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February 19, 2017

‘Discreet’ Review: A Dissonant Thriller About The Effects Of Child Abuse — Berlinale 2017

Childhood abuse affects its victims in myriad and often abstract ways. The disparate images and mysterious female voiceover that provide Travis Mathews’ “Discreet” its illusory opening do eventually come together, like the concentric cycles of abuse and pain experienced by its woeful protagonist, Alex (Jonny Mars).

A drifter and filmmaker, Alex travels the country in a dark blue van shooting footage of highways. On a passing visit to his unstable mother, he learns that the man who abused him is living in a small cabin on the outskirts of the rural Texas town where his mother lives. Seeking out the older man, Alex finds a severely incapacitated John (Bab Swaffar), complete with an involuntary twitch in his left arm and a vacant stare.

John is a ghoulish cartoon of a predator; even in his weakened state, his fluffy white beard, ruddy red nose, and lanky frame tower over Alex. Facing a demon who is unable to remember him or even acknowledge his presence, Alex’s vengeful machinations become complicated. He begins showing up at John’s house only to feed him soup and take him on walks outside. He is clearly waiting for something, though just what is unclear, and the viewer must wait with him.

READ MORE: ‘The Misandrists’ Review: Bruce LaBruce’s Lesbian Separatist Cult Charms With Sex and Satire — Berlinale 2017

Mathews and cinematographer Drew Xanthopoulos infuse each frame with an ominous tension, achieving the suspicion that something sinister is always lurking just offscreen. As Alex eavesdrops from a diner stool on teenage Zach (Jordan Elsass) as he complains about his busted bike tire, the camera practically side-eyes the whole exchange. The next time we see Zach, it is from afar and through Alex’s windshield. Filmed from the back of the van and over Alex’s shoulder; the frame within the frame implicates the viewer in Alex’s voyeurism.

The plot remains shadowy as Mathews dangles his enigmatic threads: Alex’s cruising trips to a porn shop, where he services Miguel (João Federici) on his knees; the meditative self-help videos that provide disembodied voiceovers from a woman named Mandy (Atsuko Okatsuka); and the orgies Alex orchestrates through craigslist where he orders men to strip naked, blindfolds them, then robs them as they rub each other.


Berlinale/Drew Xanthopoulos

Narrowly avoiding the trap of abstraction for abstraction’s sake, the reasons for these disparate moving pieces reveal themselves by the film’s end: Alex’s hope for connection with Mandy (he was planning to meet up with her in Portland) is dashed when she tells him to stop harassing her or she will call the police. Miguel, with his white beard and furry chest, is an attractive stand-in for John, signifying Alex’s reclamation of power. This idea is reinforced by the orgy, which shows Alex shifting fluidly between sexual power dynamics, while also adding a (very brief) moment of sexy levity.

READ MORE: Review: Berlin Golden Bear Winner ‘On Body and Soul’ is a Workplace Romance About Dreams

While tearing down the walls of Alex’s rotting house makes for an evocative journey, it is not one everyone will want to take. The murky opening and aloof characters are not immediately accessible, and while the implication that the abused become abusers may be statistically supported, it won’t sit well with those who have adapted more healthily than Alex. Mathews does little to dispel the stereotype of the gay pedophile, however artistically rendered.

As a follow-up to “Interior. Leather Bar.,” the director takes a decisive leap forward with “Discreet,” building Alex’s world with a rare blend of meandering and laser-beam focus. The layers of Alex’s revenge plan mingle with the layers of his pain to paint a menacing portrait of a deeply scarred individual. As the tension builds to its harrowing conclusion, and Alex begins to bare his teeth, Mathews pulls enough tricks from his sleeve to make “Discreet” a worthy digression.

Grade: B-

“Discreet” premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2017.

Source: IndieWire film

February 19, 2017

‘Logan’ Could Be One of the Best Superhero Movies Ever Made: Critical Roundup

The first round of reviews are in for “Logan,” and they’re largely positive. The latest — and supposedly last — Wolverine movie starring Hugh Jackman is currently sitting pretty at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 73 on Metacritic, with IndieWire’s David Ehrlich calling it “better as an agitated Western than as a fading superhero movie (or a listless cross-country chase)” and saying that “the most cantankerous X-Man’s final outing is a scaled-back affair that nevertheless knows how to swing for the fences.”

