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The Power of Why in Filmmaking

Film business

photo by: Danielle Page

Remember when you were younger and you wanted something and your parents would refuse? Inevitably you would ask the question “why?” and the response you got in return was probably some form of “because I said so” which completely shut you down and ended the conversation. Well good news! You’re a grown adult now and you can have all the ice cream you want! This also means that the “because I said so” is no longer a valid response (and one you probably haven’t heard since graduating high school anyway).

“Why” can be a very powerful word in regards to sales and marketing. It can also help you when you are trying to raise money or get equipment for your production. In the car sales world the word “why” is quite possibly the most powerful word in a salesperson’s arsenal. Now it is your turn to unlock the power and potential of this tiny three-letter word. Reading this article will help you become a better salesperson on behalf of your production. It will help you understand people’s thought processes, and help you anticipate and overcome their objections. Why will it help you do all these amazing things? Because I said so.

The great part of the question “why” is that it doesn’t illicit a yes or no reaction from people. Many salespeople are taught to never ask questions that will pigeonhole them into absolute answers (unless there is no answer other than “yes”). Salespeople are only interested in getting to the next “yes”. If you agree with someone enough times, after awhile it just becomes the norm and saying “yes” is much easier than saying “no”. The word “why” is conversational enough to not be construed as aggressive, and can often lead people to reveal the real reasons they are hesitant to commit time, money, or resources to your project.

The psychology of “why” is very interesting. It is a question that has been asked for hundreds of years. Socrates built and entire school of thought on the word “why”. Unfortunately he asked this question a little too often and was put to death. That being said, don’t badger the person with the word, but use it to reveal their thought processes. Sometimes people feel the way they feel because of personal reasons. Maybe they don’t want to support your science fiction film because they prefer dramas. You wouldn’t know this however if you don’t ask. Here’s an example:

Person 1: I like the color purple.

Person 2: Why’s that?

Person 1: It reminds me of my daughter, it’s her favorite color.

Person 2: Oh really? That’s my wife’s favorite color too!

Person 1: Yeah? That’s wonderful! Please take all my money for your excellent film!

Okay maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. But the theory is still sound. If you didn’t ask “why”, you never would have found out that the person has a daughter, and that her favorite color is purple. The conversation would have just ended at the first line. The statement “I like the color purple” is definitive. There is no arguing whether he or she doesn’t or doesn’t actually like the color. The idea is to find the purpose behind why they like the color. This leads to more personal communication and a better understanding of the other person’s position on various issues.

In speaking with potential sponsors and supporters for your film, using “why” can be helpful in identifying people who truly match the ideals and demographic of your project. It helps to build rapport, and it can help give people more reasons to give more. “Why” can be the difference between companies writing you a check for $1000 instead of $500.

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MasteringFilm, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for aspiring and current filmmakers. No matter what your filmmaking interest is, including directing, screenwriting, postproduction, cinematography, producing, or the film business, MasteringFilm has you covered. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of filmmaking, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.