More filmmaking, less paperwork

Oct 29, 2022

Traditional filmmaking relies on piles of paperwork as a way to organise tasks. 

Obviously, there’s the script, but also call sheets, shot lists, continuity forms, location agreements, and on and on. 

This upfront planning stifles creativity with little wiggle room for spontaneity or experimentation.

Lean Filmmaking prioritises action over paperwork.

Here's a couple of ways we do that.

Squads are purposely small

The complexities of working with a large cast and crew are managed by hiring department heads, formalising hierarchies and mandating documentation.

This inefficiency creates demand for more people, which creates more inefficiency. Can anyone say, vicious circle?

Film production spends a lot of energy getting everyone in the same place, at the same time, doing the right thing that’s required at that moment. 

But when there’s only a few people to organise, there’s no need for elaborate schedules, call sheets or shot lists.

Tedious admin instantly reduced!

Obviously permits, insurance, health and safety protocols are still important but even this is easier to manage with a small squad.

Make-Show-Adjust Cycles favour simplicity

The squad continuously learns by making more and more refined versions of the film through Make-Show-Adjust Cycles. 

In earlier cycles, simplicity is favoured over tech, gear or docs that impede flexibility.

This iterative process gives the squad time to reflect.

They  can consider how to improve their film and the way they work together, without the pressure of planning everything down to the most minuscule detail.

Squad Retrospectives provide structure

This is a ceremony to discuss what was learnt in the cycle and improvements to the workflow.

By working in cycles the squad learns by doing. They don’t have to think their way out of problems or plan for situations that may never happen.

Squad retrospectives provide a structure to resolve conflicts as they emerge, rather than festering and blowing up.

Psychological safety is crucial for this ceremony. Everyone must have permission to express themselves candidly, without fear of repercussions or negative consequences.

This allows for compassionate, honest and thoughtful conversations about inevitable failures, weaknesses and fuck-ups.

These are just some of the ways that Lean Filmmaking ensures that the focus is on making a film that fans will love. Not just arbitrary documentation and excessive upfront planning.

Yay! More filmmaking, less paperwork!


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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