Naming and Structuring Your Tribe

Naming and Structuring Your Tribe

Alright my friend, we've covered a lot of foundational ground so far. Between our core mindsets, our vision and values, and our list of considerations for who should be in our tribe, we've built a robust foundation that will serve us, and our tribe members, for years to come.

Now it's time to get to the fun stuff. We're going to give our tribe a cool name, decide on our collective vision and values, come up with some initial events, and I'll give you some tech recommendations for keeping your tribe tight-knit.

And last, but certainly not least, we'll take all of this work and combine it all into a handy "value proposition" that you'll be able to use to make your tribe sound like an incredibly enticing place to be (because it is).

So let's dig in.

Naming Your Tribe

Thus far, we've been talking about your tribe as if it's this mysterious, abstract concept. Now we're going to make it real.

First up, we're going to give it a name.

We do this for two reasons. First, we need something tangible and specific to invite people into.

Think about it. Which of these two invitations is more appealing to you?

  • Hey, you wanna be part of this group of filmmakers I'm building?

  • I'd like to invite you to be a member of the Tucson Indie Filmmakers Collective.

I don't know about you, but the first one sounds a bit weird and informal—like it's not a big deal. But the second one makes it sound like you're getting invited to something cool, something real, and something important.

So that's the first reason we name our tribes.

The second reason is even more important. We do this to create a shared identity.

This is hugely important. Once membership becomes part of someone's identity, they'll double down on their commitment to the tribe. Humans have this innate drive to constantly reinforce their personal and group identities. When we identify with something, we act in alignment with that identity.

As your tribe grows, and as it continues to become a central part of people's identities, the tribe will become an unstoppable force. You'll be able to accomplish big things together, all because you're consistently reinforcing a shared identity and working towards shared goals.

Anyhow, I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll talk more about how to build and strengthen the collective identity later. For now, let's get back to naming your tribe.

Here are some ideas for generating a name.

If you want to keep it simple and straightforward, go with some variation of [Your City] Film Collective.

So for example, it'd be something like Denver Filmmaker's Collective, Tucson Indie Film Collective, etc.

If you make documentaries or animation or any other specific type of film, you can add that into the name.

Denver Documentary Collective, Tucson Animation Collective.

You could also find a word or phrase that embodies the character/values of the tribe.

Rebellious Filmmakers of Denver, Iconoclastic Indies Tucson. (These are bad examples, but I hope you get the idea.)

You can even play around with different variations of the word collective. Think tribe, squad, group, community, etc.

Anyhow, point is there are a lot of ways you can name your tribe. It can be as creative or straightforward as you want, but trust me when I say your tribe needs a name.

A name makes it official. A name makes your tribe a legit entity instead of a vague concept. And most importantly, a name gives members something to identify with.

So think about it, then brainstorm a few names down in the space you’re storing your personal vision and values.

And while you’re there, you’ll want to review what you’ve already done, because it’s time to define…

Your Tribe's Vision + Values

Next up, you'll want to write out the vision and values for the tribe itself.

Like I mentioned earlier, you're the founding member of your tribe, so you get to make a lot of important decisions up front. You're the captain of this ship.

And few decisions will be as important as setting the initial direction for your tribe. You're essentially coming up with a compelling vision for how the future can be if you work together, and defining the core values you'll use to get there.

Luckily, you already did a lot of work to figure out your personal vision and values. Now you just have to take what you've already done and distill it into something that will guide the tribe to the promised land as it were.

Now, I should back up a little bit. When I've explained this concept in the past, people have asked, "Isn't it self-centered to base a tribe around my own vision and values?"

And the answer is, "Technically yes, but by doing it this way you're contributing to the greater good."

Think about it. The purpose of a tribe is to create lasting and meaningful value for every member, not just you.

When you attract the right people to your tribe, people who already share similar vision and values, you're doing them a massive service. You're inviting them into something that will enrich their filmmaking and their lives in a way that wouldn't have been possible had they gone alone.

So if you feel a bit self-centered about this process, just remember how great it's going to feel when your future tribe members thank you for putting this thing together.

Anyhow, let's get back to defining the tribe's vision and values.


Look at the vision you created earlier, and ask yourself, how would this vision change if I had a team of 10 dedicated tribe members all helping work towards it? In other words, I'm asking you to make the vision bigger—way bigger.

You want your vision for the tribe to be big and bold and ambitious. But most of all, it should be exciting. When you share it with potential members, they should go, "Hell yeah, that's awesome! Where do I sign up?"

So take a moment to plot out a big, ambitious vision for what you could all accomplish together.

It could be something like...

  • We'll all make a great living producing the films we care about and distributing them directly to our audience.

  • We'll make so many films of such high quality that it'll put [wherever you live] on the map in the film world.

  • We'll use our collective power to tell stories no one else is willing to tell. And in doing so, we'll make our community stronger.

  • We'll treat our tribe as a member-owned production company, and we'll all make a great living serving the businesses and non-profits of our community.

There are lots of possibilities here depending on what your personal vision is. Just remember to think big. If it doesn't excite and scare you a little bit, it's probably not bold enough.


Now let's tackle your tribe's values.

These don't have to be exactly the same as your personal values, but there should be quite a bit of overlap. More than anything else, I want you to look at the list of values you came up with before, then consider this question for each value on the list...

Could someone become a close friend if they didn't value this? Or put another way, if they valued the opposite, would it be a dealbreaker in our relationship?

