Doing Business is Hard

Applebox Cinema Co. officially “opened its doors” on February 7th, 2017 which means we’ve been in business for a whopping 144 days. It has been a roller coaster of emotions, great work, pretty good work, fun, excitement, fear and learning a lot about who I am as a filmmaker and a business owner.

While working at both of my last two video production jobs, I tried to remember things that my bosses did (or didn’t do) that were representative of good leadership. I learned a lot about who I wanted to be as a leader. Even if I hadn’t started Applebox Cinema, a director is basically the boss on set. Not only are they in charge of the overall direction of the film, but they have to manage everyone on set and make sure the work is getting done on time and on budget while still adhering to the director’s creative vision.

I try really hard to be a good leader at Applebox Cinema. My partner, cinematographer Derek Donovan, is very patient with me as I figure out how to run a business, get new work, take care of our current clients and create work that fits our client’s needs. And while I usually pride myself on being an uncompromising director, you don’t get much work done when you don’t compromise. I have to keep reminding myself that my way isn’t always the best way, and that my partner also wants to be proud of our work, and sometimes I just need to let it go.

For me, the hardest part about running a business is trying not to let fear take over. I worry that we won’t get any work next month. I worry that the work we’re doing isn’t “good enough” to get us more work. I constantly compare our gear, our editing, our color corrections, etc. with other agencies in the area, and wonder why we can’t do something “like that.” Social media is also a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I need to constantly be posting new content and interacting with peers in order to build our brand and generate a bigger following. On the other hand, I see “Production Company X” in Charlotte is shooting a big-budget commercial, using the RED Weapon 5K Cinema Camera, and I get jealous that Applebox Cinema doesn’t get to play with those toys and shoot a fancy commercial.

But then I remember that no one ever posts on Facebook about how slow last month was, or about how they don’t have any gigs coming up. No one posts a photo of them sitting around, hoping that a new client will call and offer them a big job. But that’s the reality of running a small business. And while I have a very grand vision for the future of Applebox Cinema, and I’m extremely impatient that we haven’t reached those goals yet… it has only been 144 days.

In the next 144 days I will try to be a better leader. I’ll try to compromise more and worry less. I’ll try to create a more fun, open and collaborative working environment with Derek and our clients, and I will trust in the fact that we’re actually really good at what we do, and our big break is just around the corner.

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