LEADING ON SET
by Tim Clague - Lifelong learner, storyteller and scriptwriter.
Learning and leadership lessons – from the film set
A lot of GP people know me as a scriptwriter and corporate video producer and I’ve been making pieces for clients for over 10 years. It is important however to be constantly growing your skills and expanding your knowledge. So I recently made a feature film for children called “Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg?” It features Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter, and is a classic mystery and adventure story for 6 to 10 year olds.
So surely a million miles away from creating training videos? Not so. I’m always extolling the virtues of lifelong learning and I try to constantly seek out lessons in my work. Here’s what I learnt from this recent experience that is relevant to all of us and to our clients also.
Leading from the front
As a director of a film, you are the leader. People are looking to you to make decisions. If the film set were a business, you would be the manager. Your job is to lead that team to success and to complete the project or goal. Now, it is true, that perhaps the questions I was being asked by my team aren’t typical; what size should I make the fake slug?
I picked up a leadership idea from a video I made for Royal Bank of Scotland – and it works. It worked for me and it can work for you. Put extra effort into painting the vision of what we are trying to achieve. If you can articulate that vision clearly then people don’t need to ask about small details anymore. They just get it. If you can get people to join you AND join in the journey towards that vision, that is a powerful thing.
We had over 20 people, for 30 days working on our crew. These people could have been getting much more money elsewhere or doing other work. But they didn’t, as they had keenly signed up to making the vision of a new kind of kid’s film, a reality.
Who cares about the credit?
Do you need the credit? We all know about film credits, that long list of names at the end of a movie. But I don’t mean that! Instead I mean the personal credit. I was doing a documentary once, for a client in the banking industry, about management styles. The interviewee said something that has always stuck with me. “You can have whatever you want, if you don’t mind who gets the credit”.
Too often we go into a piece of work prioritizing the fact that people will be impressed by our contribution. If the work is important, then that shouldn’t matter. If the work isn’t really important then why does getting the credit matter? And if the work is totally unimportant, why are we doing it?
Old fashioned networking
LinkedIn is great. All these new ways to keep in touch really work. I met my co-director via our respective blogs, so I am a big believer in having a good online presence.
But one thing we could all get better at is old-fashioned real-world networking. In fact, 80% of our crew was found in this way, at local events. So why don’t we all do it more often?
For freelancers, it can be a case of feeling like they don’t have the time. For those on a salary it can be because they feel it’s not their job. But it should be. Sometimes the biggest companies can be the least well known in a city or region, as no one ever turns up to any local events.
If we want the best people to join us, to work with us, we need to meet them halfway.
The last insight I have is related to learning. I recently attended the London Screenwriters Festival to talk about the film to delegates there. They had each paid around £300 / $500 for the three day event. They had chosen to come because they wanted to learn more about their craft and their chosen industry. Contrast that with a learning event in a corporation. Everyone moans about having to go. It’s too far. It’s dull. Our challenge, as learning providers, is to make an event so great that people would gladly pay for it.
Personally I am taking these lessons and using them myself in my corporate and non-corporate world. I hope you can use them too, or adapt them to your own story!