A Big DEAL for Filmmakers: E is for Elimination

Updated: May 21

In this series, we consider how the four major steps outlined in the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss relate to indie filmmakers. In this post, we discuss "Step II: E is for Elimination".


As a filmmaker, you are (by all accounts) an entrepreneur. You work tirelessly to build a business based on the development of your own products and services backed by financing from those who would benefit from a contribution to the cause. As an entrepreneur, you hustle for each opportunity, all the while believing that the next opportunity could be the best opportunity.


The problem here is that though 'hustle' may be the name of the game, it is not the gatekeeper to success. In fact, 'hustle' (the verb) is defined as "moving hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction". 'Hustle' (the noun) is defined as "busy movement and activity". Indie filmmakers don't have the time nor the financial reserves to be busy for the sake of being busy and moving hurriedly in the wrong direction is a losing proposition.


So what is a filmmaker to do? Well, first off, eliminate 'hustle' from your vocabulary. This business isn't about hustling yourself or others into getting what you want; instead; it's about doing the right things, with the right people, at the right times. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn't mean feeding from the firehouse by seeing the potential in every meeting, every event, every job opportunity, and every new connection. It means carefully identifying the things that bring you the biggest bang for your buck and investing your time and energy in those things again and again.


Vilfredo Pareto was a renowned Italian economist. Though his name may not be familiar to you, his principle (so named the Pareto Principle) probably is. Today, we've come to know it as the 80/20 rule. This rule suggests (and has been notionally proven to be true) that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input, whether that input be good or bad. For example:


  • 80% of the land in Italy at the time Pareto lived was owned by 20% of the people

  • 80% of sales across major industries are produced by 20% of its clients

  • 80% of the results achieved through a fitness program can be attributed to 20% of the exercises and habits


When applied to filmmaking, this universal rule continues to hold up. 80% of profits come from 20% of the audience. 80% of financing comes from 20% of the investors. 80% of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into completing a feature film and getting it through distribution was the result of the efforts of 20% of the team.


Now, Pareto's Principle wasn't designed to instill the belief that 80% is good enough. In fact, it's quite the contrary. What the principle tells us is that by focusing on and continuing to maximize and duplicate the sources of the value-driven 20%, we can eliminate the 80% that underproduces leaving us with ample time and energy to reap the benefits of the 20%.


As an indie filmmaker, you can apply this your life by asking yourself two simple questions:


  • What 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?

  • What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?


Though the answers to these questions will take time, introspection, and honesty with yourself, they will soon come to show you what you should eliminate and what you should keep. The things you decide to keep will provide a set of characteristics that you should continue to seek out in new sources as these will help you to build on your desired outcomes and happiness.


Here are a few areas you should consider when identifying things to eliminate:


  • Film festival submissions - Choose only the ones that have the potential to actively market your film to your target audience. Think of each one as an investment for which you have identified a specific rate of return.

  • Film jobs - Consider each job for its potential to get you to the next level in your career. Simply working for hire with no opportunities for advancement creates short-term benefit without long-term gain. Eliminate or refuse the jobs that don't lead you to your next job.

  • Networking - Success in this business is not based on who you know; instead, it's based on who your friends are. Building trusted relationships is far more important than building a list of contacts. With this in mind, networking should be about identifying the types of people that you want in your circle and those whose circle you wish to be a part of. Eliminate any time spent on "putting yourself out there" or exchanging business cards in favor of getting to know a handful of people who can help you build your career.


The process of elimination is all about efficiency (using your time wisely) and effectiveness (doing the right things). Leveraging the 80/20 rule is a great way to help you do the right things, with the right people, at the right time.


If you'd like to learn more about the process of elimination as described by Tim Ferris, we encourage you to read The 4-Hour Workweek for more amazing insights.


As always,


Be Better. 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!

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