80/20 Filmmaking

The 80/20 rule, Pareto Principle, the vital few - all names used to describe the rule of thumb in business, and quite effective in life too, that results in imbalanced outcomes. You can look at it as the peak of the bell curve, the minimum effective dose. The distribution is can be seen to appear […]
4 min read

The 80/20 rule, Pareto Principle, the vital few - all names used to describe the rule of thumb in business, and quite effective in life too, that results in imbalanced outcomes. You can look at it as the peak of the bell curve, the minimum effective dose.
The distribution is can be seen to appear in several different aspects of the world. For example:

  • 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers
  • 20% of thieves account for 80% of the value of all crime
  • 80% of a company's complaints come from 20% of its customers
  • 20% of drivers cause 80% of all car accidents
  • 80% of a company's sales come from 20% of its products

And if you look at your own personal life, you'll find that about:

  • 20% of the time you spend at work accounts for 80% of what you achieve
  • 80% of the clothes you wear are 20% of your wardrobe

So lets talk about using this rule to get maximum results in your filmmaker life and career.

I recommend getting the book The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. That is a very thorough run down of applying these guidelines. I’m going to tailor some things to you now, but well worth your investment in that book!
We’ll start off directed at those of you who have a few films behind you, a couple years experience in the industry. It’s going to be swiftest for you guys to apply this to your efforts. So sit down and start writing and listing the people, places, activities and actions that have been the most effective to you:

80/20 Daily Activities

Every day, at the end of the day, write down:
1.) What you did today,
2.) How you think its helped?
3.) Time spent
4.) Did you get any results? (Update this over the month)
5.) Rate it out of 10 (Do this at the end), I have a spreadsheet here for you to use: 80 20 Your shit
(Note: This doesn’t just have to be ‘business’ or ‘film’ related things you list, why don’t you start lists for all the ‘entertainment’ things you do: all the TV watching, YouTube, music , etc. You’ll soon see what activities are not productive but that you spend the most time on. Maybe you can eliminate those slowly from your lifestyle?)
At the end of the month, look back at your activities, rate them all out of 10 now that you can see how effective they actually were. 80/20 that shit. What are your most effective activities? I’d be super interested to hear, tweet me!

80/20 Marketing

If you think about marketing your film, for example, you might find that word gets out best via directly contacting establishments, people and leads. Write them down. Which of these was the most effective? There you go, thats the peoples and companies you should now focus effort on most. If you only contact 2 leads today, make it 2 from those valuable entities! You can now throw your attention elsewhere, don’t work down the ‘pyramid’ though, you never know who your next ‘top 20percenter’ could be.

80/20 Software

Lets look at another example; software. Final Cut, Avid, Premiere. BIG programs, lots of shit you can do in them… Guess how much of the program you actually use? That’s right, 20%!
Are there any effects you use a lot? Probably 20% there too. So lets focus down on these areas and think about what can be done with them. You could limit yourself to particular aspects and develop a style. An effect people will know you for:

Steven Soderbergh Yellow tinted frame

Steven Soderbergh has very yellow overlay on most of his films, a sort of ‘Amber’ lens effect. David Fincher is very low-lit, dark browns and grungey. Are there colour correction formulas you use most?

Lens Flare in Star Trek (2009)

J.J. Abrams seems to be a big fan of lens flare. These can be added in software or with additional lights when shooting.

The Wilhelm Scream is used in countless films for the noise of someone falling. It’s become a bit of a joke, but nevertheless the point still stands, 80% of falling people make the sound of Wilhelm falling! Are there any noises you have in your repository? Maybe a particular sound engineer who did the best job?

80/20 Social Media

If you’ve developed any kind of following and have been putting in the effort, sharing valuable things, engaging with fans and peers. you’ll probably have noticed a few platforms are giving you the most return. Boom, there you go, curate those areas first.
Is it quotes, infographics, photos, videos, questions that get the most replies, shares or likes? Boom, theres that sorted. Emphasis on whichever is working best.

“The bottom line is this: Very little of what you do actually enriches your life. By figuring out what those things are and concentrating primarily on them, you will automatically multiply your success and happiness.”
Vic Conant, President, Nightingale-Conant Corporation

I’ll be working on a guide soon aimed at those who are starting out and we’ll discuss what the most effective activities are across the board and how they can get started. In the meantime though, I need your help; please leave a comment, send me and email or tweet me your thoughts, reactions, successes to this rule. What has been most effective for you? What would you recommend doing most? Let me know, with your help, I can get it all into the aforementioned starters guide, find out whats most effective and get that out there for you to see!
If you found the above useful, please share it with your friends, there help will also be greatly appreciated!

Further Reading:

Richard Koch;

Tim Ferriss;

Thanks for reading, now get back to your film!

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