Updated: May 21, 2020
Over the years, we've read over a thousand scripts and we've watched over a thousand hours of screeners. Each script we've read or film we've screened was touted as the next best thing from an aspiring filmmaker and, in their minds, worthy of investment and/or distribution. Unfortunately, more often than not, we haven't quite had the same perspective. Now, that's not to say that our opinions are the right ones, but we can say that those we've noted as "not quite ready" have, well, not quite made it.
So how can this be? How can "the next best thing" from so many aspiring filmmakers not be up to par? The simple answer is that filmmakers don't understand who their friends are.
In 2006, Tom Rath published a book entitled "Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without". This book defines eight types of friends:
“Builders are great motivators, always pushing you toward the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed — even if it means they have to go out on a limb for you” (87).
“Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, but a Champion also ‘has your back’ — and will stand up for you when you’re not around” (93).
“A collaborator is a friend with similar interests — the basis for many great friendships. … When you talk with a collaborator, you’re on familiar ground … you often find that you have similar ambitions in work and life” (99).
“A companion is always there for you, whatever the circumstance. You share a bond that is virtually unbreakable. When something big happens in your life, this is one of the first people you call” (105).
“A connector is a bridge builder. …. Connectors get to know you — and then introduce you to others” (111). Connectors are always inviting you to lunch and other gatherings where you can meet new people, and point you in the right direction when you need something.
“Energizers are your ‘fun friends’ who always give you a boost. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends. Energizers are quick to pick you up when you’re down — and can make a good day great” (117).
7. Mind Opener
‘Mind Openers are the friends who expand your horizons and encourage you to embrace new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They challenge you to think in innovative ways and help you create positive change. Mind Openers know how to ask good questions, and this makes you more receptive to ideas” (123).
“Navigators are the friends who give you advice and keep you headed in the right direction. You go to them when you need guidance, and they talk through the pros and cons with you until you find an answer. In a difficult situation, you need a Navigator by your side. They help you see a positive future while keeping things grounded in reality” (129).
Of those eight types of friends, filmmakers are most inclined to seek advice from Builders, Champions, Collaborators, Companions, and Energizers. What filmmakers fail to realize is that these people are the ones who meet you where you are and tell you how successful you're going to be. The friends that filmmakers truly need when it comes to providing an objective review of their work are Mind Openers and Navigators. These are the friends who will give objective advice while knowing what it takes to get you to where you want to be.
Now, don't get us wrong, we need all of our friends. They are all vital as Tom Rath indicated. The true challenge we've seen is that aspiring filmmakers don't have Mind Openers and Navigators by their side. They don't have friends with enough industry experience to let them know when they're making a mistake or when they need to turn left when they were planning to turn right.
As Executive and Advisory Producers, we have played the role of Mind Openers and Navigators on all of our projects so we understand how important that role is. We also know how difficult it is for filmmakers to accept because they've never seen it before. Imagine someone advising you to change something about your film when all you've ever heard was praise. Imagine someone telling you about the importance of budgeting for branding and marketing when you've been told that your work will speak for itself.
Mind Openers and Navigators are the ones that understand the possibilities and the pitfalls, the opportunities and the obstacles. They are the ones who make you pay attention to the details so that you don't get tripped up. They are the ones who praise you for your talents but also point out your shortcomings so that what you don't know won't hurt you. They are the ones you need to lean on to take you to the next level while your other friends cheer you on.
When it comes to figuring out how good your work really is, the best thing to do is to find these vital friends and make them part of your journey. Look for mentors and partners who have experience in the industry across a variety of roles and who have garnered some level of success. Find someone who has invested in films to understand what they are looking for and why they chose to invest. Find a director who has won awards for the genre of film that interests you. Find a writer who has sold one or more of their scripts. Find a producer who has sold a film to a distributor.
You'll never know how good you are (or aren't) if you're not asking the right people to weigh in. Hopefully, now, you have a better understanding of who your friends are and you can seek out the right combination to steer you in the right direction.
Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.
If you're looking for someone to help you on your creative journey, feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to work with you!