An Ounce of Pre-Production is Worth a Pound of Post
Creative marketing and advertising is sometimes a catch 22. We artists scream for freedom, for pure and unconstrained parameters of creation, yet, we are notoriously lazy, disorganized, and distractible. We clamor that rigid guidelines and fixed turnaround times poison our creative processes...but somewhere deep inside we worry that if truly left to our own devices we’d never get anything done.
These ideas are false. My experience does not show that planning kills spontaneity. It does not indicate a correlation between a firm deadline and a sacrifice of creativity.
An ounce of pre-production is worth a pound of post.
My dear friend happened to be in Vegas this week at NAB and sent me a hilarious picture. It was a shot of a mug with the slogan “Keep calm, and we’ll fix it in post.” For those of you who aren’t steeped in the film production fantasy world that I live in, this idea “we’ll fix it in post” is a snide jab that is frequently used by on-set production crew members to express the attitude: “Fuck it. Let’s cut this huge corner now and make the video editor fix it later.”
It’s definitely a light hearted joke more often than not, but dear lord let me tell you...the times when it’s NOT are the bane of my existence. And for the inexperienced filmmaker, what may appear to be a mere “cuttable corner” may in fact kill the production if not considered and addressed during pre-production or on set.
Though this vignette is closely tied to a film production, I’ll can broaden the application of this lesson with another anecdote.
What we can learn from Michelangelo
When Michelangelo was preparing to carve the marble that would become his David, he is fabled to have said this:
“I knew he was in there, and I pondered the block for days until I saw him. All of him. Then I simply removed everything that was not David.”
I do not know a single soul who would dare brand Michelangelo as a “planner”, but there he was, refusing to chip a single flake of stone before his vision, all of it, was fully and comprehensively imagined.
Stephen Covey and Michelangelo were cut from the same cloth. Their mutual preachings/practice of “beginning with the end in mind” stitches them together. A simple proposition right? But when launching into a project, how often do we really do this? How consistent are our actions with our belief that this is a practical approach?
...even I, the video editor, fall far short often…
I do consider myself lucky however. I may not learn from my own mistakes easily, but on a daily basis I stand face to face with sharp and clear examples of what not beginning with the end in mind looks like. I see the shots that should have been thought through, I see the logo that was designed without a brand strategy...I reflect in clear third-person hindsight on all the paralyzing problems that could've, nay SHOULD’VE, been prevented in pre-prod.
...and I heave a sigh as I fix them in post…
I propose a two-fold solution:
Begin with the End in Mind! Take that ounce of time to plan your project. It won't kill your creativity. The looming deadline may indeed require some corner somewhere to be cut, but trust me, the up front strategy stage is NOT where to trim the fat.
Perform a Post Mortem! Take another ounce of time and reflect on the process, if only to ask yourself, “Does this resemble the end I had in mind?” Download the details, scrutinize your weaknesses and shortcomings, and take pride in your triumphs. Most importantly, consider how to better your vision for the intention phase of that next project.
Masters are not born masterful. They are merely the disciplined few that take that vital time for intention and reflection. They hone their creative skills, yes, but their primary purpose is the perfection of their process. With this attitude you cannot fail, because failure begets insight...and insight is improvement.
Take the time.