Thursday, May 6, 2010
015- Way, way back I accepted a job offer to move to Nova Scotia. I came here as a very eager beaver. I worked on just about everything and anything. Unlike my career in Toronto as a strictly commercial editor I found myself working on all types of projects here. It didn’t matter what the projects were I dove right in and did my level best to make everything “sing”.
Within one month of arriving I was tasked to create a video which promoted an international software convention coming to town. It had to be uplifting, energetic, and “cool”. But it also needed local flavours. A track was selected for me by my client and it involved using a popular regional band. The track, I’ll never forget it, was called “Reel and Roll” and when I was done people loved that video. I mean they LOVED it. It made you want to clap along. It made you want to watch it again and again. It made you want to come to our province. In short, it did its job and did it very well. I was pleased, my client was pleased and their client was pleased. Next!
Well, next turned out to be a similar job. You know how it works: prove yourself on that one and get something just like it. Only they said “Hey! We love what you did with that video with the ‘Reel and Roll thingy'. Use that track again”. Huh? “Um, well…okay” I dutifully replied, against my better instincts, and proceeded to dive in and use the same track. I didn’t like the process so much this time. It was harder to work. I couldn’t get inspired. But worst of all when she came in to review she shrugged her shoulders in kind of a “you didn’t do as good a job this time” way. So I went back into the footage and polished it some more… and more… and more… until she begrudgingly took her tape away. (Tape, remember those?)
I knew right away what the problem was. She was expecting the same heart-pounding reaction she got before. And she wasn’t getting it because it wasn’t fresh. But that wasn’t all. I wasn’t getting freshly inspired to tackle the footage in a unique way. I didn’t have a fresh “muse” from which to draw on.
It got worse. For years, and I mean YEARS, people would come to me and say “We have a video and we want you to use that “Reel ad Roll” track. It haunted me. It got so bad I threatened my clients with bodily harm if they even so much as mentioned it. So much for the eager beaver.
The lessons I learned were hard but they instilled a pretty solid rule in my career that I rarely deviate from. I never use the same music track twice. No matter how much a track might be calling out to me I do not repeat. Like a siren in the water luring me to rocky shores I must resist the urge to follow their sweet call to certain disaster. With such easy access to the internet, stock music companies and composers there is a seemly infinite amount of music to choose from out there and there’s no reason to tap the same tree twice for sap.
I once heard a college professor say if he had any wish he would want to read Shakespeare’s Richard III for the first time. He wanted to experience the thrill and freshness of reading that play for the first time again. I get that. There are movies that I would love to have my memory erased just so I could feel the same way when I saw them again. Like drug addicts we want that same high again and go running back to the same place only to find it doesn’t have the same 'hit'.
The result of this pledge is not only unique project every time, but a unique collection of work in my reel and in my life. Clients can review anything -anything - I’ve done and always feel I’ve got a fresh approach. Because I do. And I’m happier for it.
And if they mention using “Reel and Roll” I hit them in the face with a shovel. If they keep insisting, then, and only then, I repeat. I may never use the same music twice but the dull thud of a shovel in the face never fails to get the point across.