October 24, 2015 at 7:24AM
"That's a great idea, but...." (working with art directors)
I work with a lot of art directors, creative directors, and corporate clients for commercials and editorials. One of my friends who is a art director at Goodby told me a neat workaround for dealing with egos and also still possibly being able to execute your visions as well.
There are always so much egos in play, everybody needs to say something and make themselves purposeful on set. Everybody wants to make a suggestion but no decisions. And most of them are terrible.
Telling them that they are terrible and moving on might be the best and fastest way to finish the job, but that client is not coming back to you. The sad reality is, their "experience" is more important to them then their result. It is true that most of the crap you are being asked to you, somebody else can shoot it. There really are very few jobs and (hate to admit) but very few dp's that can really create and own something original. If you give them a product but a bad time, they'll just move on to the next guy.
My friend at Goodby, one of the higher up art directors there with over 30 years in that position gave me this advice about 10 years ago. "Even if the answer is No, never say No. Say No without saying No"
So, when you are suggested a terrible idea (all the time), a good way to work around it is by praising it but suggesting how their idea can be even better (with yours). Even if your idea is completely opposite. To lead them into it, you make it "their idea" by having them answer the questions.
So if they say "how about a harder light source", i would reply "you know that might be a good idea. It would add more shadow and drama...".BUT" we do also want to see the talent's face right? Do you think that's important?."
So i'll have the gaff move the light in a few feet and go heavier on the diff, and move the talent back. What we essentially did was just move the entire set back. Then the art director complains about something "now showing in frame". so you move the came up to cut it out. And now they're happy. You have just gone right back to where you started. You have now managed their ego, made them happy, and possibly have a repeating client. You made them feel part of the team.
Another case would be. "you know what that's great! Let's do that "BUT" how about we also shoot this coverage for safety (the correct decision) so we'll have alternatives in post.
This one you need to be careful so you won't be shooting alternatives for every goddam shot.
The work around that (if they start to suggest alternatives) is to say, for editorial don't YOU think it would cut better if we had consistency?
remember "YOU" is important. and you let them "make the decisions" and validate your suggestion.
There's probably better and other ways to work around them but this has worked for 10 years for me and 30+ years for a buddy of mine who does SuperBowl commercials, Nike ads and American Express Campaigns.