22 December 2009

Going All Braveheart on the Non-Profit & Indie Film Worlds


I'm now just over a week removed from my time working with a non-profit on a full-time basis.  Though I always believed that the similarities between indie filmmaking and non-profit work were many, I never had the perspective of being on the outside looking in.  Until now.

As Executive Director, I was responsible for leading a team of professionals in diverse disciplines (technology/programming/research/design) to the ultimate realization of one goal (improvement and enhancement of our website to achieve our goals, fundraising, etc.) while carrying a flag into battle (the cause).  I worked with an extremely limited budget and a small group of people, but managed to bring in every project on time and under budget through a variety of means (no Jack Bauer moments).  To add in an extra wrinkle - this entire team was spread out across the country (Oregon, Boston, and myself in Cleveland), and I managed them remotely through a variety of online collaboration tools.  Had Google Wave been invented three years ago, I truly feel that I could have done a lot more than I already did. 

In the making of an independent film (or any film/commercial/video for that matter - doesn't have to be narrative), the director is responsible for leading a team of professionals (actors/cinematographers/sound people/designers/et. al) to the ultimate realization of one goal (a finished and profitable project) while carrying a flag into battle (the script).  I've worked with extremely limited budgets (Gather 'Round the Mic was made for $800, and The Fourteen Minute Gap for $100), a small group of people, but managed to bring in every project on time and under budget.  To add in an extra wrinkle - my crew (small though it is) is spread around, and I managed the post-production of the product (that I haven't done myself) through a variety of online collaboration tools.  I look forward to using Google Wave in these projects, and seeing how far I can push that technology.

Sound like I'm repeating myself?  That's the point.

It's the same thing.  I would go so far as to say that running any business in an ownership or managerial capacity is the exact same thing.  You use one side of your brain more than the other, you have a different product/project to sell, and replace one discipline for another. 

A cause, a script, a white paper, a business plan.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to the flag you wave as you lead your troops into battle, and your ability to adapt to the battle you're waging - and the talent you bring to each.

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