this a documentary, for education purposes? Is it a pet project close to your heart? Is it something you are doing to simply generate interest in you as an artist? Is it merely promotional?

The list could go on. But once you first establish, the general area, the genre, the target audience and so on, now you have to come up with the bright idea.

That would be the first thing mentioned above.

Conception of the initial idea or premise.

We are going to assume that you are putting together a modestly budgeted film. I have no direct experience with large budgets anyway. And since most of us are doing smaller projects, I am going to assume that as a given. I won’t advise on something I have never done before.

So you see as low budget producers we have an immediate problem. Money first, and second, time, is an issue. Furthermore we are not going to be doing a SAG film so there will be no name actors. And to top it off, since we don’t have a budget for a large advertising campaign, distribution ideas and possibilities start to taper off.

I have not done any education material or industrial work. I am going to stick to what I know, which is narrative fiction for my examples.

So the main thing is you have many things stacked up against you as an independent producer. Time, money, exposure, quality and so on. So the bright idea has to include a solution to these problems. And ideally it should go further and be brilliant.

Let us look at an example.

You are going to shoot a film and you have very limited time and money. You think of the idea to shoot something in one location.

Stop right there. That is a good idea. But now it is time to research. You start watching movies.


Would be two obvious classics to start with. But any film that has been shot in one location. Start watching.

If this is what you still want to do, then now you have to think of something that is different than has been done before.

But in doing so, you have to do this other step. You have to think of an idea that masks the fact that you have thought of this as a solution to the problem. It can’t look like you wanted to save money and time by doing it all in one location.

One example might be that the characters are trying to leave the house during the entire film but one thing after another happens that keeps them there. It could be a series of comedic errors and interruptions.

This is an OK premise you think. (Not saying this is original or not, this is just an idea for illustration).

And now comes the next step which is you have to write a great screenplay, or get one written. The goal is to have it so funny or suspenseful or whatever that it keeps people entertained for the entire show. And since this idea solves many of the problems related to getting your project finished you have a winner and you move ahead.

That in a nutshell, is one way to look at development. It can be expanded beyond this of course but this is the simple look.

So in review:

  1. You have problems that need solution related to getting a project finished.

  2. You come up with a bright idea that takes these things into account and offers up a solution

  3. You research this idea and do your homework on it.

If it passes this phase then…

  1. You then take it a step further and come up with such a unique take on it that it looks intended. And in doing so, you might likely come up with something also very unique. This will be your edge hopefully for distribution or whatever success you are looking to get from the film.

Now even though I actually only produced 3 films. I have done this process over and over again at least a dozen times with different projects over the years. So I kind of came up with a basic formula. Obviously most of these films never made it out of the development stage. But this is the formula that I think works. I still have all of these screenplays. So my development time was not wasted time. Something to keep in mind. These things can be used later if they don’t work out now.

Once you come up with the initial premise you are ready to write the screenplay. The screenplay should also take into account all of the factors of production that may be a problem. This is now going back to research above. You have to know the field well enough to write - or get written a shootable script that is based on the great idea. And before this is done you are likely going to move into the next step.

Development of that idea further into a story idea.

Ideally you do this before you even start writing. You have to make sure you can get a good story out of this idea. If it is a good idea the scenes will start to write themselves. Make notes and let the ideas flow. When you feel you have enough plot and story in place, then start on the screenplay.

Constantly check the screenplay against what is realistic to actually produce within your means.

I won’t go much into ideas about funding. But suffice to say you should not be shooting for the stars here. Keep it simple. Just work to get a project done within a very modest means. I’ll leave it at that because this is something that will be drastically different for everyone. But I will say if you feel that your idea is still requiring you to raise tons of money or seems to large to accomplish, then you need to go back to square one. This is about getting something done. Not just conjuring up another empty dream.

Then the choice of what medium, how you are going to actually produce it. Is it going to be an open collaborative project and so on. An assessment of what assets you have etc all come here.

Now this step here:

Initial ideas about other creative factors such as production medium (film, video, 3D). Then major players such as director and main cast.

Basically, you need to get your initial team together now. If you don’t have these resources to produce the movie you are not ready.

Do not post an open call for help unless you have your basic team in place. That means, your key players. For instance a director who actually knows how to direct a film. An animated film hopefully.

