What Makes Creative Partnerships Work

In the most exceptional careers, you are often not so alone at the top: for extraordinarily successful people, a long-time partner or small team is often integral to their success. This is especially true of project-based efforts such as create movieswhere the creative person needs a partner to take care of the production side of the business.

Excellence, whatever it is, often involves a mysterious chemistry, but our research suggests that there are distinct patterns for a successful symbiotic relationship during a project, which is often the cornerstone of a partnership at longer term.

In our research, which combined a review and qualitative interviews on symbiotic professional relationships in film with a quantitative study of 235 films made by 105 directors and 65 Italian producers, we found that four factors tend to be good predictors of success:

1. A common vision that goes beyond personal ambitions.

“The main thing is that the director and the producer have the same vision and, above all, the same intention: it is to make the best possible film,” said Nicola Giuliano, the film’s Oscar-winning producer. The great beauty, told us in an interview. Particularly with a young director, this vision can extend beyond the current project. “We’re not only working on your movie, but we’re also working on building your career,” he added.

2. Separate roles.

Giuliano sees the producer, whose job it is to handle the business details of making a film, as playing a separate and subordinate role to that of the director. “Without genius, the very good producer cannot make a good film. It’s always good (for the producer) to have your feet on the ground know what your role is, do it with dedication, consider yourself lucky to be doing the work you love, which is a total privilege,” he said. Paolo SorrentinoDirector of The great beautysays Giuliano defends him from the outside world, helping to filter his demands on Sorrentino.

3. Family proximity.

Another quality shared by the most successful symbiotic careers, perhaps especially in the creative industries, is that the pair often become the nucleus of a large family of employees. For instance, El Deseo (Desire), the production company of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and his producer brother Agustín Almodóvar is a close-knit group, bound by a shared devotion to Pedro’s artistic vision and a deep level of trust among all team members. A strong symbiotic relationship between director and producer sets an example for other members of the team, creating the trust that is essential to achieving the collaboration necessary to overcome the challenges that inevitably arise during the long process of filmmaking. ‘a movie.

4. More than one reputation at stake.

Teams where the producer and director are well known enjoy significant reputational advantages. Our analysis of the Italian film industry between 2010 and 2014 suggests that partnerships where both have a strong reputation are more successful in attracting support than partnerships where only one has a strong reputation.

Interestingly, however, each seems to attract different types of support. In the context of the Italian film industry, we found that the commercial reputation of the producer was crucial in attracting financial support from investors, while the artistic reputation of the director was crucial in gaining cultural support for the film idea in the means of positive ratings of the film script from the Italian Film Council, an agency of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. (A positive rating is important for obtaining government grants. Additionally, it signals a high quality script and that there is a market for the film, which, in turn, helps attract additional private investment.)

The more we thought about the importance of these symbiotic producer-director relationships, the more we began to think that similar relationships are probably equally important in other project-based businesses. Whether the project involves designing a chair, a car, or a vaccine, a strong partnership can serve to mitigate the risk of failure in similar ways.

For example, clearly separating roles and designating a partner as the public face of the team were key to the success of Charles and Ray Eames, the designers of the iconic Eames chair and many other masterpieces of modernism in the mid-century. In their Los Angeles studio, they were equal partners, but Charles’ charisma and expressiveness made him the logical public face of the team, especially in more sexist times. “He was always the one who sat on the committees and gave the speeches,” a longtime employee of the Eames office said Sarah Booth Conroy of the Washington Post.

Similarly, the iconic Mustang project at Ford Motor Company was born when executive, Lee Iacocca, and designer, Carroll Shelby, famous for their reputations in commercial and artistic design respectively, set aside their personal ambitions to a common vision. Shelby recalled later, “Iacocca called me one night and said, ‘You’re telling me you can’t make a sports car out of the Mustang.’ I said I could, but I don’t know if it would be worth it – whether he could make money from it or not. He said, ‘I don’t care if I make money.’

Christopher Paul Bailey’s short three-year career as CEO and creative director of Burberry suggests that role separation is a good rule in fashion as it is in movies. Analysts said that instead of freeing Bailey, her role in both roles confused business and design decisions.

In contrast, when creating the BioNTech-Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, BioTech founder Özlem Türeci considered his relationship with husband and co-founder Uğur Şahin as something more than just teamwork. “It’s a symbiosis, and I think that’s the secret why it works so well… I pick up where Uğur leaves things and vice versa, and we have the same values ​​and standards for what we want to deliver with our work. And that’s why even though we’re married, we can work together in a very functional way.

Whether in film or in another field, the essential quality of a successful symbiotic relationship could be summed up in a term that Giuliano used a lot in our interview: sponda dialettica – a colloquial term meaning that individuals serve as strong sounding boards for each other. Giuliano used it to describe a willingness to stay engaged with each other and with the project over time, despite many ups and downs.

“We are all working for the same goal: to make the best film possible,” said Giuliano. “I’m ready to stay even 10 days locked in an editing room fighting with a director to defend a certain choice, but the director who works with me knows very well that in the end, if there is no agree on a certain choice, I give the last word to the director because I don’t think the producer should decide the final cut (i.e. the final edited version of the film),” he said. “I believe in dialogue.