The Matrix of Leadership

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Making films is a great undertaking logistically and mentally, and despite all the planning and strategy in the world, success is not only unassured, it is more likely that you will falter even if you’re Steven Spielberg. It is a credit to the tenacity of filmmakers (and a testament to a kind of creative madness) that they push on regardless of the odds of success, but even the most hardcore cinemaniacs will attest to the absolutely crucial need for every project to have strong leadership.

Leaders are not just directors and producers. Even on the smallest projects a film will require initiative and strength from ever member of the crew. While there are designated “heads” in bigger productions, an ideal crew is one that functions as a single force, but that does not disintegrate immediately if the proverbial cat is away.

Imagine a team that can be separated or cut off from each other at a moment’s notice, but they somehow stay the course and keep things moving until contact with home base is re-established. Although very rare and ideal, it is possible to foster this kind of energy with a crew if the ultimate individual in charge lays down some strong foundations.

Here are some tips on how to empower every member of your crew and awake their leadership abilities at the outset of a new production:

CONTACT

The feasibility of this may vary according to the size of your crew, but if you are charged with leading a film production to fruition, it is strongly recommended that you take the time to meet and shake hands with every member of the crew. Making that personal contact is essential in communicating to your people that you see them, that you are aware of their efforts, and that they have your respect. If you know your crew already, sit down with them beforehand and take a little time to acknowledge each contributor individually, or to simply deliver a “nice to see you” and a high-five.

DECLARATION

The point here is not necessarily to deliver a Braveheart-level speech or to act like you’re a big shot. A strong concise public address to your crew will give you the opportunity to show your people that you are in charge of the situation, and afford a unique chance to lay out simple directives by wich your production should operate.

Remind them that they have your trust, and that you would like to earn theirs. Remind them that each individual person on the set is essential to the success of the project, but also that every single person present has the power to sink the ship. This last point is often very effective in instilling crew members with a very real sense of responsibility.

To be continued.

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