Written by Mike Brown, Writer/Director, Tomahawk Pictures
After leaving the Marine Corps in 2012, I came to NYC to become a filmmaker. After meeting other veterans in the media industry and realizing the advantage our shared operational experience gave us, I founded Tomahawk Pictures. The production industry is tough to break into and convincing (the industry) that veterans can be creative is quite a challenge. Believe me - we get it, our old job was to get close with and destroy the enemy - so certainly our previous skillset doesn’t translate. But our culture does. Here are a few points from a Marine’s perspective that I think can add value to your next production.
For some folks this might seem basic. Brilliance is in the basics.
Build a team, not just a crew.
The low-budget production world functions much like pickup basketball. Players show up for one day and then vanish. Key members like your sound guy or cinematographer might meet for the first time on set. This is a recipe for disaster. Two professionals may do things totally different, making coordination a challenge. But a team with a shared vision and shared processes are much more efficient. When you meet your crew for the first time, in pre-production or on-location, take the time to lay out the entire plan for them, set expectations, then get their ideas and buy in on that plan. Adjust as necessary and execute. It takes some time upfront, but saves lots of time and aggravation throughout the day.
Projects are made in planning, and perfected on set.
Start your planning with the endstate and plan backwards - this speeds everything up. Identify what the must-haves are. Be detailed.
Make a shot list and a flexible shooting schedule. Know what you will cut when you have to before you’re engulfed in the chaos. We used to say that "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." Your production plan must be flexible enough to survive the realities of filmmaking.
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
You will never have the time to get everything you want. Never rush. It causes more problems than it solves. If you have a good plan in place you will be ready when you slip behind schedule. Move a shot until later. If you can’t move it, cut it. Make these decisions quickly based on the plan you made. Indecision only wastes more time.
Humility is creative.
Whether you’re in charge of a platoon or a production, you’re not responsible for all the good ideas, you’re just responsible to pick the best one. And make sure it’s well coordinated and well executed. Learning to truly tap into the talent of your team is crucial in order to reach new levels of creativity. Ask questions. Don’t just give them a task, tell your team what you want them to accomplish and let them figure it out. You will be surprised. Remember your role is to ensure their success not look like you’re in charge.
Relax. We’re just making movies.
Staying calm is a deliberate choice. In order to keep communication flowing freely and your crew humming along you must be calm. Nothing shuts down productivity quicker than a frustrated temper tantrum. There is always an excuse to lose your cool. Don’t do it. Crack a joke, address the problem and smile.
I hope this helps. If you are looking for a merry band of warm hearted creatives with cold-blooded efficiency on your next video project, connect with us at Tomahawk Pictures.
About Tomahawk Pictures
We are a New York City based video production company that leverages our military experience into methodically executed media production. A team of warm-hearted creatives with cold-blooded efficiency. Operational excellence is our baseline. Sarcasm is our love language.