BWW Exclusive: Creator of THE RESIDUALS Explains How to Collaborate With Your Partner Without Killing Each Other
In today's American society where half of all marriages end in divorce, any couple that has a strong relationship is a success. Dealing with work, money, kids, and in-laws can be treacherous, but what if you also work with your partner? What if you not only work with your partner, but you co-create an artistic endeavor that you hope millions of people will see?
Michael Paul Smith and his wife Gillian Pensavalle are the co-creators and stars of the webseries hilarious THE RESIDUALS. Recently, this adorable couple have been giving us here at BroadwayWorld insights into their lives and their show (Check out Michael's very funny 10-Tips to Commercial Auditioning and the conversation Mike and Gillian had with BWW about THE RESIDUALS). Now Michael, with some help from his better-half, has given us "Five Rules to Collaborate with Your Partner Without Killing Each Other!"
Check out Michael's rules and then watch the first nine episodes of THE RESIDUALS before next week's season finale:
It's about to get all Dr. Phil up in here!
It can be...shall we say, hazardous...to navigate the potential treachery that is a personal relationship/creative/business partnership. As far back as when Gillian and I first started dating, we always wanted to help each other however we could, and to be included in each other's projects whenever possible. We took that to the next level last year when we decided to take on nearly every task involved in the production of our webseries about commercial auditions, "The Residuals."
Few choices in my life have seemed so logical, and yet so insanely naive. Luckily, insanely naive wins sometimes! I channeled Dr. Phil and thought of 5 rules for creative people that want to collaborate with their partners, then I got some of Gillian's input as well.
Rule #1: Make sure you're on the same page
Make sure you're both aware of the risks, and the time and financial sacrifices involved in your project. More pragmatic (and perhaps less creative) people might invest in a 401K. We invest in ourselves. Your partnership won't last long if you don't talk it through and plan it out.
This one was easy for us. We met and first bonded over a webseries that we were both in. So we wouldn't have been this compatible if we weren't each other's "consigliore" right from the start.
Rule #2: Compartmentalize
Make time for work and then make time to be in love again. Save your exciting work-related epiphany for after the fun date-night wine/cheese bar with the outdoor patio and a view of multiple fire escapes. Better yet, write it down in your "notes app" and save it for tomorrow. You're drinking wine. Work's over.
I didn't do this nearly enough. But I learned. My mind works differently from Gillian's. While we're both equally excited about everything we have going on, I like to talk about it at the wine/cheese bar just as though it's light conversation, and then segue right back to my favorite Tyrion Lannister quotes.
Gillian: "I usually feel more like if we're going to talk about it, we should be prepared to do it right away. It can make me anxious once that part of my brain is shut off."
You have to defer to the one that doesn't wanna go there right now. Besides, breaks are healthy. You have to remind each other that you're not at work anymore. Especially when work goes on in the same 1-bedroom apartment as the rest of life.
Rule #3: Have A Short Memory
Regardless of the evolutionary stage of your project, if it is underway, you're spending an ungodly amount of time together. Be freakin' nice. "Love is patient" after all. Address it in a polite way if there's something that's really bothering you. But ask yourself, "Did I know what he/she meant?" followed by "Then is it worth it?" I'd venture to say that if the answer is "Yes" to the first question, it will be "No" to the second.
This one is my Achilles heel. I'm a stubborn Taurus and I'm an observer and I see patterns and I'm terrified of setting bad precedents. If it weren't for Gillian's thick skin and super-human forgiveness, I'm pretty sure 'The Residuals' wouldn't even exist.
Gillian: "He's exaggerating a little, but I'll take it."
Rule #4: Stay grateful, stay pleasant
Tone matters. A lot. Just because you can hold each other more accountable throughout your process and ask for more favors than anyone else on the team, it doesn't mean you should do it in a way that implies expectation. Remember how lucky you are. Try to hear yourself and treat each other like the indispensable part of the operation that they are.
I did this. But not enough. Sometimes I blamed or deflected. But I know for a fact that our most fun and productive time was spent strictly adhering to this one. Don't judge me, Broadway World! I'm trying!
Gillian: "It's funny, I feel the exact same way. I could have done this more. But at the same time, things get tense. This is high stakes stuff, you know? This isn't a hobby. This is your future! So be nice, but don't be too hard on yourselves (or each other) either."
Rule #5: You still need help
Outside opinions, impartial expertise, and tie-breakers are crucial. How much time do you want to spend in a 1 vs 1 deadlock over what your project should be called (not that we, ever...ok we had that exact problem)? The two of you can't do everything forever. And sometimes you're too close to it and your judgement gets clouded. So ask for outside opinions. Delegate to new collaborators that believe in what you're doing. Accept the opinions of the people you trust. Compromise often, pick your battles always, and keep it movin'.
Gillian: "Our friends saved our lives many times during this process. We're very lucky to have trust-worthy sounding boards, and a number of supportive, creative minds at our disposal. It was also important for us to have extra help on set. And we even had an informal, one-woman focus group (our friend Ashley) towards the end of our editing process."
I'm very thankful that my Taurus-ness didn't get in the way too...too much on this one. But knowing this beforehand probably would have saved me a good bit of stress.
Michael Paul Smith and Gillian Pensavalle are the co-creators, co-producers, and principle actors in the webseries "The Residuals." Michael wrote and directed while Gillian edited and sound-edited. They did a whole bunch of other stuff, too. You can find out more and see the show at www.theresiduals.tv, like the show on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theresidualstv and follow the show on Twitter @theresiduals. Follow them on Twitter @MPSmithnyc, and @GillianwithG.