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5 Personal Character Traits That Make Professionals (Or Anyone) Reluctant to Work with You

08.9.12 @ 4:32PM Tags : , , , ,

If you’re just starting out, or even an intermediate, you might be wondering why some people might get chosen for jobs over you even though you might have more experience. There could be lots of reason (and often it has to do with familiarity with the person that is ultimately chosen), but Adam Everett Miller, the editor for Aetuts+, sits down and goes over 5 reasons why a professional might be reluctant to want to work with you — or in his words, “5 Things That Tell Me You’re Not a Professional.”

I changed his own title a little bit, because I think if you’re a professional and you do any of these things, you’re either stratospherically talented, or you’ve paid your dues after a long time. Neither of those are excuses, but Adam’s title does suggests unprofessional behavior, of which anyone can be guilty of. I’ve watched through the entire video, but rather than listing the 5 reasons, if this video applies to you (it could really apply to anyone), I think it’s important to watch all 15 minutes as it goes more in-depth than a simple list ever could. I will, however, choose the reason I actually think is the most important to avoid, and that just so happens to be the first one: negativity.

Filmmaking is all about problem-solving — in fact, anything that can possibly go wrong usually does. The hardest type of person to be around during those incredibly difficult times is someone who only sees the negative in every situation. I’ve been on my fair share of late night through early morning shoots (I’ve caused a few myself), and they don’t usually go very well when there are individuals who complain about everything. Often, that negativity is like poison that finds its way into every single crew member if given enough time. It’s draining, and it makes the entire situation that much more difficult. If you find yourself working with those people once, I guarantee you’re going to think twice about wanting to work with them again. If you’re in a position to hire, that person might very well be at the bottom of the list.

Now, that’s not to say that all negativity is bad — but as Adam says, there is a right way to do it. On a film set, the entire crew is in it together, and each individual piece is important to the whole. It’s human nature to be unhappy at times or to have creative differences, but those people who you hire again or work with again are those that are able to quickly find a way to work through their own issues and continue working hard for the good of the project. You’re going to work with people who are inexperienced or incompetent at some point in your career, but how you deal with that says more to do with you than it does about them.

Here’s something I think is important having written for this site for a while (especially for younger readers): your online persona (whether anonymous or not) carries a tremendous amount of weight, and it’s very telling about the type of crew member you’ll be simply by how you treat others online. If you’re respectful, there’s a good chance you will also be that way in real life, but if you’re constantly combative and negative, it’s not hard to reason that your behavior at some point on set will reflect that.

Link: 5 Things That Tell Me You’re Not A Professional – Aetuts+

[via FilmmakerIQ]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 58 COMMENTS

  • Thanks for this! Being a current film student, this is very helpful!

  • The email communication was a good tip. I just hate people who don’t reply emails fast. For me it shows the person is inefficient, lazy or disinterested, no matter of the real motive is. As a client or service provider I strive to keep my online communication up to date all the time. It shortens the bridge on a remote relation as well.

    • john jeffreys on 08.9.12 @ 5:50PM

      Emails are so strange to me. I try my best to reply as soon as possible; but in some cases, like with the people I am working with for my feature, the guy takes weeks and sometimes MONTHS to reply. Makes me feel bad, man.

      • I hear you, but by the time you are paying good money to people, those guys are the first you are going to cut. I’ve worked with very good people ans also very busy, sometimes their replies are only 2-3 words, so you understand they are busy but still care about your work and vice versa. Unfortunately not everyone is like that but if you are, you’ll excel professionalism.

        • john jeffreys on 08.9.12 @ 6:49PM

          Logically, they would reply faster and be more involved if they got paid enough to give a shit. But since its a no pay/deferred pay kinda thing and I’m just a college student, I totally understand their lack of motivation.

          • That’s BS.
            What you’re saying by not replying as soon as you can – is that the person is not worth your time. Well then maybe you shouldn’t be on the project free, paid, or otherwise.

      • Agreed. Such an efficient form of communication unless people slow it down by simply not checking their email. If you want to communicate that way and speed things up, check your email a lot or simply set up a notification system. It’s sort of indefensible any more.

        • I disagree, and so does Tim Ferris in THE FOUR HOUR WORK WEEK (which Koo has written about on several occasions). Emails aren’t meant to be an instant form of communication. Yes, they’re sent instantly – but it’s not there for an instant conversation; there’s google chat, texting, skype and phone calls for that. Checking your email constantly is a waste of time and just a poor excuse for one being “busy”. If you’re getting 100+ a day that aren’t junk then you should look into getting a part-time assistant to take care of the bulk. The money you spend there will instantly be rewarded with more efficient creative time and most likely more gigs.

