Filmmaking is quite an intricate dance, where disciplines like design, photography, writing, and music mix to create a unified vision. Uncover the benefits and challenges of fostering a collaborative filmmaking environment, delving into the crucial role of technology, project management, teamwork, and effective communication.
Filmmaking may just be the most collaborative art form out there. More than any other type of project, to create a film or video requires the competencies of various other types of art to form together into one cohesive vision. Filmmaking combines art & design, photography, writing, performance, architecture, music, and editing to name just a few.
That’s why it is so crucial to learn the art of being a strong leader and guiding your team through a great collaborative working environment. Not just in your technology choices, but in the way you inspire and mentor your team. Let’s take a look at all of the benefits and challenges of creating a truly collaborative working environment.
The most obvious thing to point to when considering ways to help your teams collaborate is choosing the right technology for your team. For small teams, every NLE has some version of collaboration that will help you on your project.
Adobe Premiere Pro has three ways of collaborating with multiple editors.
- An editor can simply share their project file with other team members. This easy method of sharing has some challenges though, as sharing a project file means that only one editor can be working on the project at a time. Additionally, it would be important for all recipients of that project file to have the same source footage files.
- Users can utilize the Premiere Team projects. The advantage of using Team projects is that multiple editors can be signed into a single project file and making changes at once. Each editor has a check in/check out system where they upload their changes and download new changes from the server. One nice thing that is unique about Team projects is that each editor can have a copy of the projects footage in a unique location on their own system, as footage linking is per user instead of per project.
- Finally, Premiere has something called Productions, which works remarkably similar to an Avid project. The Production can live on a shared server in a local environment, but it also works great on cloud sync services like Dropbox. Multiple editors can be in the same Production, locking the projects they are working on but pulling in assets from any project, even locked ones. In this environment you might separate the footage assets from the sequences you are working on so that more than one editor can access the footage while working on their own sequences inside of the Production.
An example of a simple Premiere Production structure
DaVinci Resolve is quickly becoming a popular collaborative editing tool with their newest offerings in Resolve 18. Just like Premiere, there are two main ways editors can collaborate inside of DaVinci Resolve. Similar to Premiere, you can simply export and share a project file or a timeline with other editors. However, where Resolve truly shines is with their cloud based collaboration platform in which multiple editors can be working in the same exact project file at the same exact time.
Not only does this allow for multiple editors to work together in the same project, but because of the nature of the way Resolve is built, editors can invite colorists, visual effects artists, sound mixers and all of their assistants to enter the project and be making changes.
Blackmagic Cloud users have the ability to collaboratively work on the same project at the same time
A film or video project can produce a lot of data, and that data all needs to be easily accessible by any team member. Not only do you want to keep a safe backup of that data in more than two places, but you want to make sure anyone who needs access to it can get access to it. That’s why you should consider using a cloud based data storage option as part of your technology workflow.
Tools like Dropbox, Box.com and Google Drive are all acceptable options for long term storage, while tools like LucidLink and Frame.io work great for shorter term immediate storage.
An example task list on Asana
Having a list of to-do’s and ways to assign those tasks to your team immediately helps establish credibility as a leader and provides all of your collaborators with a central place to find any information they might need during the project.
Additionally, you should consider communication tools for your team. Most web based applications that help tackle project management will have some sort of messaging included, however having a central place for all messages on the team can help remove distractions and prevent team members being forced to use texting as a means of work communication. Think of tools like Slack and Discord as options in your playbook. When using mass team communication tools, make sure to set respectful boundaries for when to send messages. You can setup office hours and do-not-disturb times on these apps to avoid receiving late night messages and you can easily see when your collaborators are online or not.
An example of a Slack thread
Perhaps the most critical part of a great collaborative workflow is great teamwork. The importance of having everyone on the team on the same page cannot be understated. It is what drives the creative assignment and ensures that the end goal is reached.
Great teamwork begins with great leadership. Here are a few ways to ensure that your creative collaborations will run smoothly and efficiently.
- Be prepared. As the leader, you should be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, and that is both a literal concept and a figurative one. You should be the most researched, the most knowledgeable, but most importantly someone who is able to admit when they are not the right person to answer a question. And that brings us to our next point.
- Surround yourself with great collaborators. It sounds like an obvious bullet point, but it is in fact a difficult task. Finding great collaborators who will work with you and help fulfil the goals of the project is part of being a great leader. For example, you might be a strong editor, however if the project calls for heavy duty visual effects that are not in your competency you will need to find a capable visual effects artist to work with you. Knowing whether that artist is someone who just needs to, for instance, be great at 3D modeling vs. being a one-stop shop for your entire VFX pipeline is how you will find the right person for the right job. That why you should always…
- Ask questions and listen to the answers. An important aspect of having a team to work with is listening to the experts on your team by asking questions. Not only should you strive to learn as much about every aspect of what your team is doing, you should be listening to what they are saying. Sometimes your team will let you know when things are going great, and sometimes they will let you know when things have taken a turn for the worse, and it is in those moments that you should absorb the information and work hand in hand to form an action plan that fits the needs of the project.
When speaking with your team, it’s crucial to find a means to communicate your ideas. This could mean using storyboards, mock ups, rough edits of scenes, comparable videos, anything and everything that will help aid in the understanding of the goals laid out ahead of you. Using whiteboard apps like Miro, Figma, or Freeform are great ways to demonstrate a flow of ideas in a collaborative environment.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is that you must learn how to communicate clearly with your team in a way that is respectful, efficient and forward-thinking. Making sure to bold important topics in conversations on long chat threads can help draw your teams eyes to must-see action items. Avoiding WRITING THINGS IN ALL CAPS will help bring a calmer demeanor to your written voice. And remember that your tone can often be lost or mistaken when writing in chat, so don’t be shy to more clearly express gratitude or praise when something goes well.
Collaborating with a team is a unique challenge, there are so many moving parts to any one project that it is easy to lose sight of the machine that makes it all happen. However, with practice and experience you’ll be able to successfully guide projects with amazing results.