We’re production people, so naturally being on set for us is like swimming for a dolphin. We love it. But as most people who’ve spent any time on set also know, it isn’t always flips and twirls with your friends in some exotic blue lagoon.
Production can be soul crushing if you let it be.
Attitudes can go sour, timelines can be decimated, and relationships can be strained all for the sake of filming something that at the beginning was supposed to be as fun as coloring that first picture for your parents and seeing it hanging on the fridge. So how does that happen and how do you avoid it?
Culture is Important
After being on numerous sets, we discovered that not all sets are created equal. Just like families and organizations of every size, each one has a unique set of rules or Immutable Laws as Mike Michalowicz calls them in his book, The Pumpkin Plan. Some sets value hierarchy and segregation of responsibilities at the expense of relationship and common human decency. Others value a higher purpose and relationships at the expense of timelines and budgets. Finally, others are like Oz or Narnia after the wicked witches have been defeated and seem to take the best characteristics of all sets while minimizing the worst ones.
You will always have some issues you have to deal with, we are all people after all.
But we believe strongly that you can minimize these problems while building a set that is actually inviting to people, and it all starts with your culture, what you believe is important.
Our Immutable Laws
For us at TCM Creative, it all starts with your attitude. We aren’t looking for people with some useless blind optimism, but rather…
We seek out and cultivate people who have good attitudes.
You have to see the world as it really is, but you still have a choice, an internal decision that your circumstances don’t dictate your mood, you do. There is no universal law like gravity that says you have to be happy just because everything is going your way trust us, we’ve met some people who have more than most people dream of and they are the grumpiest toads you’ve ever met. Likewise, there is no law that says everything has to be going your way for you to be happy either. It’s your choice, and our choice is to work with people who understand this and value it.
Second, we believe in working hard, smart, and doing it with a heart to serve not out of recognition.
Don’t get us wrong, there are quite a few of us, we won’t name any names, who thrive on words of affirmation and shiny trophies. But that isn’t the reason we do what we do. If it was, we’d feel about as shallow as a character on a soap opera. But when your heart is set on serving others, even the most menial tasks take on an air of importance because you’re doing for your fellow team members and not just yourself. You’re willing to go the extra mile because you are supporting the team and not your own individual ambitions. Whether its lending a hand to someone carrying something, writing the best script possible, taking an extra minute to get the shot just right, or picking up a piece of trash on the bathroom floor, a heart set on serving sees them all the same, and that’s why we choose to work with people who understand and value this too.
Finally, we believe in excellence.
If you’re going to do something, do it with excellence. Don’t cut corners or mail it in. Treat it as if it’s going to be hung in a museum for thousands of years, for millions of people to marvel at. This means that we work with people who are excellent at what they do, are always seeking to get better, and we put them in situations where their strengths can shine through. When everyone is working in their strengths with a goal of excellence, it sounds like a beautiful symphony playing a masterpiece for all to hear. Everyone must have some level of aptitude in their position and a desire to increase it with each passing moment for the betterment of the team. These kinds of people will inspire those around them to be better and that’s why we choose to work with people who understand and value this quality.
So How Does It All Play Out
Fancy words and flowery speech only get you so far, and with salt of the earth production people, it barely gets you in the front door. In fact, it might get the front door slammed in your face.
So how do these ideas get put into practice with a group that tends to prefer tangible things over ethereal concepts?
It’s quite simple really. You put your money where your mouth is. You practice what you preach and you own up to it when you fall short of your benchmarks.
This past weekend, we had the pleasure of being on set and were given another opportunity to watch our laws play out in real world situations. If you sat back as a casual observer, the first thing you would notice is that the set is like catnip for production people. We’re pretty sure it’s a legal drug for most of them. They love it. But not all set people are that way and that’s okay. We just won’t have them on our set, as they would be happier on a set where grumpiness and ungratefulness is rewarded. Wait. Maybe they wouldn’t be happier, but at least they wouldn’t feel so out of place.
After that, you would notice how preparation (hard/smart work) is key to making this all work. With a crew of 27 people and 37 actors and actresses on set, we were challenged to film two commercials in a single day, and if that wasn’t enough of a challenge we had to film both of them in English and Spanish. Ah, the thrill of the challenge!
Right off the bat, weeks before anyone set foot on set, those among us who lean to the analytical side were skeptical it could be done. But if it was going to be done, we’d have to be prepared and organized. The filming day was scheduled and it seemed ambitious, but we prepared and worked the plan. As they say, no plan survives contact with the real world.
So what happened? Well, we didn’t finish on time for starters.
We actually finished an hour and twenty minutes ahead of time. Oh yeah, you read that right. We crushed it and, in all honesty, it was because of the culture of our team and all of them working together to support one another that made it work. Sure we had a few missteps and snafus during the day, but we came together and made it better than any of us could have imagined. Without a team dedicated to this culture, we’d probably still be in production hell pointing fingers and playing pass-the-blame as seems to be the case far too often.
So what does this mean for you? What can you take away from our experience? I guess thats up to you, but if you want to hear our suggestion it’s this.
Find your own immutable laws, and read Mike’s book The Pumpkin Plan while you’re at it. We love it.
Develop your own culture by starting to talk about, but more importantly act out, what is important to you and you company. Hire people who value these same characteristics and make instilling them into your people a top priority.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find that your work environment can be better than you ever dreamed too. All you have to do is begin the process and then keep at it. Hopefully we’ll see you in the warm water of that blue lagoon sooner rather than later. Either way, give yourself a work break minute or two and watch this time-lapse of our set up for the shoot we mentioned above and thanks for spending these few moments with us, we kinda like you.