Company/Organization Profiles | Film Funding | Film School & Education | Filmmaking | Local Industry | Massachusetts

Collaboration: The Key to Success

30 Apr , 2011  

Written by K. Correia | Posted by:

With 2011 fully underway, a new Executive Director, and an upcoming conference, The Filmmakers Collaborative is helping filmmakers in Re-Defining Collaboration in a Fractured Media World without losing sight of the traditional and conservative values of storytelling.

The Filmmakers Collaborative first came into being in 1986 when a group of local filmmakers banded together to form a non-profit organization that not only provided fiscal sponsorship, but also mutual support among filmmakers. In the years since, it has sponsored over 65 films and projects, and administered more than $15 million in grants and donations from sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. Films sponsored by the Collaborative have received both national and international acclaim and have been featured prominently on PBS.

The Collaborative itself is a mutual support network of prominent and prestigious filmmakers/members. The growth of the Collaborative’s membership and national presence are just two goals that Lesley Norman has as the new Executive Director. Currently, the Collaborative offers three types of membership levels. The Community Member and Friends levels are non-project specific memberships and are geared to those interested in filmmaking and meeting other filmmakers. However, the primary membership is the Project Member.

If a filmmaker is looking for funding or “if a filmmaker is getting funding from a foundation or private source… that requires a 501(c)3, a non-profit to fund to,” the filmmaker is invited to apply for sponsorship by submitting the treatment, budget, a fundraising strategy, and information regarding the main production staff, to the Collaborative for review. Once the project is approved, the filmmaker becomes a Project Member with the Collaborative as its fiscal sponsor. “We work with filmmakers as their fiscal sponsor, but that’s not all we do,” says Norman. The Collaborative is hands on with its sponsorship of a film and its support of a filmmaker.

In conjunction with helping filmmakers, the Collaborative set out to educate the community on social, global, and cultural issues as well as filmmaking in general. It has achieved this with programs such as Film Talks, in which filmmakers present and screen their films to diverse audiences in various locations across New England. The goal is to raise audience awareness of social and cultural issues presented in the film through discussion of the film.

In addition to Film Talks, the Collaborative also offers an annual conference titled Making Media Now. The conference is a “mix of traditional and forward thinking,” says Norman. The daylong conference includes seminars, consultations, and a trade show. It is considered an ideal environment for filmmakers to connect with one another.

Norman, who holds multiple program Emmy awards and an Edward R. Murrow award, assumed the role of Executive Director in September of 2010. She has taken charge of the annual Making Media Now conference, which is taking place this year on May 6th at Bentley University in Waltham, MA. Norman and Associate Director Jennifer Kaplan are working diligently to ensure the success of the conference, whose topic this year is Re-Defining Collaboration in a Fractured Media World.

One of the main obstacles that filmmakers face these days is project funding. This year’s conference will concentrate greatly on the partnership or collaboration between filmmakers and film funders in the ever-changing media landscape. The conference is holding a discussion panel on Corporate Social Responsibility in terms of what society expects from businesses, what role the media plays and how each community can support one another without sacrificing their ideas, values, and most importantly, their voice. The “demand of the public,” says Norman, is a challenge that faces businesses and filmmakers alike.

People are no longer content with rehashed story lines and bland marketing tactics. They are looking for high quality films that reach out to them, films that educate them in the issues of the day and speak to them about their own concerns regarding life and the world. “No matter how you release your work and what medium you release your project, story is always key and that doesn’t change,” says Norman. The value of story and storytelling is fundamental to the success of a film.

A film or project can take place in interesting locales or be shot in a new and exciting technique with state of the art equipment, but without a strong and provocative story, the film or project fizzles. “It’s not enough now to just produce a film… there are multi-platforms that everyone’s learning…” says Norman. The conference will focus on how to provide the public with such high quality films using social media and outreach campaigns, and non-traditional forms of distribution.

The conference will also include one-on-one consultations with established production, legal, and marketing experts. As is the case with most conferences, attendees will have the opportunity to network with Collaborative members and other filmmakers from around the region. The Making Media Now conferences are open to both Collaborative members and the general public.

Increasing the services that the Collaborative offers to its members and industry professionals is another goal Norman hopes to attain in the future with an increase in the number of conferences held each year. With the addition of smaller conferences concentrating on specific aspects of filmmaking and through in depth workshops, the filmmaker will grow in their craft and in turn create successful films.

Growth of the filmmaker and growth of the collaboration among filmmakers are what the Filmmakers Collaborative has been about since its inception. Its tradition of mutual support and its progressive ideals demonstrate that collaboration, not only among filmmakers, but between filmmakers and film funders, of ideas, of opinions, and of viewpoints, across any medium or industry, is the key to success.

For more information on the conference, please visit

For more information on the conference, please visit