Introduction: Why Ambitious Filmmakers Need a Tribe

Introduction: Why Ambitious Filmmakers Need a Tribe

Well hey friend,

Welcome to Build Your Film Tribe. Glad you’re here.

By the time you've made it through this course, you will have all of the tools you need to... well, build a film tribe.

But let's back up a second.

Why should you care about this idea of building a tribe? What benefits will it provide you in your filmmaking journey?

And what is a tribe, anyway?

Glad you asked, my internet friend. Let's dig in.

Three big problems for indie/no-budget filmmakers

I’ve spent the past seven or so years in the indie film community, really coming to understand the problems lower-budget filmmakers face on a consistent basis.

And through all of this, the same problems come up again and again.

Tell me if any of these sound familiar…

  1. You don’t have the resources necessary to make the films you want to make.

  2. You can't find any collaborators for your low-budget and no-budget projects.

  3. When you do find collaborators, they tend to be unreliable or don't do the job well.

I’d say these three things account for 90% of the issues people face when making low-budget films. It’s staggering just how big these issues are.

Yet to succeed as filmmakers and build thriving careers, we need to find a way to solve these three things.

In order for us to “make it” in any real way, we need to not only produce quality work, but we need to do so on a fairly consistent basis. That’s how we get ahead, get noticed, and attract opportunities.

But without the right resources and collaborators, producing great work consistently becomes a daunting proposition. An impossible one for some of us.

Anyhow, all of this is what got me thinking, “How can we overcome these obstacles in a systematic way? What would we need?”

After thinking back on my own filmmaking journey, and all of the no-budget, rag tag films I put together with friends… the answer became clear.

Quite simply, filmmakers need a tribe.

Tribes: Defined

On the most basic level, a tribe is a group of people held together by something they have in common. Could be shared interests, values, politics, religion, or anything else.

But that definition is a little loose, and not very helpful. Let's dig deeper.

In his wonderful book, The Art of Community, Charles Vogl defines a community as "a group of individuals who share a mutual concern for each other's welfare."

Now we're getting somewhere.

For our film tribes to effectively solve the problems we outlined, they must be filled with people who care, not just about making great work, but about the wellbeing of the other members. If people are apathetic about either of those things, it’s not a tribe.

This begs a new question. How do we get people to care that much?

Well, there are a few factors to consider here. Most obviously, the people in the tribe need to like and trust one another. There needs to be an element of genuine friendship in play.

Next up, we must strive to create something where people feel a real sense of belonging and pride at being a member. That’s huge in getting people to care.

In order to do this, you must treat your tribe as a formal entity, with its own values and vision, and a clear delineation between being a member and being on the outside.

Don’t get me wrong. Your tribe isn’t necessarily an “official organization” or anything like that. But it can’t be just a loose connection of people who sometimes work together. It has to be more than that.

For people to feel that deep sense of belonging and pride, they need to definitively know whether they’re a member or not. Plus they need to feel that the tribe is a place that supports them, and that’s full of likeminded and driven people who share the same values. It needs to feel like something special that’s worth being a part of, and worth dedicating time and resources towards.

That’s what I’m going to show you how to create in this course—a collective of filmmakers where everyone is damn proud to be a member, and where everyone helps the others succeed. It’s a symbiotic thing, where by helping others, you help yourself.

So that’s the definition of tribe that we'll be working from.

It’s a group of filmmakers who share similar values, goals, and who are committed not only to working together to make films that everyone can be proud of, but to the well-being of the other members.

If that sounds interesting to you, read on about the rad benefits that come from building such a tribe.

Short-term benefits of a film tribe

As you've probably guessed, a tribe like this comes with a host of benefits once you get it up and running.

The primary benefit, the one I assume you're most excited about, is that you'll rarely have trouble crewing up your projects with passionate, competent, dedicated people.

That’s huge, because it gets rid of one of the single biggest stressors in the filmmaking process. Because when you have reliable, high quality people, everything else goes so much more smoothly.

Beyond just having competent people, a tribe also shares resources, connections, knowledge, skills, and in many cases, money. In other words, a well-functioning tribe solves the problem of lacking resources.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon. Because everybody is looking out for the wellbeing of other members, and because the success of the tribe results in the success of individual members, it breeds a culture of cooperation and sharing unlike anything you’ll find in loosely connected groups.

