These days being a one-stop-shop is much more common than ever before. Providing all of the pieces to the puzzle is totally a come up in this age. However, being a one-man-show...that's different. I say man in generality, so please don't come for me sisters...I'm one of you!
But for those that say well Spike wrote, directed, produced and was in many of his films and so was Tyler, and my friend did it too. While that's cool, please know, I personally am a mentee of one of Spike's mentees...and being ON a Spike set before, I know that he is not the only one working on his sets. He runs them, yes. And final cut is usually his call, but there is a trusted team of subordinates, lateral colleagues and collaborators there to assist in the thing. Same with Tyler. Trust that Roger Bob and Tim Story are a huge part of his success, and he of theirs.
I have done partnerships, and that's whole other beast. It can be amazing, but there is definitely plenty of patience, dropped ego on all sides, and commitments to the work that has to be put in that will make that all come together and more importantly...stay together. However, today I want to delve into collaborating and some good points of thought and etiquette for that.
A collaboration by basic definition is working with someone to create or produce something. The largest and most important part of that definitive sentence is WITH. As in working WITH someone. In a collaborative space, no one person is working FOR anyone. If you are a for-hire person in a collaborate environment, GREAT; but you do work FOR that person. If you are a collaborative partner in a venture, project, film or whatever, then you work WITH the other person or person(s).
So here are a few tips and notes of good etiquette when collaborating with a fellow creative or set of creatives. Cuz...you know...we are artists and we get REAL and rightly sensitive about our ish!!!
Lay it All Out There!
When you are preparing to work with someone, it's important to have a face-to-face if possible, or at the very least a phone conversation about what the project is, what it entails and what each of you are both bringing to the table and looking to gain from the piece. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and capitalizing off of each other's strong suits while learning from one another to minimize your weak points is a beautiful thing. However, if this conversation is had from the gate, then no one can feel that they are doing ALL of the work, unless that was what was agreed upon. And the etiquette tip in that is...if that was the agreement and now it's not working for you, be an adult and speak up. However, do it in a respectful manner and be direct. Sass will get you nowhere and NO ONE wants to deal with anyone else's passive aggressive bull. I know this one from experience, as I've been on both sides of that fence. As the offended and the offender! lol #notokay
Okay, you decided what you want to do...now what? In any collaboration, there is usually a party that is the better organizer or leader of sorts. Not a "bow-down-and-kiss-my-ring" type of leader. But an "I double cross my 't's and triple dot my 'i's'" type of leader. And if you know that person makes a to-do list for their to-do list...then let them go right on and help set the stage for the work. The etiquette tip in this one...if you ARE that person, always be mindful to check in, request assistance, opinions and insight so that folks don't feel that they have a power whore on their hands who wants to just run the damn show. If you are the person working with this person, then make sure if you have a difference in opinion or don't prefer the way it's going, that you kindly say so. But do it so that they are aware that YOU know they are only trying to create the very best output for the collective. Be mindful to not make them feel a way when they were just trying to give their all. Some folks just need a bit of pulling back in their zeal, but will shut down if they feel they are dealt with brusquely.
Pulling Others In
Often you will need to add to your team. Once the initial collaborators are set, be it two or ten...the additional man-power is coming on board as willing subordinates...not lateral partners - unless everyone agrees to that. However, it is NEVER okay to bring people into the situation before they've been brought to the table. Even if you know they are the best at providing the service you need. The etiquette piece here is to present them with a nice packet of why they should be the choice, or to share several links to their work or whatever showcases their skill set. And also don't be up in arms if your team wants to vet them thoroughly. This is not about YOU, it's about the overall product in the end. So their desire to investigate this person is not a slight on you, your tastes or abilities. It's functioning on the level of good business...so if somehow this person gets beat with a #stupidstick while working on the project or event, at least you ALL agreed on them and no one person is to blame for the foolishness. :)
Talk, Talk, Talk
When you are working on a joint venture, there will always be folks with varied degrees of exposure, notoriety, experience and so on. So if someone in your group has a chance to be at the right place in the right moment to shine light on the work, DOPE! However there's DEFINITELY an etiquette piece here... If you are that person, be sure to speak on the project using we, us and our. It's all good to speak on your part in the team and what you specifically may bring to the table, but please do not make everyone else seem like an aside. That can cause serious friction, distrust, and resentment in the long run. On the other side, if you are a part of a collaboration with someone that has a bit more brand recognition or personal brand equity than you do, and they are the one seemingly picked out to question publicly, lose the ego and be happy that your work is getting some love. It's okay if you are not the conduit spreading the good news at the moment. If that person is your true collaborative cohort, they will mention the names of all leading parties involved. And if they don't and it bothers you, tell them this in a nice way. Again, making sure that they know you understand it was a mere oversight, and that you just want to be sure that the good people out there know all of the involved parties.
Wrap It Up
Now the project is done and you are ready to wrap it up and move along. Regardless of the type of project it was, there are certain things that should be done. It's more than etiquette...it's common courtesy and good business.
AP/AR (Accounts Payable/ Accounts Receivable) - ensure that all of your paperwork for any monetary items are cleared up on both ends. Even if this was not a profitable piece of work, everyone in leadership that was involved should have a list of what was spent, where, for what and a budget sheet at the very least that reconciles all monies put in. For those that itemize their annual returns, and should there have been a loss, this money can be accounted for come tax time. Or if there was a gain, that money BETTER be accounted for come tax time so no one get's audited and has to pay a crap load of interest when they send you the bill for unclaimed earned income three years later! Also, be sure to have a master copy of the expenditures, accounts receivables and any additional costs, etc. that any of you can access later. Google docs is great as it can be shared and updated across the team or if there is one person over the budget, they can make notations with each update
Footage or tangible product - each person that collaborated on the creation of the work as well as those for-hire, should be given (when appropriate) access to footage or the product. This is very common in many indie projects, for actors especially, that they have no footage or access to their work. And as a producer or director or sound person...whatever...footage is key to getting new work. So even if its something you can't widely release due to festivals or whatever, but you've put out a trailer, send the mov or mp4 file of that to your folks so they can pull themselves from it for now, or at least so they can have something to show for their participation. And once the climate is right to release full scenes, be sure to do so. So many do not, so being the team that does will be sure to have those people ready to work with or for you again later.
Thank You - A simple token of thanks goes much further than you can imagine. Be it a wrap party, a parting gift or even just an email expressing your pleasure with working with each other and having such an awesome team...it all leaves a positive imprint on people and makes you look so appreciative and awesome! Be genuine...and if you do cards, blank cards are especially nice so that Hallmark doesn't write your feelings; you do!
As always, this is not an exhaustive run-down, but just a few little notes of good ways to stay in good graces with your folks and to get work done with as little strife as possible.
I know I make mention of it and say it often, but I am guilty of breaking MANY of these rules along the way and I am so thankful to past partners, collaborators, employees and friends that loved me and shoot, LIKED me enough to pull my coat on it and get me straight. I'm far from perfect and I've made many, many mistakes as I've navigated my way through my (still growing) career. But in that, I've been able to really meet and work with folks that made me want to be better, do better and treat others better. That allows me to both achieve a better product and be a better Okema T. Moore.
So if you have some additions to this, some stories to tell about your own experiences...or dare I say want to share a way in which you may have helped ME learn and grow, please share away. I'm never too good to say yup, I was a dummy to or with that person, but I apologized and grew from it :)