Independent Filmmaking Management Strategies with Pulp Fiction's Winston Wolfe
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction has no shortage of memorable lines and scenes. Harvey Keitel's character Winston Wolfe is particularly quotable, and he does exactly what independent filmmakers have to do hundreds of times on a daily basis: solve problems. IndieWire has a great post detailing 9 reasons why the actions of 'The Wolf' are applicable to independent filmmaking.
Here's the full list:
- Be 100% reliable.
- Bad news first
- Take things off your manager’s plate—then own it.
- Write things down
- Strategy is for amateurs, tactics are for professionals.
- You can’t manage what you don’t understand.
- Start tough, then soften up.
- If it’s not working, end it.
This one is really the most important to me if you are in charge of an independent film:
You can’t manage what you don’t understand.
Now Jimmie, we need to raid your linen closet. I need blankets, I need comforters, I need quilts, I need bedspreads. The thicker the better, the darker the better. No whites, can't use 'em.
It is clear The Wolf understands how to camouflage the car. The best managers understand every step in the filmmaking process—from pre-production to distribution. On larger films with bigger budgets, you can lean on experts. But you can’t really make a low-budget, run-and-gun production if you can’t properly dump flash cards in the field, explain the technical difference between DVCProHD and H.264 or properly place a lav. To be clear: You don’t have to shoot better than your shooter or edit better than your editor—but you do have to understand their jobs. So keep your skills sharp.
One of the goals of this site is to make everyone a better filmmaker through knowledge. We strive every single day to help others understand something a little better (or learn new something ourselves), and hopefully at some point you will have acquired enough knowledge to really have a grasp on all aspects of filmmaking. It's really easy to sit back and just expect everything to work perfectly and everyone to do exactly what they're supposed to do, but when you're making a film for no money, more often than not, you're going to be dealing with people who don't have a lot of experience and need to be pushed in the right direction to get the job done. It's important as someone in charge of a film to know a basic amount about each crew position and about the gear they are using, as well as each step in your workflow - because if something goes wrong, you've got to be there to fix it.
My biggest gripe with independent filmmaking is that often people worry more about fixing problems than actually fixing them. Most of the time - we don't have the luxury to stand around and discuss something - there just aren't enough crew people. It makes a lot more sense to quickly think of a workable solution and fix the problem immediately - and avoid wasting any more time in the process. To steal a Nike motto: 'Just Do It.' Stop standing around and do what you have to do - we're all under-funded, under-nourished, and underpaid - we're in this together - so just get it done.
Got any other Winston Wolfe or Pulp Fiction quotes we can turn into filmmaking advice? If so, please share them below.