How to Work with a Creative Person

24 12 2011

Photo by Johnny Magnusson

After years of working freelance and producing content for a wide range of clients, witnessing a barrage of content that is excruciatingly below par both on a micro and macro level and the recent headlines regarding such decisions as CNN firing photojournalists in favor of iReport, I have decided to create a handy guide on how to work with creative people to elicit the best end user products.  I think a lot of left brainers have a hard time working with creative people, and, in turn, the same can be said vice versa.  I’m not trying to put you down or declare the left brain way wrong, I’m just trying to help you all get good quality of work from the money you spend on us to produce the said work.   So, without further adieu, here are things to keep in mind when working with a “creative type”:

1. Let us do our job

This is probably the biggest problem in the creative industry.  As a videographer, editor, graphic designer, musician or visual artist, you hire us because you want a certain calibre of quality brought to the project you are trying to produce.  Henceforth, you feel that our skill level, resume and portfolio speaks for itself to a degree that we can make sound judgements producing content of such a form as you desire.  The worst thing you can do is hire us and then try to take over all the creative decisions.  We want to make your ideas come to life and we want them to be the best they can possibly be!  After all, we take as much pride in our work as I’m sure you do in yours.  Here’s an analogy: if you went to the doctor for an illness, you would be paying for his expertise in the problem that was ailing you.  If he recommended you do x, y and z, wouldn’t you heed his instructions?  You wouldn’t second guess his work, education or treatment plan; a plan he has no doubt likely given to many other patients with similar symptoms.  We are the same way, though on a much less life or death scale.  This is what we do day in and day out and we have encountered scenarios similar to yours hundreds of times.  We know what works and what doesn’t, so if you hire us to do a project, please accept our professional opinions.  We know what we are doing and we promise it will help your business if you can trust in our advice and let us implement the look and feel of the design.  After all, what else are you paying us for?  We are technicians to a degree, but the skill is only part of the package – the vision is the rest.

2. Our dressing the part is different from yours

I understand how important a professional attire is in any professional situation.  However, each job has specifics for suitable dress depending on various circumstances.  For instance, it would be a bit off putting if I hired a carpenter to build a house, and he showed up in a three piece suit to complete the job.  For certain creative professionals whose work is primarily computer driven, the concern about wearing slacks and collared shirts is not too big a deal.  However, for videographers that are out in the field with two to three tons of gear in the middle of the summer in the desert, or musicians that are on stage under bright lights with 20 lbs. of instrument strapped around their necks, the requirement for “formal dress code” is a bit unreasonable.  It isn’t that we are all just a bunch of hippies who can’t stand cutting our hair and wearing a tie (though to be fair, there are some of us out there that fit this bill), it’s that to do our job at times, we need to have the option of wearing a tee shirt and jeans to maneuver properly and be somewhat comfortable.

3. We have bills too

Believe it or not, most of us actually have the same bills you do every month.  We have to keep a roof over our heads, pay for our car when it breaks down, put food in our mouths, enjoy having pets, etc.  So, when I see ads for freelance opportunities asking for creative services that offer little to no money, I am very disheartened.  Most of the creative professionals I know have put years and years of blood, sweat, tears, trial and tribulation into their craft to become good enough at it to call themselves professionals and try to make a living doing said work.  Not everyone can design a Web site, play an instrument, light a set, write a script or take a well composed photograph; the ability to do so takes years of practice.  Picasso said it best to a woman who had asked him to draw a sketch on a napkin at a restaurant during his later years: he drew the sketch and then told her the cost of the drawing would be $10,000.  Exasperated, the woman replied, “But that only took you five minutes to draw!”  To which, Picasso responded, “No madam, it took me a lifetime.”

4. We are not magicians

Though we take our jobs very seriously and work diligently to be the best we can be, there is a point where the boundaries of physics, software, hardware, human will or a mixture of all come to an end.  We are always happy to try our best to make you happy, but there are some things that simply cannot be done.  One time, the team I was working on was asked to “photoshop in” people into a moving dolly shot; things like this simply cannot be done, unless quality is willing to be sacrificed to the point of being laughable.  That’s why it is important when working with a creative person to plan extensively for what you want as an end product.  There are too many facets of our work that cannot simply be undone or redone; we would much rather spend extra time working with you to understand a full idea of your vision, than have to practically redo the entire project after its essentially completed.  In similar regards, please, please don’t ever totally change your vision once 90% of a project is complete.  There is nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of time, effort and energy to accomplish your vision, just to find that you had an epiphany the night of the final deadline and said vision has completely changed.

