Weakness of Film Development TeamsOne major problem in film development is a weak team dynamic among the people who are supposed to be working together. Indeed, film development tends to create weaker teams than other creative workgroups. This article explains four reasons why this happens more often in filmmaking.

Reason #1: The workgroup suffers from a lack of regular meeting times and/or the group struggles with inconsistency in its efforts.

During the development process, film meetings are far and few between. Some of these meetings can take place in some cases as much as (if not more than) six months apart. The long spans of time between face-to-face meetings can alienate group members.

This lack of content also inhibits the free flow of ideas and information within the group. The communication issue, of course, causes the writer or director to feel as though he or she is working more than the rest of the group, which can lead to resentment within the group. In contrast, teams that work within a corporate structure tend to conduct regular meetings.

This strengthens the personal relationships of the group members and also makes the dissemination of information between members much easier. These meetings can be as formal as a conference room meeting or as informal as a check-in at one’s desk. It can even include quick exchanges over the water fountain.

Reason #2: The film project involves a long-term scale and an uncertain outcome.

As we know, film development takes an extremely long time to complete. While a team diligently puts forth the time and effort needed to create the film, team members have a little voice in each of their heads reminding them that the success of their efforts is entirely unknown. The reality of this causes some members of the team, because of the fear of possible failure or the risk of being replaced, to not fully commit to the team effort. Even if members start the project with high energy and involvement, the long-term nature of the project can quickly undermine this momentum.

In contrast, a company is able to plan for short term goals and quick achievements in order to help keep morale high. With everyone working confidently toward the same goal, the group dynamic is more easily solidified. Film development doesn’t tend to have the quick wins that companies are able to achieve. Despite these risks to the group dynamic,  the long-term scale of a film project does allow for a continuing group relationship, as well as fond memories that successful collaboration can create. The importance of these continuing relationships comes into play in two positive ways: first, they can help to keep the group motivated over time, and second, these relationships can be quite useful when new groups need to be formed for different projects.

Reason #3: The uncertainty of payment causes low motivation.

The developmental stage of filming is necessarily fraught with financial tension. Most of the funds come from production, and no one has a guarantee that the film will be a profitable success. Most corporate employees are salaried. Therefore, the success or failure of these employees’ efforts has little to no impact upon the certainty of payment. Even if these group members fail at a project and get fired, they still know that they will be paid for the effort they produced while still employed.

This uncertainty about payment is less of an issue in television than it is for independent filmmakers. During television development, a commission is typically a part of script creation. The turnaround for a television series is relatively fast, with one agency in place to greenlight the script and to provide swift and clear feedback (as opposed to the filmmaking process, which involves several agencies giving potentially contradictory feedback and the script writer struggling to appease them all).

Meetings tend to occur more often in television development, as well; an existing structure among team members contributes to the relative stability of the team. In addition, characters may already be in place before a script needs to be written, and the storyline may follow a generic expectation that is clear to the audience.

Reason #4: There is no opportunity to learn as a team.

One critical aspect of being a part of a team is the group’s shared ability to learn from the mistakes they make over the course of a project. Business schools, for example, teach their students that they should have regular meetings after a project or task has been completed, so that everyone can review and reflect upon the group’s successes and failures. They ask themselves what went right and what didn’t, and from these answers, the group can determine what they ought to repeat in future projects. In other words, the group learns from its mistakes and plans accordingly for its future projects.

This type of meeting is a near-impossibility for film developers, since most of the people who work on a film project have already left the group and begun other projects by the time the film is complete. The writer will have finished his script and moved on months before film completion; the producer will be focused on the film’s upcoming theatrical release; the director will have finished his role in the film’s creation and will be working on a new movie. This inability to learn from the successes and mistakes made during film production gets compounded by the critics’ reviews and the film’s performance at the box office.

This type of data only gives a short-term view of the film’s creative value, which in the longer run may turn out to be misleading. After all, a fair number of films have been made which performed poorly at first in the box office or which received negative reviews upon release, and these films later went on to become huge hits with the public or at the very least became cult classics. Especially in cases like these, the creation team simply cannot, in most cases, meet to regroup and reflect effectively on the film so long after the end of their involvement.

Conclusion:

For these four reasons, film team members are more likely to remain thinking of themselves as individuals rather than investing themselves in the creation of   a strong team. Indeed, the members may be geared up to jump ship from the project at a moment’s notice.

Too many things can go wrong. For example, a writer could change his mind and go with a different producer, a producer could choose a different writer, or the director could decide to leave the project and find another film to work on. In order for a team to function properly, a common ground between the needs of the individual, the team identity, and the objective must be found. Without this, the possibility for team breakups and task failure will always be high.