Why everyone should collaborate a random creative thing or two?

MissMissM (she/her)
Challenge Next Level
10 min readMay 2, 2021


Photo by Kate Oseen— Creative collaboration for self-improvement

Making a film or a video can be a simple affair but did it ever teach you much about collaboration or keeping your ego in check whilst delivering something you didn’t think was possible?

By doing something creative under the pressure within a tight timeline outside from your regular work and comfort zones can teach you all these things with other people, if you let it that is.

This isn’t a new challenge

If you happen to be in New Zealand there is a great yearly film competition called 48 Hours NZ which has not been emulated much elsewhere.

Imagine 437 teams across a tiny country of 5 Million people making 396 unique short films all created from scratch using the same constrained elements within a very short time during the global pandemic :)

If you look at the screening room of 48 Hours festival, many of these people did it the very first time in their lives and you and your team can do it too :)

Other formats than film

You could do even a podcast, a book or whatever but film is pretty good as it has many disciplines to draw from and where the technical knowledge fuses with the creativity from where one has to plan everything, execute and then fix in the post(tm)

With Podcast/book people also often drop to their comfort zones with the content they are familiar and this format doesn’t require a lot of concerted effort in a tight timeline requiring a lot of pressure — making a film in a weekend will mean working under a lot of pressure.

Here is a challenge for you.

  • Form a team of four (?) including yourself as the producer
  • Name the team but don’t obsess over it
  • Block and Schedule a full weekend including Friday night
  • Discipline Raffle your roles and responsibilities and stick to it
  • Constrain yourselves to deliver
  • Use What You Got (tm)
  • Accountability to constructively learn to grow from failure
  • Align the Mindsets — LEAVE THE EGOS HOME
  • Make it Fun but not too fun either.

Form a team

This can be a random set of unknowns or people you know but do not necessarily expect to stay friends after this exercise in worst case when working under the pressure under a tight timeline if you are not prepared/used to it ;)

By having unknowns this will probably have the greatest learning potential as if you do this with your friends/colleagues etc. you may fall into the echo chamber a bit and the existing power dynamic may influence too much the exercise tainting it — unless you can drop the power dynamic for the experiment.

Small team with less moving parts?

My own most early collaboration experience on film project was a set of 16+ randoms when people just randomly invited their friends and friends of friends which created interesting mesh power dynamic between clusters of people as none of these people had any experience from a professional set —

In a professional set typically everyone knows what their job is as the productions everywhere use the same production mechanics, with the same titles/structure/disciplines where people naturally conform to as the nature of the business is to work ad-hoc with a lot of people across different productions.

Chaos can be good too?

It would be understatement to say that my early experience was a bit chaos but at least we delivered despite some drama — people learned heaps the hard way including myself.

Four people lets you explore the dynamic more intimately controlled without necessarily any power clusters forming up which can taint and dilute the exercise.

If you don’t mind or even embrace the chaotic learning experience go big and random if you want :)

Name the team

If you fail here it will just tell you cannot proceed until you stop failing :)

A true Collaborative process is neither a traditional democracy nor a dictatorship.

Democracy plays on the relationship driven elective biases and on the other hand dictatorship doesn’t play on anything leaving the process a single point of failure.

Ideally the leader knows how to ask the right questions from all the associated disciplines but not micromanage either but that’s whole another topic.

To name the team you can simply raffle it but make sure people don’t know who wrote and what — let it stay as a secret to avoid all the biases latching on it.

Block and Schedule

This is where the first excuses typically start appearing.

You need a weekend, not less and not more — no excuses.

Do not let these excuses dictate the team and drag you down — if the person who keeps dragging this process down and is not willing to commit — maybe drop them and find someone else more motivated.

People who come up with excuses at this stage when blocking time often do not like being out of their comfort zone — that’s fine they will be perhaps ready to learn when they become a bit more self-aware about jumping on things that require commitment — but they will be not be much use to you as a producer wanting to get things done.

Do not tolerate lateness

Often these people give all sorts of excuses by being late too— if you have casual meetup watch closely who comes late and make this expectation clear that it will not happen during the weekend as there is no room for this in the collaborative process.

It can be infectious

Worst case is you have several people doing that but then just go back to drawing board and find the people who are willing to commit honestly and who are self-aware and mindful about other’s time — it can be huge drag on the team motivation.

Set the expectations

It is also important to set the expectation when forming the team and perhaps it would be an idea to block and schedule the weekend when approaching these friends — and make sure they are free then and block the whole weekend right there and then and have clear expectation about the time constraints.

Nothing is worse than people not showing up — or showing up late.

You need to do the below:

  • Write a script of your creative outlay
  • Execute it
  • Fix it in Post (tm)

Discipline Raffle

If you are making a film or a video, who ever organizes the team will be the producer — nobody else — this will be as much as about holding disciplines as it is about respecting each other whilst holding the accountability together without introducing overhead for unnecessary ad-hoc decision making.

To avoid any relationship biases and existing power dynamic you may want to raffle the disciplines — which everyone needs to stick with — no excuses.

Manage the excuses early

This is also the moment people potentially start showing excuses about they can’t do something —and potentially fail in graceful playful manner which they are afraid of — people who perhaps have stopped learning and refuse to learn are going to be challenging to manage on their expectations.

Allow it to be playful but constrained playful

Photo by Soundtrap

In the end this is a playful environment that allows a graceful failure under the constrained pressure and people who still fear at this point will be a problem to succeed in this exercise — manage the expectations.