Ideally you should have at least one person you know on board you know who can get started on the film. That could be you. If you don’t have the skills and it will be only you, you are not ready. You need to get trained. Training is free or you can buy books and DVDs.

To put it blunty, you are not ready to move out of development until you know you have the resources to finish the film.

Granted you may want to get help further down the line, but you have to have something in place to get started.


Being out of development means you can start breaking down the script, do story boards and get into production.

Now you say, but how can I get a person to help, if I don’t post an add?

My answer is that more than likely if you have to post an add for help - in order for the project to succeed - you are not out of development.

Remember this. It is easy to make the mistake thinking that you have a great idea and now all you have to get is the people to help you do it. In 3D it seems this is common. What is not grasped is that animators and modelers who are skilled at their work are a valuable resource. 3D is not easy. A free program is NOT the solution. People who can use it is. You need that initial team first.

If you do put an add, then it needs to be for 1 or 2 dedicated team members who will come on board from the start.

If, and this is a big if, you have done the early stages of development well, your idea will be so good that you can find an artist who is passionate about it. But that is a big if because talent like that is valuable. Better to find a partner in a friend or other close associate who as just as much of a stake in it as you do. And if you bring people in at this stage you have to be willing to make them partners not just worker for free.

So if you do not have talented people to do it, you need to consider that at the very first stage of development. If you don’t have the skills, why are you proposing to make a film? If you don’t have a reasonable expectation to get help from friends and close associates who have the same passion as you, then you are wasting your time.


In producing indie films the traditional way with live actors, it is generally understood that there are lots of actors who want to work on films for free to build a resume. There are less crew who will. But in making a film you never put adds for talent until you have the resources in place to feed them, till you have a camera and a production model that CAN be done within your means.

In my last film that was basically, me with a stand for a mic and the actor most days. On a good day I had a boom guy. No lighting, no crew, (save for one good dedicated co-producer who handled many logistics) filmed in all natural light and I planned accordingly. But that was all worked out ahead of time. That was my solution way back in development. When funding was in place, I was ready to roll on a very tight budget. Then and only then did I put adds for actors.

In 3D animators and modelers who have talent do not flock to just any project. You have to have it together before you go out. If you are not an artist, then get one who is close to you.

So again, if you don’t have the means to actually start production, you are not out of development.

Hi Richard

Great post, but I’m more interested about conflicts solving. I hope your experience could help me.

Now that I’m back in school and work with programming; we have a project. Making a site where we sell stuff (not commercial, just for practice). The other people in my group have no graphical knowledge.

Now there is a person that thinks he is the leader in the group. His ideas are bad and uneducated guesses. I listen and explain why it’s not good. He gets annoyed. He hasn’t worked a single day of his life; while I have a couple of years in the graphics field and four more years as a “regular Joe” worker.

He has only college experience. I’m not saying college is bad, but it seems that people get delusional how stuff works outside the classroom.

I’ve talked with him and told him that he shouldn’t think that he is the leader of the group and that we should work as a group; and he said that I’m a person that takes space and don’t listen to others. Now we are in a standstill but I don’t like the feeling I have while near him, he probably feels the same way too, I don’t know.

Have you been in such situation and how did you handle it?

Thanks in advance.

Sorry to bump this but I ran over the word count.

I just wanted to add one more thing.

You see if you are out of development, and hopefully actually do have a great idea, you can start posting a WIP thread. This has been suggested in sticky threads about advertising for help. I am am sure the reaon people don’t do this, is because they are not ready. They have not come out of development.

But if you are ready and the idea is good. No better way to attract interest.

A further note on partnerships is that in the development stage, assuming you don’t have all the skills and will never have them, but feel you have other things to contribute, this is the time to form close bonds with a fellow artist or two in your area perhaps or even over the net, who you have much in common with.

The nature of this partnership should be akin to forming a band with people who you click with and who are in it for the love of the work you are doing. People who will get up every day and slog it out just as hard as you do, because they have the same passion.

I think the reason many of the projects get a cold reception here is because they are on a huge disconnect.

“We have this large wonderful project and we need artists, animators modelers etc…”.

And the project is just basically being developed. And they are asking people to dedicate their lives to this thing they are not likely to have the same passion for. It is just disconnected from reality. It is unrealistic.

