I had a friend who worked as a focus puller on a television drama. On day one the director said he would ‘tell him when to pull focus’. How would he tell him? He would touch his shoulder. My talented, crazy capable, artist/craftsman friend had become a human button. This is not how you help people’s create their best work. The fact he was being paid a fair amount to be there did not make up for it. At all. Why would it?
When making zero budget movies you get good at working in support of your collaborators rather than dictating to them. I often think of it in terms of a Venn diagram. I have a thing I’d like to make and my collaborators have theirs. We aren’t making those things though. We look for where the ideals crossover and make that.
This approach creates possibility and can lead to exciting surprises. Everyone is given license to bring their own magic. That many empowered talented people are sure to have ideas that you would have missed out on.
With financial backing, theoretically, you can tell people what to do. People are getting paid. It makes sense or at least most of us have agreed to pretend it does.
True collaboration sparks something with people. Everyone feels empowered. Respected. There may be problems and mistakes but at least you won’t be surrounded by switched off people nowhere near approaching their greatest potential all doing just enough.