"A good time to be original" - lessons from the movie industry

In the early days of knowledge management, organisations focused on maximising the value of the workforce.  New structures and ways of working were explored.  One of these structural models involved the creation of ‘dream teams' to tackle specific projects.  The teams might cut across hierarchies and departments but the members would be chosen as being the most appropriate for the project.  The right people at the right time would come together, deliver a project successfully and disperse into new project teams.This model was often referred to as a ‘film production' model.  A film producer's role is to bring together the right script, talent, funding, marketing and distribution to deliver a successful project.  What, then, can we learn from film producers?Tim Bevan is co-founder and co-chairman of the UK's most successful film production company.  Working Title, founded in 1992, is responsible for such films as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Atonement; Fargo and Bridget Jones's Diary.Tim was the guest at the ninth annual Olive Till Memorial Debate, held at Goldsmiths College in London this month.  Interviewed by Mike Goodridge, the editor of Screen International, he shared insights into the business of making movies and some significant transferable lessons learned.

  • Don't be afraid to learn as you go - Try to learn something concrete after every project.  His work on an early project (My Beautiful Launderette) not only taught him the process of film-making but also helped him focus on what really interested him - the business and creative sides of getting films made.
  • The power of creative partnerships - and of team selection.  In film-making, talent relationships are everything.  Tim has had long-lasting and successful partnerships with people who trust him and understand how he works.   Face to face meetings have proved more informative to him than show reels when it comes to choosing partners.  Sometimes completely counter-intuitive appointments are the most successful (Ang Lee was certainly not the obvious choice to direct Sense and Sensibility)
  • Challenge and push you team - Despite having trusted teams around you, remember that most team leaders will ask for more budget than they really need!  By challenging them appropriately and collaboratively, sometimes wonderful, creative solutions arise.
  • Ensure projects are sufficiently resourced- When resources are tight, you might end up having to complete a project simply because you have spent so much on it already and need to claw some back.
  • Balance your portfolio - Working Title may be working on 60 projects at one time - although many will never be pursued to completion.  They have always balanced box office/commercial hits with other films
  • Speed is sometimes the enemy of thought - when it comes to newer technologies such as digital editing, the simplification of the technology means that some processes become less ‘considered'
  • Dare to be different - particularly in the current climate, other movie makers might prefer to play safe, creating the same movie over and again.  But for those who are steeped in an independent spirit, this is the perfect time to be creative, take a chance and go down a different path.
 [The Olive Till Memorial Debate and Bursary are presented by Stewart Till CBE, CEO Icon Entertainment and Deputy Chair Skillset, in memory of his mother]