Here to be Creative

By May 21, 2017Rants

I’m not here to do exactly what you want, however you want me to do it. That’s a complete waste of my skills, time, and your money. Some people who hire creatives can be under the false impression they’ve hired a trained monkey. That that monkey should know how to follow orders, keep the screaming to a minimum, change its own diapers and Get It Done. Hiring a creative worker to colour by the numbers you give them is a waste.

A creative professional is simply a person that uses their training and knowledge of things like colour, form, reaction, character, movement, and how to use tools like cameras, lights, audio equipment, Adobe Creative Cloud or the written word to create content that communicates a message. Just like a plumber with knowledge of mechanics, geometry and regulations uses wrenches, pipes and refrigeration units to fix water or heating systems, or a doctor with knowledge of anatomy, chemistry and psychology uses stethoscopes, tongue depressors and ophthalmoscopes to fix people.

Most people have a problem, hire a plumber or doctor, listen to the diagnosis and then proceed based on the professional’s recommendation.

An oft cited infuriation of being a creative professional is the lack of interest in our diagnoses and advice.

There are websites dedicated to this familiar story: client has a communications or marketing problem, client wants a creative solution, client hires a creative professional, client tells the professional their version of the solution, creative uses critical thinking and expertise to suggest solution isn’t ideal, client ignores professional and demands they implement client’s solution. Dance, monkey, and dance these specific steps.

If it was plumbing, that mindset would mean this:

A convoluted and poorly designed collection of bottles, tape and string inside a hole int he wall, used to come to a very dodgy fix of plumbing (from the TV series New Girl)

If it was medicine, you’d get this:

Flowers on a grave at a cemetery

I’ve learned to stay away from clients who come to me with solutions ready-made. It’s a waste of their money and my time, not only because they’ve hired me to do something they can’t and then ignored my expertise and experience, but because it’s insulting. Good creative professionals love understanding a brief, understanding a problem, and coming up with a creative way to solve that problem using the craft of their trade: art. In marketing and comms, it’s art designed for commercial purposes, but the same principles of successful art go into successful creative marketing and communication.

Those few times I have stepped in to be a flesh robot, the work has sucked. Do you know why? Because their solution sucked. Why shouldn’t it? If they could do it themselves, they wouldn’t need me. And no amount of skill in how I film, cast, shoot or edit is going to fix it. Can’t. Polish. A. Turd.

Here’s the most frustrating bit: the clients, inevitably, get shitty with us for their terrible idea. I had to take one to court because we had done everything they asked, exactly how they asked, got sign off multiple times on every stage of the production, and still they refused to pay because they didn’t like it after delivery. More surprising is when I step up and support my own integrity: the potential clients who call asking for quotes on a concept I think isn’t very good, and get overly upset when I politely decline to quote them because the work doesn’t fit with what we do. Consumer law, thankfully, says that if you give someone what they asked for, they have to pay you, even if they don’t like it later. And those who can’t even handle polite rejection at the enquiry stage, well, fuck working for them. They’d be a nightmare!

Let’s admit it: ego is running wild in these clients. They maybe, secretly, deep down, want to be creative, only they lack the professional part. Their belief in themselves outpaces their ability, and to have to confront that because of some small time filmmaker or graphic designer, well, that’s just too much for their delicate minds.

Here’s my advice: bring problems to creative professionals and let them solve it with you. Or, quit your job and go learn a creative trade, so in five years you can come back to this blog and be just as frustrated as the rest of us.