Solve Problems & Save Money

It is a lot more fun, fulfilling and cost-effective to think your way out of a problem than throw money at it. Try to solve problems first before buying solutions. Take a really thorough, genuine crack at it before giving up and tossing cash away. Moreover, the effort behind solving a problem educates you around the situation and helps you appreciate a purchased solution more when you fail.

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Feed Your Team

An army marches on its stomach. Food boosts morale, energizes the mind, and rewards your team. Food is more magical than money. I am convinced through my experience that feeding your team is one of the keys to success. I calculate catering and craft service into my film budgets before any other line item. Not only is your team happier on a full stomach, they tend to stick around the office and get more work done. The traditional hour lunch break sends everyone off into the world and away from each other, making it difficult to get back into the gear of tasks at hand.

Afraid that feeding your team may be too expensive? Think instead about the productivity costs associated with sending your team outside for an hour lunch break. It will take an individual between 10 and 20 minutes to reach a destination for lunch, between 20 and 35 to eat, 10 to 20 to return, and as much as 30 minutes to get motivated again. On average, the hour lunch break could cost you as much as one and a half man-hours per employee per day. For a ten-person team with $60,000 salaries each, that’s $430 a day – over $2,000 per week! You could more than cover the costs of a caterer for the same price.

Find a way to pay for it. Feeding your team may be an added expense unaccounted for in your overhead and payroll costs, but the work output benefits are tenfold. Yum.

Film Friday: The Mercenary Model

Like recruiting a band of freedom fighters, a company can commission a handful of different filmmakers to generate original content for a single narrative or non-narrative campaign unified by theme, message, dialogue or genre. By recruiting several auteurs to produce independent work, the company reduces brand risk by investing in multiple creative visions to satisfy one campaign. Odds are much higher that at least one of the dissimilar campaign videos will be successful online.  As an added bonus, mercenary campaigns serve as strong breeding pools for discovering fresh directorial talent.

When pitting filmmakers against each other, it is much easier to negotiate competitive production budgets. Depending on the complexity of the campaign and nature of material, a brand could easily generate five pieces of content for the going price of one 30-second industry commercial. If your filmmakers are chosen through film school or a public competition online, you can offer as little as $1,000 budgets to each. Run productions concurrently and you can collect all of that content very quickly.

Coca-Cola has been doing this for 13 years through their Refreshing Filmmaker Awards. As another legitimate example, Philips commissioned RSA (Ridley Scott Associates filmmaker group) to shoot five short films using the same dialogue to promote their Ambilight Cinema Television. Five different directors produced radically different content and drove strong traffic to the brand.  Carl Erik Rinsch’s film, “The Gift,” even sparked a studio bidding war.

As with crowdsourcing, trusting outsiders to produce video content could potentially compromise your company image. Thankfully, you are in control of your own brand – do not release the videos if they fail to satisfy your needs. Either way, it’s worth the experiment. Young, ambitious filmmakers like 5 Second Films could bring a lot to your campaign if you award them the freedom to do so.

Film Friday: The Project Triangle

Project TriangleThe Project Triangle concept was first conceived in the engineering world and has helped me navigate countless managerial decisions in Hollywood. For those not familiar, the Project Triangle rules that you can only pick two of the three: Good, Fast or Cheap.

The logic makes sense and can help you rapidly prioritize through difficult, urgent decisions. In film, there are many – especially as a studio executive, producer, or coordinator.

If you want quality work done quickly, you cannot expect things to be cheap. Talented artists who can move fast without missing a beat are extremely rare and therefore extremely expensive. Want a Director of Photography who can make 45 setups a day look like Leibovitz? Start at $3,000 per day. 3D conversion of a feature film in 45 days? $12-15 Million base.

If you want the project resolved promptly and to cut costs, do not expect top-notch work. Running and gunning a show with cheap labor opens the door for creative and technical mistakes. Many independent films do not gain traction because they simply lack the resources and time to reach distributable or marketable quality. Entire companies like The Asylum have embraced mediocre output to sustain business and cut substantial costs.

If you want to win awards and save money, be prepared to wait a very long time. If you are lucky, the material is strong enough to inspire great talent for scale cost – but you have to work around their schedules. Everyone needs to pay the bills – and my pro bono contribution to your breakout short will take the back seat to my full-time job. Sorry.

I think you can accomplish all three triangle points in one project, but most likely as a weekend passion project or a random conceptual twist of genius. Very rarely, great work is created in little time with no money. As an administrator or producer, you cannot bank on that roll of the dice.

Be prepared for only two of the three; hope for the third.