Saturday, October 6, 2012

Five things I have learned.

About eight hours ago we wrapped up a four day shoot. It was by all accounts a big shoot, featuring celebrity talent, spread over 14 locations, involving more than 75 actors.

It was also the biggest "thing" I do all year for my client and my agency. Virtually everything I do at work somehow leads up to or builds upon our one shoot per year. There are weeks of concepting (not because it takes that long to come up with ideas, rather because it takes millions of rounds to get and keep something bought.) There are even more weeks of nasty agency sniping and back-biting. People second-guessing, playing the role of "summer soldier," and so on. There are also many rounds of "strategic shifts" and client paroxysms of fear and paralysis to go through.

And then there is the long and winding road of production itself. Casting, scouting, shooting. Of course I have now weeks of post-production and the accompanying more of the above that goes along with it.

Here's what I've learned, not just on this shoot, but during the last 28 years in the business.

1. As the pace of our industry accelerates, the need for personal patience is greater than ever. Today we have millions of check ins. Which means millions of moments for people to panic. Let most of that panic wash over you. Don't let it affect you. Be patient.

2. Never underestimate the power of stubbornness. Take a step away from the words and pictures you're creating and derive a single sentence that encapsulates what you are striving to accomplish. A single short sentence. Stick to that sentence as a beacon through everything you do. Make compromises about details if you must. But stick to that sentence. Keep coming back to it, keep it alive. That sentence is your work.

3. Be nice to people. Along the production way there will be hundreds of people involved. Tell them what you are doing and why. Be respectful, considerate and decent. You will eventually need these people's skills and craft to succeed.

4. Ignore 99% of the noise around you. Agencies and clients are fear factories. For everything you want to do there will arise a thousand moments of anxiety from people who have never done it before, from people who are insecure, from people who are afraid of committal or their boss. Those thousands of moments create noise that can ruin you. Ignore it.

5. Work hard. Keep coming up with options. Don't settle. Be thorough. Watch every detail without obsessing over every detail. But keep tabs on all the people you've been nice to, and make sure they are giving you what you want and need.

There might be more, but it's 3:30 in the morning where I am, and I have a plane to catch.


Graham Strong said...

Hey George,

I think the single hardest thing to do for a copywriter - or any creative, for that matter - is to reconcile #2 and #5. Yes, you have to find and hold that overall vision, but you also have to keep looking for a better one.

The difficulty of course is being honest with yourself, comparing your ideas to objectively decide which of your subjective ideas is better, and be able to kill the other.

Perhaps this is easier for some than others. That's probably part of what makes the "some" better.


Philip said...

AS a creative I would be interested in hearing more about #2 - the single sentence. Examples? Might make a whole other blog post.

dave trott said...

This is my take on what George means.
I wrote it many years ago.
If you're a youngster, it might help explain it.
It's in the section under straplines.

dave trott said...

Sorry Philip,
Forgot to add the link:

Anonymous said...

are you talking about your book dave? if so i can't find the strap line section.

dave trott said...

Hi Anonymous,
No it was a very basic panphlet I wrote, that ended up being circulated round art schools.
It was called 'How To Get Your First Job In Advertising'.
Abbott Mead had it on their website as advice for youngsters.

Maggie Powers said...

Nice post George!