3 Building Blocks of Great Creative Partnerships

March 18th, 2015 Vern Oakley

I’ve been dealing with the fast and furious world of making films and videos for more than 20 years. My experience ranges from TV commercials to IMAX films and now, as VP of Production at Tribe Pictures, to longer form, documentary-style corporate films. It’s demanding work, and I have to admit I love it. But sometimes I ask myself exactly why I love it.

This recurring thought came up again recently. I was asking one of our loyal clients – and by loyal I’m acknowledging that we always seem to get that next new assignment from them – how they initially heard about us. “A friend mentioned Tribe, I think,” they said. “It was someone I trusted to know the best options for independent production companies. I wasn’t happy with our current resources.”

We reminisced about all the projects that have ranged far and wide, small and large, local and global, from CEO communications to branding. I enjoyed re-living each one a bit during this chat, recalling the many problems that surfaced along the way, and the ideas we had that led to great solutions. One started with a small fixed budget, while another required complicated multiple locations in the US and abroad. We brought in an acclaimed cinematographer for one of the films because we knew it needed a specialist’s eye, and on yet another we teamed with a freelance writer with ad agency experience to help us strategically position the message, shape a concept and then write a compelling script.
“I love this job,” I blurted out to my client; the sudden honesty of the comment seemed to surprise even me. “I really do mean that,” I added. Which brings me back to why.

If I had to sum it up, there are three main reasons: the pace, the problems and the people.

First, the pace. I enjoy deadlines. There, I confess: I’m forced to keep things moving at a brisk pace because most projects don’t allow for the ‘ideal’ calendar or timeline. It’s in my nature, I suppose. Moving lots of players on a tight schedule has conditioned me and focused me in a way I find stimulating.

Then there are the problems. They’re what every producer has a love/hate relationship with. Each assignment is unique, and each is equally important to our client. In most cases, you’re confronted with the fact that failure is not an option – it’s not even close to being a consideration. And when problems arise, they’re often uniquely interesting. They’re stimulating, too, and they challenge you to find the very best solution. At their core, it’s the problems that tend to spark your creativity. In this respect, they’re really opportunities.

Finally, it’s the people. Our Tribe gets it done. Every production has lots of moving parts and people who must remain attentive to detail while being flexible enough to go with the flow. We tackle each opportunity quickly and creatively and move on to the next. As highly skilled specialists we routinely come together as a team of like minds. It’s this experience – coupled with the spirited team vibe we share – that I love most.

These three elements of pace, problems and people factor into why this client said they’d stuck with Tribe through all these jobs over all these years. These are recurring themes which I’ve heard from other clients, too, and they’re remarkably similar to what drives my passion for this job. It’s about our ability to get things done, to work nimbly and to achieve success on each project. The comments have a familiar ring to them: “When we’re working with your team, everyone’s on the same page.” “Tribe acts like a partner more than a project manager.” “You guys just get it.”

That’s what’s in it for me, too. I thoroughly enjoy the pace, the problem-solving (or opportunity-grabbing, if you prefer) and engaging with our talented people time and again. It’s a unique creative partnership with the client and our team. This kind of relationship can be harder to find at bigger production companies, but its value is not lost on clients who are looking for a great experience.