          • Ha ha. Well, when you’re composing music all day, checking your email is something that happens quite often. But hey, you seem to know it all. Maybe I should pay someone $10 an hour to do something that I can in 15 minutes.

          • Álex Montoya on 08.10.12 @ 4:12AM


          • Well, I for one can commiserate – though I hardly am an expert. I have a hard time keeping up with the amount of client correspondence. I edit a lot for all sorts of clients, in addition to shooting – so I get a lot of changes, re-edits, producer/designer comments – all in addition to normal life email (sorry mom, i’ll hit you back next week). I’ve taken to setting aside two hours a day, one in the afternoon and one at night. I find myself on set quite a bit these days and checking your phone every 2 seconds can get you in trouble with the higher ups. People just view you as disinterested – though as soon as those emails sit there for too long, THOSE people view you as disinterested. It’s a no-win situation haha.

            An assistant is out of budget for me, and most everyone else. Maybe I could train some sort of small animal to answer emails with 2 or 3 taught responses? Chipmunk, maybe? “m sry he is n set, luv u”

          • Well when I say reply fast it doesn’t mean instantly all the time. I believe within 24 hours is very manageable, also you don’t need to check every 5 min, you can have specific times ( once or twice a day), there’s tons of tricks to go through your email efficiently.
            Im sure you’ll find the best way for you, I’ll keep answering my emails fast, people seem to appreciate and it doesnt take too much of me.

          • If I was getting “I luv u” responses from a chipmunk assistant, I would definitely be excited to work with that person, especially if he or she brought the chipmunk to the shoot. “Alvin, bring me some C-47s!”

        • Luke, I’m a fan of what you do and it’s always interesting to hear what you have to say in the comments on this site. Especially starting out as a college-aged filmmaker, hearing what people like you have to say is invaluable to me. At the same time It’s kind of a downer when I’m reading through these threads and when someone civilly disagrees with you, you become very sarcastic and rude with that person. It detracts from what I’m sure a lot of people come here for- intelligent discourse about film.

          • exactly what i was about to say. Luke, I don’t know if you’re having a bad month, but you’re really becoming a jerk on here. If you can go through 100+ important work related emails in 15 minutes then that’s awesome (and impossibly fast), I doubt you could hire someone who could do the same.

          • Your whole response was pretty elitist and not very civil in my mind.

            “Checking your email constantly is a waste of time and just a poor excuse for one being “busy”. If you’re getting 100+ a day that aren’t junk then you should look into getting a part-time assistant to take care of the bulk. The money you spend there will instantly be rewarded with more efficient creative time and most likely more gigs.”

            I’m fine with constructive criticism from time to time but this was fairly preachy with no real idea of how I go about my daily work. I make positive posts on here 99% of the time and only become negative when someone throws the first punch.

          • I apologize if I came across as elitist, that was not my intention nor do I believe it was Tim Ferris’ when he wrote his book. I was merely referencing his logic & thoughts on the matter because I agree with them, found them relevant to the conversation, and do believe that checking your email constantly is indeed a waste of time, no matter your occupation. Saying that’s a poor excuse for being busy is my opinion and in no way uncivil, however mocking someone three times in four sentences certainly is. I’ve been following this site for 2 years and have rarely commented in the last year because of brash & sarcastic comments like yours. Just take it easy and understand that you might be reading into something differently then the way the writer intended.

          • Luke Neumann on 08.11.12 @ 2:58AM

            I didn’t mock you though. I thought your comment was constructive and well thought out until that last part that I re posted. That’s the part that seemed a little preachy and just rubbed me the wrong way. Telling me I should get an assistant to check my emails because it could get me more work is elitist no matter how you look at it. I’m not saying that to be mean, that’s just how it came across.

      • I find lack of communication stems from relaying too heavily on emails. I find the younger generation are too afraid to pick up the phone, particularly if it’s very important. Waiting months for a reply is just as much an issue on your part.

  • For all the decency of his own advice, his own negativity shines out at points. Kinda deflates his first point.

    • “For all the decency of his own advice, his own negativity shines out at points. Kinda deflates his first point.”

      That’s exactly what I was going to say. This video could very well be a cry for help.

