A sense of professionalism

If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well. True dat...

First off, I’d like to talk about what professionalism means for me. While I don’t exactly consider myself as professional as I want to be (I don’t consider myself that far up the ladder), I do have a goal. Professionalism has a few factors. First of all, proficiency.

What is proficiency – well, it’s basically the ability to do your job. As a filmmaker, if you cannot make a good film, you’re not proficient at it – yet. With practice makes perfect, and so the more you do something, the more proficient you get. Professionals do what they do for quite a while. They perfect what they do. Don’t think that you can’t become professional, simply because you aren’t as proficient as you want to be. It’s a journey, and if you’re reading this, you’ve already taken the first steps – starting the journey.

Secondly, there’s being able to work with anyone. Sometimes you’re going to work with great people. At other times you have more skill and experience than another colleague. That’s fine. Virtually anything today means interacting with people – sometimes you know them, sometimes they’re a complete stranger, but overall you need to be able to work with anybody. They can grate on your nerves, they can be complete amateurs, but overall, what you do says more about your professionalism than what they do. If you throw a tantrum because somebody makes a novice mistake, you’re not professional. Sure, everyone has off-days, but if you throw up barriers, at the end of the day, you’re the one delaying – blowing a small mistake out of proportion.

The third thing is knowing how to do your job. This doesn’t mean knowing your routine for getting things done. This means knowing what you should be doing, why and how to do it. If you’re a producer, it’s your job to get clearance on locations. It’s your job to make sure you have the proper authorisation for what you need. It’s also up to you to make sure you’ve documentation for everything – contracts with actors, location agreement forms, hazard protection forms, etc…

Not one of mine, but I found it on the web. It's a location agreement form, and a producer should always fill one of these out - otherwise, you could get burned (metaphorically, unless you're filming on gang lands...)

But those are my main points for being professional. What do some others think about the word? Well, I won’t point fingers at people, but I will shatter a few illusions, as I see them.

  • The money factor. Some people believe being professional is about making more money. The more money a person is paid, the more professional they are. This is rubbish. While professionals get paid a lot for their work, their reputations about their proficiency are the cause of that. Don’t expect to walk into a massive money deal with minimal skills and your client to be pleased. People pay for quality – and people can overestimate their own qualities.
  • Snobbery. This I will discuss a little later. Overall, it’s about looking down on amateurs and hobbyists. Elitism is not a factor for being a true professional.
  • Time within the profession. While some seem to have a natural knack for some things, experience is almost always a factor. No matter how much I think I know about video editing, I know that I won’t consider myself a professional editor for around 10 years. Why? Because it takes time for you to come across contingencies and solving problems you hadn’t even considered. Overall, your skills with one piece of equipment is not enough. You have to know the nature of your job, and to be able to use any equipment in order to succeed in your job.

Now, an explanation of the snobbery part – I’ve (not personally) experienced this recently – one person trying to get into an industry, slagging off another. This is not professional, no matter how good you think you are – or how “bad” you think the other person is. I get how you really want to achieve your goals, but do it by the power and quality of your work, not trying to sabotage a rival. People collaborate – even people that do the same job – look at Spielberg and Lucas. People can often openly see those that are willing to stab others in the back – and they won’t give them the chance to do it to anyone else.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg - Film school people who made it big! Often they collaborate to achieve something neither could do by themselves.

The general points about being professional is this: be proficient, know your craft and don’t be an ass!

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