5 things we wish we knew at the start...
Last year Oddly Even took out TVNZ’s inaugural New Blood Competition after being selected as one of the ten national finalists and then winning a quarter of the public vote. Co-creators, Isla Macleod and Ashleigh Reid, who together wrote, produced and directed the series, here share a few of lessons they learnt about creating content from the ground up.
#1 Scale the size of your project to your budget, what’s in your box?
Match your output for the scale of resources / money you have. With filmmaking, that means writing for your budget. I.e. It’s a lot easier to trim a page of dialogue, than to stretch the money for an extra page that includes new locations, characters and scenes you have to organise (and foot the bill for). You have to balance telling the best story with the most efficient storytelling. And a key thing is to use every resource you can use, borrow, or hire for the classic ol’ box of beers… For example, in our case we knew of two cracking actresses that looked like sisters. Ta da. We wrote a series about two sisters.
#2 Get an accountant… or get good at tax
If you don’t want to have the IRD on your speed dial (we’re not kidding) then find a numbers friend stat. As a registered company (or anyone paying anyone else on a regular basis) you will need to process withholding tax (monthly schedules), GST and filing GST returns, income tax... the list goes on. You can do it all yourself if you need to save coin, but be prepared for the hours you will need to put in to make sure the books are all correct.
#3 Right at the start; organise the end
Set up systems to support your workflow... before it's too late. Every minute spent in prep, saves you an hour down the line. For example in filmmaking attach a DIT to your project if you can BEFORE you start shooting. They will establish filing systems for everything you shoot to keep the transition to post production as smooth as possible. If you don't have the budget for DIT, ask post production networks, editor friends, the network etc to give you advice so you can set up the systems yourself, covering your tracks.
#4 Accept that you will need more plans than there are letters of the alphabet
One of our mottos was “you live, and you learn” because even if you plan for everything to go wrong, something will go wrong that you haven’t thought of. Accept that this is your reality and just roll with the punches. Being a creative can’t kill you (despite feeling this way some days) so if all else fails just learn from your mistakes. Then you’ll know at the very least, you’ve grown as a creator and can take something positive out of the situation.
#5 Surround yourself with an army
Because don’t kid yourself, that’s what being a creator takes. Especially with filmmaking, it's such a collaborative, multi skilled beast, you can’t do it all by yourself. Each person will bring their own magic to the project and you can learn from them; creativity feeds creativity. On the flip side, you are going to be spending a lot of time with your army, so pick them carefully. Not only do they need to do the job, you want them to be the kind of people whose makes 4am call time in the rain just that little bit easier.
Oddly Even is a tale of two sisters; one whose a micro manager, and one whose a complete tornado) who inherit half the family home each and have to learn to get a long. All episodes available to watch now on TVNZ onDemand.