About 3.5 million students are expected to graduate high school this year across the United States. That's a lot of seniors looking at college and career options.
Last week, one of those seniors – a talented aspiring writer/filmmaker named Chris – visited our office here at Flight Creative Media. Rounding out his final year of secondary education, Chris was tasked with finding a local business related to his field of interest, and observing a typical day on the job.
Chris found us on Google (shout-out to all the Googlers) and sent us a polite email asking if he could shadow us for a day, which we gladly obliged. It felt like a cultural exchange of sorts; we answered all his sharp and intelligent questions about our profession, and he answered all our sarcastic questions about modern teen slang. It was hashtag lit fam.
The day after his visit, Chris sent us a highly appreciative follow-up email expressing his sincere gratitude. We were of course thrilled to hear such positive feedback from our young visitor, but the experience also got our retrospective gears turning.
Looking back to when we were high school seniors, we all remember feeling the pressure of deciding on a college and a career objective – arguably the most pivotal decisions of our lives up to that point. And when it comes to filmmaking specifically, it's easy to get caught up in the open-season mad scramble for Hollywood attention. But if personal recognition is solely what you're after, you can probably look forward to a rather unfulfilling and lonely career.
In our profession (and most others), success is almost always a team effort. As a full-time video marketing agency, we have the privilege of working with the same crew on an ongoing basis. But even for freelancers, knowing how to work with other creative minds is essential.
The quality of the people you work with can make or break any career path, especially when it comes to creative pursuits like filmmaking. We feel we've developed a pretty stellar group dynamic here at FCM, but it wasn't by accident. So we decided to highlight some of the more deliberate practices that led to this winning formula of ours.
1. KNOWING EACH OTHER'S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Ever since FCM started hiring, we've made it a point to have every new employee take a 'StrengthsFinder' test – a questionnaire that provides a detailed summary of your strongest professional and cognitive traits. Everyone at our company, including our CEO Jack, has taken this test. And every time a new team member takes it, we compare their results with everyone else's to see how the newbie might fit into the team.
Now to be clear, this is not how we determine specific job duties. The test results are merely a starting point for uniting the individual with the rest of the team. This acclamation process can happen naturally anyway, but the survey allows us to be more purposeful about it.
For a creative team to be as effective as possible, every individual should have the opportunity to use their unique talents and play to their strengths. However, it can often be equally important for individuals to recognize and communicate their weaknesses. Everyone has blind spots, but the key is to admit to them, and accept help from the group when needed. The temptation is to bear these burdens alone, but a tight-knit crew can tackle such issues far better than an individual.
2. HAVING SPIRITED ARGUMENTS, AND RESOLVING THEM
Laziness is the enemy of creativity. Nothing curbs the growth of a creative mind more than surrounding it with apathy. If your crew is only concerned with completing the assigned work and clocking out, eventually you'll become just as boring as they are. And the world has enough boring people.
The more passionate you and your co-workers are about your work, the more conflicts and arguments will inevitably arise. This is a natural side effect of multiple artists with different skills working on the same project or team, and it can be a very good thing. A good team constantly strives to improve, and differing viewpoints on how to make those improvements should be encouraged.
However, the effort doesn't end there. Over time, frequent unresolved arguments can cause rifts in the group. We've had some heated ones here at FCM, but they clearly arise from a desire to do what's best for the group. There won't always be an effective compromise at the end every argument, but as long as it's clear that everyone involved has the group's best interests at heart, there's nothing to worry about.
3. SALUTING THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE INDIVIDUALS
No matter how successful and cohesive your crew is, individuals within the crew still need to know that their work is appreciated. It's why practically every Oscar winner spends no less than half their acceptance speech speed-reading through the names of other creative talents involved in their movie.
During our weekly team meetings here at FCM, our first order of business is typically to recognize the specific accomplishments of individual team members that week. This might sound like one of those tacky corporate team building exercises, but feedback like this can have real value if it's sincere. It gives added incentive to do exceptional work, and adds that much more positivity to the group dynamic.
The main takeaway here is that an office full of people doesn't automatically make a team. And even if you've got a great team already, it's practically guaranteed to fall apart if it's taken for granted. Recognize that when you're at work, you're part of a machine. A machine that's capable of far more than the sum of its parts. Film production rewards teamwork, but only if you work at it. And if that's not enough, just get a hold of some matching fleece jackets.