Tito and Me (and The Stagg Do)
Terry Tito Franco
Reproduced from director James DeMarco's blog.
Terry Francona will always be remembered as the most successful Red Sox manager of all time, and his recent dismissal has left me (and probably most of Red Sox Nation), feeling a bit depressed. But after the infamous September swoon, someone had to pay the price.
Don’t get me wrong, “Tito’s” 8-year-tenure as Sox manager wasn’t perfect. Sometimes he backed slumping players for too long (e.g. Carl Crawford, Tim Wakefield and others). Some critics thought he should’ve called out John Lackey for staring him down during his all-too-frequent visit to the pitcher’s mound to mercifully pull Lackey from the game.
The main rap on Tito was that he was too much of a ‘players’ manager, which I guess translates to - he was too soft on the players, i.e. he was a weak manager. Even if that were true, he always had his players’ backs. During his tenure, he never publicly humiliated or dressed down any member of the team, rarely giving the carnivorous Boston Media anything to exploit. He reserved his ire, concern or criticism for behind closed doors, out of the lime light, away from the sharks. I’m sure most of the players respected him for it.
The reason why I bring all this up is that I can see a little of myself in Terry Francona. When it comes to filmmaking, I don’t believe in shouting at, castigating or humiliating any members of the cast and crew in public. My motto has always been to treat people the way you want to be treated. So if someone makes a mistake, and let’s face it we all do, you take them aside privately and try to resolve it without letting it interfere with the bigger picture, namely trying to make the best film possible - or as Zahra said when I first moved to the UK, “don’t take any shit and don’t give any shit.”
Unfortunately, it seems as if a lot of film people view this type of management as a sign of being weak. In my admittedly limited experience on sets, I’ve found that for some strange, twisted reason, some filmmakers enjoy seeing the Director or Producer having a go at crew in public view. It’s almost as if shouting and humiliating a crew member is a way to gain credibility and respect - to show everyone who’s boss! I’m sorry, but that seems pretty fucked up to me.
I don’t think it’s necessary, and, more important, I don’t think it works. Why would it? Studies have proven that this type of management is unsuccessful in child rearing, and definitely not a productive strategy in business management. In fact I would surmise that when you chastise a cast or crew member in front of his peers or colleagues, he or she is more likely to spend the rest of the shoot conjuring up ways to get back at you and/ or your production. And nobody wants that.
What I find worst about the shout and humiliate style of management is that it’s often inconsistent, primarily aimed at the weakest of the crew or the newbies. Take my recent film “The Stagg Do” for example - do you really think that any member of management would have the balls to shout at Pob or Craig? I doubt it. Well, maybe Zahra, but only if they shouted at her first.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if it is in your DNA that you must really act like a prick, then act like a prick. Scream, shout, humiliate - you have my blessing. But at least be consistent about it. Don’t just shout at the defenseless intern and turn a blind eye to other, more intimidating members of cast or crew. Because that makes you a hypocrite.
Which brings me back to Terry Francona, just because a person doesn’t rant, rave or humiliate members of his cast, crew or TEAM, doesn’t mean he’s not passionate about his job or project. Nor does it mean that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.
The independent film industry seems to have this unwritten code that management must appear and behave in a certain way, which includes acting like a callous twat on set. As I’ve said many times before - this is filmmaking, we’re not saving lives. This is supposed to be fun! The film set doesn’t have to look like a war zone or Carrie’s night at the highschool prom. In retrospect, I believe that having a relaxed film set (or even relaxed baseball *team*) is nearly impossible to achieve with people screaming, berating, blaming and backstabbing their coworkers.
You can always bet on certain things going wrong on a no-budget shoot: i.e. actors forgetting lines or arriving late; key crew members becoming ill or having to quit because of other paying gigs; props not working, the weather being shit (especially in the North East of England), running out of time in a location, etc. etc. etc... but whether you’re a baseball manager or a film director, what you don’t expect is your team to quit on you - that really is unforgivable. As the late great Vince Lombardi said: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.”
Would I do it all again? Of course. Despite all the problems, pain and hardship we endured during our 8-day shoot, in the end we still made a feature film. That in itself is far better than not making a film. When I think back to the day in late April when Pob and I came up with the premise of “The Stagg Do”, the turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable. I wrote the script in less than a month. The entire project was put together in a matter of weeks. Some amazing stuff.
I’ll continue to take away the positives from the shoot, and look at the negatives as just part of the filmmaking experience. Just like Tito Francona, I will live and learn.
Will try our best to keep this busy during the shoot and post-production.