7 Key Traits Filmmakers Can Learn From Entrepreneurs

Richard-Branson-Virgin-Founder

If you are a filmmaker, then you are probably already thinking: “But we are entrepreneurs!” Yes, filmmaking is a business and it has moguls that make it so, and consequently the independent filmmaker, more and more so, needs to act and think like an entrepreneur. You need to get funded, you need to build a team around you and you need all the traits listed below (or in my case, bits of them), of which I have found to be most commonly associated with entrepreneurs.

Let me begin with this rather unhelpful quote “entrepreneurship is dealing with repeated failure.” (I can’t cite this quote, but it has come from somewhere!). One would fathom that this suggests “repeated failure” will eventually lead to the good will of success i.e. you just keep trying to succeed. Of course, tenacity is essential, but this quote is probably hammering home the harsh realities of running a business, and learning from your mistakes. (My dad has forever told me to “learn from my mistakes”; he just forgot to tell me to write them down!). Making a film, getting represented, publishing a book etc. are all things that no doubt feel like you are receiving treatment of “repeated failure”. But, if you learn to deal with it and flip it on it’s head into progressive enthusiasm then it can only be valuable (admitted, we are not all this strong minded). Essentially, it seems to me that this is what entrepreneurship is all about: you need to deal with whatever is thrown at you and have an answer for it (commonly by “flipping it” – a term I have now made up) – thus emulating the role of the film director.

Passion

It was obvious, who can make something happen without passion? The slight difference in regard to an independent filmmaker is that they should be primarily fuelled by their craft and the story (much like an entrepreneur is for their product, however). You shouldn’t be so fuelled by the need to get rich, if so, you probably should be an entrepreneur after all. Passion, belief and excitement all come before money in this game i.e. the world.

Tolerance

A filmmaker needs to be able to tolerate a vast number of individuals all at once. Let’s hope everyone is on the same wave length, but if not, you need to know that you have control over the outcome. A big hamper is obviously fear and various anxieties; this could be fear of the ambiguous or the ‘Other’ hanging over your shoulder. Successfully controlling such a marvel will keep you right on cue.

Vision

Just like an entrepreneur needs to vision their product and its market 6 months down the line, so do filmmakers. It is easy to forget that at the end of the day, as a filmmaker, you are selling a product. Moreover, having a clear vision to bring that product to life goes without saying. For the director, to be assertive and maintain a state of control, you have to have a clear vision. Surely, if not, then that control would stem from something other than a passion for a vision, egos begin to come out and play. Tension between crew on a film set is the ultimate assassin for a director.

Self-belief   

Nay-sayers are what the cultural industries are all about; decline and more decline. Or, so it can sometimes seem when trying to get a project off the ground. So, overcoming such individuals and taking steps away from subjective dismay and into future resolve is a desirable and fundamental trait. These are understandably tough moments were support could be largely beneficial, but “rise above” as they say.

Flexibility

If you are in control/running something (as is an entrepreneur or a film director) then you have to be adaptable to survive. Arguably, one can be narrow-minded, bigoted to the heavens and still become the lord of a business, but I will argue that filmmaking can be more delicate (especially on set) and being flexible is vital. Being assertive to changes and managing them in the best way possible is all one can do at times. This doesn’t mean letting your power slide, your power will be all the more if people respect you for listening and become enriched by your compliance. The history of film directing is littered with debates around this topic (and the others listed), nothing I have said here is to direct you, it is purely personal thoughts and beliefs for my own reflection (with the hope you may like them too!)

Rule Breaking

Perhaps not a forerunning thought for a narrative filmmaker. Of course, innovative aesthetics are not the only way to be recognised, powerful stories are the significant other. Yet, with powerful stories, more often than not, comes a beautiful and ground-breaking aesthetic and the stamp of an author. I guess this trait is about being open-minded (to yourself, your DoP, Art Director etc.), in other words, defying some form of conventional wisdom associated with filmmakers (notoriously the classical Hollywood style of filmmaking that we all know so well). However, there is no set of rules when making a film (someone respectable said this, though I can’t remember who), so set your own and break them on occasion. Besides, creative choices, there are the guerrilla filmmaker rules i.e. break the law. This is another story altogether (Read Chris Jones’s Guerrilla Filmmaker’s Pocketbook)

Tenacity

I like to think of tenacity as having an external strength – the Zeus of filmmakers if you like. This is the eternal drive that keeps you going, the firmness in your belief-system that keeps you on track, the device that pushes you through the obstacles and defies uncertainty. Anyone trying to make something happen needs a degree of tenacity.

Underlying all these factors however, is the obvious and ubiquitous need for a strong mental state – nothing is applicable without such a device. And, this is where it all begins to get a bit complicated…

Thank you readers. Please share your experiences with these traits in the comments below.

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