Obsidian turned 5 years old in March of this year - it's a mile marker, but we've still got a long way to go to become what I know we can be. Along the way I've been paid compliments ranging from being referred to as "a breath of fresh air" to "I've never thought about it that way before" and of course "how is your hair so perfect all the time?!?”. Ok, that last one doesn't quite count, but a compliment is a compliment. The frequency of the comments really made me think about what it means to “represent” something or somebody in 2015 and it made me wonder if what we’re doing at Obsidian is really all that different.
A month or so ago I promised a three part look at "The New Rep" and this post will serve as Part 1. In this part I want to focus on something that's fairly obvious, but also overlooked from a sales or in this case, representation standpoint - technology. It is omnipresent in this business. We are all vying for seconds, not minutes of attention and technology has made the distribution of content as easy as the click of a button. The simplicity presents a paradox however - a boon and a challenge on both micro and macro levels; a challenge that requires an upgraded skill set - enter “Thew New Rep”.
In order for me to talk about The New Rep I need to take a minute to talk about “The Old Rep". We are going to take the high ground here, acknowledging and appreciating what The Old Rep has brought to the industry and while the cynical Creative Director or Executive Producer may say something along the lines of "a headache" or some other bullshit, I don't buy it. Back in the day before every production company had a website and before Wiredrive or any digital asset management service existed you, Mr. Agency Creative would be stuck trying to find that perfect visual storyteller and who would you call? Sure you might have a few contacts here and there, but this, this idea needs a real visionary and George Lucas isn't taking your calls. Enter the Rep who acts as liason between [in this example] production talent and the agency production team. This person is a resource and is able to put you in touch with a director that aligns with your creative. Hell, they may even have one or two that are doing things with a camera that you didn’t even realize could be done! They know which directors are available for your shoot dates, they know the bios & past experience of their directors and they are your best bet for getting this show on the road. Remember: at one point reps did not exist.
>>> 25 years [ish]
It's here where I want to actually begin; Internet, Laptops, Wifi, i-[EVERYTHING], and Social Media. Where once the ultimate idea was to create a :30 live action "spot" that lives on broadcast television we are now presented with myriad platforms on which to present what we create. Production, post, music companies, etc. have their own websites where anyone can see the most recent work of every director, editor, animator, composer, VFX artist, etc. There are entire databases dedicated to who concepted/shot/cut/composed/finished what. We have Wiredrive [and other lesser services] which have simplified the sharing of assets from a production and sales standpoint so I know what you’re thinking, “WTF do we need a rep for?!?” The truth is that reps are even more important now than ever. A good rep, The New Rep will separate the signal from the noise.
Nate Silver wrote the book aptly titled, "The Signal and the Noise". It's a fantastic read of you’re an information/statistics geek like me or if you are just tired of being told what to think and actually would like to try your hand at thinking for yourself. The basic premise is this: technology is a wonderful thing, but it's prevalence, and the abundance of information it creates can be a deterrent to whatever it is we are trying to use the information to accomplish. I'm not reaching when I say that [it feels like] everyone and their brother is starting a production company, music company, post company, etc. I love the entrepreneurial spirit, and the idea of competition within a talent pool, but just because one can start a company doesn't mean one should. The cost of high-quality cameras have come down dramatically and post production/editing software suites can be had for as little as $60/month [ala Adobe's Creative Cloud]. My point here is that in an industry where everyone fancies themselves an artist, it's awfully easy to play pretend and create some decent looking work for not a lot of money and throw it up on your fancy responsive website potentially adding to the "noise" in our business. Has this new “lightweight creative collective” ever even worked with an advertising agency? Have they ever dealt with clients of advertising agencies? Do you, Mrs. Producer feel 100% certain that their “all under one roof” approach will get the deliverables correct? The New Rep came into this business sifting through noise, they’ve never had the luxury of somebody with a legitimate attention span so they must be adept at quickly finding the signal. It’s not a skill, it’s survival.
On that note, and on top of the…we’ll call it “traditional noise” there are new types of talent that didn't even exist 25 years ago, due once again to advances in technology [distribution platforms as well as digital creativity] including various specialty post production artists, interactive developers & animators, and experiential design/architectural creatives. The noise just tripled so how are our agency partners supposed to get their amazing 360 idea off the ground? The New Rep has done their homework. They understand and can articulate the capabilities of everyone that they represent. They know where their clients are strongest and they know where their clients skill sets may not be up to snuff for the creative ask and will communicate that honestly with their agency partner. They may even represent companies or artists that offset each other’s skill sets to create a custom solution.
Is this getting long? It’s getting long so I’ll make my final point so pay attention: agencies & clients, you are not alone in this “noise”. Let’s face it, there is so much bullshit out there, but don’t hate the player hate the game. If you don’t do your homework and ask the right questions then those snake oil production, post, VR, or whatever companies aren’t going to check your math. In this tech-obsessed climate, you need somebody you can trust; somebody who may even know a thing or two more than you about a particular subject. Feeling lost now? Just wait and see what the next 5 years brings. The disparity between “Old” and “New” will compound many times over so take control of your creative and put it in the hands of the next-gen. Love us or hate us you need us. We’ve opened the door so suck it up and take a step through.