    • If you want to get near a big budget set, this advice is invaluable.
      Communication is very important, as is the ability to have a great attitude on set.

      I hire hundreds of people for different projects and would hire the young man who made that video in a heartbeat.
      To criticize anything as positive as this video is really bad form.

      • Excellent reply, Wilbur. Minutes after being told it’s unprofessional, people post here unprofessional character traits.

        I am recommending this video to an array of friends, most of whom are not photographers. Human nature and professionalism is what it is, regardless the field of service.


  • The very best way to solve problems at a shoot is to preemptively avoid them prior to the shoot. That means that when someone has an bad idea, or a poor choice of equipment, or someone they want to invite that will be a vibekill, it is never too early to be negative and perform addition by subtraction. Setting everyone up for failure by being afraid of rocking the boat might avoid getting you enemies but also won’t win you much either.

    And anyone wanting to take your money away from you has the burden of proof on their shoulders. Another person who points out the regrets you may have buying something before you buy it is not being negative, they are being protective. Even to the vendor, a complaint is a gift, and it’s invaluable to them to have transparency about what the potential customer is actually thinking when they have equal opportunity to address it.

    The true mark of professionalism, I think, lies not in adhering to harmony-at-all-costs. It lies in subjugating your ego enough that when someone regardless of rank has a criticism of what you’re doing or a better idea than you, you don’t take it personally but instead are able to think objectively about it and adjust appropriately. When people are breaking into a business they are usually too insecure and sensitive to accept criticism gracefully, but if the criticism is useful and correct in the moment, it is not the critic who is acting unprofessionally. We all try to help each other out on a winning team and that means being negative when it is in order. It ain’t all about you.

    Of course, filmmaking is so logistically complex that strict regimentation and rules governing the division of labor and responsibility have developed to a nearly military degree. If you are on a set that either has very defensive or insecure people on it, or has that level of regimentation, or you don’t really know what you’re talking about yet, you probably ought to stick to your knitting and learn what you can before opening your mouth. Life- or mission-threatening observations excluded.

  • Steve Nelson on 08.9.12 @ 7:08PM

    That depends upon the volume of email your receive as well. On a daily basis I receive 300+ email messages. People I work closely with know if they need my attention quickly they call me and if there is an email to refer to I’ll search for it. If you’re not in a hurry then you’ll have to wait for me to make it through my messages for the day. Granted, that isn’t the world a lot of folks live in but in the global corporate world that’s the norm. I’ve known executives that have their assistants block out time in their calendars every day just for email because of the volume they have to pour through. To say email is efficient depends upon the scope of work you’re engaged in. It is very inefficient in today’s corporate world because of the “let’s invite everyone to the thread” mentality. Unfortunately while we make it easy to access email we haven’t created more hours in the day to pretend we’re multitasking. Works fine for family and friends though!

    • I usually have 100+ every morning to go through. Receive another 100 or so throughout the day. I think it just depends on what you do though. For me, it’s a big part of my “job”. So I place a higher priority on it.

      • john jeffreys on 08.9.12 @ 8:01PM

        WOW. From actual people for actual projects? Or are most of them advertisements/community emails and such? Thats crazy. I only get 6-8 per day and only one or two of them relate to actual films and art that I am making, the rest is bullshit. Most of my communication, though, is through facebook groups/messages and texting.

        • It depends, I get a lot of questions just based on the fact that I do tutorials and sell product on my website. So it’s not all related to current productions I’m working on or whatever, but most of it I NEED to respond to. I realize this isn’t the situation for a lot of people but for me, email is king. Facebook is a close second!

          • shaun wilson on 08.10.12 @ 11:57AM

            All up, professional, not social or junk, I get around 350-500 emails a day and I answer them all in a timely fashion. 500 is an extreme day but does happen twice a month, timely responses demonstrates a good work ethic and a confidence in what I do. I also don’t have the luxury for a PA but still make the time to work on my films, teach, project manage, write books and dedicate family time. The trick with emails is, keep it short and sweet, to the point and move on.

