17 June, 2008

A Creative Confession

A couple weekends ago, many folks from Renegade and friends participated in Baltimore’s 48-Hour Film Project. Our team was given a character, a line of dialogue, a prop and a genre, and we had exactly 48 hours to write, cast, prep, shoot, edit and deliver a 4-7 minute film. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun, and a chance for creative types at Renegade (who spend most of the time thinking up creative ways to sell someone else’s wares) a chance to really stretch our creative muscles.

Wait, are you saying your needs as creative minds aren’t fully met writing :30 screamer spots and commercials featuring the product, the offer and the phone number, each three times? I’m sad to say, not always.

*Please note, neither of these are Renegade-produced, and creatively have no link whatsoever to Renegade prior to this blog post.

Yes, sometimes, a client sees a script and it’s perfect, not a word out of place. And sometimes, supermodels marry old, bald, short, fat guys.

Let’s face facts. This is a business, and clients and agencies alike are both in it to make money. A creative type like myself, who dreams of one day writing the next Bull Durham or The Usual Suspects, takes a job at an advertising agency because it pays the bills and it’s a chance to use my talents to pay the bills while Hollywood waits to decide how great my current screenplay is. (I don’t want to give away the plot, but let’s just say it features zombies, extraterrestrials and surfing—Dawn of the Dead meets E.T. meets North Shore. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it’s just as awesome as it sounds. Hollywood, please ask for ex. 267.)

Not that Hollywood.

But for creative types, who want to make the most interesting, catching, effective product for a client, the process can actually be hell. Even after 17 revisions and multiple reviews by multiple committees, you still may not have it right.

There are so many places you can go wrong:

It’s too expensive. (Someone should’ve told me that before I proposed my first “post-apocalyptic” cable advertisement.)

The client doesn’t get it.

It doesn’t feature the product enough.

“How will this make the phones ring?”

And sometimes you just completely miss the mark.

This conflict can easily occur when more abstract minds intersect with more directed minds or more simply, when two groups just aren’t on the same page.

However, it can be even more difficult when you take 30 or so creative minds and tell them to come up with one simple, short story in the span of only a few hours.

The story should be about this.

The story should be about that.

The story should be about an ear ring that turns the wearer into actor/comedian Chris Tucker, who needs to return the ear ring to a certain church or risk being stuck that way forever.

And even once you’ve decided on characters and a story, there are still more issues.

The dialogue’s flat.

That’s a cliché.

That isn’t funny.

Why would the character do that?

Why does it have to be so raunchy?

What’s so wrong with raunchy?

The audience isn’t gonna get it.

The audience isn’t stupid.

You’re gonna get it.

You’re stupid.

Put even a handful of people in a room who are passionate about creativity and who want to produce the best product, and people are going to butt heads. Because each one has a vision, and each one has a case to make as to why they are right. After all, they do all do this for a living.

In the end, we forged our creative efforts into what we thought was a pretty good, pretty funny story. And then, on the day of the shoot, the story changed even more. Sigh.

So clients, when you get a pitch or a script or a comp, and think, What the hell are these guys thinking? Rest assured, we like this idea. I’ll bet we feel pretty passionate about this idea. And we didn’t just go with the first idea that stuck to the fridge. We think this idea works for a reason. Your audience is going to get it. And it’s going to sell your product. Of course, if we ever miss the mark, we can simply blame our Creative Director. You're welcome, Ken.

But remember, sometimes short, bald, fat guys can be endearing. Just look at Danny DeVito.

I think I’ve made my point.
--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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