Inside the Producer’s Corner with Suzanne Lyons
This is a series of articles that film producer and best-selling author Suzanne Lyons (listen to her interview here) will be writing over the next 6 months. I personally asked Suzanne to share her knowledge, experience, and motivation with you the IFH Tribe. Whether you are a director, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter or editor I think you’ll get a ton out of this series. Check back every week for a new post that will help you on your journey as an indie filmmaker.
10 TIPS TO HELP YOU MASTER BEING ACCOUNTABLE
It’s already fall! And I have yet another birthday coming up this week! Oh my God! Time is flying by. It seems the older I get the faster it goes. Time to slow down and take a deep breath. Maybe I’ll even have a glass of Champaign to celebrate. I’m not complaining about getting older. I’m always thrilled to have a birthday to celebrate. I have a blessed life and I’m truly grateful for everyone and everything I have in my life.
Speaking of time, for those of us in the entertainment industry, it’s also the time of year when we get ready for the American Film Market. I always encourage everyone to attend, not just producers. It’s a great place to meet people, do some serious networking and to find out what’s happening in the film industry.
To help a bit in preparation for the AFM this month’s articles will focus on topics and tips that will help you prepare. I’ll talk about how to get a meeting, how to close the deal and how you can best pitch yourself and your projects.
This article is about being accountable because none of the other great stuff I just mentioned will matter if you don’t have the foundation of accountability. It’s probably one of the most important distinctions to master.
If you’re not someone who’s accountable… for example, you don’t keep your word, you don’t show up on time, you don’t go the distance and give 200%, you don’t raise the bar for yourself ongoingly, and you’re always complaining or blaming, then guess what, I don’t want to play with you and I’ll bet no one else in our industry what’s to play with you either. Our business is too expensive and life is just too short to work with people that aren’t accountable.
So, let’s tackle this important topic.
1) WHAT IS ACCOUNTABILITY?
The short version of the Wikipedia definition states that “accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for our actions… encompassing the obligation… to be answerable for consequences.”
Okay, that sounds more than a little painful. That said, I still think that taking it on – really taking it on – can be life-altering. Can you image hanging around with people who kept their word… who did what they said they would when they said they’d do it… no complaints… no excuses. Wouldn’t that be amazing? You’d be raising the bar for each other constantly. How cool is that?
2) TAKE A GOOD HONEST LOOK
I think that most of us are oblivious on some level as to just how sloppy we are when it comes to accountability. So, take a look now. Are you someone who keeps your word… really keeps your word? Who we are to others… who we are (and be) in the world screams loud and clear as to whether or not we are someone who can be counted on to be our word… someone who can be counted on… period.
3) YOUR WORD MATTERS
As I mentioned in the last tip, being our word and being 100% accountable is a grey area at best. “So, I said I’d be there at 9:00 and I showed up at 9:15, big deal… does it really matter?” I promise, it matters, and not just to the person waiting for you, it matters to you. Life does not occur in a vacuum. If you’re sloppy here, chances are you’re sloppy everywhere! Ouch, that hurt.
4) DEFINING YOUR FUTURE
This is something I used to teach in the Flash Forward coaches’ training program and it’s beautifully summed up in a quote I heard ages ago and can’t remember who said it. It goes something like this, “Don’t hold me hostage to who I’ve been. Hold me accountable to who I’m becoming.” When you’re looking at a distinction like this it’s so easy to focus on all the times you weren’t accountable and that’s not what I am trying to do here. It’s all about strengthening our weak areas. Let’s master this amazing distinction and have it define who we are and who
Hold me accountable to who I’m becoming.” When you’re looking at a distinction like this it’s so easy to focus on all the times you weren’t accountable and that’s not what I am trying to do here. It’s all about strengthening our weak areas. Let’s master this amazing distinction and have it define who we are and who
Let’s master this amazing distinction and have it define who we are and who we’re committed to becoming, since who we’ve been is now the past. Don’t waste time going there… “There ain’t no cheese down that tunnel.”
