It’s crazy. For the first time ever, no one on the planet can claim to be an expert. There isn’t a single person who knows what happens next or how we get back to where we once were. Or why we would even want to. Life is just an endless sushi conveyor belt of bad news and things you can’t have anymore. And all the industry captains we worshipped before are just as completely lost and nervous when hit with hard questions.
I mean, there’s no getting around it. This has been a horrible year for everyone, in so many ways. When the work you were used to and depended on suddenly stops and you’re not able to see a clear path forward, it’s scary. But, and this might sound facetious, it can be exciting.
For us at The Late Misters, we’ve tried to see this as a huge opportunity for us to really think about what’s important, what was wrong before and what we can actually do to make our jobs and the bits of the industry we interact with better.
Those goals are what most companies claim to aspire to today, but we are doing our best to cut the bullshit, stand by what we believe in and deliver on our promises sooner rather than later. It’s difficult at times and we can’t pretend to have found a solution or balance that can be honestly said to nail it, but that’s ok. We’ll keep at it.
One thing I’m really conscious of at the moment is needing to show appreciation for the people I work with. Without the amazing determination, creativity and joy my colleagues Ed, Lily and Nick bring to work I wouldn’t have been able to get through this year. We’ve all been through awful things but I hope I’ve been able to be as much of a mensch for them as they have been for me. They make doing what we do so rewarding and I think listening to them always helps me find my way through any tough situation, turning it into something manageable, often wonderful.
Our colleagues and clients are very much part of that feeling. We’ve been blessed to have phenomenal directors, MDs, art directors, producers and execs steer work our way throughout our career, but it’s been especially heartening to see their trust continue through tougher times. You know who you are and we love you more than you will ever know.
Beyond the good folk and reasons why we do what we do now lies what we might do next. We love helping creatives shape and pitch their ideas, but things can change and we’re always excited about finding new ways of doing more. What this is, I don’t quite know yet, but I feel like something interesting is taking shape and I look forward to giving it a name.
When Ed and I started as writers, creative researchers and treatment designers we hadn’t had any training or mentorship in that field, but we thought we’d be good at it so took the leap anyway. As long as you understand you’ll need to work hard, make a lot of mistakes and learn fast you’ll be ok. That ‘why not?’ attitude has served us well more often than not and I get the feeling that it’s what will get us through whatever life throws at us next or whatever it is we decide to turn our hand to.
We’ve seen COVID-19 change the way productions are realised, so we have no doubt it’ll change the way concepts are developed too. As yet, we’ve not seen a major difference in the services people are after, but it is inevitable that some will change so we’re actively working on aspects where we see a lot of potential. I appreciate that i’m being really cagey here, but we’re learning as we experiment with different things and having fun in the process. Not everything we try will become a thing, but I believe there’s something to be learned from every creative exercise.
If advertising has taught us anything it’s that people don’t know what they gotta have until they see someone else putting it to killer use. I know, that’s easier said than done and trial and error (and possible humiliation) isn’t for everyone. But technology and trends have always forced people in the creative field to skill up on things that were completely alien to them before. It just happens a heck of a lot faster now and engaging with a lot of it will push you outside of your comfort zone. I, personally, love that feeling.
The same is very much true for how we’ve had to adapt to the coronavirus situation through IN / DEVELOPMENT – a hobby project we began last year to better connect with and understand all of the amazing creative minds behind our favourite film, television, games and advertising.
Getting to meet, chat to and introduce this talent to our wider network became our privilege, but it didn’t come easily or naturally. None of us had worked in events before and none of us fancied ourselves as hosts. It scared the hell out of us, let alone the time and cost it would involve, but we thought there was something to be gained from the experience, so went ahead. Besides, we reasoned, there simply weren’t cross-industry social events like the one we wanted to create.
We had our fourth event in January, before coronavirus came along and made us decide to shut further and satellite in-office events down indefinitely – no matter how much we were looking forward to them. But instead of thinking how we could get people down to chill safely, or giving up on the idea entirely, we threw all our curiosity and effort into how the idea might be explored online. For us, that started with YouTube – it just showed the most potential for all the things we wanted to try.
Eight months on and we’re pretty proud of the experiment so far. It’s an evolving mixed bag of conversations with creatives we’ve been lucky enough to be introduced to or collaborate with, along with things we love and feel more people should see – kind of like what tumblr used to feel like, but with proper credits so viewers can then discover more about the people behind them.
If coronavirus showed us anything early on, it was that people in our community were desperate to stay connected to others – to share and admire work, yes, but also to feel like they weren’t alone in being afraid and uncertain of when or if they’d be able to do what they love. Hearing established and respected professionals share their stories and outlook through our livestreams and recorded conversations seems to have resonated with a lot of people. We’re really looking forward to returning with more of those in some form soon, but I think they are already lovely little documents of a very strange time.
Of course, it was a big technical challenge and brought its own nervous sweats: It’s one thing to talk to a room of a hundred people or so. It’s quite another when you’re on camera, talking to far more (who are also invisible) and it’s online for strangers to scrutinize forever. But if you shy away from these things, you’ll probably never get to chat to excellent people (and we count our community in that) or test drive your ideas.
Looking back, I realise that hosting a broadcast while looking after a two year-old in the middle of lockdown was insane, but if I had been sensible and thought about it too long I never would’ve done it, so f**k it.
As I write this, we’re entering our second lockdown here in London. And if we get out of this mess, we’ll absolutely be putting together more in-person events. We just can’t wait to see and have a drink with friends and genuinely nice industry people again. I’m particularly excited to find out what spin-off events in offices might be like. For now, we’ll just keep doing what we do well, figuring out a better way of working remotely together and see what an open culture of creativity might bring. Whatever that is.