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PART 4 – PLANNING AHEAD AND THE REST
The past few weeks, I have described some simple practices I used to complete 12 feature films in 12 months without going crazy or losing control of the project, methods I continue to use till this day to stay organized and efficient. I believe these ideas could be applied to any profession and are valuable even for staying on top of your day to day life. To close, I’d like to briefly hit a few extra things I believe are important for being an efficient filmmaker (and person):
1. Emailing and Texting
When I look at other peoples’ phones or computer screens and see hundreds, sometimes thousands of unread emails or texts, I nearly have a heart attack. In some rare cases, those people use “unread” as a method of reminding themselves to respond but most of the time, those are the very same people who have major issues with staying on top of their communications. From my perspective, non-responsiveness is completely unprofessional and, on a personal level, a total turn off. The busiest and most accomplished person I know, Dallas Sonnier, is a role model when it comes to emailing/texting. He makes it a mission to get back to people, no matter how busy he is. I’m in awe of his ability to manage his emails/texts. Certainly, some communications fall through the cracks (they do for me) but if you want to be seen as a truly professional person, I highly recommend you make it a priority to stay on top of your emails/texts and respond as often as you can. My system is simple: I read my emails, “star” them in gmail, and every morning respond to as many as I can. The starring allows me to keep track of who needs a reply and going back to it every morning allows me to not waste my entire day writing emails. On text, I never have unread messages. Ever. It’s just not a thing for me and I don’t think it’s cool when people do.
2. Social Media Scheduling
If I died tomorrow, you all would be seeing my social media posts for another month or two, probably wondering if my ghost was operating my Facebook pages. For years now, I’ve used Facebook’s Creator Studio/Business Suite to plan all of my posts ahead of time and if you run a social media page, I highly recommend this practice. I learned quickly that, especially in the middle of a production, there was no way I could keep track of jumping online to write a post. Instead, I do so a week or more ahead of time. This not only allows me to stay on top of our 12 Westerns page and others like it but also provides the opportunity to really plan a cohesive series of posts (every Thursday there’s one featuring journal entries from my 12 Westerns book, every Monday there’s a movie review, etc.). Anyone paying attention will notice that I even post at the same exact time(s) every day. It’s not a haphazard approach and what it might lack in spontaneity it makes up for in consistency and presentation.
3. Order of Operations
I’ve said it before so I won’t harp on it too long but the order of how you do things is as important as what you’re doing. Example: I’ve been on set with people who want to shoot one direction, then turn the camera 180 degrees which means everything needs to be re-set/re-dressed, and then end up realizing that they need to return to the original angle to get another shot… It’s a maddening and inefficient way to shoot a movie scene but that’s how most people organize their lives as well. My simple rule is this: if other people are waiting for me to complete something, it could even be holding up their progress, those tasks take precedence. Here’s another example. I have three tasks to accomplish for KILLIN’ JIM KELLY: 1. Finish our shooting schedule so it can be reviewed by John Marrs and Kelly Kidd. 2. Write all the deal memo contracts for our cast. 3. Re-read the script to breakdown props, stunts, etc. Which do I do first? If I work on the breakdown, then the schedule is stalled and all the cast is waiting for their deals. So I finish the schedule, send it to those guys to look over. While they’re doing that, I write everyone’s contract and send those over. Lastly, I start breaking the script down. Say John gets back to me with a schedule change request. I stop the breakdown, look that over, maybe make the adjustment, send it back to the guys for another review, and then return to the breakdown.
Ultimately, you have to find the system that works for you but the most important thing is to have a system of organization. I hope these ideas have been helpful.