      • Steve Nelson on 08.9.12 @ 8:13PM

        Yes indeed, it’s very dependent upon your daily workflow as to how disruptive it may or may not be. Email is one of those things that means something different to everyone who uses it. For some, they deal with very few and in some cases view the world through that experience wondering why everyone else can’t respond quickly to their email. For others it is only a means of communication before and after which a whole lot of work needs to get done as a result of the email and conference calls. There is still another class who treat email like chat using one or two lines back and forth in rapid succession. I usually have to corral people like that and get them on a conference call to get things ironed out in a more expeditious manner. Many don’t like that because they end up owning action items where the could selectively engage via their email and avoid having skin in the game. I use conference calls every day as a means to keep fire stokers and snipers from throwing troll-like pot shots into a thread only to walk away without any actions to follow up on themselves. Email when used properly can be great, unfortunately it’s abused all too frequently.

  • Great vid.

  • Great post, thanks for this.

  • LOL. I noticed the bookshelves and was a bit distracted by his hair as well.

    The “be a nice guy point” is fairly key in my mind however as I make it a point not to work with prima donas and Arseholes. I’ve heard this from several angles as well up and down the chain of command.

    • Big difference between criticism and constructive criticism. Even if all you can bring is reasons why something can’t be done, at least frame it in a way so it sounds like you’re working towards the end goal, and not just “nope, can’t be done”. It’s defeatist, demoralizing and unhelpful.

      • Well, yes and no. Criticism is constructive by definition. “Nope, can’t be done” isn’t criticism, it’s rather bashing. I think the problem with criticism is, that people take it personal, even if it’s aimed at an object.

  • This was bound to ruffle feathers, so I applaud your courage in putting it out. People who are established in the industry have a responsibility to help the newbies and wannabes. Many experienced and surviving artists (vs, the starving kind) are quick to step on those who are struggling whenever they feel like they need to cover their own a**.

  • Good points, wish it was a bit shorter. One of my favorites was “Is it true, kind, and necessary? Only say it if the answer to all 3 is yes.” He runs a great site too. Thanks for that! @No Facial Hair — now, now — remember what he said about negativity!

    • That was the part of the video I objected to the most. If anything you have to say is necessary (by any meaningful definition of the word “necessary”) then yes you should say it immediately even if unkind and untrue. An example would be seeing someone’s life in danger and shouting at them to move away. Turns out it wasn’t true, and it wasn’t kind, but as far as you could see it was necessary and the odds are you should have said it.

      Most cases, saying something “kind” usually involves saying things that aren’t strictly true. Flattery, pep talks, the precious positivity…these things are kind but not often realistic. So having a requirement of “kind and true” just serves to shut people up, which is exactly what is desired by people who proffer such maxims.

      People who always speak the truth are despised.

  • This guy showed extreme ignorance when he spoke about shyness. Timidity is not something one can control. My girlfriend is so shy that she has to take beta blockers to do her lectures – I’ve seen her almost pass out in some occasions. It would be the analogous to you being punched in the face and asked not to feel anything. You can act and pretend you didn’t feel anything, but you can’t stop from feeling it because you just wished so. He should follow his father’s advice and shut up because what he said about this subject is neither kind, necessary or true.

    • He wasn’t talking about people who are pathologically shy which your friend seems to be. Just people who have a tendency to be non assertive.

  • Really great Tipps I appreciate that ! I will share this with my friends, cause these things are so true.

  • Adam Everett Miller really reminded me of:

    It’s been bugging me since I watched the video. It only just clicked now.

  • Nice tips.

  • I can say, from experience, that #3 is a very challenging one to overcome for some. He’s absolutely right – when I apologize for everything I do, it’s to have a safety net. I’ve been working hard on overcoming that, because confidence is important.

    Just this morning, I was reflecting on how unapologetic I was when I first started out. Sure, my work was bad – but I was just having fun making stuff, and wasn’t worried about how others would judge my work. Now, after doing it for a number of years and after being exposed to more talented people making better work, all of a sudden, I found myself being extremely self-conscious and embarrassed about my work at times (because it’s not as good as others). I think going through that is necessary for the sake of humility (since arrogance gets you no where), but surely there is a happy medium between the two that we all need to strive for.

  • The biggest thing that makes me reluctant to work with people, is when they point out the flaws of (what they value to be lesser) gear in a demeaning way. Like, ummm, around 10:15 of this video. Was the fact that you shot this on a DSLR and that “these things cut out” really necessary to point out? I started watching this video without giving any thought into what it was shot on. I didn’t really care… until you (with a remark of pretentious passive-aggressiveness) brought attention to it.

    You could have easily just faded between the two takes and it would have been completely acceptable and I doubt ANY attention would have been brought to it.

