Don't start with a script, form a squad first.

Jul 23, 2022

It’s been drilled into us that the first step in making a film is writing the perfect script – but actually, this belief can be the biggest barrier to getting started.

It’s easy to spend years writing, rewriting and polishing a script yet still be no closer to production.

An even more insidious side effect of writing the script first is that it stifles creativity and collaboration.

A script locks in requirements, like ambitious locations, difficult stunts or very specific casting, making it practically impossible to start pre-production without a large upfront financial investment. Projects are indefinitely stalled until these complex moving parts magically fall into place.

By the time the cast and crew are finally on board, the big-ticket items have been decided and true collaboration is limited. There’s little flexibility to explore, experiment or trash crappy ideas.

Nevermind the additional downside of writing elements into scripts that haven’t been validated with fans, wasting precious time, money and energy.

Whoa, wait up a second! Are we saying no more scripts?!

Yeah, kinda.

Most importantly, scripts aren’t the only way to express a story for the screen. (For example, we use a Story Scaffold to organise and visualise ideas.)

Sure, a script can still be a useful tool but it certainly doesn't have to be the starting point (and maybe not used at all depending on your film).

It’s much easier to come up with film ideas than it is to find creative collaborators. So let's tackle that challenge first!

In Lean Filmmaking, the skills, talents and resources of the combined squad members determine the film that will be made, rather than a predetermined, arbitrary script.

But what is a squad, you ask?

It's a cross-functional, non-hierarchical and self-organizing group of three to nine multi-skilled people with the combined experience to make a film, including writing, directing, acting, editing, shooting, producing and marketing. Everyone shares the responsibility for delivering the film.

The smaller the squad, the easier it is to communicate clearly, work fast and stay agile.

Even with ambitious plans, you only need a few squad members in the beginning. You can always increase the size of the squad down the track.

Don't let not having a script hold you back from starting your feature film. Find some like-minded collaborators and create the story together!


The Art of Lean Filmmaking, book and course available now. Start making an indie feature sooner than you ever thought possible.


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