Filmmaking is a Team Effort - Insights from Writer/Director Joey von Haeger

“The best skill you can have…is being totally open to the idea that you can’t do everything. You need to find the best people you can to be around you.”


- Joey Von Haeger, Writer/Director


We've come across several independent filmmakers who believe that they can be a "Jack of all trades" when it comes to bringing their filmmaking visions to life. Though being able to do a lot of things well is truly an asset, success requires turning good to great and, in the end, a "Jack of all trades" is a master of none.


As Joey tells us, the best skill is one's ability to build a team that represents the best of the best. This doesn't just mean hiring people with great resumes; it means surrounding yourself with skilled people who share in a collective vision of success. Here are a few things to keep in mind when building your team:


Have a Clear, Measurable Goal


Success in filmmaking can mean different things to different people. Some people create for the sake of self-expression whereas others create as a form of education. Some people create to make a stand whereas others create to make a profit. When building your team, you need to be able to clearly articulate what your goals are for your film and how you plan to measure success. This will give potential team members an idea of what they are signing up to do and helps to shape their thinking about how they can best leverage their talents to achieve the goal.


Define Your Values, Principles, and Cultural Expectations


Highly skilled people are only as good as their ability to collaborate and cooperate towards meeting a common goal. The effectiveness of collaboration and cooperation is often determined by the team's culture. It's important to define that culture up front so that potential team members can assess themselves against your stated values and principles. No matter how skilled someone might be, if they don't align with you on a personal level, they can break you on a professional level. Consider documenting a short list of team values and principles and making those available during prospecting.


Find People Who Complement Each Other


When building your team, it's important to find people with complementary skillsets as well as complementary experiences. For example, if you're making a documentary, it will be important to find team members who have worked on documentary sets in the past. This promotes a common expectation around the production style and rules of behavior. The goal here is to create a sense of cohesiveness with everyone understanding how to execute their roles in the context of the production.


No Mercenaries


For Chris and I, this is a first principle and a lesson learned from our early days in filmmaking. If you are going to build a team, build a team of people who will be there for the life of your film. This doesn't mean that they'll be fully dedicated to working on it every day in perpetuity, but that they'll be dedicated to helping you achieve your vision. Your team should be more invested in the goal than they are in the paycheck if you truly want to make the most out of their collective experience and expertise. If they're not in it for you, they're not in it for real.


As a filmmaker, you can't and shouldn't do everything. After all, filmmaking is a collaborative affair that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Build a team that will be there with you for the long haul and you will all continue to grow together.


As always,


Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.