Updated: May 21, 2020
In this series, we consider how the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey relates to indie filmmakers. In this post, we discuss the "Think Win-Win" habit.
Every aspect of filmmaking hinges upon the "win-win" because the art and the business of filmmaking isn't just about you. Someone else has to feel like they have an opportunity to win if they are going to sign on for any part of your project. It's just the way the ego works. Even someone who donates their time, energy, or resources to be a part of your project is getting something out of it. If you understand this, you'll realize that your success is highly-dependent on the perceived benefit to others and you'll do everything in your power to find the "win-win" in everything that you do.
Let's break this concept down by taking a look at three of the major phases of a film project:
When seeking financing for your film, a successful pitch answers one simple question for potential financiers (no matter the size of the investment): What's in it for me? The answer to this question usually falls within the top three levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
Self-actualization - Your film allows your investor to showcase or exercise their values and principles
Esteem - Your film allows your investor to be a part of an elite group or at least provides the perception of inclusion
Love/Belonging - Your film allows your investor to demonstrate a connection to a community whose story they wish to tell
By demonstrating how your project fits one or more of these needs, you are demonstrating a win-win scenario: Financing for you, fulfillment for them.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applies to casting for a project as well. In this case, it starts from close to the bottom:
Safety/Security - Actors in the indie film world often need each paycheck to keep them afloat. Every payday counts.
Love/Belonging - Actors will often do their best to support their friends in film and would even work for free so long as the effort doesn't preclude them from putting food on the table.
Esteem - The opportunity to be a part of a project destined for an awards ceremony is attractive to any actor. This is because they can share in the prestige and use it to market themselves.
Self-actualization - This need is demonstrated by an actor's desire to push the limits of their acting prowess through an immersion into the character for which they are cast.
If you cast your film with these needs in mind, understanding where each cast member can be fulfilled, you can create an environment built on mutual success. With that said, we advise never to cast based on a need for a paycheck alone. This goes against our first principle of "No mercenaries". It's ok to be in it for the money, but you have to bring something else to the table as well.
Distributors are looking for a number of things in projects they are considering for their slate. It may come as a shock to you that you and your passion for your film are not on the list but it's the bitter truth in the business of film. When it comes to wooing a distributor, you once again have to think win-win. You have to ask yourself: What's in it for them? Well, here is what distributors are looking for:
Intellectual Property (IP) - IP acquired at little cost allows a distributor to increase their long-term earning potential while increasing the possibility of hitting a home-run with a single success.
Niche Content - Content targeted to specific audiences that a distributor currently specializes in (or seeks to attract) helps to further promote or expand the distributor's brand.
Branded Content - Content that has a clearly-recognizable and exploitable brand provides a higher probability of market penetration and targeted sources of potential revenue.
Distribution is the business end of filmmaking. Distributors need to clearly see how your film can affect their bottom line.
As you can see, the "win-win" principle is clear and ever-present in the life of a filmmaker. It's one to always keep in the forefront of your mind as it will help your forge mutual paths to success with your financiers, collaborators, and distributors.
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