STRATEGY & TACTICS in Filmmaking
by Frederick Bailey
Strategy is a military term meaning the planning and managing of large-scale operations, maneuvering your strengths into the most advantageous position prior to actual engagement with opposition forces.
What are opposition forces? Anything that offers resistance. Weather, disgruntled crew, noisy on-lookers, unreliable locations. You might even have somebody deliberately working to undermine your efforts.
If you’re a filmmaker, you have to exercise the same skills in managing a production, whether large or small. Filmmaking is working with other people, shaping them into a force that can get you where you need to go.
Strategy is also defined as skill in managing, especially by using stratagem against the opposition.
What’s a Stratagem? It’s a trick, a scheme, a device or deception used against a challenger, competitor, or enemy.
What about tactics? How’s that different from strategy? Tactics means arranging and maneuvering forces while in action against the opposition. It’s any skillful methods used to gain an end or achieve a desired result.
You want to make movies? You have to plan. You can’t wing it. You lay out your plans because then you’re ready for anything. You don’t necessarily have to stick to them.
Engaging an opponent–like bad weather or not enough time–may compel you to rethink your moves while in action, which is why it’s important to consider alternatives before you get involved in the tumultuous action of war…or of filmmaking.
As the military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu said 2,500 years ago:
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Frederick Bailey teaches Directing at IAFT-LA.