READ MORE: ‘Logan’ Review: Hugh Jackman Saves The Best Wolverine Movie For Last

Sheri Linden of the Hollywood Reporter is firmly in the positive camp, too:

“Seamlessly melding Marvel mythology with Western mythology, James Mangold has crafted an affectingly stripped-down stand-alone feature, one that draws its strength from Hugh Jackman’s nuanced turn as a reluctant, all but dissipated hero.”

Time’s Stephanie Zacharek is less impressed:

“…no matter what ‘Logan’s’ intentions are, it’s less an effective political statement than a movie out to punish the audience with its virtue. Shot by John Mathieson in businesslike apocalyptic tones of brownish-gray, ‘Logan’ is designed, visually, to bring you down, way down. Superspoiler alert: Characters X-Men fans care about will die. But come on—you knew that was coming, didn’t you?”

In his review for The Wrap, Alonso Duralde calls the film a fitting curtain call for Wolverine:

“Whether or not the ‘Wolverine’ movies have a future — Jackman swears this is his last go-round — ‘Logan’ is an exceedingly entertaining one. Given that 2016 gave us the rollicking and raunchy ‘Deadpool’ and the bafflingly boring ‘X-Men: Apocalypse,’ it seems like a no-brainer for the mutant movies to get wild and crazy if they want to survive. This outing feels like a step in the right direction.”

READ MORE: ‘Logan’ Trailer: Hugh Jackman Risks It All in Final Wolverine Film

Michael Roffman gives the film an A in his Consequence of Sound review:

“It’s a delicate dance, but Mangold never falters — and with good reason. This is a filmmaker’s film, a fully realized statement that oozes with the assurance and confidence of a hungry visionary who not only knows what he wants to do but how to do it.”

Tasha Robinson of the Verge likewise sings the film’s praises:

“The weight of graphic, grotesque violence hangs over the entire movie. But the daring emotional violence lingers longer, well after the lights go down on the final shot.”

“Logan” — which, in addition to Jackman, stars Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant and newcomer Dafne Keen — will be released by 20th Century Fox on March 3.

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Source: IndieWire film

February 19, 2017

Male Movie Stars Get Almost Twice as Much Screen Time: Report

There’s now even more data confirming the film industry’s gender inequality. Statisticians at St. Lawrence University have analyzed all 92 Best Picture nominees dating back to 2006 to get a sense Oscar diversity, finding that male leads were onscreen an average of 43 percent of the time compared to just 22 percent for their female counterparts.

READ MORE: Women Spoke Just 27 Percent of the Dialogue in 2016’s Top-Grossing Movies

The study was led by Michael Schuckers and Bailey O’Keeffe, with the latter pointing out that “the Academy often dismisses films that feature strong female leads in favor of the conventional, Hollywood-approved white male characters,” according to a press release on the team’s findings. Several exceptions have come in the last two years, namely “Hidden Figures,” “Brooklyn,” and “Room.”

While movies directed by men were in line with the average ratio, coming out to 44 percent of screen time for men and 21 percent for women, those helmed by women were more equal: 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

READ MORE: Female Screentime Disproportionate to Men Can Now Be Analyzed With New Technology

“Perhaps then the key to increasing female representation on screen — and thus character depth — is to hire more female directors who are more likely to distribute screen time evenly between male and female leads since most male directors seem to only be reinforcing this significant gender gap,” says O’Keeffe.

“We recognize that our metrics do not completely characterize all aspects of a film,” adds Schuckers, “yet the data that we have collected can certainly inform and enlighten about trends and patterns in films, filmmaking, and award selection.”

Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

Source: IndieWire film

February 19, 2017

‘La La Land’ Is a World of Steadicam Acrobatics — Watch Ari Robbins at Work

As you may have heard, there’s this little movie, “La La Land,” that’s flown under the radar since it was released late last year. Damien Chazelle’s musical, which is up for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards, is just a week away from fulfilling its Oscar glory and allowing us to move on to the subject of the other musically inclined film starring Ryan Gosling. In the meantime, check out a brief video showing off the Steadicam work on “La La Land.”

READ MORE: Yes, Damien Chazelle’s ‘La La Land’ Really Will Win Director and Picture Oscars — Here’s Why

Posted to Instagram by cameraman Ari Robbins, the clip features a scene in which Emma Stone and her cohorts sing and dance their way out of her apartment and onto the streets of Los Angeles. We see both the scene itself and a behind-the-scenes view, the Steadicam rig moving as gracefully as the performers twirling their way past one Prius after another. Movie magic, folks.

