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Lights, Camera...Collaboration! What organisations can learn from Hollywood - part 1

Back in a previous life I was lucky enough to be involved with Credence, a groundbreaking 30 minute short film by award winning film maker Mike Buonaiuto. The film, the first Sci-Fi of its kind to challenge the portrayal of LGBT people, raised over £23,000 on Indiegogo to bring the project to the big screen and had its premiere in London's Leicester Square.

Mike is also founder and executive director of Shape History, a creative agency for social change. The organisation brings together teams of collaborative creative individuals from its extensive network to work with NGO's, charities and organisations to create powerful and impactful content.

Aside from the films critical success it also provides a powerful success story into how social media can be used to mobilise support, drive engagement and, what I'm really concerned with in this article, how to mobilise people and resources to collaborate successfully around a shared purpose.

I spoke to Mike a couple of weeks after principal photography had finished, to share thoughts on the essential ingredients for successful collaborative teams.

Oh....I should probably also mention I'm in the movie...

After spending time looking at leadership and organisations through the eyes of an actor, I found myself looking at the film set through the eyes of a consultant. It led me to ask;

What can leaders and organisations learn about collaborative communities and innovation from the film set?

To me as a film maker collaboration is a no-brainer. It is essential for any successful creative endeavour. It is about working out what the core skills needed are, what can I do and finding people that can do the other things better than me for the other stuff.

A film set works under the same pressures as any other organisation; time and money. On set you are always fighting against time. The day is scheduled by the shots that need to be ‘in the can’; Each shot has an allotted time slot attached to it, if the shot over runs, that time must be gained elsewhere. Over run and expensive overtime kicks in, or worse still a director may have to start cutting shots from the schedule which may give rise to "coverage" issues in the editing suite which could ultimately have an adverse effect on the films ability to tell a story.

You get the picture (pun intended). In short, your product becomes compromised. Also factor in stoppages to filming whilst planes fly overhead, or constantly changing natural light if you are filming exteriors. Under these kinds of pressures, it is essential that your team are not only competent and capable but also able to collaborate in what could become a volatile working environment.

Pressure in any business can change dynamics within any team very quickly and unless the balance of skills and egos is right, fractures appear when cohesion is most vital.

High Definition Focus and Vision

As a filmmaker and creative, Mikes projects are driven by a clear message and purpose which in turn is driven by his passion to create change.

Credence "follows 2 fathers’ decision to make the ultimate sacrifice to give up all their possessions to ensure the survival of their daughter, and the entire human race". That’s the story; the purpose was to redefine "the way LGBT people are shown on screen". It is key for Mike when putting his team together that they also believe in this purpose, the “why” as Simon Sinek refers to it.

By putting together a team that believes in and is passionate about this, it not only allows the film-maker to trust that each member of the team is driven to do the best for the realisation of this message but also that decisions made by the team whether they are big or small are aligned to that message or purpose.

The clarity, strength and communication of that story and the purpose and values it represents are essential for the project to succeed. It’s the difference between an Oscar nomination and a straight to DVD release.

A couple of years ago I had a role in a very high profile and highly funded West-end musical based on the music of a very successful girl group of the nineties (I’ll let you work out what it was).

The cast and creative team were assembled from the cream of the industry and littered with BAFTA, Olivier, Tony and Emmy award winners and nominees. Money was seemingly no object. To cut a long story short, the script was still “emergent” and there was a real disconnect between the creative team about what the real message of the story was. The production was selling branded iPhone covers and umbrellas before we even started rehearsals. We changed the ending at least three times during the preview period and predictively enough when the show opened it was slated by the press and closed after only 6 months due to poor ticket sales. The producers of the company reportedly lost around £15 million.

Simple really, you can dedicate your best team and all the resources you like to a project but if the purpose isn’t clear it is likely to fail.

I have worked with global organisations who have not been clearly able to define what their purpose and core values are, or if they know them are not effectively communicating them. One large leisure company that I worked with had a brand value document that spread over 50 pages! They then wonder why their team are disengaged with the company and their customers, and are not performing in the way they want them to.

When everybody is working towards a clear goal and knows the “why”, they feel they are able to contribute, they have a greater sense of ownership which creates real intrinsic motivation.

“By keeping the message and delivery accessible it means people can get involved and contribute at all levels, whether sharing the trailer, contributing via IndieGoGo or contributing skills, time and energy like the cast and crew…it’s everyone’s baby.”

A clear purpose also helps a leader gain the right balance of egos. As an actor and writer, the story is everything, if a scene or something I do on camera isn’t contributing or forwarding that story it has no place.

If I want to do something on camera that I think will make me look cool or good looking, that is ego driven not purpose driven. No-one likes working with a diva, it diminishes the value of those around them and hinders others ability to contribute. Not sure? Search out the infamous clip of Christian Bale losing his temper with a member of the crew whilst filming Terminator: Resurrection and think about the impact that kind of behaviour would have in your company or team.

Furthermore, if you have a team member who is purely motivated by personal gain and not a belief in your organisations purpose, can you really trust them to make decisions that are properly aligned?

I doubt it.

BY anthony topham

Next week - Part 2: Without Trust There Is No Collaboration. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

To watch the trailer and download Credence:

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