Knowing why and assigning whats is the most succinct way for me to share the value of the preceding articles in this series. As a leader, you are intimately connected the why behind the project. You are responsible for that connection. It’s the “why” that makes a project memorable. Remember, if you can’t sell a story to your team, they won’t be able to sell it to others. Every interaction you have about your project is, in some sense, a sale. When you’re not trying to get someone’s money, you’re looking for other investments: time, understanding, listening, or even just awareness of your project.
Everything, consistently, must be connected to the why. The story behind your project should be iterated at every opportunity.
The “whats” are the tasks and responsibilities. But before you ever get into the whats, every team meeting, every team update, must allude to the why. It doesn’t matter if the team member’s job seems to have nothing to do with the why. They have to know that you are seeing the why behind everything you expect them to do. This helps to build trust in your delegation process. You have authority to assign the whats when you demonstrate your investment by sharing the why again and again.
Another thing about the why: it should always take narrative form. If you can’t reiterate the story, you can use an anecdote about your experience working on it. Share what you are learning and it will encourage others to learn. When people learn from their work, they are more engaged with it. The why will contextualize the whats. Tell them what the project is about at its core, say it until you’re blue in the face, and then keep saying it.
Although sharing the why is a hallmark of a great leader, it can also backfire. Remember, it’s not about you. You do have to separate your ego from the why. You’re meant to inspire, not self-indulge. Some filmmakers iterate their story again and again, less for their team members and more for themselves. Making that distinction comes down to two things: intent and language. Keep your intent focused on giving clarity to your team members, and use conscientious language. Always speak as if you are talking to an individual rather than an audience.
This post concludes my four part series on project management for filmmakers. You can look at the preceding three posts for the other parts. Over the next few weeks I’ll be working on building a my first press kit for Delta Phi, so I’ll be sharing what I’m learning from that, as well as my challenges in polishing, exporting and distributing a feature-length film.