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The Best Creative Advice for Career Videographers

Todd Blankenship

Here’s the simple phrase that’s helped me through my entire creative and video production career and saved me hours of frustration. Take a look!

It’s funny how a simple conversation can change everything. A colleague or a friend says something that just sticks. You probably don’t realize the power of the moment while you’re in the moment, but then, even years later, their words pop into your head when you’re driving or working or in the shower.

When I came out of the gate in the video industry, like a lot of us, I was cocky and overly confident. I hadn’t earned my stripes in a way that justified the exceptionally strong opinions I brought to every project I worked on. I was always respectful, sure, but I liked to argue. I liked to argue a lot.

And then a simple conversation changed everything.

The (Eventually) Mind-Blowing Moment

Collaboration vs. Compromise

Collaborate to your strengths. Image via otello-stpdc.

I was working on a project with a producer from L.A. who had produced a ton of actual television shows. He had definitely earned the right to tell me what to do. Alas, the young and obnoxious creative that I was at the time, I argued with him. I didn’t want to make his changes. I thought my ideas were the only possible way things should go. I thought his input would absolutely ruin the project. It was the wrong call.

I pleaded my case. I explained to him why his ideas wouldn’t work and how my way was the better way. Instead of firing me on the spot, he said three simple words: “Address the note.”

I stared at him, wondering what he meant. He continued:

Just address the note — that’s all you need to do. You don’t have to do it exactly as I said it, just make me happy. I’m not a cinematographer, I’m a producer — you’ll know better what to do, specifically. My specific way may not be the best, but now you know something that’s bothering me as a producer and all you gotta do is find a way to address it and make me happy. Just address the note.

Looking back, I do not think he was trying to blow my mind. Really, at the time, it didn’t even feel that significant. However, after he said it, I was able to think about the situation differently. I altered the strategy a little bit to make the producer happy, and here’s the predictable twist — the result was far better than what it would’ve been without his input.

Those three words he offered, they aren’t about compromise. They’re about collaboration. Those three words have helped me through many a long, late night of work, they’ve helped stop being angry about feedback, and they’ve ultimately helped me create better work.

Let me share a few benefits of addressing the note.


Process Feedback and Revisions in a Healthier Way

Negative Feedback

Turn negative feedback into a positive outcome. Image via Oleksii Fedorenko.

We’ve all received one of those emails from a client. One of those inbox bombs that completely destroys your mood from top to bottom. I’m just gonna quit, you may think. This is going to ruin all of my work on this.

Now, re-read that email with those three words in mind — address the note and remember that you want your client to be happy. That’s the only way to be successful. The number one way to market yourself as a creative professional is to establish yourself as super-chill and easy to work with.

You have to accept that difficult feedback just means that there’s something about your work that’s bothering the client. And you’re gonna have to fix it. That’s the gig.

Fortunately, all you need to do is change that something so that it doesn’t bother them anymore, and the solution is very often a minor fix that simply sounds major in the moment.

Feedback can be tough, sure. It can mess with both your ego and your workflow. When you get feedback, it can often feel like the project isn’t yours anymore — it’s theirs — and now your stamp is gone because everything’s been tarnished by this revision that ruined your original vision.

My message to you is this: Find a way to keep your stamp in there and make the client happy. I promise you, there’s always a way to do that if you keep an open mind and a pro attitude. The result is almost always better.


Your Client May Not Know What to Ask for

Reiterate Concerns

Reiterate your client’s concerns in your own words for clarity. Image via fizkes.

Sometimes, it’s just an issue of communication. Clients aren’t always creatives themselves, so they may have difficulty communicating properly in a creative environment.

Sometimes, they’ll prescribe very specific feedback, as though they’re ordering lawn service (“cut that part out”) or a color for their tile flooring (“make this text blue”). Sometimes, they’ll offer incredibly vague feedback painted in the broadest of strokes (“I don’t like the music”).

When I get feedback like this, I think of it as my duty — as an opportunity — to educate the client a little bit on how to communicate with an angst-ridden, mildly-cocky creative.

I’ll say, “Just so I can make sure I understand your concerns, you don’t like this because ________.” Then, I ask for a little bit more elaboration to get closer to the actual root of the issue. I make sure they understand that I want to learn their tastes so I can better serve their needs, and that this will help us move forward with less back and forth.

You just need to dig a little deeper into what’s actually bothering them. By asking the right questions, you’ll likely discover that you don’t need to do anything counter-intuitive to make your client happy.

Addressing the note doesn’t always mean making a very specific prescribed revision. It just means making sure your client is happy with what they’re seeing when they look at your work. Sometimes, it takes a bit of detective work to find out what that’ll take.


Be Nimble and Adaptable

Be Adaptable

Adaptability works in your favor creatively and professionally. Image via fizkes.

Here’s what I want. I want to hear the “harshest” possible feedback. I want to find a way to process it, and then I want to make the change in a way that you, the client, are okay with. That’s the ticket to my creative-professional Valhalla. Inner peace — that should be the goal.

Try your best not to get emotionally wrapped up in feedback. By all means, be creatively rigid and staunch about your personal work, but if someone is paying you — you just can’t be that way.

That flashlight commercial you’re editing — is it really your magnum opus? You’re trying to keep the lights on. You’re staying fed. And, yes, you’re also striving to make great work for your reel. It is possible to do it all.

The thing is, your project isn’t going to be completed until it’s approved. You might as well be collaborative and adaptable while you’re producing the work. It’s all about clear communication and finding out how to make the client happy while staying happy yourself. Inner peace. Valhalla. Address the note.

Perspective

Try seeing your work through their eyes. Image via StudioByTheSea.

In my personal experience, challenging yourself to address the note on every project, instead of battling your client about revisions — it’s always led to a better result.

This mindset has empowered me as a creative and forced me to look at my work more objectively and subjectively. This mindset helps me see my work through the eyes of others. This mindset has helped me a lot.

Like I said, it’s not about compromise. It’s about collaboration. Just address the note.


If you’re living that film and video lifestyle, these articles offer some pretty good insight on DIY thinking, client relationships, and managing a growing career.


Cover image via GaudiLab.