Why Working in Production Is a Bit Like Getting to Grips with School
A couple of years ago when I was listening to NPR, there was a story about kids switching elementary schools and having to make new friends.
A study had been done, and the researchers found that kids who had the ability to go up to the most different groups on the school yard and ask “can I play?” had the greatest success winning new friends and ended up being some of the most popular kids in school.
Furthermore they were more resilient and adaptable willing to do more activities and take risks.
With the long-ago advent of streaming services, cord-cutting, and on-line venues, commercial production companies and their directors find themselves in a new elementary school – like a new school every couple of months. Keeping a roster of commercial directors active, strong, and creatively healthy can be a challenge.
But like those kids on the schoolyard, it’s clear that the key to success in a constantly changing landscape is to keeping asking new groups “do you want to play?”
This year Community Films directors found themselves in more non-traditional venues than ever before. From the almost traditional venues of a Coke spot before a movie in theaters and on-line pre-roll/content to a launch film to promote the City of Los Angeles for the 2024 Olympic bid and a film to run after the safety announcement on United Air Lines flights.
From a creative standpoint it can be highly freeing. From a production standpoint it can be incredibly daunting. You realize quickly how steeped you are in the mindset of traditional commercials. Bidding out jobs for the galaxy of venues that exists requires leaps of faith. Did we budget enough money? Enough time? Sure we did as long as the client realizes this is not a commercial where you can quibble endlessly about every minute detail in frame as well as then second-guess each and every decision made.
Like the ever-changing landscape, you have to be able to move quickly. And, luckily, we see agencies and clients beginning to embrace this too.
The crucial factor moving forward is that everyone embraces this new world together – client, agency, production company, and director. With shrinking budgets, clients need to realize that directors need to move quicker adapting a shooting pace closer to scripted television rather than a traditional :60. This is especially true when we adapt longer 3 to 5 minute formats.
With shrinking budgets, clients will have to allow greater reign to their agencies and unleash the full creativity of their writers, art directors, and creative directors to come up with scripts that capture the heart and imagination not only of viewers but of the production companies and directors they are looking to partner with.
Partnership is a key aspect of this transition. Directors and agencies need to view this as a true creative partnership. Why? Because we all need each other’s help.
Because no matter what form factor we are working in – we are creating advertising content. We are selling a product, a service, a brand.
People don’t want to watch us.
Thousands of hours of content are uploaded every second. To cut through that digital noise, we need to create work that is so original and catchy that people will notice.
It is becoming harder and harder to simply buy people’s eyeballs. We have to work harder. Good isn’t good enough.
Perhaps the viewers, the ones we’re selling to, the ones whose attention we are trying to capture are the true clients.
And we, client, agency, directors and production companies are the ones asking, “Can I play?”
A question that from our standpoint, we’ll never tire of asking.
David Gregg is Staff Creative Producer at Community Films