READ MORE: ‘La La Land’: How the Sound Team Bridged Fantasy and Reality, And Made Oscar History

“La La Land” is expected to dominate next week’s Oscar ceremony, as it has so many others over the past few months; wins for Best Picture and Director seem virtually assured at this point, as do several technical categories.


Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

Source: IndieWire film

February 19, 2017

Arthouse Audit: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Soars as ‘Kedi’ Continues Strong

A successful Oscar season is wrapping up, as multiple contenders from the specialty world continuing their long runs. Last out of the gate is Documentary Feature contender “I Am Not Your Negro” (Magnolia) which is rapidly expanding far beyond most similar nominees in an era when most documentaries do not play outside their Oscar-qualifying theatrical runs.

Among limited films, the new releases are mainly niche items without high expectations, and will add little in upcoming weeks. However, strong new Los Angeles dates on the second week of cat documentary “Kedi” (Oscilloscope) showed that its big New York opening was no fluke.


“Everybody Loves Somebody”

Everybody Loves Somebody (Lionsgate) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Palm Springs 2017

$1,000,000 in 333 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $3,003,000

The second 2017 release from Lionsgate’s Mexico producing partner Pantelion is a rom-com with a rare female director for this commercial general (mostly Latino) audience. Bilingual, it centers on an Los Angeles-based expat who returns home for a wedding with a pretend boyfriend in tow, only to have her ex show up. Its initial numbers come in at the lower end for their efforts (they usually score a minimum of $900,000 when opened at this number of theaters).

What comes next: Unless word of mouth kicks in, a two-three run and $2-3 million domestic total to add to his home returns.

Keep Quiet (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Tribeca 2016

$6,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,500

This documentary about an anti-semitic politician who learns of his Jewish heritage scored a key date at New York’s Lincoln Plaza theater. The result was a decent showing at this ideal location.

What comes next: Two Los Angeles theaters come aboard on March 3, with niche bookings likely at other locations based on the subject matter.

You’re Killing Me Susana  (Independent) – Festivals include: Guadalajara, Chicago 2016

$(est.) 12,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,000

Gael Garcia Bernal took a commercial non-festival route with this Mexican release about a young husband who finds his writer wife has unexpectedly found other interests in American academia. Unlike many similar local efforts, its U.S. release didn’t play broadly but found some minor interest in four New York and Los Angeles region theaters.

What comes next: A wider mostly Southwestern expansion starts this Friday.

From Nowhere (Filmrise) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2016

$(est.) 6,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,250

This immigrant story about three Bronx undocumented high school teens who  face threats to their future opened at two lower profile New York and Los Angeles theaters to decent reviews and some modest sampling.

What comes next: ITunes will have this in late March.

Lovesong (Strand) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Sundance, Hamptons 2016

$(est.) 1,750 in 1 theater; PTA: $(est.) 1,750

The second to last of the 16 Sundance 2016 U.S. dramatic competition films to get a public release (and the eighth to open in theaters with no Video on Demand at its start), So Yong Kim’s fourth feature focuses on an intense period in the friendship of two long time women friends. Despite standard positive reviews for similar Park City films, it opened in one New York location to minimal response despite a New York Times Critics Pick designation.

What comes next: This looks unlikely to have any significant theatrical life ahead.

Also Available on Video on Demand

American Fable (IFC/South by Southwest 2016) – $(est.) 4,000 in 2 theaters

Xx (Magnolia) – (Magnolia/Sundance 2017) – $(est.) 6,000 in 6 theaters

In Dubious Battle (Momentum/Venice, Toronto 2016) – $(est.) 3,200 in 10 theaters

International Releases

My Exes and Whys (ABS/India) – $(est.) 480,000 in 68 theaters

Ghazi (Indin/India) – $(est.) 390,000 in 94 theaters

Fabricated City (CJ/South Korea) – $(est.) 20,000 in 2 theaters

Week Two


2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Magnolia)

$600,000 in 248 theaters (+32); PTA: $2,419; Cumulative: $1,640,000

This reliable compendium of the entries in the three short film categories again shows public interest in its second weekend. Its numbers show an improvement over the second weekend of the similar program last year ($427,000 in 170 theaters).

