Thursday, April 15, 2021


About 62,000 years ago, I was shooting some spots with the great director, Errol Morris. Errol and I just hit it off. Like go to the movies after a day of shooting hit it off--or have a cuppa coffee and three or five breakfasts one morning in Sao Paolo. 

Further, he didn't care for the art director the agency sent out to the shoot. I had worked alone on the campaign--nobody seemed to mind that--but they made sure I had someone with me on set, just in case.

But like I said, Errol and this art director had a fight. And Errol decided he would talk to no one but me. Which was fine by me.

He was setting up a shot. In just a few frames we were trying to create the effect of a college graduation. The set designers were hanging a green and yellow banner that said something like, "Congratulations, Graduates."

Errol turned to me and said, "that's a little much, isn't it?" I mumbled something like, "well, it will read quickly. You'll get it." He then said something that stuck with me, "You're right. Subtlety is for amateurs."

As I travel in new worlds these days--having aged out of old ones, having lost to the nefarious know-nothings who hate all those with more experience than they, I am seeing a lot.

I'm seeing people who make excuses to delay working. "I don't have a job number," they'll claim. Or, "the brief isn't ready."

I've seen people who kick and bellow like a pig to the slaughter about making a logo bigger.

I've seen people barking about having to write an email, a tweet, a Facebook post. They bark for hours about something that will literally take seconds.

I've seen writers fight, again for hours, against adding something small to their copy, or taking something equally small away. Or simply screaming when a client asks for a rewrite.

I've seen people avoid working because they're not "feeling it. Or they're stressed. Or they have too much to do.

Right now, I am seeing different things as well. I am working with one of the biggest creative names in the business. She's rolling up her sleeves and doing work she wouldn't have done five years ago or three. Because the business is different today--or our jobs are different. And somehow we have to teach ourselves to do more and carp less.

What I've seen is this.

Foolish rules are for amateurs.

Preciousness is for amateurs.

Prima donna-ness is for amateurs.

Estheticism is for amateurs.

Dawdling is for amateurs.

The great Steve Hayden once said something to me that stuck in my brain. It's the kind of thing I've tried to pass down to my own children--who are young and successful in their careers.

"The trick to work," Steve said, "is spending 20% of your time doing the 80% of the shit you have to do that you hate. And 80% of your time doing the 20% of the shit that you have to do that you love."

That's why you get in early.

That's why you practice until you become fast.

That's why you train your mind so that you can concentrate and accomplish things.

Anything else is for amateurs.

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