Collaboration and trust are a major element in making any movie

29Nov11

“Who do you collaborate with?”1 That is the question.  One of the major jobs of any director is casting (hiring) his or her cast and crew and the success or failure of any given production hinges on this process.  One might say that a director needs to be well versed in people skills and able to read personalities so that they are able to quell any conflicts before they become a major issue.  It is however, inevitable that there will be conflict as “Collaboration is always accompanied by conflict and struggle…”1 and it is “…Better to work out an approach to deal with this; otherwise you’ll find your projects go kaput!”1

My personal approach to this has been established through trial and error and the best policy that I have come up with is one of listening and understanding.  Artists have egos and the majority of them wish to be praised for their work and so it becomes a balancing act of proper praises to motivate them.  Mind, the reverse is offering them too much praise because then it goes to their head and the complication of this is that they may begin to feel that they do not need your input and that they are better than you.  You always need to push back and push them to push beyond their comfort zone and know when to pull back if they begin to feel strained but these are skills that I do not feel can be taught, I feel you may only learn this balance through experiencing it.

“There is no escape from struggle and the tensions that accompany collaborative relations.  This is the territory of the political – a space of antagonism that in our view is much more complicated than just a friend-enemy distinction.”2 In regard to the political nature of a production process, there is no escaping that as well.  “…bringing together the work of others in a meaningful and creative way…(is)…not just a valuable but…(a)…crucial skill.”3 Performance art is by its very nature is political because it is a social art form.

Thus the director must navigate the minefield of political differences.  Sometimes your crew or actors are professional enough to work past any ideological differences but again it is better for a director to know the personalities and ideals of the cast and crew to bring together a compatible blend of collaborative challenge through their unique views and differences.  That isn’t always possible and if you ever hire in a personality type that is poisoning a process, you cannot be afraid to prune them from the process; otherwise, you will have bigger problems to contend with in the production.

My final thought is taken from the forty year collaboration of Steven Spielberg and John Williams: “…collaboration and trust…(are) a major element in making any movie…”4 How you find that trust is as complicated as any romantic relations but it takes a blend of patience, listening, and a portion of firm but fair tough love.

Russell McGee

1M. Deuze, Managing MediaWork, (SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, 2011), pp. 289.

2M. Deuze, Managing MediaWork, (SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, 2011), pp. 287.

3M. Deuze, Managing MediaWork, (SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, 2011), pp. 8.

4 T. Wells, ‘AFI’s Master Class The Art of Collaboration,’ premiering on TCM, WWW Document, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700197935/AFIs-Master-Class-The-Art-of-Collaboration-premiering-on-TCM.html?pg=1

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