6 Things I Learned from Organizing a Filmmaking Workshop

From here on, I will be posting more about my social entrepreneurial antics. That’s right. This guy’s heading an NGO now. It’s called MetaStory and we have recently organized our first event–workshop on short filmmaking.

We had Lee Michael Cohn from LA Film School teaching Screenwriting and Directing, Miyegombo Alyeksandr doing a lecture on screenwriting, Khishigzaya B on acting, and Namuun Zet and Aurora Entertainment filmmakers teaching cinematography, and finally, Arena Multimedia’s Shijirbat teaching Editing.
This workshop is funded by the US Embassy and we had most of the workshop hosted at Kino Cafe.
To tell you the truth, it was a stressful thing for many reasons. One, since we received this grant we had had a fallout with most of our co-founders (I might write a out it some day), I decided to go under a rock, and had delayed this workshop for about a year, so I had my reputation on the line. Two, because the rest of my co-founders were not available, I ended up doing the most on my own (well, I had the help of my fiancée, younger brother, volunteers, and many friends and partners). But get this, I found several strands of gray hair during this workshop. I mean, talk a out dutiful service, huh?

Anyway, the workshop was organized and announced with tight deadlines, organized with shortage of manpower and proper planning–but it was received wonderfully well, all thanks to our passionate participants. Sigh. So what did I learn from this?

  1. You have to prepare for meetings

  2. After the fallout, I set up meetings with my new set of co-founders and called them to meet me. I could tell they were committed to our vision after the pitch, but I set up too many meetings afterwards, where I basically prepared nothing. It takes effort and time to organize meetings, especially for startups, where co-founders will have full time job. I prepared so little that our meetings went week after week where I was talking the same thing, promising to do something I am not capable (like doing an infograph on my own), and most importantly, not putting much follow-up on paper. Now, I have in the past practiced printing out meeting outline and jotting down action plans, so I will go with the Mongolian version from now on. Yeah, printing it out is important.

  3. It helps if your significant other is supporting you

  4. I can’t stress this enough. I was burned out and had given up on organizing this workshop until my fiancée convinced me otherwise. Not only that, she connected me with Mr. Miyegombo, who made all the difference in the future of the implementation, she ended up discovering Kino Cafe and she stuck with me with pep talk and company (and taking over many errands), despite the fact she’s on her third trimester (oh yeah, we’re expecting). She truly went above and beyond in helping me. l couldn’t have done it on my own.

  5. Some tasks are simpler than you expect.

  6. There were many things that I put off, because I thought it had to be done by multiple people or that I didn’t have enough expertise, such as communicating with teachers on the deliverables, developing an application form, conducting phone interview, even printing handouts and registration sheets and buying refreshments and stationeries. In hindsight I should’ve delegated some of these, but in this case, I was surprised at how easy some tasks were once you clocked in the hours and used some of my past experiences. But most importantly, if you’re under a big deadline. For example, once the application forms for the interview poured in, I envisioned setting up a team to judge whom to admit. But my co-founders were unavailable, and I hadn’t recruited any volunteers yet, so I did it on my own. We had announced our workshop on many Facebook groups, with few days left till the deadline. So we had about 35 application forms over the 72 hours or so. I stressed about calling them until nigh the deadline and did it anyway–and you know what? It wasn’t too bad.

  7. You can’t succeed without help from friends and volunteers

  8. It’s not like I did everything on my own. I couldn’t have done it withiut my friends, too. For instance, the poster was made by friend Sukhee who’s a talented designer (he also illustrated my mythical creatures post in Mongol Angle), my man Duk was all hands when I needed setting up Internet connection in the venue, and Aagii helped me when the Embassy cash was coming in a week after the workshop and I was in a tight spot. Who have I left?

    Volunteers: I also had the help of a passionate kid Ikhee, who came all the way from Darkhan to man the technical side of the Hangout with Mr. Cohn. My brother Sanchir helped me with small errands. Boyo and Sanchirka from Toastmaster’s (actually brought in by my co-founder who was unavailable) for helping set the refreshments during the first few days. Who else? (I’ll get back to this once I remember more)

  9. Don’t delay something you can do today to tomorrow

  10. I think I read this line somewhere while googling ‘how to organize workshop’ and it stuck in my head. The more things you do earlier, the easier it will be later on. If you delay them, you get a heap of things accumulated, massive panic attack and strands of gray hair. I think it helped that I worked more than my normal 8 hours, that I was fully committed to this, because my contract with ADB had ended. I don’t know why I thought I could do this while working full time, but if I prepared things earlier it might’ve gone without a cinch.

  11. Training the right people makes the whole thing worthwhile

  12. When I made the application form, I had the kids from MMF Facebook group in mind. You should check them out if you don’t know them. The people there really know their films, and while they can be a bit haughty to newbies, it showed me that movie knowledge is a veritable indicator of passionate filmmaker. Anyway, so I included questions like who won the Academy Awards in 1994 in the application form and also asked them to pitch their movie ideas. I also put English and time commitment as criteria. The result was a passionate and competent group of participants who learned proactively and made everything a rewarding experience. As Dale Carnegie puts it, “We are creatures of emotions, not logic” after all.

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