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5 Key Insights About Creative Collaboration from the HP Living Progress Exchange

Filmmakers and companies convened live from Sundance for a conversation about partnerships for social change.

This post is from our sponsor, HP. We think they have an important message to share.

Like a marriage, a partnership between a filmmaker and a company is worth working for because when it’s good, it’s very, very good.

The HP Livng Progress Exchange, live from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

That was just one conclusion of the HP Living Progress Exchange (LPX) discussion forum at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on January 24. The LPX, hosted by HP and moderated by BRITDOC, a UK-based foundation that supports documentary filmmaking, brought independent filmmakers and distributors together with marketing consultants and corporate leaders, to explore how artists and companies can collaborate more effectively to drive social change.

Chris Librie, Senior Director of HP Living Progress Strategy and Communications, and Jess Search, BRITDOC CEO, were joined in conversation by:

  • \nLauren Greenfield, artist, documentary photographer and filmmaker
  • \nJeremy Boxer, Creative Director, Film + Video VIMEO / Director Vimeo Festival
  • \nBrian Newman, marketing and distribution consultant, currently working with Patagonia
  • \nWendy Levy, Director of New Arts Axis, Senior Consultant with the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, and Co-Founder of Sparkwise
  • \nMeg Galloway Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing Officer, Conservation International

The group shared examples of successful collaborations that have driven powerful results—such as Conservation International’s “Nature is Speaking” campaign, Lauren Greenfield’s collaboration with the P&G brand Always on the “Like a Girl” commercial, and the Patagonia-commissioned documentary, DamNation. Another lively topic was the important role technology plays in helping distribute stories to more and new audiences.

Building on the LPX discussion, HP and BRITDOC invited the GOOD community into the conversation during a live Twitter chat January 25 hosted by @GOOD and presented by HP. Five key insights about collaboration arose from both discussions:

1. Align on values.

Successful collaborations depend on both sides remaining true to their core values. Aligning on core values builds a foundation of trust from the beginning. As one participant explained, “As long as you go into your partnership knowing what you are about and with the conviction that you are going to be true to that—and if you know that the partner is going to be true to that—you’ll get to the end and there will be something better there.”

Remaining true to your values also helps you evaluate opportunities, so you know when to engage and when to walk away. As one person said, “We may be a starving documentary filmmaker, but we need to be careful about who we take money from and how much money we take.”

2. Be clear about control.

Like any collaborative project, problems arise where there is question about who has control and when. Sometimes companies retain creative control; other times, the filmmaker has full control. Often it’s a blend with each controlling certain aspects of the project. The key to a successful collaboration isn’t in who has control, but rather that everyone is clear and understands the boundaries of that control. This has to be clarified at the outset, agreed upon, and respected throughout the process.

3. Trust in each other’s expertise.

When you start a new collaboration, trust can be hard for both sides. Partners typically have to feel each other out first. But with these types of collaborations, typically it’s not a blind trust. There is a reason you’ve come together—generally because you like and respect what the other has done before. The key is reminding yourself to carry that respect and trust with you as the project unfolds.

4. Be transparent.

One of the real strengths of an artist and company collaboration is that each side brings very different expertise and tools to the table. Being transparent and sharing insights you may have captured along the way—particularly about outcomes—helps both sides demonstrate the value of these collaborations. That paves the way for more stories to be told, and more social change to be made.

5. Take a risk.

In the end, the LPX participants concluded that the rewards of these collaborations can far outweigh the risks. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy. As one person noted, even perfect couples sometimes tussle. It’s by working through those challenges, with both sides being willing to give a little without sacrificing their core values, that you land some place even better.

When it’s done right, that “rare perfect marriage” between a filmmaker and company can create something that both amplifies a brand message and drives social engagement beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

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