5) RAISING THE BAR
I’m not saying that being accountable is easy. I’ve been working on this for most of my adult life and I’ll no doubt be working on it for the rest of my life. It’s a muscle I have to flex continually. We see so much mediocrity around us it’s easy to get complacent.
I was watching a Tom Peter’s PBS special years ago. He was working as a business consultant with the employees of a company and they were literally arguing for mediocrity. “We’re no worse than anybody else,” they said. Scary, isn’t it?
It had become so much the norm for them, that they didn’t even know the company was crashing. Once they took a serious look at who they’d been being and made a commitment to raise the bar and be 100% accountable for the success of the company it not only impacted the company, it impacted every single employee.
6) IT’S NOT ABOUT BLAME
Accountability is not about blaming yourself or others. For example, if you notice yourself frequently showing up late, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s not about making yourself wrong. It’s about noticing it.
Being conscious and present. And little by little start turning it around, demanding more of yourself… strengthening that accountability muscle. I promise you, when you’re working on accountability in even one area of your life, it will start to affect other areas. It alters and impacts who you are in all aspects of your life.
7) REVOKING A PROMISE
It’s absolutely okay… totally fine. In fact, it’s all part of being accountable. I don’t think that people realize this. I loaned a friend money and he told me I’d get it back by a specific date. I took him at his word. That date came and went and months went by. Not a word from him. It became a little weird and very awkward. All he had to do was call and say,
“Listen, Suzanne, I know that I said that you would have your money by today, but something’s come up and I request that we move the date to two months from today. Is that okay? Does that work for you?”
It would have been absolutely okay with me and if not, then we could have worked something out. It was the not knowing that was crazy. And not calling me to make that request had me And not calling me to make that request had me question (big question!) his integrity, reliability, accountability… you get the picture.
8) THE RIPPLE EFFECT
Sir Joseph Stamp’s quote is perfect here. “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we can’t dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.” I love this. I don’t really have anything to add. The quote says it all!
9) ACCOUNTABILITY TEAM and/or PARTNER
If being accountable is an issue for you, I recommend that you get yourself an accountability partner or team. I’ve mentioned this in previous articles. Having someone hold you accountable to your promises… to your word… helps tremendously. Give it a try.
I once heard a story that when John F. Kennedy was a little boy, he and his friends were playing and trying to get over a big high fence. They tried and tired but just couldn’t get over the fence. Then they tried and tried again but just couldn’t get over the fence.
Then they tried again and still couldn’t get over the fence. Finally, Kennedy took off his hat and through it over the fence. Put something at stake… make a commitment… play big and accountability will become the norm for you… it will become an “of course” for you. It won’t be an issue any longer… this I guarantee.
BONUS EXERCISE: When I was working with my business partner, Heidi Wall, in the Flash Forward Institute years ago, our business coach gave us this exercise to do every three months. She would have us take on one specific distinction each time. Qualities like, Leadership, Integrity, Accountability, Relationship, etc. And the exercise was to take it on as an inquiry during that time period.
We were just to observe who we were in that area. It was not about fixing anything or beating ourselves up if we felt we were weak in that particular area. It was about observing and being conscious and aware.
For example, I had always thought I was pretty powerful in the area of leadership, but when I actually took the time to observe myself I was surprised at how many times I didn’t step up to the plate. It turned out that I was actually weak in the area of leadership, and knowing that I was then able to start to put in support structures, exercises, and tools to help me flex that leadership muscle.
So, in regard to accountability, I suggest you take it on as an inquiry through the entire month of October and really honestly observe who you are in this arena.
Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date. She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry. She recently launched a game-changing online course called Indie Film Producing Masterclass with Suzanne Lyons. She’s the author of Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking published by Focal Press. She has also hosted over 125 informational videos on the film industry. When time permits she does private career and business coaching. Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles, CA.
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- Filmmaking Hacks: Filmmaking Master Course
- Directing Actors Film Workshop
- USC Film School’s ONLY Online Course: Directing the Actor
- Film Lighting MasterClass
- Recording Sound for Indie Film
- The Art of Micro-Budget Filmmaking
- Cinematography MasterClass
- Film Festival Hacks: Submit Like a Pro
- Self-Distributing Your Film Online
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