“You’re only as good as your last film.” I’ve heard this phrase repeated countless times from directors, EPs and agency folk alike. It’s of course also always communicated with an ominous tone with an undercurrent of “don’t mess this up”…
What a wonderful way to inspire creativity. I call bullshit.
I understand the genesis of this reasoning; it’s a highly competitive industry and perhaps just one misfire can send you tumbling down the totem pole of heavyweights, up-and-comers and agency charmers. You’re the director that did that turd of a film that had the whole industry cringing. Oh, how easily our lizard brains can send us spiraling into a pit of despair.
If you’re a director on your way up the industry ladder and you find yourself having delivered a steaming pile of creative mess, don’t despair (unless you’re the one who did the Kendall Jenner spot
Many moons ago, when I was but a mere overzealous sales rep, knocking on doors in the hope of spreading the good word of Hobby, a script arrived in my inbox that made me scream with joy. One of Europe’s best agencies at the time had sent us a script for a big-name director. The creative was full of interesting characters, bizarre humor and a strong, clear message. The budget and schedule were another thing but hey, who cares!? This was it!
We lost (plot twist!).
The job went to the hottest director around at the time. A director who’s latest film was not only the talk of the town, but the whole world.
I waited with bated breath for this marvel of a spot to be revealed to the world, no doubt arriving on a pedestal draped in red velvet to protect our mortal eyes from its powerful brilliance. But it never came.
I couldn’t accept this and dug deeper and deeper into the annals of YouTube until finally I found it.
It wasn’t the worst thing I’d ever seen but… c’mon! What happened? This guy? This agency? This script? Years later I heard the whole story about an array of factors (we’re all too familiar with) that brought it crashing down and I could identify with them. As I’m sure most people could.
Was this the end for our hero director? If the adage held true, he was toast. Surely people would now forget his stellar showreel and only talk about this flop! Fast forward and he’s still the envy of most directors, producers, creatives…everyone.
My somewhat vague point is don’t ever let industry lore fill you with fear. For most it can take years to craft a showreel of six immaculate spots that gets attention. For others it’s one spot that shoots them to the stars, but you can be sure it will take five more to keep them there.
And along the way, you’ll have numerous failures. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re as good as your last one. The moment you do that you stop taking risks and, funnily enough, it’s those same risks that threaten failure that can be just as likely to lift the film to lofty creative heights.
And if you truly believe that you are in fact as good as your last film, then it’s time to pack your bags and head on home.
You fail, you learn and you grow.
You succeed, you learn and you grow.
Tom Rickard is CEO at Hobby Film.