View Full Version : How are siblings able to work together?

07-01-2014, 03:48 AM
The Coen Brothers, the Farrelly brothers, Sid and Marty Krofft, the Hildebrandts, And probably a lot of other sibling partnerships I can't think of. All very prolific, over long spans of years with no apparent discord.

But I've been told more than once, "Never go into business with a family member. You'll bring family problems to work and work problems into the family, and it'll end horribly." Granted,a lot of this was in the context of a restaurant or bar, and the white-collar example was a father and son, not siblings. So maybe it's different in a creative field.

Still, I wonder how these sibling duos mange, project after project. I'm thinking one thing they probably do is divide the work. "You work with the actors, I'll work with the crew, and no interference." Must be more to it than that, though. Anyone?

07-01-2014, 03:56 AM
Knee-jerk answer: by caring more about each other than they do about their parents?

07-01-2014, 04:15 AM
By knowing and accepting each other's strengths and weaknesses and both having outgrown the "Mommmmeeeee! Tommy is making faces at me!" phase of the relationship.

I have a brother I'd never be able to work with for more than a couple of hours and one that I'd be perfectly happy to work with. I promise we all grew up in the same house.

I've known quite a few sibling teams, multi-generational businesses where the children started helping when they were still kids (so they understood the nature of the business) and the parents were able to accept their child as a grown-up...

The family of one of my uncles has owned a chain of boutiques for a long time; my uncle is part of the fourth generation. At one point things among my uncle's generation got so tense that the 5 stores they had at the time got divided as this seemed the best way to keep the siblings from killing each other. The sister who got several boutiques has divided them among her daughters (still rules with an iron fist and seven-tails whip), the siblings who kept collective ownership of the rest are happy to let my aunt and uncle be their actual managers, and both my cousin and two of his cousins are working in them now.

07-01-2014, 05:54 AM
But I've been told more than once, "Never go into business with a family member. You'll bring family problems to work and work problems into the family, and it'll end horribly."

All generalizations are false, including this one.

07-01-2014, 10:56 AM
My brother and I worked together for a long time, in my business. We get along quite well and are very complementary to each other and it worked out well.

I could absolutely see us making a movie together. That'd be great!

Tim R. Mortiss
07-01-2014, 11:07 AM
Don't forget the Wachowskis.

Which leads me to my contribution: Show folk are different from regular folk. Generalizations which might have some dubious merit in normal life would not necessarily apply.

07-01-2014, 11:11 AM
My brother and I are law partners. We've never had an issue of any kind.

07-01-2014, 11:33 AM
The Coen brothers focus on what's best for their films rather than on their own egos. That's my take.

Sage Rat
07-01-2014, 12:44 PM
The statement that you don't want to go into business with family is based on the idea that you're starting a business and getting your family to invest in it. That's different from working with your family.

Whether it makes sense to work with a particular family member is probably pretty clear to most people based on asking the simple question, "Would we end up murdering one another?" If the answer is, "No", probably all is well.

Thudlow Boink
07-01-2014, 12:51 PM
I don't think there's an answer beyond the fact that different siblings are different people and have different sorts of relationships with one another. Some get along wonderfully and are able to work really well together; some get along horribly, or only within certain contexts. It's just human variety. It doesn't surprise me that people who grew up together, share a lot of both their nature and their nurture, and know each other really well, would be able to work well together, if other factors such as personality conflicts or sibling rivalry don't get in the way; and it doesn't surprise me that there'd be at least a few examples where they don't, in fact, get in the way.

07-01-2014, 01:12 PM
I don't have much to offer, other than I think creative collaborations lend themselves to people who are at the same point in their development, and learning together for years can reinforce the strength of the collaboration. Familial collaborations across generations probably benefit from one member learning from the other, so they think about the problem in the same terms.

The Wright brothers from NOMEANSNO have been playing together for 35 years now. For all of the aggression in their music, they're apparently extremely Canadian, and I've never heard a hint of strife. If they have a dud record, I haven't heard it. And if there's a tighter live rhythm section, you're gonna have to prove it to me.

Curt and Chris Krirkwood of the Meat Puppets have been playing together off and on for almost as long. I've heard their songs described as imaginary worlds that only siblings could construct. They were interrupted by Chris' drug problem causing him to go off the rails and eventually into prison. Eventually, they reconciled and are playing together again. Chris did things to Curt that I know I wouldn't forget unless it was a blood relative, and Curt is still probably more forgiving than I. I'm glad he is, they're amazing together.

But in the other corner, I worked in my parent's craft and lawn care business for years as semi-skilled labor. I owed everything to them besides the small amount I earned in part-time jobs, and they knew it. My schedule was determined entirely by their needs, management style was "this is not a democracy, fuck you", and complaints could be directed to the circular file. I don't blame them, it fed me, clothed me and sent my loafing, wood craft painting, lawn mowing ass to college; but I don't recommend it as a career.

So, it probably depends on the personalities and power dynamic involved in the business. Pretty much the normal situation, only you have familial power structure as a starting point.

ETA: And my brother and I get along rather well. I don't know the last time we actually argued about something other than matters of taste. If he'll ever learn an instrument I'll be in a band with him. We harmonize naturally.

07-01-2014, 06:53 PM
Interesting answers! Thank you.

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