What it's Like to Work with Your Sibling on Set
If you have any siblings, you probably understand that communicating with them is different than it is with other people. As much as you hate to admit it, sometimes they know you better than you know yourself. This special communication (I won’t say ESP but you never know…) can actually be a strength when working together. Maybe that’s why there are so many successful brother and sister director duos out there (there’s even an entire Wikipedia dedicated to it). In any case, I imagine working with a sibling on set would be fun but also complicated, so I had some questions for the Russell Brothers who are co-founders, executive producers, and directors at Good Brother.
What is it like working with your brother every day?
Ethan: It is a joy and a privilege to work with my brother every day, at all times.
Jake: We are in agreement, brother.
Do you like working together in production?
Ethan: Being on set is generally a great experience for me. I love the team aspect of being on set. Regarding Jake, while we disagree and challenge one another pretty often in our daily lives, when we’re on set, we’re generally in-sync with one another. There’s a common goal, limited time, and as we’ve worked with each other for so long, a grunt or a gesture is often all that we need to know what the other wants. Often, we don’t have to say anything to one another in order to carry out specific tasks. That said, because we know each other so well, it also makes arguments happen more quickly and quietly?! They blow over pretty quick, though.
Jake: The best part of the shoot is working with everyone on set. There is a speed, rhythm, and lockstep to a well-organized set and it’s a satisfying feeling at the end of a shoot to sit back and look at all that was accomplished and recognize how important everyone single person is in the creation process. Being on the same page as my brother really speed things up, and I think our strengths complement each other. I’m better at seeing finer details, whereas Ethan is great at keeping in mind the bigger picture, which I think stems from his involvement in post-production and knowing exactly what shots we need to stitch together our vision.
How do you balance power on set?
Jake: I’m the older brother so obviously what I say goes (.... kidding). At this point, we know each other's strengths and trust each other to make the right call in any situation.
Ethan: While I believe that we are both generally competent at a lot of things, Jake has always been more of a gadget guy than me and is decidedly more technically savvy, so he tends to make more of the creative lighting and framing decisions, although, from a camera perspective, we’re both fairly cooperative about it. I tend to be more front facing with on-screen talent, but again, it’s not black and white. Jake often will join in.
Do you always see eye to eye on creative decisions? What happens if you don’t?
Ethan: We don’t always see eye to eye on creative decisions - at least at first - It’s usually the person who is more passionate and/or willing to put up the bigger tantrum that will win the day… haha. There are only so many battles you can have before you run out of steam. But generally speaking, we usually come around to seeing the beauty in the perspective of the other. I think it’s a strength that we don’t always see the world through the same kind of lens. It can be painful, but great work and stories tend to have complexity and are open to multiple interpretations, so our disagreements and resolutions make our work stronger.
Jake: I probably could have said it better myself, but I’ll let him have this one.