Hiya, I’m Dom, and I’m a Connector at Story & Heart.
Story & Heart is one part film licensing platform and one big part filmmaking community—a place for storytellers to learn, encourage, and collaborate.
In that sense, we foster a passionate group of like-minded filmmakers drawn together to focus on one thing: helping you tell amazing stories. Because we believe that what we grow together will be something so much greater than anything we could have nurtured alone.
So, in the spirit of collaboration, Stillmotion asked me to write a bit about the idea of collaboration.
Imagine, for a moment, a storyteller. Do you picture writers laboring, lonely, behind a stack of paper in a dusty study? Or animators alone poring over the same drawing, over and over, changing it slightly every time to capture the precise pose, or the right mannerism, to convey that perfect purpose?
Now, for one more moment, imagine a freelancer—the storyteller who is bound to work alone, for whatever reason, be it financial or physical.
Because the truth is so much simpler: Storytelling requires collaboration.
That book that writer behind the lonely typewriter is creating? It’s so much bigger than the bounds of that study. It needs an editor—or a team of them—if it has any chance at reaching a greater audience. And that writer, beyond just her editors, also needs an agent, a publisher, a publicist, and countless others to hold her hands throughout the process of publishing, before the book can end up in your hands.
The same, of course, applies to film. When the credits roll, you aren’t bombarded with hundreds of names because of some elaborate joke.
Yet, as filmmakers, we can probably all remember a time when we’ve had a strange relationship with the idea of collaboration. Maybe for you, that time is now, and at the moment you’re staring at this screen hoping we’ll convince you that teamwork isn’t as frustrating or difficult to manage as it’s seemed so often in your career.
Still, like we said, the truth is simpler than that. We’re not about to claim that a solo shooter can’t tell an amazing story, but let’s be real: filmmaking is a team sport. There is just too much going on, so many moving parts, way too many interlocking pieces to juggle on your own that the risk of burn out—of losing all that passion you once held dearly for a craft you’ve always loved—should be convincing enough.
This is why we’re building Story & Heart: to give filmmakers the resources, tools, and community they need to be able to work together safely and confidently. When filmmakers have such a place they can call home, we believe that both their career and their craft will breathe with a new sense of purpose.
We’re doing this because we know collaboration can be difficult—that in many cases working together may just seem like it’s not an option.
What if there aren’t any like-minded filmmakers in your area? What if you can’t find the right work to support a crew of more than one? What if you’re just completely self-conscious about some skill or technique you’ve never actually had the opportunity to learn?
We want to make collaboration as easy as possible. We want to remove all barriers between you and telling your stories the way you know they should be told. We want to do this because we’re storytellers ourselves, and we’ve been in your well-worn shoes. We know what it’s like to lose sight of the energy that drew us—that probably drew all of us—to filmmaking in the first place.
So with that, while we keep putting all the pieces together to make Story & Heart a haven for storytellers, you can start right now—on your next shoot, in the middle of your next production.
Whether you are a team leader or part of a team, you can make your next project a collaboration in the truest sense of the word.
Here are our 5 tips toward collaborative success.
1. Start with “why”.
Storytelling is nothing without collaboration, but is the same vice versa?
As a director—who for all intents and purposes is the “team leader”—your first priority is to establish the purpose for your team. This is your whole project’s “why”: the reason you are gathered together, the reason you are telling this story.
What, ultimately, are you trying to do, say, or convey with the story you are telling together? It is a director’s duty to make this clear to every single person involved—and make it clear from the moment the project begins.
As part of a team, you have to understand your ultimate goal. All decisions and actions will stem from that very basic premise.
Disagreements among the team? Your “why” is your filter. It’s like your code, your mission statement, your thesis sentence. It is the reason, above all, that you can return to when anything is in question: your role, your motivation, your intentions.
As long as everyone starts by knowing why everyone is there, the rest is just a nice cruise to the finish line.
Our purpose at Story & Heart? To make the world a better place for storytellers through collaboration, education, and encouragement. That’s our mission, and everything we do—from community events to working out the legalities of our licensing platform—is aimed at this “why”. Every person at Story & Heart knows this from the moment we join the family, and together we look forward to the time when we cross that finish line together.
2. Give everyone something to own.
Once you’ve made sure everyone understands the production’s—and, above all, the story’s—why (or you’ve had it explained well to you), you need to translate the individual passion of each of your team members into a reason to follow through on that why.
A team is like any community: in order for the community to work, every person has to not only play a vital role, but every person has to know they are playing a vital role.
Whether you’re a story’s actual owner or you’re someone who will help tell it, you must have a stake in the story being told well.
This is ownership—by feeling truly valued, you will devote that value to the story. Ownership by nature is a matter of accountability, and so when any collaborator holds a sense of ownership over the successful completion of any project, the collaborator is also held accountable.
At Story & Heart, we encourage this accountability through making sure that each member is giving as much as receiving—that each person in our community feels as committed to helping others tell amazing stories as they do telling their own.