No one likes to talk about failure, which is strange because it is something everyone has experience of. I don't know a single filmmaker or producer who hasn't experienced a set back in their career, felt let down or made mistakes. It's all part of learning to become better at your job. This is probably the most honest video I've ever made, because I talk openly about mistakes I've made but more importantly the lessons I've learned.


[00:00:00] Hi, everyone, welcome to Above the Line. In the short video, I'm going to talk a bit about failure and my own personal experiences and how I've dealt with things when they haven't quite gone to plan.

[00:00:12] So a few people have asked me to talk about failure or how to deal with problems, and I thought it would be interesting just to share things that I do personally and how looking back, how I've dealt with certain situations.

[00:00:28] So one of the things I've learned over the past eight years producing films is that as I've become more experienced and as I've developed myself as a person and a producer, I've learned to make the distinction between a crisis and a problem that can be solved. Sometimes in the past, I have let my emotions get the better of me and things that were really just a simple problem that could be solved through a conversation or a different way of thinking actually were built up into a huge crisis and an argument and people really letting their emotions get the better of the situation. When I think if we had just sat down and had a frank conversation, things could have gone a different way. Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but what I tell people is that going through bad experiences can be worthwhile because you learn from them. And this is why we make lots of short films and this is why you test yourself and you develop yourself as a person and as a filmmaker because you get better at handling things that go wrong.

[00:01:37] I personally have benefited a great deal by having mentors, people who are more experienced than me in producing, but also a trusted group of friends in my personal life. And these are people I can just talk honestly with and who can give me advice and maybe give me some perspective, because when you're in the eye of the storm, everything can feel very overpowering and it can feel like a crisis. But really, you just have to take a step back and think, OK, I think I can find a solution here. I don't need to lose my head. And when you are the producer, people do generally look to you to steer them through the storm. And sometimes your director will need that extra support and you have to be the cool head when everybody is losing theirs. And that can be a bit overwhelming. But through experience and again, having people around you who can give you good advice, you'd be surprised how many people have been exactly in the same situation as you in the past and reach out to them and don't feel like you're doing a bad job because you need help because we all rely on each other.

[00:02:38] I really feel like that is a really important step in your professional development and a really positive thing to have in your life, because it can help you take on problems and solve them in a really productive, positive and healthy way.

[00:02:57] So speaking from my own experience, they have only been a couple of occasions where I felt that my relationship with the director wasn't very good, and in one instance I actually stepped away from a project because of it and thinking back on it and trying to learn a positive lesson out of a bad situation.

[00:03:16] I really feel like it all comes down to the fact that up front I didn't press the director for clarity around their vision. I didn't really understand what aspirations and what ambitions they had for their film. And what was really happening was that in their minds, they were making a fifty thousand pound short film. And I was thinking, OK, this is ten thousand pound budget, how can I make things work and making compromises that they were really unhappy about. Whereas I think if I had done more work with them upfront and I had really understood what it is that they wanted, I probably would have saved myself a lot of bother. I might have said, OK, this project isn't for me or I would have thought, OK, it has to be 40 grand. So I have to raise 40 grand to make this film happen the way the director wants, because there's really no point in leaving requests and ideas to two weeks before you shoot because that's too late. So if you ever have an inkling that maybe you and your director are not on the same page, it's much better to have that conversation six months in advance rather than the day before you go to camera or even the week before, where it's probably too late to get certain kit or certain crew or even cast.

[00:04:36] You know, you have to always be on the same page. And this is something that's new and emerging directors themselves have to learn. They have to learn how to be clear in their ambitions, they have to be clear in the kind of film they're making, you have to push them and not make any assumptions that you on the same page.

[00:05:00] Another question I've been asked is, what happens when you've made a film but it hasn't met your expectations or the funders expectations? Well, first of all, you made a film, and that in itself is an achievement. And you should be really proud about that. And that should be a positive thing for you. Funders understand that they're taking a gamble on talent, especially at the short film level. And it's always a risk. Any film is a risk. Nobody really knows how it's going to pan out. You just hope that you do the very best job that you can. I think the most important thing to do is do not go around blaming your director or cinematographer. And equally, they shouldn't blame you. You understand that this is a team effort and everybody involved was contributing to the success or even the failure of a film. But together you still made a film and that is something that you should feel positive about. I would also stress that, you shouldn't let it deter you, you shouldn't let it prevent you from continuing those relationships, because sometimes, you know, something didn't happen, the weather was really against you or you lost a day of shooting because it's something you could not control and you still managed to create a finished film.

[00:06:14] Don't just give up on those relationships. You can still continue them. It's very much how you deal with them as a producer. If you believed in your writer and director before that film happened, you can still believe in them and you can still want to champion them. That's perfectly fine. You shouldn't burn your bridges with anybody in the industry. So that's one thing I would really stress upon you. And, you know, if you feel embarrassed or you feel a bit self-conscious about your career going forward and think of funder may have lost confidence in you, I would just have a very honest conversation with the funder. I would talk to them about what happened and really rely on them for some support and advice, because ultimately, I think that's what people will be judging you on just as much as your successes, is your attitude and how you deal with failure or things not really going the way you'd like.

[00:07:05] So, again, I just want to stress upon you is that you made a film and that should be worth celebrating and you should feel happy about that. And everybody has had those bad experiences in their career. And really how you react to them will say more about you than the way you celebrate success. So don't give up and certainly don't burn your bridges with anybody. Celebrate the fact that you work together and pick yourself up and go again.