There must be no idle/empty hands and it is better not to invite any extras to taint/dilute the learning process.

The below are the minimum disciplines you need to raffle out

Off/On set;

  • Director (creative)— do not let this role take anything else

On set;

  • Acting — can have off-set roles but again — don’t multitask except cameo.
  • Camera — No other on-set roles
  • Sound — No other on-set roles

Off set Pre-/Post-;

  • Editor — Do not let your editor be writer or director
  • Writer — Do not let your writer be editor or director

If you do not have the clear expectation of disciplines it will become unmanageable mess where you may need to check up about everything and get less done compared to when everyone fits together on their select ad-hoc disciplines.

One day you can be a director, one day you can be the sound recordist and one day you can be the camera and one day you can act etc.. leading you to understand how things fit together and perhaps respect each other a bit more with the knowledge — most amateur productions are adversarial towards sounds recordists as camera is seen often more important and people typically don’t understand how much things the microphones pick up :)

This is why I like the raffle bit for mixing up the disciplines so people challenge themselves — some people will be up in defensive but manage expectations that this will happen for reasons of learning exercise and allay they fears of failure.

People need to learn to rely, trust and respect others thru dependency

Depending on the size of your team they may or may not have both off and on set discipline — wearing less amount of hats cultivates the ability to focus.

When you outline the disciplines for each one of you may not need to think/debate/argue/fight about everything as the expectation is clear who owns what — there is no time for the democracy but rather accountability to ensure the collaborative successful delivery — it’s not a pissing match or who kisses the most babies a.k.a politics so let’s not treat is as such ;)

This is also where the self-awareness comes at play — or their want/need of control — you will see every character with any sort of ambition (or not) suddenly wanting to be the director yet not necessarily understanding what comes what is required.


This is the biggest hack of all to deliver — constrain yourselves!

The examples can be:

  • Make it a single room or a car / other enclosed that doesn’t move movie
  • Raffle your elements to include — technical, character name etc.
  • Make it seven seconds (micro) or one (mini) or seven minute (short) long
  • Aim it for the Mobile short film festival (shoot on mobile device)

Avoid anything pre-made e.g. dictated forced ideas as it will not challenge the whole team as a whole collaborative unit.

You can of course use existing wardrobes, locations and such but anything creative must be come up during the exercise.

I once dropped a producer who refused to play by the rules (whilst framing the whole exercise thru this collaborative playful format — nothing wrong if one labels it and sets the expectations correctly) and just wanted to shoot something the producer had come up a year earlier alone despite promising to the team the collaborative experience where all the things need to be come up during the weekend by the format.

You can use the 48 Hours NZ example genres/elements if you are stuck or draw from a raffle where each one of you write one for each element category you decide on to constrain yourselves.

Use What You Got (tm)

Photo by Kelly Sikkema— Sound is very important

I have typically love/hate relationship with a lot of tested gear but I never blame any of the bits — only their limitations/quirks/features need to be understood and often I don’t adopt a piece unless it fits both my workflow and to the story.

Just use what you have or rent it off for the weekend, today you can do good production values with a phone camera, tablet and perhaps a radio mic kit that fits the workflow — for sound gear you get more what you pay for compared to say the camera department.

If you are willing to dish it out, you can rent a boom mic kit but these are rarely up for rent unless you live in U.S/Canada where the market is big.

Camera wise I started with VHS/Beta/DigiBETA video cameras, picking up the “hobby” again with XDCAM/DSLR cameras whilst also making stuff with just the regular phone camera — any can really do.

For editing you can just download the Luma fusion app and for script writing (screenwriting) I can recommend Writerduet which is free and very simple to use.

Bottom line is..

Get obsessed with the story and don’t get obsessed with tools.. too much :)


As a producer it is essential to ensure everyone owns and delivers but do not direct creatively unless you were assigned that role as well.

It is very easy to hog a role thru over promising and then not deliver.

Director will be in the end responsible for all the creative aspects.

A bad director will say hog the camera obsessively forgetting all the acting whilst a good director will knows how to talk, ask and motivate in a collaborative manner using (but not wearing) all the hats — yet not being the politician staying off the action whilst avoiding the responsibility.

This is also where the human feedback mechanism comes prevalent and most learning can be done managing the power dynamics thru respect and trust.

Align the Mindsets

This cannot be under emphasized, as a producer you can’t be a pushover.

As a producer you must create crystal clear expectations over all above mentioned and also enforce them tirelessly no b.s., no excuses and absolutely no egos —and neither the passive aggressive or the aggressive kind — neither from your or others end.

You need to give the people the reason why and motivate from that as dictating without a reason is not going to go anywhere.

In making creative projects often though it is necessary that one learns thru failure and this needs to be treated as such — expectation should be again that it is playful environment with room to gracefully fail.

But all this needs to be done without egos and needs to be over emphasized.

Perhaps ask everyone individually what are they going to do to leave their ego home?

If anyone says they don’t have any ego — they are wrong or just plain lack of self-awareness.

Make it Fun

The benchmark will be that how fun you are able to make it and how smoothly it will flow together without making it too much fun as —

Every now and then people try to turn this thing into a strict social outing where the pre-existing power dynamics of human relationships(tm) come evident — it can be off boredom, fear of failure etc.

It is all about the balance and continuous learning,

Good luck :)