being a good slashie – how to make the most of your community

the slashie awards - from Zoolanderperhaps the most common reason that a person joins a community like We Make Movies is frustration. you’re frustrated that you’ve been in town for X number of years or months or weeks already and you’re just not seeing the opportunities that you thought you’d see. you want to act or write or direct full-time, but the jobs just aren’t coming to you and you want to be proactive.

so you join We Make Movies or an improv troupe or a theatre company and you hope that that will solve your problems. perhaps there’s strength in numbers or whatever, but you’re still not getting the opportunities that you want – even though this fruit is hanging a lot lower than say a national commercial or a network series regular or a national tour with a Broadway show. you’re seeing other members of the community getting opportunities and if you’re smart, you ask them what you can do to “become more involved”. by “become more involved” you obviously mean “get more chances to act or write”, but if you’re genuine you really are willing to do more than just act or write (depending on what your personal preference is of course).

not that i’m a scholar on the subject or anything, but i have a very strong feeling that this has been the way that theatre companies, collectives and troupes have been working for hundreds of years. new blood constantly coming into the company or troupe through an interest to succeed as individuals, but being willing to learn other skills and perform tasks they’re not as interested in so that the group as a whole can succeed and create more opportunities for the individual.

as the Chief Operating Officer of a largely volunteer “workforce” it is extremely important to me that i understand the various hopes and dreams of the new blood and the old, and that as a whole we’re able to create more and better opportunities for one another in a constantly upward trend. as much as i love a good spreadsheet (and believe me, i’m not being sarcastic when i say that), managing hopes and dreams is not something you can fit into a graph. the result is that by and large, these opportunities come and go on a largely ad hoc basis – people converging and collaborating on their own based on shared interests, ideals, politics – but most importantly these projects get completed when the members who’ve come together collectively have the necessary skills and tools.

what additional skills have you personally developed to actually help make movies? are you an actor-producer, an actor-writer, a writer-director? are you only willing to develop the tools at the top of any filmmaking team food chain or can you also competently capture sound? can you script supervise, or gaff, or operate camera?
don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you’re good at something other than acting or writing or directing, then you’ll only be asked to do that other thing. remember that every time you do that other thing for somebody you’ve just racked up a favor, and when enough people owe you favors, you might just have yourself a full crew.

the environment we’re trying to create at We Make Movies is one in which people don’t focus on quid pro quo, but instead genuinely enjoy helping each other. to really get the most of your membership you definitely need to have at least one active project on which you’re working, but you should also be helping on projects for other people.

unless you’re independently wealthy and can afford to pay people their full rate to make whatever you want, you’re going to need people working for cut rates or volunteering to help you make your projects. even if you’re willing and able to make a nice chunk of money through crowd-funding, if people are willing to bring you their A-game, but you only have C-game money, you’re going to need to have some favors to call in.

so develop another skill and start to use it. build up those favors owed and don’t even worry about when you’ll call it in yet. of course you should be developing your own projects as well and start to get your team together. communities like ours are not just a place for you to do your projects, they’re also a place for you to learn how to make better projects and there’s no greater lesson than practice.

so don’t be afraid to be a slashie. it makes you a better member of the community and helps you make your own projects as well.