By asking these questions, you'll find which values are personal to you, and which ones are essential for your relationships with others. That second group of values—the ones that are "must-haves" when it comes to working with and building relationships with people—those are now your tribe's core values. Write these down.

One other thing to note here. You might get blocked up trying to set the vision and values for your tribe. It's going to feel like a lot of responsibility deciding the direction for something like this.

But I'll let you in on a little secret. You don't have to get it exactly right the first time around.

One of the great things about a tribe is that it communicates openly and honestly. As your tribe gains members, you can get together to chat about and refine the vision and values.

Besides, vision and values should evolve over time as tribe members grow and become more familiar with themselves and what they want out of life.

But you've gotta start somewhere, so give this your best effort, and write down your tribe's vision and values before moving on.

Your Tribe's Events

A tribe should make films together, obviously. But to make your tribe even more valuable for members, it should get together for other reasons beyond just making stuff.

Remember, this isn't a purely utilitarian thing. It's not just group of people who only serve one purpose in each other's lives. This is all about building a group of tight-knit friends, who share the same values and vision, who also work on films together on an ongoing basis.

Now, there are a ton of things a tribe could do together. They could attend screenings, put on workshops to teach each other new skillsets, or any other number of things.

I recommend doing a once a month (or bi-monthly) event to workshop films and ideas and scripts. Get together over beers or food or coffee, and constructively criticize stuff together. Not only will this help you get to know the people in your tribe better, but it'll build those bonds that will last for years to come.

Plus, stuff like this can lay the foundation for your projects. When you all workshop a script or story idea, you become invested in it. So having a practice of workshopping can lead to new projects for the tribe to tackle together.

But again, you can do anything you want here, so long as it provides value to each tribe member and helps people get to know one another and connect.

So before you move on, decide on one initial recurring event you'll do with your tribe members.

Your Tribe's Online Hub

I'm a big believer that every tribe needs an online hub that's only available to members.

This is a place where you can communicate between (and during) projects, organize events, share job opportunities and cool content, and generally just stay in touch.

A good online hub is one of those things that can help you deepen the relationship with your tribe, even when you're not making films or doing events together.

So here are some of the best options for this, as well as my thoughts on the drawbacks.

Slack Team

A year ago, Slack would have been my highest recommendation for keeping your tribe connected online. But these days I spend too much time in Slack for my work, and frankly it's a bit of a hectic place when more than a few people are trying to have a conversation. Plus old conversations get lost quickly because of the chronological nature of it. But it's a popular choice for a lot of communities, and it's definitely worth considering.

Facebook Groups

I'm not a fan of facebook groups either, although they're incredibly popular these days. The problem is that facebook is a perpetual distraction machine, and by being there, your group is automatically competing for attention with every other group, page, and person on the platform. But if there's one thing that can be said for facebook, it's that everyone's already on the platform and comfortable using it. So it’s the best if you want as little friction as possible.

Mighty Networks

Mighty Networks are a mix of a community, blog, and many other things. While I love the platform (and use it for the Freedom Fighters community), I actually think it's a bit too full-featured for a tribe. But if you're looking for something with a rich feature-set to keep your community engaged, it's worth looking into Mighty Networks (it's got a free plan, too).


Mobilize is like Mighty Networks in a lot of ways, but it's less focused on content and more on connecting and communicating with people. Plus it's free up to 500 members, so if you use it for a tribe you'll probably never have to pay for it. This one would probably be my highest recommendation of the bunch.

Whatsapp Group

I haven't really used Whatsapp for anything, but I know it's super popular, and it has a “groups” function. I imagine it's a lot like Slack in that the messages are chronological, so stuff gets lost amidst the noise.

So those are my recommendations for community building tech tools. My highest recommendation is Mobilize at this point, but since they all have free options, I urge you to try 'em all and choose the one you like best.

Your Tribe's Unique Value Proposition

Last, but certainly not least, is your tribe's value proposition.

In the world of marketing, a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) refers to how a company differentiates their product from everything else on the market. Since we're not selling anything here, I'd like to refer to it as a UVP, Unique Value Proposition.

In other words, what is the unique value that being part of this tribe will bring to the lives of members? What will they get from the tribe that they won't get from being part of other groups, from working with other collaborators, etc?

This is an important thing to understand, because you may in fact get pushback when you ask people to join your tribe. People might be skeptical of what you're doing and what your motivations are. And beyond diffusing that situation by sharing your true motivations, it can help to share the UVP.

If your UVP is good enough, you'll have no problem getting people to say yes to becoming a member, because it'll be obvious how much value they'd miss out on if they turned down the opportunity.

So how do you come up with a UVP for your tribe?

Simply share your tribe's vision + the events you do + the prospect of having dedicated collaborators and access to the tribe's resources.

Here's an example of what that might sound like...

Our big-picture goal in the Tucson Indie Film Collective is to produce the highest quality indie projects coming out of Arizona, and actually make a living from them through self-distribution. We also get together once a month to workshop each other's scripts and story ideas and plot our next collaborative project. And to top it all off, we all work on each other's films and share resources, and have a blast doing it.

I don't know about you, but this value proposition rocks my socks off. I'd join this organization in a heartbeat.

So come up with your tribe’s unique value proposition now, and keep it in your back pocket once it comes time to start telling people about your tribe and selling them on the value of joining.

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