One of the most costly and toxic mistakes you can make in building an organization is hiring people who do not fit or deliver. Especially at the management level. Bad managers that don’t fit tend to hire more bad people who don’t fit. Not a good situation to be in. If you continue to grow without amputating the infection, you might find yourself with a heavily weighted and unhealthy organization. Don’t do it. Never compromise on hiring. Make sure at any cost that the people you are recruiting can do the job and fit in. It’s worth hard questions. It’s worth confrontation and debate. It’s worth negotiation. Do not be afraid to be absolutely sure.
We’re hiring right now and I’ve spent more than half my life watching film reels. Mildly put, I’ve seen a lot of donkey crap. For those of you looking to solicit work in the film or media industry, here are 12 tips to consider when editing your reel:
1. Make it short. Like one to two minutes short. I don’t have 8 minutes in my day for a hundred different people I don’t know. Convince me in less than two minutes to beg you for more. A reel 15 minutes or longer is borderline insulting.
2. Cut everything together. I will only watch one video per person (unless you impress me). A list of separate clips does not count as a reel. If you are interviewing as a director or editor, I will specifically request longer clips to see how you structure scenes.
3. Use your own voice. Do not imitate or parody movie trailers or other popular videos. No matter how flashy or technically proficient the reel may be, a ripoff reel proves only one thing to me: you are a ripoff.
4. Focus the viewer. Title your reel with the skill you wish to highlight (e.g. “camera operating,” “hair styling,” “lighting,” “visual effects,” etc.). I may enjoy qualities of the production you had nothing to do with – a recipe for awkwardness in interviews. Tell me what to pay attention to in advance.
5. No repetition. Don’t show me the same shot over and over. Don’t even show it to me twice. I will start thinking that’s all you’ve done.
6. Not overly dramatic. You don’t have time to be taken seriously in two minutes. Watching a grown man cry or woman getting raped while I drink tea and check my morning office email is simply uncomfortable.
7. Keep it current. If your reel is from a VHS transfer, unlit basement production or freehand miniDV, I will assume you failed film school or predate colored television. Show me only the latest and greatest. Your sentimental first film means nothing to me.
8. No movie scores. I don’t care how obscure you think the piece of music is. I am a film score connoisseur by trade (and so are most producers in the business); misusing a recognizable piece of music may distract or offend me. If I hear Clint Mansell in a reel one more time, I will adopt heroin and blame you.
9. No popular songs. Unless you worked with Led Zeppelin or Coldplay personally, your reel does not deserve to be tracked with their music. If you try to get away with it, viewers may stop paying attention when your music selection brings them back to high school slumber parties or the junior prom.
10. Easily accessible. Broken links are dead ends. Always make your reel available and never make me ask for it (“upon request” is not considerate, it’s lazy). Make sure your link is easy to find in your email and at the top of your résumé.
11. Stream it. Do not ask me to download a file. That will add at least two unnecessary steps and pollute my hard drive.
12. Vimeo. A poorly designed personal website will distract me and hurt you. Unless your site is a work of art, let Vimeo or YouTube make the first impression. If you feel compelled to host your work on your own site, enable the compression setting “fast start” or “compressed header” so I do not have to wait for the entire clip to buffer before playing (this is one of my biggest and most repairable pet peeves).
If you find yourself responsible for staffing a team, do not take the responsibility lightly. You will bring people on board with whom you may spend more time with than your real family. More than finding skilled people who fit the bill, you need to find people with whom you like to spend time.
The modern approach to hiring is more like an arranged marriage than dating. Members of the company sit in a room together and grill the candidate, call references, and put the interviewee to the test. It’s a lot like your romantic prospect’s family attending the first date and grilling you about housecleaning or parenting. Not a natural courtship process. While perhaps less “professional,” a reasonable amount of the interview process should be spent eating, drinking and hanging out with the interviewee. It’s one thing to get to know someone through his or her skills. It’s a whole other ball game to get to know someone culturally.
It does not matter whether he or she is a prodigy talent – if you can’t get along together in person, more harm will come than good. Never hire from a phone interview alone.
How do you find “datable” hires? Start by encouraging your team to invite friends. Friends of friends have a better cultural in than a random chap off the street. If no luck with friends of friends, branch out through the network. If you find someone promising, do not settle on business references alone; find a way to collect social references as well. If nothing else, take him or her out to dinner or throw a company party. Have a little fun. Make sure you can have a good time together. After all, you’re bringing on a new member to the family. Behave and celebrate accordingly.