VIDEO PRODUCTION AND THE ART OF WAR

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    I got the “big gig” after a long season of very few checks from even fewer clients. Thank God I play guitar and sing as if it wasn’t for hosting an open mic for cash, I’d have very little money in my pocket.  The open mics kept me at least in, what my grandfather calls being in the basic comforts, which means having a roof over my head and “enough money for a cup of coffee”.  Love him and to this day enjoy his company, I’m grateful.

    This “big gig” came by way of a good friend, who works for creative ad agency. Had I read Sun Tzu’s Art of War before I started this job, I would have saved the client an additional $20g, saved $10g more in my own expenses, and had saved a good relationship with my friend.  I was playing my guitar in my studio when I got a call, explaining that it was a great opportunity, challenging project, quick turn-around, and they wanted me based on the recommendation of my friend.

    I had just finished with the 48 Film Project in Chicago, where our movie “Undone” had a great showing.  I directed the entire piece, it was recognized enough to get shown at the “Best Of” night and my lead actor got the Best Actor award best in show award for his performance.  As a small token of endless hard work (granted, I am grateful as it was just 48 hours), I took runner up for Best Cinematography.  After that high-charged, fast-paced event, I was in “super-speedy mode” so I figured… Bring it! Bring on the new project and all it entails!  I just hadn’t been prepared for what was in store.

    In “super-speedy mode”, I guess I have the tendency of looking and sounding very intense. Some say it looks like I want to punch them in the face. I don’t, obviously.  I love people and hate punching them in the face.   It’s a last resort. 🙂

    Anyway, the first call with the agency and client went fine. During it, I learned of their expectations and the time frame. I was tasked to create the script and produce a 6.5 minute video. I would also be in charge of casting the roles, finding the location, hiring the crew, make-up, set stylist, catering. This is the role I play and so I recognize I need a spot-on co-producer and AD. So, I call on one of my oldest buddies, John. He and I have been friends since we were five years old. I walked away from this first meeting realizing we had little time, and that happens. I should be okay with that sort of time-crunch (especially after the 48 Hour Film Project).   Today, anyway, I could have handled this feeling of being overwhelmed a little easier.  Nonetheless, at the time, I knew I could use a check and the quicker, the better.  I called up to have the second consultation about the project the next day, and I’m told the project is already put on hold.  This is where the Art of War could have come in handy first.  Had I just known what the “Shih” was, (pronounced “Shir”), I would have been just fine. To Sun Tzu, the “shih” is understanding that the world is cohesive, however we can mark off temporary and shifting patterns within it, each of which posses a MOMENTARY ADVANTAGE of a certain kind.   Sun Tzu gives a great illustration of this advantage.

    “The Rearing Serpent sports in the mists.

    The Flying Dragon rides on the clouds.

    But when the clouds are gone and the mists

    have cleared,

    they are no different from earthworms.”

    Sun Tzu talks of a counter part to “shih”, and it’s known as the “node”

    “Shih is like drawing the crossbow,

    the node is like pulling the trigger”

    Too often I follow the ill-fated “shoot first ask questions later” approach, that may work in some circumstances, in “death ground” perhaps, but not here, not now.

    Finding out that the project had been delayed was disruptive to me. I’m a jackass for thinking that way, looking back. I have been thinking that way for a long time. Why do I do that? Oh, I know, it’s a way for me to mask my uncertainty, and instead of finding the advantage of the circumstance, I find blame. Ill advised

    I reacted too quickly and showed I was annoyed. This break down of calm, was the start of the miscommunication.  The shih is about taking ones time in the midst of the disruption, in order to find the advantage. The node is the quick acting one makes to take advantage of the unique opportunity the circumstance, “the disruption”, provides.

    Lesson Learned #2:  Allow what happens to happen, take your time to find the advantage, once found -act quickly!

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