5. You are still the boss

So, the first 4 steps are generally guides on what is tough for us, but we all understand that you are still the boss.  If we are lagging behind or taking an absorbent amount of time to create something or finish it, it is still your place to push us along.  Also, some creative types have a problem getting so creative they forget what the budget is on a particularly project; this is another great place for you to intervene.  We are not unreasonable people and we want to understand your side as much as we want you to understand ours.  I hope this has been helpful and I love working for you guys, I really do!  It’s hard taking the left brain and right brain and meeting in the middle, and if this has presented any further light on the situation to you guys, then I’m very happy about that.  If you think I’m just a snobby little day-dreaming right brainer who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I can accept that too.  We all have our opinions and thanks for reading!

 

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Music on Film Series: ELO Zoom Tour Live

7 12 2011

Copyright 2001

★ ★ ★ 1/2

After nearly 15 years away from touring and recording, the Electric Light Orchestra returned with the Zoom album in the early 2000s.  Though at times the band has consisted of nearly 75 musicians on stage, it is truly the brain child of one man: singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne.  Ever since I began my journey into popular rock music in my early teens, I have loved ELO.  In my opinion, how can you not love ELO?  Just a sampling of their songbook includes: Mr. Blue Sky, Don’t Bring Me Down, Sweet Talkin Woman, Evil Woman, Telephone Line, Showdown, Can’t Get it Out of My Head, Livin’ Thing and Four Little Diamonds.  I could go on and on and triple that list with great songs, but I will digress for now; needless to say, ELO knows how to put out great, pop rock-driven songs with an interesting touch of classical music interspersed.

Anyway, as I was saying, they returned after a prolonged hiatus to release the Zoom album and followed it with a tour to support the album release.  Unfortunately, ticket sales were abysmal and they ended up cutting the tour short.  Before it was over, however, they were able to capture the tour on DVD and released it on home market.  The live DVD features lots of their classic hits, as well as a decent amount of cuts off the new album.  I was thoroughly impressed with how well Lynne’s voice had held up over the years and actually liked a lot of cuts off the new album.  Though the band was scaled back in size from its height in the 1970s, the 8-10 musicians playing on stage for the DVD were more than able to replicate the sounds from the albums.

Apparently, the general public didn’t share my enthusiasm though and after cutting their tour short, Lynne has returned to producing and working on other projects.  It’s a shame that we may never see a return of ELO on stage again because of what happened, but at least we were left with one bittersweet live DVD to hold us over.  There’s no commentary or extra footage really on this DVD, just the band performing their songs and, for that reason, I have given this live DVD three and half stars.  Furthermore, the camera work and lighting is just average.  The music is awesome, but I will agree it’s not the best live production I have ever seen put together.

So, if you are an ELO fan and just want to hear them doing live tracks, I highly recommend this DVD.  If, however, you need lots of extras and behind the scenes footage and things of that nature in your live music DVDs, then I would look elsewhere.  Finally, if you aren’t familiar with ELO and are perplexed about who the heck I am even talking about in this post, then I recommend you get on iTunes immediately and start downloading some of this bands’ greatest hits.

 





Cabaret (1972) Review

14 10 2011

Copyright 1972 Allied Artists Pictures, ABC Pictures

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I have owned this movie on VHS for about 12 years, had it in my Netflix queue for about two, and had the DVD copy from Netflix sitting on my counter for over a month.  Because of how well-reviewed the film is, I have long known that someday I would watch it.  However, for some reason, I had in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t be my cup of tea or that I wouldn’t find it as great as so many other people and critics.  Well, I was wrong; this a brilliant movie and I wish I would have seen it years ago.

