The Secret to Effective Collaboration is a Little TLC

You’ve heard it said many times that filmmaking is a collaborative effort. That is entirely true. But it’s often easier said than done. How do you effectively collaborate with other filmmakers so that you not only successfully achieve the creation of the film everyone is participating to create, but you do it in a way that leaves everyone feeling fulfilled and appreciated having taken part. The secret is a little T.L.C.


Trust is without a doubt the foundation of any collaborative effort. But there are two types of trust that are required. First, you have to trust your team. This may be the hardest part for many of you, especially if you’re used to working alone. Once you begin working with a crew, you need to trust your DP that he or she will effectively execute on the vision you have as a director. You have to trust that the sound guy is effectively monitoring and capturing the audio. You have to trust that your P.A. will get your Starbucks order right. Whether you’re working on a 2-man crew or a 200-man crew, placing trust in that team will allow you to maximize the strengths that each team member brings to the project.

But there’s another aspect of trust that’s necessary. Trust in yourself. That may sound obvious, but I can tell you from my own experience, even after doing this for nearly 23 years (13 professionally) , there are still times when I don’t trust my own instincts, and find it hard to make creative decisions because of uncertainty. It could be that I’m working with a top-notch crew and fear they will smell my fear or uncertainty like a dog. So I doubt myself. It could be I have a strong-willed client and I don’t trust my opinion on how to tackle a certain aspect of the shoot. Or I’m afraid to try something daring for fear it will fail in front of a client. But the only way you will be able to realize your unique vision is if you trust in yourself.


The logical extension of trust is listening. Listening to the ideas of your crew, or client, and seriously taking those ideas into consideration. The most recent example I can think of was on a recent shoot I did with Brian Russell of Willowcraft Media and my co-producer on my SoundandSEA.TV series. Specifically we were shooting the opening segment for our latest installment in the series, #ImprovJam. It was just the two of us and the Seattle rapper RA Scion, filming on a small elementary school stage near Seattle, WA. We were filming a scene backstage where we were following RA walking from behind the curtain onto the front of the stage. Because we were rushed for time, my initial instinct was just to shoot it and go. But I had Brian be the DP for this shoot, and welcomed his ideas for lighting. Whereas I was good to leave the backstage lit as it was, Brian’s creative juices and instincts kicked in. He desperately wanted to hide all the props back stage since they didn’t really flow with the peace. He shared his ideas with me and I let me do his thing. He cut the back stage lights, lit one of our LEDs, then pointed┬áit towards the camera. We were shooting with a Panasonic GH4 at 96 fps (effectively 25% slow mo) and the end result was a moody sequence completely eliminating the elementary school props from the scene and illuminating our star. I was so glad I listened. ­čÖé

Here’s an excerpt from the opening with the aforementioned shot.


Last and certainly not least is communication. No one can listen to you or trust your judgment if you never communicate what it is you actually think. Even now I still sometimes have an internal dialog with myself about speaking up and saying what I think. Yes, that does go back to what I said earlier about trusting in yourself. But I want to take it one step further. ┬áNot only communicate┬áwhat you want, but why you want it. When your team understands what you’re trying to do, they can help you achieve that goal much more effectively.

I was recently watching a Story & Heart “Ask Us Anything” video with a panel of filmmakers talking about how they do what they do. One of the filmmakers on the panel was SerialBoxTV creator Ryan Booth. He made a comment that echoes this sentiment. He was recounting a story of when he DP’d a film where the director couldn’t tell Ryan why he wanted a shot lit a certain way. Understanding the “why” would’ve not only helped Ryan better perform his job, but might have also allowed Ryan to add his own suggestions, or do something different in a way that might have achieved the director’s vision more effectively. Ultimately, the director told Ryan “Just do it!” And I don’t think it was in an inspirational “Nike” sort of way either. That left Ryan feeling de-spirited.

What tips do you have on successful creative collaboration?

More Valueable Lessons to Come

We all learned a lot while making #ImprovJam. I plan to share future posts on everything from the pre-production, production, post and promotion on the film. I’ve already shared a few. Click the 9camjam┬á“Learning Series” sub-category to access all the┬álessons learned during the making of the film.

Special Discounts from #ImprovJam Sponsors

Below are the companies that helped make #ImprovJam a reality. Read below and you just might find some discounts. ┬á­čÖé


LensProToGo┬áis an amazing company to work with. Their employees are working photographers and filmmakers who┬ácan help you make the right gear choices for your shoot. ┬áRates include shipping so there’s no shipping sticker shock at the end of the shopping cart. And all of their equipment ships in Pelican case, so you’re ready to roll wherever you go. (They’ve hooked up my readers with a special discount. Use the code 9camjam and save 10% on your rental. Expires 7/31/15).


R├śDE Microphones┬áis a leader in providing audio equipment and solutions for the film, video and music industries. You’ll be hard pressed not to find a DSLR filmmaker shooting without a┬áR├śDE┬ámic sitting atop his/her camera.

Sliders, Stabilizers & Rigs for DSLR Filmmakers

Rhino Camera Gear is a local gear manufacturer here in the Seattle area who has been able to have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR successful Kickstarter campaigns, all ranging from 230% to over 1300% funded. Their 1300% funded campaign was for their signature product, the┬áRhino Slider┬á(video). I’ve used a number of sliders over they years, and I can honestly say this is one of the silkiest, smoothest sliders I’ve ever used; and at under $500, you can’t beat the price for that level of quality. We used their Rhino Carbon Core for this shoot.


FxFactory – Visual Effects Plugins for Final Cut Pro, After Effects & Premiere

The best way to describe FxFactory┬áfrom Noise Industries is “The App Store for NLEs”. The FxFactory application is free, and once installed, it gives you access to a whole host of plugins for all popular NLEs and motion graphics programs including Final Cut Pro 7 and X, Adobe Premiere, After Effects and Motion. No matter what computer you’re on, if FxFactory is installed, you have access to all the plugins you’ve purchased. They have plugins ranging from color correction and grading to title effects to mo-graph effects. The one I personally use the most is Nattress Levels & Curves. Ripple Training has a few┬áFxFactory plugins also you should check out. Their plugins are affordable, easy to use, and all come with full functioning trial versions (with watermarks).


Music Bed is a curator and licensor of high quality music that can be legally used and licensed in your film or video productions. They are a popular go-to source for many filmmakers, including the likes of Vincent Laforet, Philip Bloom, Eliot Rausch, Salomon Ligthelm and Shane Hurlbut. Use promo code 9camjam and save 10% on license purchases.