I firmly believe that projects should center first around very close ties and bonds with people who have things in common. And this union should be sufficient to produce a quality project without external help. Then, at a point where it might seem prudent to bring in help, there is a foundation there. A working, functioning entity that is producing something. Advertising for help would then be an expansion on something that is already working.

And calls for help would not have to be a grand sales pitch. Just a simple call for help. A website, possible WIP threads already and so on. And you will find that even here, just how hard it will be to get good people who are willing to work with the same passion.

Well that is interesting. Talk about a coincidence. I had added the above post before seeing your post. Surely none of that completely applies to you but maybe it helps. I don’t know.

Most of my experience is from being the producer/director, so I am at the helm. Though I do think it is important to have someone in charge, I always solicit input from people I am working on a film with. I feel it is a collaborative experience.

In my first feature, the screenplay got rewritten quite a bit in rehearsals where I let the actors contribute. It was a wonderful way to work with actors and it made it a better film.

On my second feature, I also encouraged improv with actors (including myself) who could handle it. Many of the best scenes were improvised.

In these collaborative situations, you do come across times where people try to contribute something that does not jive with the story. In this case I usually simply explain why it won’t work, but I do so in a way that does not make them wrong. Simply thank them for the idea, and then clarify with them the points they would need and go again.

For the most part, I don’t collaborate with people I don’t get along with. But in your situation you may not have the choice.

But I have learned that when working in a collaborative environment, it is very important to let people know that what they are contributing is appreciated. This may have to be reinforced often. And in film production things can get hectic and stressful. I have made a few mistakes in this area and I have lost valuable crew because of this.

I know nothing of the kind of work you are talking about, but in general, I’d have the tendency to start fresh with the guy. Take him aside away from everyone and kick his ass. Just kidding. Take him aside and you originate an apology. Your mission, if he accepts, is to simply from that point forward, make it known that his contribution is appreciated. You’d have to have it in your understanding that he is feeling lousy because he is not being able to contribute or that what he is doing is not helping or acknowledged. So from there on out you would always acknowledge his contribution, good or bad. And then find ways to turn his contribution into something workable. You may have to explain how it is not workable and then how it would be if… It would take some patience. But don’t make him feel as if what he is contributing is worthless. And continue to find is good points and validate those things. Find out from him the things he does do well and work on building up his confidence. He’ll be much easier to work with if he feels he is doing something worthwhile to the group. If he is happy, he’ll be more likely to accept ideas that are not his. And make sure and do this with actual compassion. Don’t be fake. Just know we wants to contribute and work off of that.

Thanks for the answer Richard. Yes, it would be nice if our group had a good leader but that person should have at least some experience with working with people. I firmly believe that a project leader becomes a great leader if he had worked with a good leader himself. Right now no one in our group has that experience and no one should call that shot.

True. I had not intended to get into the finer points of interpersonal relationships here, and I won’t. Because for one, it is not my area of expertise. But I answered the best way I know how as it relates to group contribution and individual moral as it relates to that. I have had lots of experience in bands and with producing films where group contribution was a factor.

I think all that needs mentioning here as it relates to making a movie is that this is a great example of why you surround yourself with people who share the same interests and who are on a par with you as far as ability.

And even with that, the best rule of thumb is always show respect to other people in a creative environment. Never put them down or make them wrong for what they are contributing. Always try to turn it around and make something positive out of it. And also don’t be unwilling to simply state your view even if it is the opposite of their view. The difference is you can have your opinion, and they can have theirs. They don’t need to be made wrong. Simply state the reasons why you think your idea is better. But do listen to them, hear them out. Don’t chop them off when they are talking or you’ll have more tension. That is not what you want in a creative environment. Open free flow of communication with mutual respect is important and key to keeping things going even though the ideas presented may be way off the mark.

I know this because I have made all of these mistakes, and I am far from perfect in this area. I feel as if I am not really qualified to get into this subject and better to keep this to a discussion about the technical aspects of making films.

But I think if you can keep it simple and show respect, you’ll prevent a lot of potential problems with working with people which is a reality when doing group projects.

Wow Rich! your shoulders must be aching. I’m kidding of course. I especially liked the paragraph on self awareness.