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‘Values-Based Producing’: How Boldly Is Setting a New Standard for Production

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Partner and EP Geoff Manton tells LBB how the company is building a production culture founded on empathy and community - and why the future of filmmaking will be built on those values

‘Values-Based Producing’: How Boldly Is Setting a New Standard for Production

Amidst the creative culture, idyllic vistas, and peerless production infrastructure of Vancouver, the rules of filmmaking are being re-written.

Boldly - an ambitious content studio based on Canada’s West Coast - is doing things differently. Whilst the creative community in Vancouver is well-established and continually growing, the region is not immune from the same issues which are commonplace across the global production landscape. An unhealthy work/life balance, an abundance of egos, and a lack of creative integrity are problems which can afflict productions no matter where they are in the world.

But, for Boldly, it doesn’t have to be this way. For the past eight years, the company, led by partners Geoff Manton, Shelby Manton, Sebastien Galina and Kristoff Duxbury, has been pioneering a new cultural standard for film sets based on the values of community, empathy, and creativity. And the results, the team tells LBB, shine through on-screen. In the company’s own words, “something which unites the best creative people all over the world is an appreciation for positive working environments”.

And so, the status quo is changing. In place of ego and negativity, more and more voices are calling for empathy, community, and creative integrity. Boldly calls this ‘values-based producing’, and the content studio has made it part of their DNA. To find out more about the company’s approach to its craft - and why it’s striking a chord in 2022 - LBB spoke to Geoff Manton.

  

The Importance Of The Intangible

“It’s intangible, but we strive to create the feeling that everyone is connected to each other as collaborators when we are on-set”, says Geoff. “You do find that it goes a long way to setting the tone of the shoot, and consequently the tone of the finished piece”.

Of course, talking the talk is one thing - but being able to back up the claims with practical steps is another story. Yet Geoff and the Boldly team can proudly say that they are prepared to collectively put their money where their mouth is when it comes to that collective philosophy. “There have been occasions where we’ve politely declined a project because our values don’t align”, explains Geoff. “At some point in our careers we’ve all had some tricky situations where a negative or overly aggressive energy created a stressful environment. So we are naturally protective of our crews, and we hope to encourage a new generation of leaders to prioritize care, consideration and service”.

As anyone with experience of leadership can likely attest, establishing a new culture in place of an old one can often be no easy feat. For Boldly, it’s the small details which add up to make the big difference. “One of the things we’ve found is that we can use initial ‘safety meetings’ at the start of projects to set the tone”, says Geoff. “So we’ll go around the room and ask everyone on set - agency, client, director and crew - to introduce their name, their role, and their preferred pronoun. This is a simple exercise to normalize pronouns, create the space for inclusivity, and to remind everyone that we prioritize them”.

It’s those details which ultimately add up to Boldly’s vision. “We do our best to schedule shoots with space for proper turnaround times. Where that’s not possible, we try to add more days”, adds Geoff. “We’ll also be ready to add more crew members to a project when necessary to support a team, even if it comes out of our pocket. We hire equitable teams with a balanced array of diverse voices and backgrounds. We're conscious of our environmental impact and limit our emissions where possible. And we’ll propose alternatives for creative visions which would otherwise be unsafe, unsustainable or unethical”.

Where conversations need to take place, Geoff and team leave the door wide open for communication, especially concerning on-set safety and comfort. In an industry where departmental silos have previously been all-too common, and unacceptable behavior is tolerated, Boldly takes a different approach. “We strive to avoid any breaks in the flow of communication. We’ll always have faith in our department heads, but explicitly encourage all crew members to feel comfortable addressing issues with their department heads, or us directly. Sometimes just knowing that you can discuss an issue with the producers makes all the difference for the on-set experience”. 

Whilst it may not be Boldly’s core motivating factor in pursuing positive on-set environments, there is a keen sense of satisfaction for the Boldly Team when the results begin to shine through on their - and their clients’ - bottom line. “There is an ROI aspect to all of this as well”, Geoff notes, “which is that the quality of work improves when people care about it. By creating a sense of inclusivity on-set, we find that more crew members are invested in a given project which, of course, invariably leads to results everyone is proud of”. 

 

Sharing In The Success

For all the talk of change, there can be no doubt that a lot of high-quality films are currently being made under the industry’s existing exploitative standards.

“Work which looks amazing is still being made using the old methods, chiefly because crew members are consummate professionals despite less than positive working conditions”, posits Geoff. “But the value of what we do is something that really starts to shine through over time. After a while, the cumulative effect of this intentional effort begins to appear in the overall calibre of the work - and the best working environments attract the best talent, of course”.

Once that change has truly taken root, the benefits suddenly become a great deal more tangible. “The most obvious advantages come through director talent retention, and crews prioritizing our projects”, explains Geoff.

Among the practical steps the Boldly team is taking to integrate its philosophy is the community-building initiative Filmable (launching later this year). “The foundations of the cultural status quo are showing signs of decay, yet they are still holding strong”, says Geoff. “We must reimagine the culture in order to make a meaningful difference, which is a collaborative effort that will extend far beyond Boldly. And that’s exactly what we’re looking to pursue”.

 

Humble Beginnings for Bold Impact 

For everyone connected to the industry, events since March 2020 have made for some uniquely challenging times. But, as Boldly will argue, there is no use in pretending that the pre-pandemic world of production was a flawless place.

Less than ideal working conditions and cultures were in place long before Covid, and perhaps the turbulence of the pandemic can provide a much-needed and long-overdue reset for the industry. In that sense, the value in Boldly’s ‘values-based production’ can extend well beyond the shores of Vancouver.

“We’ll be the first to admit we’re not perfect and that there’s still work to be done”, admits Geoff. “But we’d rather be working on a better cultural blueprint than working under an imperfect one.”

“Already, we’re recapturing a sense of just how much joy can be found in filmmaking through community, empathy and care. If nothing else, that’s worth shifting your approach for”.

For many of us in the production industry, it is time for reflection and potentially re-organisation. Last year’s narrowly-averted IATSE strike, and the inquest following the tragic loss of Halyna Hutchins while on-set, highlighted a groundswell of grassroots desire for change. What’s evident from speaking to Boldly is that their team is more than happy to be driving that conversation forwards.

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Boldly, Fri, 11 Feb 2022 08:25:00 GMT