I started this post with ‘C’ is for Cowards and realized conversely and more importantly if you are brave, ‘C’ is for Cast a Wide Net.
I know name-calling is not in right now. But trust me, producing is no role for cowards. You have to be confident in your ability to FIND A WAY.
The only guaranteed way I know to ‘find a way’ is by not stopping until you do. That’s what it takes, when you’re an indie producer and have neither the budget nor the time on your side, have asked your personal relationships to take a backseat to your professional ones for an extended period of time, and maybe quit a well paying job or two to follow your passion, follow your dreams. You damn sure better find a way. People are counting on you. You are counting on you…To do what you have promised, to produce results.
Make numbered lists of everything you need. Hopefully you are working with a great breakdown from a first AD (refer to my post on budgets for more info on this). Make a separate list of your locations, your props, picture cars, extras…everything . Then follow these simple steps:
1. Draw a star in the middle of the page. You are the star.
2. Draw a wide circle around that star. These are the people in your inner circle. Draw a wide me circle around that circle, these are the people in your outer circle. Remember your inner circle and outer circle also have circles that can be tapped on your behalf.
3. Call to remembrance the fact that you are fully equipped with everything you need in every situation….ALWAYS.
4. Start writing names inside the list and assigning them a value. Each value represents an associated (item/items on your list).
I think you get where this is going.
5. Pick up the phone and start making calls. You will need to ask your circles for specific help.
When we were shooting All My Friends Are Married we needed a gynecologist office. We tapped all the women on the crew and their circles to help find us one. The gyno office came from the cousin of one an Associate Producer. The cousin just so happened to have an upcoming appointment and asked her doctor on our behalf. If we had never specifically asked for her help, we wouldn’t have had access to her resources. Lesson here: a closed mouth don’t get fed. And for the record, putting up a mass email on FB does not count, email blasts do not count as ‘asks’. What counts as an ‘ask’ is a personal one on one conversation.
I know from experience that this is extremely difficult. It’s difficult to ask the people around you for help, especially if the relationship is not strong. It’s difficult to say would you consider allowing us to shoot in your home? Would you consider going through your moms old clothes and seeing if she has anything that looks like 1970? Would you consider sponsoring lunch for my crew on a day we shoot? Would you consider asking your church on our behalf to allow us to use their community room as holding? It’s difficult to knock on your neighbors door whom you’ve never had one conversation in life, despite having seen each other many times, and lead with the words “hey, glad I caught you at home. How are you? Yea I was wondering if maybe you could help me…” Lol. Very uncomfortable but strangely effect. That uncomfortable situation led to critical holding we needed for grip gear. That holding meant we spent less time ‘turning the room around’ for setups and was able to make our day. The good news is that most people want to help even if they can’t. So you already are starting with an advantage.
I was recently having a conversation with the lead actress on an upcoming project I’m producing. I mentioned to her that I had asked a mutual friend of ours for help. She said ‘oh I’m glad you told me. I need to call her and let her know it’s okay if she can’t help’. I said hold up sis, she already knows this. You don’t have to call and reinforce that point. The desire of our actress to call and make it easier for our mutual friend to say no was rooted in her own discomfort with the ‘ask’ itself. I get it. The people who will be the quickest to help are those who already support you, believe in you or know you in some way. Start in that circle and work your way out.
At the end of the day, the worse thing that can happen is someone says no (which trust me happens often as well). In that case, no harm no foul. What are you afraid of? Nothing – you are finding a way.
Now this last step is extremely important…
6. Make it personal. No relying on email blasts and social media posts expecting everyone who sees it to just instantly call you with what you need. YOU Start calling. Emailing. And calling again. Call in your favors, humble yourself and let people know you need help and the specific help they can provide (this is also extremely important with fundraising), and above all remember…
It takes courage to cast a wide net. Producing is no role for cowards. Find a way.
The Black TV & Film Collective a 501c3 organization that operates as a NYC film collective. In our work, we support all artists of color including but not limited to black filmmakers. We are a collaborative platform that represents diversity in film and supports inclusion in Hollywood and TV. Our professional network of New York City filmmakers gives knowledge to those who want to learn how to produce film, how to make a web series, how to budget film projects and more. We host NYC film workshops that welcome a variety of experience levels from first time filmmakers who are either students in film school or to notables within the television and film industry. See how you can make a difference in the world of cinema by becoming a member of our NYC film collective.
Huriyyah Muhammad is the Founder of the Black TV & Film Collective and Managing Partner of Infinite Wings Media. As an independent feature film producer, she has led the production of multiple independent feature films from development to market, and most recently completed filming projects in Nairobi, Kenya and Madhya Pradesh, India. Her documentary,Bulbul: Song of the Nightingale is currently in post-production, while Soko Sonko, Swahili for Market King, continues to win awards. She has over 20 producing credits, and will make her narrative directorial debut this winter with the supernatural suspense Keloid.
Huriyyah is an avid writer, director and producer who is passionate about creating long-lasting opportunities for people of color within the film, TV and digital media industries. She holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Computer Science from Spelman College.