I had lunch with a music composer some time back, celebrating a successful video project he and I had worked on together, when we got to discussing clients. This is sort of standard operating procedure when creatives-for-hire get together.
We both shared something in common– we both as part of our modus operandi retained creative control over the projects we produced, at least most of the time.
He said, “I have a philosophy. I tell potential clients ‘if you know what you want, you don’t want me.’”
I tried to put my head around that, since clearly they wanted him, or they wouldn’t be discussing a project with him.
He went on. “What I mean is, if they have already figured out what they want musically, without even discussing the their need, goals, expected results, and more, then they want to skip the best of what I can offer them.
“How’s that?” I said, channeling Jack Webb.
“I offer problem-solving”, he replied. “If they’ve figured out the answer, then I’m just a contracter, not an architect.”
Which reminded me of the single most often asked question we used to get at Sorgel-Lee in the old slide days. After a pasrticularly successful project, one in which we had analyzed a need, suggested an approach,wrote a script, shot the picture sequences, created dazzling animations, and put the whole thing together to a remarkable, Hollywood-style soundtrack, the client would declare:
“That was great. What kind of camera do you use?”
Like the camera was going to grant that individual the sudden talents of the 10-person team it may have taken to create the multimedia project that had just gotten him a promotion or corner office.
Which is why we never worked by the hour, only by project quote. You need some video shot? There are freelance shooters for that. Our shooters are working on projects that we have written and are directing.
You’ve got a script? Good for you. There are plenty of production companies that will risk their reputations and highlight reels producing your script. But we had a style, and it including certain script-writing techniques, rhythms and meters we had spent yeats perfecting.
You want a hundred copies? There were far cheaper places than us, and we didn’t want to risk our reputation and your trust in us with an attempt to make a quick buck by hooking up a couple of VHS machines and given you muddy copies, or burning single DVD’s with paper labels that only worked on SOME DVD plsyers.
Put another way, if you want to hire us, you want to hire us, not our equipment.
And our most successful professional relationships are built on that fact, and the trust it implies.