Talking till It Works

by Sam Darby, Creative Director

If there is anything I’ve learned from starting this business, it’s that knowing how to work with people is key. Not just your own team and crew but your clients and the onscreen talent. 

One of the hardest and most face=palmingly obvious lessons I learned, very early on was communication. Having a mutual understanding across all parties can solve practically any production hurdle. You've got to communicate not only your ‘red hot’ creative vision, but even the basics of your production process. It can be bizarrely easy to forget that not everyone on Earth went to film school or have lengthy exposure to Videoland. Perhaps even more hazardous, however, is working with people who have had some exposure and the automatic assumption they  must understand YOUR process. 

Every operator will undoubtedly have their own way of undertaking a job and it's up to you to communicate it to the people around you. I find it extremely useful to set out expectations. Better to surprise a client with the high quality of your product than have them surprised that the edit is going to take two weeks longer than they were expecting. 

The same goes for the crew, especially if you’re working with freelancers. Maintaining a standard of quality across your portfolio is really important, and if the people working with you aren’t always the same, it’s super helpful to come to an agreement on the way that you’ll carry out a job. Everything from the length of your working days and production schedules, to the look you’re going for and the way you structure your files for an edit is imperative to communicate from the get-go.

The deal with good communication is that it goes two ways. Listening to the people you’re working with/for can not only inform you of where their head is, but can improve and expand your own process. When working with clients, come to them with a list of questions that covers all bases.

People often know what they want, but don’t always have any easy time of getting it across. It can relieve a lot of headaches by taking the time to get on the same page early on; Find a way to extrapolate a clear message from the people you’re working for. 

Which brings me to onscreen talent. I’ve worked with actors with boatloads of onscreen experience and I’ve worked with plenty of first timers. As stated (possibly overstated) above, an emphasis on concise communication will help get the strongest performance out of your talent. I should stress the word concise as it will mean different things depending on who you’re working with. An experienced actor might want know specific blocking instructions and shooting style, whereas a first timer might be content knowing that you don’t have an extreme closeup on their ear hairs. Too much information can be overwhelming so it certainly helps to read the room. If you’re comfortable with your own job then that can translate. If you’re a manic stress head then perhaps working closely with talent is best saved for another calmer time. 

This might seem a bit like a guide for dummies and, maybe for some that’s true. But I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of assuming way too much in the past and I’m at most only 30 percent dummy.

Go and make things.