A United Kingdom (Fox Searchlight)

$270,000 in 45 theaters (+41); PTA: $6,000; Cumulative: $360,142

Here’s a strong example of the decline in specialized fortunes in a short time. Anna Asante’s last period drama “Belle” also earned mildly favorable reviews for its historical story about racial tensions at high levels of English life. Both were released by Fox Searchlight, but this one is doing about half as well in its second weekend in exactly the same number of theaters. And this recounting of a true story set in a British African colony when a local king marries a white Englishwoman has the benefit of two name actors (David Oyelowo and “Gone Girl” Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike).

The plethora of Oscar contenders still in theaters may be a factor as well as the draw of “I Am Not Your Negro,” but there is always competition. This is head to head comparison shows what a struggle it is for distributors even with strong support to replicate past successes (“Belle” managed to get to nearly $11 million in late spring 2014).

Kedi (Oscilloscope)

$78,500 in 7 theaters (+6); PTA: $11,214; Cumulative: $142,149

The exclusive New York date last weekend wasn’t a fluke. This documentary about Istanbul street cats expanded to several Los Angeles theaters with a continued strong result, including initial suburban theaters. Cat lovers extend beyond art houses, so as this adds dates (four new theaters this Friday, 50 markets total the following week) this could turn out to be the sleeper success of the early year and beyond.

Land of Mine (Sony Pictures Classics)

$15,392 in 5 theaters (+2); PTA: $3,078; Cumulative: $45,233

Two theaters were added to the second week of the Danish Oscar nominee, which is struggling to gain traction in its initial dates. The key Lincoln Plaza Theater in Manhattan (playing two other SPC films) had only three shows, the last at 6 p.m., likely reducing its gross.

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000 in under 1,000 theaters)

I Am Not Your Negro (Magnolia) Week 3

$975,000 in 250 theaters (+135); Cumulative: $3,209,000

An excellent continued performance for this Oscar-nominated documentary about writer James Baldwin. This is a singular achievement for Magnolia and director Raoul Peck irrespective of the results next Sunday. The films is playing at broadly commercial as well as art-house locations, with a particular reach to African-American neighborhoods. The results are uneven, but the PTA is impressive overall and the totals are high.

Manchester By the Sea (Roadside Attractions) Week 14

$641,843 in 568 theaters (+114); Cumulative: $45,480,000

With AMC Theaters’ annual Best Picture marathon boosting the theater count, Kenneth Lonergan’s contender adds to its total, an addition $11 million-plus since the nominations.

Moonlight (A24) Week 18

$628,913 in 455 theaters (+104); Cumulative: $21,388,000

An uptick in theaters here as well led to an increase in this eight-nominations Oscar entry. Barry Jenkins’ film has amassed a third of its total so far since the nominations, all extra revenue that would otherwise not have occurred.

The Salesman (Cohen) Week 4

$239,415 in 85 theaters (+20); Cumulative: $1,051,000

The Foreign Language Oscar favorite (never an easy category to pick) is playing ahead of most subtitled art house entries these days, but considerably below director Asghar Farhadi’s previous winner “The Separation.” In fewer theaters at this point (after a longer playing time), “A Separation” had already reached $2 million and scored $309,000 for Presidents Day weekend in 54 theaters. Still, with the collapse in grosses for similar films since then this remains a respectable showing.

Toni Erdmann (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$217,876 in 102 theaters (+53); Cumulative: $938,585

A major expansion ahead of the Oscars to benefit from its Foreign Language nomination, this German comedy continues its modest run. It remains ahead of most of other recent attempts at reaching this audience.

Paterson (Bleecker Street) Week 8

$148,189 in 64 theaters (-6); Cumulative: $1,522,000

Jim Jarmusch’s latest quiet study of a quirky character continues its modest but steady response in limited theaters.

Jackie (20th Century Fox) Week 12

$147,000 in 149 theaters (+19); Cumulative: $13,497,000

Getting in some final business heading into the awards, Natalie Portman’s nomination is the main reason for the continued play.

20th Century Women (A24) Week 8

$134,500 in 115 theaters (-12); Cumulative: $5,328,000

Mike Mills’ California coast 1970s revisit continues to add late run gross, holding longer than many other films that hoped to score acting nominations.

Elle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 15

$67,723 in 43 theaters (-14); Cumulative: $2,128,000

Paul Verhoeven’s French thriller has doubled its gross since Isabelle Huppert received her Best Actress nomination.

The Red Turtle (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$65,793 in 36 theaters (+7); Cumulative: $434,948

More Oscar parallel business as this Belgian Best Animated Feature contender remains in the early stages of its run with modest results.

