I had one of those life moments the other day. I was chatting to a young director who had come in to show us his reel and he was proudly telling me how he had written, shot and edited this film for a client in one week and charged £1,000. Was I supposed to be impressed?
I was just about to tear into this whippersnapper when I had that moment. If I were this guy’s age I would be doing the same thing. In fact, I remember sitting opposite an agency producer in the ‘80s coming out with pretty much the same argument. Why spend more when I can produce results like this for less?
The agency producer was pretty savvy and he came out with – “I’m not interested in what you can do on two and six. I want to know what you can do when there is no budget limitation at all. What can you imagine when there are no boundaries?”
It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time but I think I get it now. As directors it’s our job to offer up ideas that stretch the imagination, that catch the attention of the audience and leave a lasting impression. Some ideas will be stupidly expensive but a lot won’t be. And some may even be so elegant that they are positively cheap.
If you start out on the creative process with just the budget in mind you’re selling the client short. And clients, if you just count the number of days shooting you get and think that represents value for money, you’re selling yourself short!
Can you get more for less? Well, it’s back to that creativity thing. We need to be increasingly imaginative, not just with the idea but the way in which we deliver the idea. And more often than not, that’s a team effort.
And what of the young director? Would I work with him? Hell, yes. He’s a seriously talented guy with tons to offer any company. But I would suggest that he would grow and flourish more working with a creative support structure than all on his tod.
Of course what really hurts is that I have now become that agency producer, the establishment figure defending the status quo. When did that happen?
Paul Katis is creative director at Pukka Films. The image above comes from Pukka's recent film A Manager’s Guide to Industrial Action.