    Gear and workflow snobbery is probably the biggest indicator that either… your work is inadequate, or you’re afraid of competition. There are NO OTHER logical reasons for it. Knowing you equipment and creatively working around limitations, yet STILL executing your project to the intended degree, is the mark of a true professional. Pointing out the shortcomings of equipment is for snarky mediocre internet filmmakers. Who are in the end (hmmm, didn’t you just mention something like this?) trying to set themselves apart be belittling shortcomings of others. Be it people or gear.

    It just blows my mind that the statement you made was included in this video at all. In fact, you had my attention fully and I was enjoying your talk up until you made that incredibly asinine and uncalled for statement. I know that there are probably a bunch of idiot gear-snobs that probably had a good chuckle at this while mentally-masturbating to matte-boxes and fallow focuses in the “post your rig” section of forums… but it completely took me out of your talk, and sadly I don’t care to finish it.

    So to recap everything. With that one little statement you made. You managed to belittle what you feel to be inadequate, perpetuate negativity (towards gear), and made an excuses and apologized for your work. Nice going.

    • @ bwhitz

      The maximum size limit of any file on the FAT 32 filesystem which is to my knowledge the only filesystem SD cards use halts most video recording around 12 minutes in full HD usage.

      I wholly agree that snobbery regarding gear is an exercise in completely useless arrogance, but I don’t think Miller is guilty of it. I love filming on DSLR’s, but they do absolutely cut out somewhere between 10 and 12 minutes, this is a limitation that must be managed, not ignored. I don’t think Miller was trying to deprecate the medium, I think you might be being a bit harsh on him.

    • Bloody hell, it was just a funny little quip because we all have experienced what he was referring to. You can learn from this post. You made a lengthy post by mis-reading his intention. Chill…..

  • Man, this was worth the watch just for that friend card advice at the end – limiting the friend card to only one of the three “good, fast, cheap” options. Absolute gold!

  • jimmyquick1 on 08.16.12 @ 3:28PM

    Good tips. The negativity one is huge but its easier tear something down than build something up and most of those people are either too afraid or too lazy to be builders. The other one is people who think that they know everything. Especially kids right out of film school. As far as the email thing goes, if someone emails me in the middle of the day chances are you’re going to be waiting a while. I turn my phone off during shoots and usually I’m more focused on the job at hand than checking my emails. When my clients are paying for my services, whether its as a Gaffer, DP or Director, they get my undivided attention. I guess if you sit in an office all day, that works but you can’t expect everyone to work like you do.

  • Erik Stenbakken on 08.16.12 @ 4:12PM

    Good points all.

    And for the whiners … of *course* there are exceptions to pretty much every point he makes. But remember, they are called “exceptions.” This is good basic stuff. It’s not level 2000 MBA stuff. It’s basic mentoring.


  • It really is a good idea to look up common prices for equipment and stuff and make up your mind how much you would charge for what even if you don’t have a project right ahead.

    I am mostly employed and only freelancing once in a while, so in the beginning I got taken by surprise pretty often when suddenly a friend asked if he could for example rent my DSLR rig for a paid gig. I had never thought about renting it out, so on the one hand I did not know at all how much DSLR rigs are rented out for, and on the other hand the guy was playing the friend card, but he was needing it for a paid job. So does he still get a friend bonus when he is going to earn money using my gear on a well paid job?

    It is really useful thinking these things through BEFORE somebody asks you face to face and waits for an answer.

    I have also had another friend renting my 7D and I said well, 40 Euro would be okay I guess, and he said that’s very nice, 50 Euro sounds good (*wink*). That was kind of embarrassing :)

  • Great advice. It is helpful to know how to conduct oneself when dealing with pro’s in the biz. I love comedy and there is always a joke inside of me dying to get out. I guess it is necessary to sometimes be the bully and pound the class clown inside to make the right impression. As long as there’s still a pulse, it’s all good.
    I do enjoy and appreciate you taking the time to make this video. You are a good person.

    Cheers! – First we drink, then we fight!

  • Gary Simmons on 08.16.12 @ 10:03PM

    This guy knows what he’s saying I liked an agreed with everything he had to say good sage advice on how to behave in any business positive attitude especialy this industry with all the things that can go wrong when you depend on so many people at the same time on a production its a delicate juggling act that makes you want to pull hair out when it goes to hell whinners and babies shouls stay at home with mommy.

  • Thanks for posting this. Great video and great article, definitely an eye opener and points out key things to be aware of, cheers!