Engaging & Nurturing Your Tribe

Engaging & Nurturing Your Tribe

I’ll warn you right up front. As you build your tribe, your greatest enemy will be apathy.

Initially, it's fun and exciting to join something like a local filmmaking collective. But if it doesn't start adding immediate value to the lives of members, eventually they won't care about the tribe anymore. Which can happen faster than you think.

And if people stop caring, the tribe dies. In order for it to enrich the lives of its members, everyone has to care, and they have to be engaged.

So that's what I want to cover in this lesson. A handful of ways you can keep your tribe engaged and coming back for more. Let's dig in.

Tribe events

There are a lot of ways to connect and engage your tribe through making films. We'll talk about those in a bit. But for now, just know there are an equal number of quality ways to connect and engage outside of the filmmaking process.

Offline, in-person events are a major piece of this.

If you get this right, you can not only add a ton of value to the people in your tribe (depending on what the event is, of course), but you can build and deepen friendships with the good folks of your tribe.

Now, events are one of those things that can get pretty complicated quickly, especially as more people join. But if you remember back to the lesson on setting up the structure of your tribe, I recommended you get together to workshop something once a month.

This is one of those things that's easy to organize (you can do it at a coffee shop, restaurant, co-working space, someone's house, etc), that adds a tremendous amount of value.

Whether you’re workshopping a script, scene, rough cut, demo reel, or finished film, just getting together to work on ideas and make them better is a great way to connect and get to understand your tribe's creative sensibilities. Not to mention that workshopping like this is great for improving your work and getting better at the craft.

So again, if you're just starting out with this stuff, I recommend just doing this once a month and calling it good. You don't have to make the "events" aspect of this any more complicated than that.

However, just know that when you're ready, there's an entire world of cool events you (or someone else) could organize for the people of your tribe.

Here are a few examples to get your brain juices flowing.

  • Go to screenings of films you all want to see.

  • Go to festivals together, and work the after parties to meet new potential tribe members.

  • Conduct workshops to teach other tribe members about a new skill. There are so many ways this could work, but just imagine if a DP in your tribe got a new camera, they could teach a workshop to show everyone how to use it and get the best image out of it. That's just one of infinite possibilities. Teach each other stuff, and grow together.

  • Hold a screening of the tribe's work for the community. If you've put together a bunch of micro films (or something larger), why not make an event out of screening them? Get a keg and some food trucks to really make it fun.

  • You could even screen work from other local filmmakers who aren't (but one day might be) in the tribe. You could even make this a local thing where you do an "open screen night" for your city.

  • Hell, just get together for beers or dinner once a month without any formal purpose for the gathering.

And there are plenty more types of events that you could do beyond this. But again, some of this stuff can get logistically complicated (and potentially expensive). So just know that you don't have to spend money or worry about logistics to accomplish the three primary objectives of an offline event.

As long as it connects you more deeply, adds value, and is fun/interesting, you've got yourself the making of a successful event. Now get out there and organize one!

Micro films

A tribe that makes films together, stays together.

And the best way to make a lot of films without needing loads of time, money, or other resources, is to make micro films—shorts that live in the 1-3 minute range.

That's why, of all the ways to keep your tribe engaged and connected, you won't be surprised to learn that micro films are my favorite.

Even if your tribe only has 2-3 people, you can still produce a good deal micro films together, and do it on a consistent basis.

This'll help members connect more deeply with one another, and they can also be used to "audition" new potential members like I mentioned in a previous lesson.

Plus, micro films can be used to move the tribe towards its big picture vision.

For instance, if you want the tribe to become a "member owned" production company, you can use micro films to build a portfolio that attracts your ideal clients.

If you want the tribe to have an audience all its own, you can use micro films to build and engage that audience.

Whatever the vision is, I'm willing to bet that micro films are a useful tool in achieving it.

Basically, what I'm saying is that your tribe should make micro films together. Lots of them. And with the intention of using them to their full potential. There are so many things these little films can be used for, so don't take it for granted.

