Four Years Later: What We've Learned
Four years ago today, the local newspaper in Concord, Mass published the following report from their police record:
JAN 18, 2009. 5:30 PM. Two twenty-three year olds (1) wearing black skull caps (2) interfered with the inbound commuter train at the Concord Depot by placing a mountain bike on (3) the train tracks. They then proceeded to photograph (4) the approaching train from the parking lot. The conductor warned them to cease and desist before alerting the authorities. Thus, a film production company was born. (5)
1. Actually seventeen years old
2. Clearly thugs
5. True; however, not actually printed in the police report
Four years later, what have we learned? Here's a few lessons, in order of the year we learned it the hard way.
2009. Partnerships only work if we delegate separate responsibilities. Trusting one partner to reinvest in new equipment, another to keep production on schedule, and another to communicate with clients for example, only works if you do just that - trust. So yes, being friends also helps. Ultimately, a healthy partnership of three can produce more than three independent freelancers could alone, so always bet on the power of the collective.
2010. Demand a deposit. If the client doesn't have a third of the cost now, they won't have the rest later. And more importantly, if they don't have any skin in the game now, they won't email us back later. In a broader sense, we learned to price our jobs not based on how much we wanted our clients to pay, but how much we wanted our clients to respect us, relative to what they could pay.
2011. Stay creative, stay relevant. For us, these two are intertwined. For both documentary and commercial work, we find our creative inspiration from real world experiences and social issues. Even if your brand isn't social relevance, using creativity to cause your audience to feel, and relevance to cause your audience to think are two keys we try to remember.
2012. Owning equipment allows you to say "yes, now," instead of "maybe, let me check the rental rates for next week." At the same time, don't feel the need to own everything. Overhead, or NOverhead, is the plague. Before making a one time or recurring investment, we always ask how our audience can see that investment on the screen. Finding ways to invest in the screen without overhead has been our goal, but this doesn't have to literally be the camera/lens/lights. The production trailer, for example, has nothing to do with image making directly, but allows us to become more professional, organized, and efficient storytellers, and is incredibly low maintenance with high function.
Of course, we're leaving a lot out, but we'll leave it here for now to avoid sounding too preachy and hokey.
The point is, we rarely ever have the answer to a complex problem, but we aren't afraid to ask the client or collaborator for advice. We find that the only way to solve a challenge is to remember to always have fun. And that's why, you always leave a note. Our last lesson.
Happy Birthday Windy! It's been an awesome ride.