Based off several different sources, the film takes place in Berlin in 1931.  Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) is an aspiring film actress with an exuberant, though sometimes erratic, personality, currently working at the Kit-Cat Club, a risque cabaret.  English PhD. candidate and man of words, Brian Roberts, arrives in Berlin and becomes roommates with Bowles, occupying the room across from her.  To make rent, he teaches English lessons for three Marks an hour.  Over time, he and Bowles become friends and eventually lovers.  However, when Baron Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem) arrives on the scene, their relationship is truly tested.  Over the course of being showered with presents by the wealthy von Heune, Bowles and Roberts both find an attraction to him.  This attraction and the sexual escapades to follow lead to some difficult decisions for both their future together and for their individual aspirations in life.  As subtext, the film chronicles the early rise of the Nazi regime and some of the horrors seen in plain public view, that were overshadowed by the decadence and innocence of the time.  Wonderful musical numbers appear throughout, lead by Kit-Cat Club Master of Ceremonies (Joey Grey) as well.

How I judge a truly great musical is whether or not the story itself was a great story without the visual panache of the musical numbers.  This is one of those films; it’s an engrossing story, one where you truly care what happens to the characters, and the musical numbers are just icing on the cake.  Minnelli and Grey both won Oscars for their work on this film and, I think, deservedly so.  Oddly enough, Grey’s entire performance is in musical numbers, he has no scenes of actual dialog, but his physicality and comedic timing in the numbers is amazing to watch.  As for Minnelli, her performance as Bowles is not only a great acting performance, but her musical numbers accent her amazing voice and dexterity in dance as well.  I always scoffed at the fact that this film took Best Director away from Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather; however, after seeing the movie, I can see how it happened.  Director Bob Fosse, in addition to directing, choreographed all the musical numbers himself.  This is a huge undertaking, and when you see the complexity of the dance numbers and how seamlessly they interweave with the shot selection, it makes sense how he could win the award.  In addition to those three Oscars, Cabaret won five others, making it the biggest winner to date without taking home the Best Picture Oscar (that one did go to The Godfather).

My favorite musical of all-time is still Singin in the Rain, but after seeing this one, I will admit that it is probably up in the top five now.  It’s a great story with great performances and wonderful musical numbers.  What more can you ask for in a musical?





Remembering Steve Jobs and Preserving His Legacy

6 10 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

I know this will likely be one of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of blog posts regarding the passing of Apple co-founder and figurehead Steve Jobs yesterday.  Jobs passed away at the age of 56 after a long battle with cancer.  Unlike many other posts, however, I’m not going to recount a biographical essay of Jobs’s life or historically chronicle his time with Apple.  What I want to look at is what he gave us and the legacy that will continue even after his passing at such a young age.

When I think of Jobs, the word that most comes to mind is: visionary.  This was a man, whose sometimes ego-maniacal persona in regards to business, pushed products that were from the deepest points of his imagination.  Unlike many other companies whose primary creative decisions come from a web of corporate “suits”, Apple’s vision was dreamt largely from one mind and then implemented by the many departments of the corporation.  During his tenure at Apple, the company continuously released products that were 2-3 years ahead of their time, paving the way for the next generation of media consumption.   Since 2000, Apple has strategically eliminated nearly every form of popular tangible media.  With iTunes and the iPod, mp3’s have taken over the compact disc market; with the iPhone, the first integrated touch sensitive smart phone with heavy application reliance revolutionized the cell phone market; and with the iPad, tablet hardware has come to a forefront, replacing the laptop computer in many homes and just now is becoming a favored educational tool for schools around the globe.

For the first 20 years of home computing, advances were minimal in design and functionality of the systems.  However, in just over 10 short years since Apple’s introduction of the iPod and all-in-one iMac computers, Apple has effectively changed how we interact and experience many forms of media on a day to day basis, from movies, to watching television, to music, and beyond.  Being a hands-on entrepreneur, Jobs’ position in Apple has been crucial to its success in the world market.  Under his leadership, the company grew from a secondary contender in desktop computing to the largest technology company in the world.  Knowing of the severity of his illness, I’m sure Jobs has laid out a very concrete game plan for the future of Apple; one that will, hopefully, keep his vision and spirit alive, much like that of the pioneering legacy of Walt Disney.

It will certainly be a lonelier place in the technological world without Jobs’s vivacious enthusiasm and keynote addresses.  Yet, what he was able to show us could be done when you have a dream and a vision, will hopefully be preserved by not only Apple, but serve as a precedent for young minds and inventors to come.