Julieta (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 9

$56,522 in 31  theaters (-32) Cumulative: $1,269,000

Not part of the Oscar circus anymore, Pedro Almodovar’s latest is wrapping up its run lower than his other recent releases.

Also noted

Neruda (The Orchard) Week 10 – $45,979 in 43 theaters; Cumulative: $673,631

The Eagle Huntress (Sony Pictures Classics) Week  16 – $22, 656 in 28 theaters; Cumulative: $3,026,000

Chapter and Verse (Paladin) Week 3 – $10,928 in 1 theater; Cumulative: $68,795

Mr. Gaga (Abramorama) Week 3 – $8,438 in 3 theaters; Cumulative: $96,456

Source: IndieWire film

February 19, 2017

If You've Never Used a Wireless Transmitter with a Boom Mic, You Might Want to Now

Wireless transmitters aren’t just for lav mics, you know.<p>There are obvious benefits to the lavalier microphone/wireless transmitter combo: it’s …
Source: CW’s Flipboard Feed

February 17, 2017

Watch What Happens When Daring Designers Take On 26 Briefs In 26 Hours

There’s no such thing as a “design process.” Well, there’s not a rigid set of steps of how the design process is completed. There are many methods that work for different individuals, but the creative process works best when it’s motivated by the work and the individual designers behind it.

26 Briefs in 26 Hours A-Z

For the designers at the studio HAWRAF, who haven’t yet determined their design process, they believe that the approach is just an illusion. To test that theory, three of the four partners, Carly Ayres, Andrew Herzog, and Nicky Tesla, stayed up for 26 hours to complete 26 distinct projects–one for each letter of the alphabet, to be exact.

The project, A-Z, started at 7 a.m. on November 15 and ended at 9 a.m. Eastern time the following morning. During that time, the designers received a word and a definition each hour for each letter of the alphabet from a custom-made online generator. From that information, they devised completely new projects in alphabetical order. Each resulting project uses different mediums, thanks to the fact that the designers, with experience in graphics, software engineering, and industrial design, had access to a 3D printer, a laser cutter, and other tools inside New York’s New Museum incubator, New Inc.

designers 26 briefs 26 hours

The 26-hour project fell under the studio’s initiative Creative Accessibility, a principle that underlines the need to share “information, experiences, knowledge, mistakes, successes, failures, and processes in public space.” Their hope is to build a design community that values inclusivity and transparency. “We’re interested in taking a look at our own processes, putting them on display and hoping people can learn from them, but also learn that process is fluid,” says Herzog.

[Via: Co.Design]

Source: Visual News

February 16, 2017

Get Your Smash On With This ‘Lemonade’ Inspired Game

In honor of Queen Bey herself and her many Grammys, some members of her Beyhive created a fantastic 8-bit game based on her music video Lemonade.

“Lemonade Rage” lets players assume the role of Beyoncé as she smashes through cars and haters, collecting lemons as she goes. The game is an automatic runner, meaning the character begins to move forward as soon as the game starts, and picks up speed as you progress through the level. You’ll also be faced with obstacles, such as haters and Illuminati conspiracy theorists, that you must avoid by using your arrow keys. As the game picks up speed, it gets surprisingly difficult as more haters block your path.

The game is the brainchild of Joe Laquinte, Justin Au, Line Johnson, and Colby Spear, three designers and presumably big fans of Beyoncé. The design of the game is reminiscent of Double Dragon, an 80s beat ‘em up video game, and the music, an 8-bit remix cover version of Hold Up by 8-Bit Universe, really makes it feel like you’re playing an old arcade game.

Try the game out for yourself here and let us know how you do!

Source: Visual News

February 15, 2017

In Memoriam: Lucille Horn

We learned this week of the passing of Lucille Horn, who was one of Dr. Martin Couney’s incubator babies in the 1920s. As part of a sideshow on Coney Island, Lucille helped pave the way for modern neonatal intensive care. We are remembering her contributions today, and we’re very grateful she was able to share her remarkable story with us!

— Jasmyn Belcher Morris, Senior Producer




StoryCorps 433: Coney Island Baby

0:00 / 0:00

Source: SNPR Story Corps

February 15, 2017

The 15 Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned In Creative Work

Originally featured on Column Five.

If you’re in a field where either the people or the work you’re producing are labeled “creative,” you likely signed up to create meaningful, fulfilling experiences. And if you’re idealistic like me, you may even say you’re here to bring beauty into the world. Yet when it comes to creative work, we face the same occasional struggles: frustrating projects, tight timelines, vague asks, creative drain.

