June 1, 2018

The Case for Co-directing: 5 Reasons You Should Find a Creative Collaborator

Francis Agyapong
We release a new short every month. It's only possible because we do it as a team.

In many ways, a creative partnership is like a marriage. If done right it’s both magical, but perhaps more importantly, economically viable. You might even find yourself finishing each other’s sentences…scripts.

With the launch of our anthology comedy series, Cracking Up in 5, my creative partner Phillip Gladkov and I set out to release a comedic short on the first of each month since April Fool’s Day this year. Churning out a short film month after month, from pre-pro to release, is somewhat of a crazy nonsensical thing to do...but, splitting tasks and having someone you trust, respect, and jive with to hold you accountable definitely makes it all the more possible.

That said, a creative marriage isn’t all magic. There’s a lot of work to be done in order to sustain a happy and healthy relationship. We’re still in our honeymoon phase, so what better time to serve up some optimistic wisdom in respect to what’s been keeping the momentum going forward? Before you read our top five reasons for finding a creative collaborator, check out the first film in our series, below:

1.  Let’s face it, not all of us are trust-fund kids

Filmmaking is what I like to call, “ the snowboarding of the arts.” In other words: it’s incredibly hard to do, financially-speaking. Let’s forget for a minute about all of the other challenges involved in the way of creative stuff or just sheer hustle. You can be the most technically inclined, savvy, and efficient no-budget-filmmaker of all time but money’s still going to be an issue. Even if you get everything for free in the form of in-kind donations, (i.e. borrowing a camera, stealing a location, audio equipment, etc.) or whatever have you; simple things like transportation for cast and crew and pizza (and that’s if people have no dietary restrictions—shout out to my vegans out there) can still break the bank. Especially when you have 30+ actors on set like we did for our first film.

Knowing that someone else is biting half of the financial bullet helps you sleep better at night. That, and a double income makes it all the more sustainable.

Imagine all the paperwork and nonsensical bureaucratic red tape that you can have slashed in half when you have a partner.

2. Even our brains have two halves

Do you experience tunnel vision, road-blocks, oversights and all sorts of mental barriers when en route to that plot point? There’s a creative collaborator out there who can solve that.

There’s a story about a couple who got lost on the summit of a mountain in Upstate New York for a few days. To further agitate things it was peak winter. A deadly scenario to say the least, but it turns out that whenever one would phone it in and accept their fate of imminent doom, the other would muster up some energy to keep the momentum going forward and vice versa, keeping hope alive. That’s a lot like us, though filmmaking is much more severe. (That’s a joke in case there’s any confusion.)

Duos and creative collaborations work in the same way that fusion food works; both parties have a different spice/dish to bring to the table and ideally the ingredients complement one another.

That’s just creatively speaking, but imagine all the paperwork and nonsensical bureaucratic red tape that you can have slashed in half? That, or it simply becomes less painful because there are two brains meditating on the matter at hand.

Francis Agyapong
That's me, Phill and our co-producer Blake Lyons on set. He's probably telling us something we've completely overlooked. Credit: Johnny Frost

3. Partnerships expand your network

If you need help casting, crewing, finding locations or finding incredibly random props you have double the network to tap into in a partnership situation like ours. 

We’re two first-generation citizens of the US that completely understand and attest to the mentality of what I have is what you have, and vice versa (i.e. "the immigrant's mentality"). Keeping up with the creative marriage analogies—it takes a village to raise a child and, in this case, it takes our micro-village to pump out a film.

The day we filmed Picking Up the Work it was no more than 17 degrees ( -8.3 degrees Celsius — #inclusivity), but somehow, between the two of us,  we managed to round up a substantial amount of friends to support us by standing outside in the brickass cold in colorful attire for about seven hours. Friends, if you’re reading this: we love you. Pro tip: When fostering relationships always remember to showcase gratitude. Say "please" and "thank you" for days.

In a genuine collaboration, every idea is vetted and up for healthy scrutiny. 

4. Your ideas get better with some knocking around

They say miscommunication is the cause of 90% of problems. Communication is challenging, but necessary—especially if you’re tryna do the filmmaking thing; communication’s the entire racket. In a genuine collaboration, every idea is vetted and up for healthy scrutiny. That’s a beautiful thing, you have a test audience from the get-go that not only will help you best articulate your ideas, but is also invested in having them make the greatest impact.

Arguments and disagreements are a given, but it’s not until you have to defend your idea to someone that you really have to think about why it matters, works, or simply even makes sense. Sometimes they help you realize that something actually doesn’t work at all.

5. Accountability will make you get off your a**

If necessity is the mother of invention, then guilt is its father. Having someone you respect and are indebted to as a teammate passive aggressively or straight up guilt you is an incredible motivator for getting things done. This article wouldn’t exist if that weren’t the case. (Thanks, Phill XOXO.)     

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