Friday, June 3, 2016

How to Make a Short Film: Dealing with a Difficult Person

How do you deal with a difficult person on your film team who doesn't do their job but it's all volunteer and you have no money to pay anyone ?

Because running is not always an option. Believe me, I wish it was.

I’m going to be honest: I don’t like dealing with conflict. But as a filmmaker, the filmmaking business requires you to work with lots of people, and it attracts some people with egos the size of a small planet. (Including probably you.) If you are going to make a short film, or any film, conflict is liable to come up and it is good to know how to deal with it. 

Because you never know when an unassuming person will start kung-fuing you because why not?
So what do you do if you butt heads with someone who you can't just talk things through with? A lot of conflict is just creative disagreement and can be worked out. As long as everyone knows their job and is willing to do it and believes in the movie. But sometimes people just don't want to work out the conflict. If you can learn to spot trouble beforehand and don’t invite them on that's best. But if they slip past you, do these things:

Free these words of wisdom these are. Welcome, you are.
1. Make sure you are communicating clearly with everyone what your expectations for them are--and those expectations are public--so no one can say “You never told me to do that"

2. Try to make sure you know people who can fill in for the role if need be. So you aren’t stuck with them or not getting to make the movie.

3. Confront them about their behavior privately.

4. If they have complaints, figure out if there is legitimacy in them.

5. If you have to get rid of them, do it as early as possible.A difficult person will continue to add stress to a filmmaking experience that is going to have its own stress anyway.

Also bring a suit of armor. And shield. Just in case.
On my first short student film Kelly vs The Philosophers, I brought on an assistant to help out my main costume manager. I knew the girl was a bit snarky but I found that more charming than anything. I explained what we needed her to do and when and she was on board. But for weeks after the girl didn’t do any work and tried to pass her work onto other people, then complained when we were only a couple weeks out that we didn’t have enough time.

When even Loki can't make excuses for you.

The night before shooting I asked her where she was with things. She still hadn’t done them and was blaming me again, so I reminded her—someone sarcastically—that she had been blowing me off. At this point she threw a fit and quit.

Sorry not sorry?

What should I have done differently? I should have confronted her earlier about her blowing off the project. I should have confronted her with more love and less sarcasm—even if she deserved it. But I am glad that I solved the problem before shooting. And I'm glad we had someone else who could do costumes. Because it would have been a nightmare otherwise. 

And that's my first major conflict as a filmmaker not knowing what I was doing. Really, God was covering my back and I can't take much credit.

Do you have any stories about dealing with conflict in film? Any advice that you can share? Leave a comment below!

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