On May 10th, I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel called “Courting Brands” as part of the Toronto Webfest in Canada, which screens original web series and features industry panels covering a wide range of digital topics and genres throughout the three-day festival.
From the moment I arrived on Friday night until I left on Sunday afternoon, one thing was apparent: kindness and team work are at the top of the list of priorities amongst Toronto-based web creators. Here is the anatomy of a successful festival and why team work matters.
The Toronto Community
I was taken out to dinner, invited to participate in interviews and podcasts, introduced to so many talented people, and I didn’t have to work hard on making all of that happen. It was the community that mingled, arranged, was generally just open with each other and genuinely interested in everyone’s work. Conversations happened naturally and often turned into mutual exchange of ideas and brainstorming solutions for challenges we are still facing in the digital world (e.g. funding and marketing).
While of course everyone wants to succeed, there was no sense of “backstabbing” competition, but rather a healthy environment of trust and mutual collaboration. I have a feeling that if I hadn’t returned to LA, I would by now probably be helping out on someone’s set in Toronto and love it!
One aspect about this collaborative environment that stuck out to me, was that you were able to feel absolutely comfortable sharing ideas and early-stage concepts without having to fear someone would steal and run with it. Many people I talked to enjoyed giving constructive feedback and even asked when and where they could check out new projects.
Even though we came from different parts of the globe (Los Angeles, New York, London, and Toronto) and without having really known each other previously, there was an instant level of trust amongst the panelists, which I have rarely experienced on other panels and which I believe was in large part due to the way the event was organized as well as the nice environment it created.
The other three panelists (Bernie Su, Rochelle Dancel, and Quincy Morris) and I, as well as our moderator Susan Nation, built on each others ideas, happily shared our experiences working with advertisers, and learned from the audience and their interesting questions.
Carrie Cutforth and Regan Latimer were the brains behind the whole operation and spent a good junk of their time grooming the idea of this festival, getting funding for it, marketing it, and inviting content creators and industry professional from all over the world.
Their dedication not only resulted in a fantastic event, but also showed that they truly cared about the outcomes for each and everyone who was there. No matter if you just started out in film school or if you have spent years in the industry, you could tell it mattered to Carrie and Regan that all the attendees walked away with value.
Part of the value the festival provided was an eye-opening case study they conducted on digital production in Canada, which presented in-depth data about the current state of the industry that all of us, even here in the U.S., can learn from http://bit.ly/S01zhG.
In addition to their passion for progress in the industry, it was refreshing to see that the focus of the festival was not only on presenting panels (which it all too often is at other digital festivals), but also the creators themselves with a packed screening schedule on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday dedicated to original web-series and other digital productions.
I was impressed by the wide range of events, screenings, panels, and interesting data the inaugural “TO Webfest” presented and am convinced we can learn a thing or two from this model and mentality.
I’m sure we all have experienced the endless loop of self-promotional panels at festivals and conferences that really benefit the organizers more than they do the community of creators. Not at TO Webfest, though. Their mentality of sharing value, building invaluable relationships, providing insight, and pointing a spotlight on the actual content creators and their community really impacted the way I think about content creation and filmmaking.
It turns out team work not only matters to get a project done, but also to stay sane during the process. The mutual feeling of support is what can push us to achieve extraordinary things, which we might not have achieved if someone didn’t express their belief in us. Especially in the independent world, where money doesn’t seem to grow on trees, creativity and inspiration is all we often have to move an idea forward and turn it into something beautiful. And without working together and supporting each other as a team, it wouldn’t be possible.
Thank you TO Webfest for setting a great example and inspiring each and everyone who was lucky enough to be at the event!
About the author:
Dominik Rausch is an award-winning producer of Digital and Branded Entertainment best known for his work on IKEA’s ‘Easy To Assemble’, which with over 17 million views world-wide is publicly acclaimed as one of the most successful digital Branded Entertainment series to date. In 2009, he was invited to join the Producers Guild of America, where he was mentored by Bill Fay (then President of Production at Legendary Pictures) and received a nomination for “Variety’s Digital 25 of 2011”.
Dominik’s producing work in feature film includes a forthcoming documentary starring Keanu Reeves, the Warner Brothers indie ‘April Shadows’ with Tom Arnold, and ‘Speed-Dating’ with Chris Elliot.
As CEO of United Motion Entertainment, his current projects include the recently launched online magazine “Luminary Daily”, a soon to be announced social media app, and consulting on digital initiatives for The Walt Becker Company (producer/director “Van Wilder”, “Wild Hogs”) as well as other entertainment, advertising, and start-up clients through “D. For Consulting”, a Los Angeles based consulting firm focused on digital content monetization.