Weekly Ketchup 11 - Direction vs. Management

These past three days had been rather busy for me, work-wise. I directed a photo shoot for a client's advertising and marketing campaign. I got to work with an awesome photographer who, as cliche as this may sound, really brought to life the ideas in my head.

The experience gave me an insight into the relationship between a film director and a cinematographer. Although I had a dictionary definition of each other's scope of work in a film set, I never had a working knowledge about the difference between the two disciplines - until I found myself giving our photographer directions about what I wanted to see and then let him masterfully wove light, shadow, and depth to give me the photos that I needed.

I get it now!
Thankfully, this was our second campaign for the client and we also booked the same photographer as the last time, so there's already a level of familiarity that made the workload a bit smoother and easier than the first time. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean things went off without any glitches.

While I was essentially on board the project as creative director, my previous training in production management constantly kicked in and I found myself micro-managing every aspect of the shoot, including logistics, which was supposed to be the client's responsibility. Because we were trying to accomplish more than 50 sets of photos in different rooms with different groups of people over a period of three 12-hour days, I often had to serve as vanguard and prep the next location before our photographer came in, which was the system we worked with in our previous project.

I'm seriously awed by how they control the lighting of their set.
However, as director, I really shouldn't leave my set. That was a mistake I learned from the very first set that we shot. I left to prep the next set and someone from the client side thought they could supercede my direction, so they took a photo that I would never use in the campaign. We ended up re-shooting the damn thing on the very last day. Time and effort wasted but lesson learned.

If that sounds like a rookie mistake, that's because it is. It was, after all, my first time to handle directorial duties. However, when it comes to production management, I'm your man. That much, I can take pride in. I knew how to control my sets, isolate variable elements, and give our team a controlled environment to work in.

Production work is as close to military dictatorship as it gets.
There were several instances when pre-determined locations suddenly weren't available and I practically dictated to the client which alternative locations I preferred to shoot in instead of waiting for them to decide. In one instance, they did offer an alternative but, knowing that the location wasn't conducive for the type of shoot I wanted to do, I strongly insisted on another specific location, which was ultimately granted. I feel that in those instances, the creative director and production manager part of my brain were working in tandem.

One thing I learned about myself throughout the whole process was that I'm quick on my feet when it comes to creative direction but I make crappy decisions on the spot as production manager. Is it the nature of the job? As director, I had to make something out of what is immediately in front of me. As manager, I needed to know everything beforehand. In production management, especially in events, one of the very first things that we learned is to gain control of every aspect of production, which meant that we had to adopt a "begin-with-the-end-in-mind" mentality.

Get it?
My experience as a student leader in college also inculcated that line of thinking, and I've thankfully developed a sense of foresight that helps me weed out "unforeseen circumstances". But I also have the foresight to know that no matter what I do, there will always be "unforeseen circumstances". I even have the foresight to realize that the commands I barked on the spot were stupid and reversed them before they did any damage, which served us well during the shoot.

On a somewhat related note, we had a meeting with another client - a project management specialist - who brought up a very interesting insight: Apparently the strict, follow-instructions-to-the-dot approach to project management is more closely followed in engineering, construction, and other rigid industries and is hardly used in the creative disciplines, which follows a more flexible approach to project management. In my head, I was like "Bitch, unless you've actually managed live productions and events, your understanding is theoretical!"

Also this week: I bought a new game from Google Play! Venture Towns is a simulation game from Kairosoft similar to Sim City. It was on sale as part of the Play Store's 2nd anniversary promote, so I thought I'd snatch it. So far, I've been loving it - I even played it on breaks during the shoot!

Hmm, now that I think about it, I wonder if there's a correlation between my preference for third-person POV RPGs, simulations, and strategy games and my "seeing the big picture" approach to production management.

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