As Producer, then Senior Producer, Strategist, and now Director of Strategy at Column Five, I’ve faced these issues at many levels of our organization, both with our own team and with our partners. There is no magic fix for creative troubles, but over time I’ve learned a few lessons. Whether they were simple realizations or totally game-changing revelations, they’ve all helped me in one way or another. I think they can help you too.

If you want to improve the creative work you make and the way you work with others, here are 15 things that might help.



This habit has the highest impact-to-effort ratio imaginable. That’s strategist speak for making a huge impact with very little effort.

I used to think I couldn’t respond to client emails until I had an exhaustive response to every item the client detailed. That was until a custom music vendor, Score A Score, showed me that quick replies as simple as “We’re on it” or “Thanks—tied up for a few hours but will respond in full” can be an incredibly valuable service tactic. (As a company policy, Score A Score’s CEO demands a 10-minute response time for every email from his staff.)

Knowing an email has been read and is being handled puts your partner’s mind at ease. (This type of swift communication also aligns with happiness expert Gretchen Rubin’s 1-minute rule. If something takes less than a minute, do it now.)


Your creative success ultimately depends not on how much your client paid you but how well your creative work helped them achieve their goal.

Belittling a client’s opinion or lack of expertise never helped a team get a better creative result. The people you work with are very smart people. They could run circles around you in their field of expertise; they just need you to help communicate their vision. Approach the job as their partner and internal spokesperson. Own that role.

Beyond being a partner, you will sometimes need to represent your client or act as their surrogate when dealing with a subcontractor or vendor. Always make decisions that you believe will best benefit the client.



I originally wanted to phrase this as “be aggressively anti-meeting,” but let’s go with a more positive take. Don’t use meetings as a crutch. Meetings are only valuable when they leverage the collective contributions of valuable people. If you’re getting bombarded by meeting invites, make sure you’re clear on why your presence is necessary; if it’s not, decline it.

When you set up meetings, include only relevant stakeholders. Set objectives, then release people as soon as you address those designated objectives. Just because a meeting is scheduled for an hour doesn’t mean you have to fill time until then. (See more of our tips on how to run a meeting like a boss to save your team’s sanity.)


The biggest mistakes I’ve made weren’t because I made a creative decision that didn’t pan out. They happened when I didn’t trust my own instincts—or kept quiet about them. Lo and behold, in those instances, the exact issues I’d wanted to raise ended up being irreversible flaws in the project.

Believe in your convictions. Be willing to gamble, put yourself out there to experiment, push boundaries, and even fail. Betting on yourself isn’t a risk-free path, but trusting your instincts—and being ready to deal with their outcomes—is an important way to grow and do better creative work.


This golden rule is pretty easy to stick to if you’re organized. Before you ask your client for their brand style guide or audience personas, be certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you and your team don’t have that info already.

Triple- and quadruple-check your files to make sure you aren’t asking the client to do something they’re paying you to do. There’s no greater *facepalm* moment than when a client re-forwards you a previous email or refers you back to your own team member for info.



No matter how random or disconnected your ideas may be from the project at hand, record any idea that is interesting to you. These notes can be invaluable for preparing for a brainstorm, addressing wide-open creative opportunities, or referencing down the line when you’re stuck.

I personally use the Notes app on my iPhone. Plenty of my creative projects have started there, including everything I wanted to share in this blog.


Profound creativity can come from moments of absolute mental void. While keeping busy is a motivator for me, moments of boredom are when my mind is free to reflect, humor itself, and explore. I used to commute over an hour each way to the office, and while I don’t miss that drive, I do miss the daily meditative time it afforded me.



Experienced creatives know there’s a visceral difference between ideating to solve a problem they understand versus one they don’t.

In creative work, we’re often asked to create a tangible piece of creative that connects to an intangible vision. A client might want you to make their brand “contemporary” or create an “emotional” video. But what does contemporary mean to them? What kind of emotion should your work elicit? If you want to find the right solution to a project, you need to know what problem you’re trying to solve.

Before you start on an endeavor, secure a firm understanding of the project and relationship goals. Call your contact if you need to iron out details or confirm what you’ve gathered. What is the vision? How does the client see it? The more assumptions you’re making, the less likely you’re aligned with your client.