The Fenix is Rising!!!

3 10 2011

No, I didn’t misspell the title, it stands for the new production company I am affiliated with that is starting active promotion today, Down Fenix Media.  The principals of Down Fenix Media, outside of myself, are Patrick T. Griffin, Bryan R. Higgins and Jon Fredette.

We were the backbone of the UNC-Greensboro Office of Online Learning Multimedia Team from July,2010, when Patrick came on board, until July,2011, when Jon and I left.  Finding a great deal of satisfaction in working together, as well as realizing the product potential, we decided to work on several projects outside the confines of UNC-Greensboro.  Following an award-winning short film entitled “Eat Me!”, which I have provided a link to on a previous post here on the blog, and several projects we collaborated on for various clients, we came up with the idea of starting our own company.  Talks began early in 2011 and the ball/idea has continuously been rolling, but it is just today that with great pride I announce the official beginnings of Down Fenix Media.  Our business cards are in tote, our Web site is live and our readiness to produce amazing content for a diverse client base is insatiable.

So, without further ado, I give you Down Fenix Media:

WWW.DOWNFENIXMEDIA.COM

 

 

 

 





Music on Film Series Reviews: The Last Waltz

23 07 2011

Copyright 1978 MGM and United Artists

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

For those of you that know me personally, you are probably already aware of my two greatest passions.  For those of you who don’t, one is obviously film and filmmaking, the other is music.  I’ve been a guitar player for about 12 years now, have had some success in the local scene over the years with several bands, most notably with Jaxon Jill from 2007-2009.  So, to bridge the gap a bit here on the blog I’m starting a new series that will have updates ever so often.  The series will be called the Music on Film Series and include popular, and not so popular, films that have either been of live concerts, taped recordings or other instances in which music is the predominant subject of the visual image.

In starting this little ongoing series, I feel it is only fitting to begin with my favorite concert film of all time, The Band’s The Last Waltz.  I remember the first time I ever heard The Band, it was truly an hear opening experience, if you will.  I was at the local Borders in Winston-Salem, which unfortunately is currently going out of business with the rest of the chain as we speak, and I was listening to various albums they had available with headphones.  I was maybe 14 or 15 years old at this time, just beginning an interest in classic rock and roll that would continue to this day.  When I came to the CD of The Band’s Greatest Hits, which at the time had just been released on compact disc, I put on the headphones and hit play for a sample of the first track, their classic hit “The Weight”.  As I continued sampling the album through “Tear of Rage”, “I Shall Be Released”, “Up on Cripple Creek” and “King Harvest”, I became enamored with their style and musical influences.  Their sound is such a perfect blend of Blues, R&B, Rock and Roll, Country and Folk, and the voices of Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko blend so beautifully and harmoniously, that the music itself literally becomes timeless.

Needless to say, I bought the album on the spot and it continued to be a staple of my car CD system for years to come.  As I became more and more interested in their music, I caught wind of their final concert, The Last Waltz, which was filmed at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1976.  The concert film was directed by none other than iconic Italian-American filmmaker Martin Scorsese.  Scorsese and The Band collaborating on a celebration of the music at a live concert was too good to pass up.  At the time nearing my birthday, it was a first choice for present from my parents; once received, I played it from beginning to end on the big screen TV with the sound system all the way up.

The film features not only a large number of iconic Band tunes, but also has a multitude of musical guests joining the band on stage for one to two songs.  Guests include Van Morrison, Neil Young, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan (who the members of The Band were the backing band for before going out on their own), Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters, among others.  There is nothing quite like hearing many of these songs live when the group was at the height of their fame; the energy of the performances are breathtaking.  Interspersed between the music are interviews with members of The Band about their life and times with The Band and being musicians in general.

I highly recommend this album to anyone who loves music of 60s and 70s.  This is truly a celebration of The Band’s music and the people behind the music, Levon Helm (Drums and Vocals), Robbie Robertson (Guitar), Rick Danko (Bass and Vocals), Richard Manuel (Piano and Vocals) and Garth Hudson (Keys, Organ, Sax, Crazy Musical Genius Extraordinaire).  Just to give you a sample of the film, here’s oneof my favorite tracks from the DVD:








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