The Film Supergroup: 6 is Better than 1

    For my next film project, I am planning to have 3 directors and 3 producers. Maybe this sounds like chaos to you? Before you protest, let me present my arguments. Remember when indie film really meant independent film? Nowadays, it seems to represent larger companies with big bank accounts, hiring all the same cats and critters just this side of the studio wall.

    Well, one brilliant thing about making an actually-independent film is the ability to break ALL the rules. I’m certain the DGA would never endorse the ideas I’ve laid out - they may even sue me for employing them one day.

    Most films live and die by a single person: that impassioned director, or that one committed producer. It’s a dangerous and precarious position in which to frame a project. One instability or hesitation, and POOF! the project is over in a blink of an eye.

    Thus, I present to you the FILM SUPERGROUP: A 6-point team of accountability, delegating the responsibilities usually bestowed upon one: seeing a project through from beginning to end.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Story Director

  2. Visual Director

  3. Crew Director

  4. Story Producer

  5. Visual Producer

  6. Crew Producer

    The structure is based on a proven method of efficiency, following the three key points of a creative engine: Time, Knowledge, and Interest.

   While the directors guide the production, producers are there to guide the project as a whole, from inception to completion. Not a single one of them is in charge; rather they are all charged with leading different aspects of the film. Following a credo of mutual respect and open-mindedness, projects become more accountable, more fail-proof, and are pushed to be better than they could have been otherwise.

Our 3 director virtuosos:

1. STORY DIRECTOR. She most closely resembles the traditional director on a set. Her mantra is “Story first”. She decides which moments are most important to capture, and why. She calls for more takes when actors need them. She makes dialogue and blocking adjustments, and is responsible for the general flow of a scene. She calls action and cut, and is the go-to for actors with questions about the story.

2. VISUAL DIRECTOR. This role is a no-brainer. Although near to the traditional title of ‘Director of Photography’ this position is taken many steps further, into all things visual within the frame. This means our set builder, wardrobe designer, makeup artist and any visual-based department reports directly to her. She makes decisions about framing, lighting, angle and everything else. Her mantra is “Get the perfect shot” In this case, our Story Director steps into a more cursory consulting position about picture. The absolute authority of all things visual falls directly on the Visual Director's shoulders. 

3. CREW DIRECTOR. Perhaps the most radical, and the most important of all, this role requires attention to the utmost detail of running the set, making sure the story, visual, and sound department all play well together. Her mantra is “Get the job done”. She gets all the releases signed, calls for quiet, and keeps everyone on the team on their toes. She ensures a smooth, efficient shoot. She is the one you go to for all the final answers. Her brain is a logical one, and will play a consultant role in the story and visual aspects of the shoot. She sees the bigger picture, and is ultimately responsible for its consistent excellency.

Our 3 producer extraordinaires:

4. STORY PRODUCER. He’s the one who found or wrote the story. He’s the one whose heart and soul are deep in this project. He’s the one who believes in this project so much, he’s risk his life to make it happen. He’s the inspiration for everyone else to work equally hard to see its fruition. He’s the reason you get up excited to come to set in the morning. He knows this story inside and out, and is the first one we go to when there’s a script or dialogue issue.

5. VISUAL PRODUCER. He’s seeing the project through, literally. He’s hired the crew, and knows the heads of each department. He’s there to negotiate locations and handle equipment rentals. He works with the Visual Director on drawing the best possible story board, and knows what it takes to make that vision come to life. He also has his eyes on editing, and post in general, ensuring we’re telling this story in the most appropriately visual way.

6. CREW PRODUCER. This is the guy who might bear the most resemblance to an actual boss. He behaves somewhat like a “Line Producer” with more invested. He gets all the contracts signed. He knows where the money is going and why, and he’s there on set each day to dole it out as needed. If story producer is mother, he is father, and we’re all eating at his table.

    No filmmaker is an island, and certainly no great film was ever made without the challenge of other human beings. Egos swept aside, each role here would work together in unique ways, sparking better debate, communication, and more efficient problem-solving (I’ve always said filmmaking is pretty much 90% problem-solving)

    The ultimate goal here is to have a more focused, more positive, and accountable production, challenging each member of the Supergroup to bring their absolute best to the table. As this is a theoretical map for now, I plan to implement this structure on my next project. After I’ve seen the supergroup in action, I’ll let you know what I’ve learned.

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The above article is a small part of a larger idea called “New Rules for Filmmaking” You can let me know what you think via twitter @jessejamesrice or email me jesserice@gmail.com Learn more about my work at jessejamesrice.com