Let’s imagine you need $2000 for an important location. By yourself, that obstacle might be enough to stop you in your tracks. And if you asked random film friends to help with those fees, you’d probably get laughed at.

But when you’re working with a tribe, all of whom are invested in the success of the project, it’s no stretch to get 100 bucks each from 20 tribe members to secure the location. It’s a cool thing being able to crowdsource like that from people who are enthusiastic to help.

Another immediate benefit that you can get from a tight-knit tribe is a culture of growth and improvement.

For instance, in addition to making films, you can also get together and screen/workshop your films and scripts and story ideas. By gathering this group of likeminded people, you’ll get real, honest feedback on your work, just as you’ll give feedback to your tribe members.

And these are just the benefits you can get in the short term. Let’s talk about the long term.

Long-term benefits of a film tribe

One of the beautiful things about a tribe is that it’s fundamentally about connection. Even if you’re not constantly making films, you can get together regularly to screen work, workshop ideas, go to a movie, or even just grab some beers.

If you do it right, your tribe will become some of your best, most trusted friends—collaborators and companions to join alongside you as you ride the waves of life.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about low-budget filmmaking, it’s that the process itself is a constant struggle (in a good way). And that’s one of the great things that happens when people go through tough situations together. It creates deep, long-lasting bonds.

In an increasingly digital world where many creatives are well-connected online, yet lonely and isolated in their personal lives, a tribe can be a powerful source of energy and companionship.

Maybe you’re not interested in that “touchy feely” kind of stuff. But I definitely am.

But don’t worry, the long-term benefits of a tribe go deeper.

An individual doesn’t stand much chance at making a dent in the world of indie film. Not without a lot of luck and some help from the Hollywood ecosystem.

But a tribe, when it sets its collective mind to something, can produce a ton of high quality content, consistently, and at inexpensive prices, By doing that, it’s possible to make a solid dent in both the local and national film scene, and put individual members, as well as the tribe as a whole, in the national spotlight.

Remember the film Beasts of the Southern Wild? That thing was made on the cheap by a ragtag band of artists, working out of an abandoned gas station in rural Louisiana. That tribe, called Court13, put its collective mind towards a vision, and ended up raking in four Oscar nominations, and putting that entire cast and crew on the map.

A dedicated tribe is far more likely to pull something off like that than one ambitious filmmaker who pulls together a random cast and crew. That’s for sure.

Next up, a tribe can also be a business in and of itself.

Many tribes, once they’re established in the community, take on certain types of commercial and non-profit work, operating more as an employee-owned production company.

Here’s an even cooler thought…

When you combine the power of tribes with the power of building audiences online, it's not a stretch to say that a tribe can become a self-sustaining indie film business, where the members of the tribe make a living directly from the work they collectively produce.

So I hope you’re excited at this point. Maybe I’m just a crazy guy on the internet, but I truly believe tribes are the future of independent filmmaking. They’re that one foundational piece that will solve our “resource/collaborator problem,” and help us get where we want to go in our careers and lives.

It’s exciting stuff, and I’m going to teach you how to do it, step by step.

Now, before we move on to the next lesson, which is all about the high-level strategy I’ll be teach you for tribe-building, there are a few more points I need to share with you.

A long-term strategy

Keep in mind, what you're going to learn in this course is grounded in playing the long game. It’s about building relationships and using organizational psychology to build something amazing. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

But if you put in the work consistently, you will see results like the ones I described above. Promise.

There’s one other question I keep getting about this, so I’ll include it here.

Do you have to live in a big city to build a tribe?

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that to meet a lot of talented filmmakers, you have to live in a major film hub like LA, NYC, or Atlanta.

But these days, that’s not the case at all. Because of the explosion of digital cameras and post software, there are talented filmmakers on every corner of the globe, from the smallest of towns to the biggest of cities, and everywhere in between.

Personally, I’ve seen tribes work in mid-sized cities like Denver, smaller cities like Tucson (where I currently live), and even in small to mid-sized towns like Missoula.

Unless you live in super small town, I’m confident this will work for you. It’ll obviously be easier the larger your city is, but these ideas can work anywhere where there are a decent amount of people.

So with all of that out of the way, it’s time to get to the good stuff.

Thanks again for joining me in Build Your Film Tribe, and I’ll see you in the next lesson.

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