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Rapid Prototyping

“We only win in the long run by getting out there and bloodied in the short run.”
Tom Peters

This blog is an example of rapid prototyping.

One week ago this blog did not exist except for a few ideas in my head so I thought it would be helpful to show how I went from step one to launch for very little time and money.

Now I own about 25 film books to every business book I have, but I think I first learned about rapid prototyping from Tom Peters. Some have called Thomas Edison “the father of prototyping,” but I imagine it goes back to a time closer to starting the first fire or inventing the wheel.

What is rapid prototyping? In filmmaking terms, it’s Edward Burns having a meeting at the end of 2010 with the Tribeca Film Festival people and coming up with an idea that he should make a feature to show for the festival’s 10th year and a few months later the film is written, cast, shot, edited and premiered. In an industry where the typical film can be in development for 3 to 5 years before it gets produced (or dies in development) Burns’ Newlyweds is definitely prototyping.   Sylvester Stallone writing Rocky in six days is an example of rapid prototyping.

In the manufacturing world, a team of people may be put in charge of a project to design a widget quickly to meet a need in the marketplace.  Rapid prototyping is messy business as it tends to follow the motto “fail early, fail often.” Because in the failing is where breakthroughs happen—like Edison inventing the light bulb;

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Attributed to Edison

Rapid prototyping is the answer to the too often heard corporate motto: “How many meetings does it take to kill a great idea?”

So in the spirit of rapid prototyping here is the quick over view of how E-Filmmaking came to be and how it cost less than $20 to launch.

Day 1 (June 30, 2011): Purchase domain name http://www.ENTREPRENEURIALFILMMAKING.com from GoDaddy.com for $8.57

Day 2: Realize while ENTREPRENEURIAL FILMMAKING may help with search engine no one will actually ever type www.ENTREPRENEURIALFILMMAKING.com so look for shorter version. Efilmmaking.com is taken so decide to roll with http://www.E-Filmmaking.com and purchase domain name for $8.57 from GoDaddy.com

Day 3: Sign in to WordPress.com and grab for free efilmamking.wordpress.com. Go to Twitter and for free sign up for @E_Filmmaking. (Again efilmmaking is taken. Don’t like that the brand three days old doesn’t have uniformity, but that’s some of the messy parts of rapid prototyping.

Day 4: Begin writing first blog. Realize that an Independence theme would make an excellent theme and Independence Day would be a great launch date. Scroll through the free blog templates at WordPress and finally pick on.

Day 5: (July 4, 2011) Just after midnight I launch efilmmaking.wordpress.com. Use my established blog of Screenwriting from Iowa to help promote the blog and use my more established Twitter account @scottwsmith_com to Tweet about new blog. Filmmaker Edward Burns re-tweets my tweet and gives E-Filmmaking a little boost out of the gate.

Day 6: Read some blogging and WordPress books trying to figure out the next step for E-Filmmaking.

Day 7: Link my www.ENTREPRENEURIALFILMMAKING.com and http://www.E-FILMMMAKING.com domain names in GoDaddy to efilmmaking.wordpress.com. And write second post.

So that’s the process that happend in just under 7 days and for a total of $17.14. Total physical time was probably around 6-8 hours. Of course, it is one of those things that was decades in the making. I was 19-years old when I first heard the word entrepreneur and I’ve had my share of successes and failures. (In fact, the unofficial definition of entrepreneur is something like “a rollercoaster of a life full of successes and failures.” Because not all rapid prototyping will fly.)

But there are valuable lessons to learn in all rapid prototyping. It’s part of the process—part of the 10,000 rule that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book Outliers.

One advantage that filmmakers in the early days of film had was they needed to make a lot of films to feed the audiences appetite. There was no internet, TV or video games. In fact, one of the reasons that so many great films were made in the 30s and early 40s was simply because so many films were made. It was not uncommon for a film to be shot in three weeks. It’s how some filmmakers back in the day directed 50 to 100 or more films. In fact, before John Ford directed his classic Stagecoach, he had made more than 90 film over a 2o years—most of which are unknown to today’s audiences.

So don’t look for every sub-two week film Edward Burns makes—or you make yourself—to be a classic. But know that by rapid prototyping you are partaking in the tradition of giants like Edison and Ford. And just maybe some day you will capture the magic. You’ll make your Stagecoach.

So that’s the short history of E-Filmmaking. It’s not perfect, but it’s out there. (There may not be blood, but there will be typos.)  It’s a good feeling to watch the train leave the station. Best wishes on your own rapid prototyping.

Related post:

New Cinema Screenwriting (part 1)

©2011 Scott W. Smith