Put simply, a collaboration is where someone wants to make a film teams up with others who want to achieve the same thing. But it is more complicated than that. I have been part of several collaborations over the past few years, and have learned a few things:
1 – If this is your project, then you need to decide with your collaborators what it is that they will get out of it before embarking upon your project. Gone are the days where you can just offer food, travel expenses and IMDb credits if you want your film to stand out. These are a given standard on every film now, regardless of the funding status. You need to offer something more to get the talent and experience you need. Like what though? Think about the expertise your collaborators bring, and how tapping into this will improve the outcome for your film. I run a film production company that specialises in post production, film festival submissions and film distribution onto global VOD platforms. I get a lot of requests from film directors that need an editor, but not many of them are willing to offer me anything in return. Where if I came on board as a producer and not just the editor, I could arrange for festival submissions and secure VOD film distribution in addition to the edit. I would get to be working on a film that has a career-orientated post production plan, rather than it just being uploaded to YouTube or sent to the Cannes Short Film Corner for vanity purposes. After all, we are all in it for career development. This also gets the director recognition on the festival circuit, and everyone gets track record in having work distributed. Win-win. But many people think that others should just work for them for free without anything in return, so make sure that you agree terms up front.
2 – A collaborative project still needs a director. Although as a collaborator you’ll want to input creatively into the project, the director has the final say. Unless you have more experience directing films than the director, or have more experience producing films than the producer, then let them get on with their job. Don’t belittle the decisions they make or slag them off to other people because they are not doing what you want. I’ve heard too many things like ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ or ‘nothing you have done on this film makes any sense’, or have been challenged on my expertise and decision making processes by third parties. And it isn’t because they are right and I really don’t know what I’m doing – I have worked on 27 film and television titles to date, including 14 as producer and 10 as director. If you want the collaboration to work, keep your ego in check.
3 – Be prepared to take on collaborators more experienced than you, but more importantly you’ll need to listen to the expertise that you are recruiting. This is an opportunity to learn as a film maker. On my first film, I recruited professional crew. People who were working on BBC dramas like casualty. For me, having more experienced crew enabled me to understand more about where the boundaries were between job roles on set, and where it was appropriate for me to stick my nose in. I got a better film as a result. Too many people see someone with more experience as a threat or competition, rather than an asset to their project. All this does is lower the quality of your production.