The Process is as important as the Product / by Chris Weigl

People leave various jobs and industries for different reasons.  During the Great Recession we’ve seen one full-time job splinter off into two sometimes three part-time jobs.  Many times the way we hire people is a direct reflection of how the company we’re hiring for does business.  If you’re looking to bring in someone to fill a full-time job you might not start out by hiring one person for a full-time job indeed you may find it more fruitful to hire two or three people for part-time jobs to see how well they fit into your company.  There are things that make sense in this approach.  You want to know that who you are hiring is the best possible fit for who your company is and what they do.  The employee might welcome this approach as an opportunity to see if they really want to work for you.  Hiring two or three people to do the job that one person usually does is a terrible way to handle productivity however.  Rather than having one person who – at least in theory – knows what they’re doing you have three people with different skill sets and in all likelihood different enthusiasm for the job at hand.  Having one person who knows what they’re doing is the best way to streamline productivity.

We like to test what we’re buying though in almost every facet of life.  We test drive a car before we buy it, we inspect a house before we buy it, we visit a school before allowing our kids to commit four years of their lives to going there so it makes sense that we would test out someone in the job market to make sure that they are what we’re looking for.  The issue of productivity aside though this measured approach still isn’t very beneficial if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Sometimes it’s really hard to describe what you want or what you expect.  Take our current project: This is Flyball for example.  We knew we wanted to make a film about the sport of flyball, but we didn’t know exactly what that film would look like or what the story would be.  It’s tough with documentaries because you don’t know what the story is until it’s happened.  If you go out searching for a story you’re not very likely to find one.  This is why we write outlines and do our best to plan for things, but there are a lot of things (especially in the filmmaking industry) that simply cannot be planned for.  Sometimes you don’t have all your personnel available on the day you want to shoot or conditions aren’t right outside for you to shoot the exterior shots you wanted and we’ve all had some pretty nasty equipment failures over the years.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that if we would just give them a camera they could make this film.  Its unreal how many people simply don’t understand how the production process works or what goes into producing a film.  To put it simply: if it were easy everyone would do it.  The fact of the matter is that filmmaking is really hard work.  It takes discipline.  You need to know what you want to do and you’ve got to be stubborn sometimes about what you’re doing so that you don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  As a writer, I get carried away at times with ideas.  When I have a new thought or a new approach to something I get really excited and work through different ways of executing my strategy.  What I’ve discovered though is that new ideas usually don’t last very long, but good ideas are eternal.  I had a writing partner on a project I was working on a few years back who always needed a fallback plan.  If this guy was crossing the street he’d need an alternate route on the off chance that someone ran a red light.  It was unbearable and the studio we were working for at the time hated the fact that he always seemed to find a way to make the simple complicated.  I, being a fresh, young upstart, thought I had all the answers and when we were over budget I thought I could easily re-write the project with very little loss in story.  What wound up happening was we had lots of little things done well, but no defined overall purpose in what we were doing.  The production was scrapped.

When we navigate our way through new processes and new ideas we often find the need to reject old ideas because they seem anti-thetical to what we’re doing.  The truth is however that in order to truly succeed at something we have to listen to all sides and pursue all approaches.  The toughest thing for me to admit many times is that I don’t know the answer.  The trick however is to understand that nobody does.  One of the tough parts about being an artist is that you are filled with moments of tremendous self-confidence and moments of incredible self-doubt.  I believe in myself and my ideas to a point.  I don’t like jumping on to a new idea when it hasn’t been tested and as we’ve seen nobody does really.  We all want to test drive that car, we would insist on a home inspection before buying a house and we’re going to visit that school before we let our kids commit to an institution of higher learning.  These ideas are so engrained in our heads that it seems second nature. 

It’s important to realize that not every idea that pops into our head is a good one and that every new way of thinking or approaching something isn’t always the best way to do something.  Sometimes we just need to admit that being prepared has its advantages and sticking to your good ideas is as important as exploring new ones.  As a filmmaker you have to understand that the process of making a film is as important as the product you are going to release to the general public.  I get asked by people at events where they can view our documentary like we’re just kind of cutting and pasting our way to a film.  That’s not how it works.  As consumers there are times when we have an: “I want it now” attitude that makes us toss our common sense out the window.  There are times where I really wish I hadn’t messed up that project that my writing partner had planned out so meticulously.  There are others where I’m glad that I failed though because you don’t learn from success.  Keeping an open mind is important, but so is keeping what journalists call a “morgue file.”  A morgue file is where you stash your good ideas when they prove to be unusable.  I can’t tell you how useful this idea is because as a writer there are many times where I have an interesting idea but I’m not sure how best to flesh it out or what characters would fit into the story.  Sometimes the only remedy for a problem is time and it is during these times that our “I want it now” attitude is the worst enemy of what we’re trying to do.