Get to the why before you start worrying about the what. Remember: Even the most skilled dart-thrower can’t be effective if they don’t know the target.


No matter your field of work, you have to know why you’re in it and what you want to do. Your mission and associated values will influence a lot of what you do—especially in cases where the answer isn’t cut and dried.

At our agency, we’re lucky to have a blueprint that influences our decision-making. It’s our Five Columns, the company values we use as our North Star:

When we have to make big decisions or approach a difficult conversation, these offer us inspiration and guidance. They not only make us better at what we do, they make us better people.



We all want the same things: to make great creative work that our clients are happy with. But in the rush to complete a project, sometimes things go unsaid or accountability slips, which can lead to unhealthy communication and unsettled nerves within your team. Having a frank and honest discussion about these issues—after the fact—helps you improve and learn to work better.

I recommend these after every project, especially if that project experienced a hiccup. I’d also encourage you to be the first to welcome feedback. There is amazing and energizing power in creating a forum of open, honest team reflection. It’s the best way to make sure your next project has good vibes.


A new mantra for our team has been to “act with positive intent and assume positive intent in others.” But we also need to be on the same page. For me, that comes down to transparency. When you are evasive or put up a facade, you breed distrust. Conversely, showing honesty and compassion will breed confidence. Most importantly, it’ll breed goodwill for when you do make a mistake—which, trust me, you will.


Be authentic in the way you communicate, both in how you speak and listen. I used to have trouble reconciling “real” me with “work” me. But eventually the two met, and I was able to find my own professional voice. This helps me maintain genuine communication.

I’ve also learned to prioritize listening. It’s a key part of being a good collaborator—and human being. Give people your full attention to hear them out. Even if you disagree, acknowledge that you hear them, show appreciation for their thinking, and walk them through your thinking.

Create conversations instead of conflict. It’s likely you both want the same thing from a project. Strive to work from that common place.

If all else fails, I’ve found there’s a mystical power in going on a walk with someone.



The creative community is a small world where relationships are everything. Our reputation directly affects who we get to collaborate with, which, in turn, impacts the quality of our work.

Pay people what they’re due when they’re due it, show kindness courageously, be an internal advocate for freelancers, and be a helping hand to your partners—no matter who the payer is. Understand that healthy long-term relationships are in the agency’s best interest.


Risk. Expectations. Value. Confidence. These words will influence the success of all your creative endeavors.

Risk: What is likely to go wrong—budgeting, creative execution, legal reviews? When something makes you nervous, listen to that feeling. Knowing your risks only empowers you to manage a project better. Counter-balance your risk tolerance with the knowledge that great content practices don’t happen without experimentation.

Expectations: What is the vision and outcome your various collaborators anticipate? Undoubtedly, part of mastering life is having a good read on who expects what, and why. The idea of success is wholly dependent on what expectations preceded it.

Value: What project factors are unique or different, and how will that benefit your audience? Steering a project correctly requires that you have a great handle on what made the original concept valuable. Challenge yourself and your teammates by questioning the value of certain design elements, plot devices, or formats.

Confidence: How can you demonstrate optimism about your team’s ability to deliver on an idea? Using language such as “We’re confident in…” instead of “We think…” will help crystallize your confidence, and others will be more likely to listen.


As Jane Austen said, “Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.” I think it’s safe to say that in creative work, surprises are rarely fun.

How I’ve learned to minimize surprises in creative work:

  • Engage your uncertainty: Get the answers you need from the people who can accurately give them. Does the designer feel confident in executing on this style? Is the developer on board with the required tech stack? Know where things are the most and least likely to blow up on you, and temper expectations accordingly.
  • Identify the risk areas of a project early: 80% of a project’s outcomes are decided in the first 20% of the work. Work aggressively upfront to spot and resolve issues that may affect you down the line. This can mean everything from solid outlines and sketches to securing film permits and wardrobe approval.
  • Think through every implication before you make a change: One project variable can greatly affect other variables. You don’t want solving one problem to create new, bigger problems. Assess the domino effect that new information or decisions may have, and get all parties on board beforehand.

Above all, stay open and agile. You’ll never be fully prepared for every situation that comes up. But that’s the fun part, right? Pack some of these tips in your toolbelt, and approach the unexpected challenges as opportunities—not natural disasters.

For more thoughts on creating great work, find out what 5 mistakes to avoid in content creation, learn how to work with these 4 creative types, and find out how to create a culture of content.

Source: Visual News