12 months ago
One of my favourite aspects of my evolving role in production - first as a sales rep and now as an executive producer - is working with up and coming directors. Their enthusiasm has always motivated me to work hard to help deliver the opportunities and support that will grow their career and give them a chance to shine. I genuinely enjoy every aspect of the process, but for me, there’s nothing more important than 'the call'. That matchmaking opportunity to glean info, test chemistry and share the ideas that will define a director’s approach to a project. Over the course of countless (hundreds) of these calls, I’ve found myself compiling a list of guidelines that help make the call as productive as it can be. Here goes:
So often younger directors feel that they need to impress the team with long sentences and elaborate ideas, right out of the gate. But the most impressive thing you can do on that call is listen. Listen to the agency, let them do the talking. Always. This is your opportunity to meet the team and learn who they are, what they like, and what their hopes and dreams are for the project. These are the key ingredients for crafting your idea. The interaction between the director and the agency is a very important one and they are about to become your partner. Remember, this is like your first date and in the end, barring any unforeseen issues, you want to be asked back to the dance.
2. Ask questions.
After the introductions, jump right in to asking questions. My favourite question for a first call is: 'Where did the idea come from?' This opens the door to a conversation where you can learn about the initial idea. Who came up with it, the creative or the account people, did someone write it on a cocktail napkin or was it part of a PowerPoint? Sometimes you learn that what might have started as a brilliant idea has now been affected by layers of client comments and testing. I have always believed that people want to help you get to where you’re going and if you ask the right questions and learn a bit about the project, you’ll obtain all the information you need to get going on your treatment. As a young director, you’re still trying to find your own voice, and this questioning technique is a game changer.
3. Own your ideas.
What I mean by this is, be confident about what you’re saying. The worst thing you can do is question yourself and live in the wishy-washy world of could, should or would. Even if you use this conditional tense as a way to be polite, you might end up sounding unsure of yourself. Remember, you can always revisit an idea or give a list of alts after the fact. But, be firm and say what you think, stick to your guns. They are hiring you for your creative input after all.
4. SLAY THE TREATMENT.
Start working on the treatment right away. Don’t get amnesia about all the great information you got on the call, make sure it makes its way onto your pages. It’s okay for the idea to evolve, but you want it to be recognisable to them. Also, be sure to connect yourself with the brand in some way, right at the start. Nothing is more visually memorable than your dad taking you for a drive in his new Chevy, when you’re trying to tell these folks what that moment means to you and their audience. Finally, remember that a short sentence can be a galaxy. I don't profess to always live by this rule, but when writing a treatment, shorter sentences are usually better than longer ones. Good luck on your next call!
Trevor King is executive producer at Greenpoint Pictures