Anyhow, here are a few tips to consider as you and your tribe embark on your micro-filmmaking journey.

  • Alternate through different roles as you make micro films. This way, everyone who wants to write and direct gets a chance to do so. Plus you can learn/improve other skills throughout the process, making you (and others) more skilled and well-rounded.

  • Try to make it a bi-monthly thing, at least. Make it a goal of the tribe to produce at least six micro films per year, especially when you’re not working on larger projects. That way, when you look back on what you've done together, you have a substantial body of work.

  • Participate in 48 hour film competitions and things like that. These things are so fun, and they bond people together in pretty astounding ways.

  • Use micro films to grow awareness of your tribe in your community. This is where it’s great to have a website and Vimeo channel. Post your films in FB groups of local filmmakers and screen them in local venues. Heck, you can send them to newspapers and magazines and blogs in your town to get featured. There's so many ways you could get this work out there.

Again, there's plenty more you can do with micro films than I talked about here. But this should be more than enough to get your brain juices flowing.

Your tribe’s “online hub”

Earlier in the course, you chose a platform to serve as the "online hub" for your tribe. Could be a Slack workspace, facebook group, Mighty Network, Mobilize community, or anything else.

The big reason I'm having you do this is that it's a powerful tool for keeping your tribe connected and engaged, even when you're not working on projects together, or holding offline events. The online hub is your way to stay constantly connected to everyone in the tribe and consistently add value.

So, here are some things you can do in the online hub to build and deepen the tribe relationship.

  • Post job and gig opportunities members might be interested in.

  • Curate useful content about filmmaking, creativity, business, or life.

  • Create your own content just for tribe members.

  • Plan and work on collaborative projects "out in the open."

  • Share rough cuts, VFX sequences, or anything else for feedback.

  • Post old films to get feedback and critique, or share what you learned.

  • Ask open-ended questions and do polls (these are the bee’s knees for community engagement online.)

Now, beyond all of that fun stuff that adds value to your online hub, it's also a useful tool. Like I mentioned above, it can serve as a hub for planning and collaborating on projects. Depending on the platform you choose, you can even use it to store and share production documents, and have targeted conversations with certain crew members.

Plus, you can use the online hub as a place to plan the tribe's offline events and keep people notified about them. Most platforms make this incredibly easy, so take advantage of it!

There's also one other I thing I'd like you to consider in regards to the online hub.

As one of the leaders of the tribe, it's part of your responsibility to keep people engaged and connected to the tribe.

So if you notice that a member hasn't participated in awhile, or seems to have disappeared, you'll want to do your best to engage them to bring them back. Tag them in a post, send them a private message, or even text/call them if need be.

It could be they're just going through stuff in their personal life, or they're busy with a day job. But it could also be that the tribe just isn't giving them what they need, in which case you want to know about it. That kind of thing can be tough to hear, but it can help you make meaningful improvements to how you structure and engage the tribe in the future.

Ambitious projects and big picture goals

Last but not least, tribes should have big picture goals, and work on ambitious projects together in pursuit of those goals.

This one thing has an uncanny ability to engage people and keep them bonded to the tribe (and each other) over the long term.

Hell, even if you use none of the other strategies here (not advised), a great big compelling goal or project can save the day. If the project is awesome enough, and it aids in pursuit of a shared vision, this alone is enough to keep your tribe members invested and participating.

So as your membership grows, keep in mind that you will have the people and resources necessary to take on bigger and bigger projects. Take advantage of that and do something awesome and ambitious.

Once you've got roughly 7-10 people in the tribe, start talking about the idea of a "big project" at your events, on set of your micro films, and in the online community. Start gauging people's interest, and if the interest is there, start brainstorming ideas for what the project could be.

You'll want to find a project that everyone's excited about, and that will move the tribe toward its big picture vision. This'll likely be a feature or a series, but it could be anything, as long as it serves as a stepping stone to a compelling future that the tribe's invested in reaching.

And once you've got an idea that meets those criteria, it's time to execute! Make it happen, amigo.

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