Ben awoke at 4:00 am with that old familiar anxiety. It was pitch day. He was recommended for the project and knew that the client, Ed, loved his work. But that was acting and this was directing. Worse, Ed had been directing his own stuff. He was a good guy, but maybe he was just a bit too much in love with his own directing. Ben thought, “Might as well get up and gather my thoughts. Here I am wide awake. Obviously I want this one.”
He needed to focus. Ed needs to keep costs down and he’ll want to get this film shot and uploaded as quickly as possible. Those are the issues. What else? Ben grabbed his pad and wrote, ‘higher purpose. What’s Ed’s higher purpose?’ “Yes, he’s trying to get the word out to his community that there’s a better way to deal with the fundamental concepts, and win in the process. I need to appeal to his higher purpose.”
The meeting wasn’t until the afternoon and Ben had a full day scheduled but he managed to squeeze in another call to his coach, Adam, who headed the video team on the previous work for the client. “Adam, what’s going on? I got the article. It’s a good little scenario, a good story, in fact, but it’s not a film script. And you said that he wants to go on location this time. What else can you tell me?”
Adam filled in a few blanks. The client was already interviewing for the lead and talking about using the same improv style that he’d used in the previous films. Yes, Adam agreed that was no way to shoot on location. It would be much better to tighten down the script so every shot, every line, was planned and the team could really focus, but how to disabuse the client of that? Hmmm.
Ben grabbed a sandwich and made a few more notes. “Okay. I’ve made a few shorts already. I’ll share my experience with the shorts and using the camera and location to help tell the story, letting the audience fill in the details. He’ll understand. I’ll remind him that we want the audience to connect emotionally and to feel the story.”
As Ben arrived at Ed’s office he thought, “Okay, here we go. I’m feeling pretty good about this. I’ve got the expertise. This is what I do. It’s show time!”
After the weather and how the day was going chit-chat, Ben said: “Ed this is a great project, but in my experience on location, which will give us a more persuasive result, requires much more planning than the improv we did last time.”
Ben said to Ed, “Help me understand how you’ll use this film.”
Ed explained what he wanted to accomplish with the film and Ben, picking up on Ed’s remarks, summarized how he would plan the shoot and the need for a tight screenplay, both to keep costs down and to help the actors get into the roles. “The whole point of going on location is to help the audience feel the message. To get past the ‘this is how to do this bit’ and get viewers to really feel it. They’ll get so much more out of it if we tap into the experiences they bring with them when they’re watching.”
Ben said, “I know a writer who will take your story and turn it into a tight screenplay that we can work with. Once we have that, we can plan everything in detail — not just the acting, but locations, sound, lighting, the roles of the whole team. I know you like your film guys. They are more event oriented, but they are smart and efficient and I’ve worked enough with them to feel good about what they bring to the party.
Based on my reading of your story and what you’ve said today, we can get through it and make a real impact in 15–20 minutes. Figure a thousand a minute. Say $25k to be safe. How’s that sound?”
Ed said, “When can we start?”
“I’ll connect you to the screenwriter this evening. You’ll love her. She’s great. I’ll fill her in on the big picture and send her your story. You should meet her and expand on the details and the backstory. Let’s not rush this. Get the screenplay the way you want it. I’ll give you my insights. Then we should start casting, scouting locations, and so on.”
“Thanks, Ben. I’m looking forward to this. I can’t wait to get started.”
They shook hands and Ben left, thinking, “That was easy. Why was I so worried? Well, my anxiety helped me focus and I got a great little directing project. Cool.”
Ted Leonhardt has provided management consulting and negotiation training exclusively to creative businesses since 2005. He cofounded the The Leonhardt Group, a brand design firm in 1985 and sold it in 1999. In 2001 and 2002 Ted served as Chief Creative Officer for Fitch Worldwide, out of London. In 2003 through early 2005 Ted was president of Anthem Worldwide, a brand packaging design group.