Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reproducing The Producer

The reason why I got into writing is because I don't like talking.  I like presenting.  I live for that onstage performance, being the complete attention whore that I am.  But talking, discussing, brainstorming, negotiating, anything that involved people talking back to me for a long period of time --if I could go through a day without that, I'd be happy.

I'm not shy.  I'm not a nerd.  I'm just not much of a people person.  It takes an excruciating while before I warm up to people and actually hold conversations with them.  Mostly because I don't have the patience.  Uh, no, I'm not ADHD either.  I think.

But that hurdle was easily jumped over with very little grace last week when I decided to take on the role of a producer.  What --when you're a freelancer, you don't choose your role.  It gets flung at your face and it's either you say yes or no.  If you need to buy that new Wii console, it's a yes.

Suddenly, I was in a spot where I had to talk to the client, the talent manager, the production house, the recording studio.  I had to plan for numerous people.  Set separate schedules.  Negotiate a variation of fees.  Run up a huge tab on transportation, mobile phone, coffee, and emails.  Get bitched at and had to take everything with a goddamn, immaculate smile!  It was like a gang bang and I was begging for it!

Well, it was quite an experience.  One that taught me a valuable lesson in synchronization, meticulous detail-watching, good demeanor, unbreakable patience.  I did ok, but I still sucked by real producer standards.  Big time!

That week, I had renewed respect for the producers I have worked with when I was still in the rat race.  Those very people I have loved and bullied at the same time.  What you do is completely magical!  Hats off to you guys!  And if I get a bigger budget on my next project, I would happily pass all of this on to you.

I am so not a people person.  *sigh*

Friday, July 29, 2011

Choose Your Battles... Lessons from Invader Zim

Does anyone even remember Invader Zim?  No?  A little background is in order then.

Invader Zim was the coolest thing ever aired on Nickelodeon in 2001.  But after a season and a half and a pull-out without warning, you'd think I'm crazy to say that.
Zim is (was!) a strong-willed outcast from the planet, Irk.  Irk exists to invade other planets.  And so, Zim --well-marinated in his false sense of greatness-- wrongly rises up to the challenge.  This subsequently gets him thrown into a fake invasion mission to Earth just to get him off the Irken leaders' royal backs.  What follows is a string of episodes with Zim battling all odds to please his leaders.  And losing.  Episode after episode.  Until the show was finally dropped like a sad, sad, lukewarm potato.

So what's my point?  Zim is a prime candidate for that all-important tip: 'Choose Your Battles'.  He knows he's great --and he is.  He just tries too hard.  And he does it to please someone else.  Not himself.

Moral Lesson:  When tossed by a higher power into a huge mess (and usually, this happens to us lowly lots), you should be a tad NEUROTIC.  It always helps to have a personal feeling of grandeur when knee-deep in challenging situations.  You're not doing this for your boss, your client, or the all-powerful Universe.  This is all you.  That's called self-confidence for you mere mortals.

But you shouldn't be PSYCHOTIC to the point that you lose sight of the long term plan either.  Remember that professional relationships are darn fragile.  When you push for something you believe in in a manner that's more than legally acceptable, that's when you become obnoxious, defocused, engaged in verbal fisticuffs, and a failure.  That's how Zim is (was!).

What you should be is SPAZTIC.  Fiery and feisty one minute... lying low the next... throwing in the towel when you finally need to.  That's called proper negotiating for you mere mortals.  You can still fight for that strategy, that concept, that production cost.  But do consider your ground and the other party's ground.  And play it from there.
If you do the intergalactic railroading bit, that's when you become an outcast.

Sadly, not all projects are invasion plans.

Still... I do love me a little Zim every now and then.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Presentation Preparedness: Know Your Enemy

You've been invited to pitch for a high-ticket brand.  Driven by excitement and the promise of a fatter portfolio and a fatter bank account, you come up with the Mother Of All Awesome Campaigns!!!

You think it stops there?  No.  That's just half the battle.  A huge chunk falls on your client presentation.  And to prepare for this, you have to do a lot of research... on your competition.

It's just like baseball, or Mortal Kombat.  You have to know your adversary's stats, his or her usual play book.  From there, you work on your presentation.  Not to do exactly what the other agencies (or other freelancers) are expected to do.  But to counter or rise above it.  Remember, you're not out to look for your rivals' strengths alone.  You have to know their weaknesses, too, and hit them there.

If one is expected to do a flash-bang of a show, then maybe you should also have a little bit of flair --but just one spike.  Don't overdo it.  Make sure your concept remains to be the meat of it all. 

If one is expected to go by smarts, then have a presentation with enough backbone as well.  But don't go with statistics.  Go with untapped insights.  That's using your brain in a fresher manner.

If one is expected to talk their way to triumph, it won't hurt to work on your clien't soft side in your own special way.  Share an anecdote that's relevant to your client's personal shtick that is also relevant to your presentation.  Stay focused.  If you're too friendly, you come out fresh (and I don't mean the good kind). 

For this kind of presentation preparedness, being ancient helps a lot.  This means you've done the rounds.  So you're dealing with familiar people and you would know a few of their skills and quirks.  If you don't, it won't hurt to ask around.  Inconspiciously, of course.
Oooh, spy games!  Isn't being a raketista so hot damn exciting?!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


On the first few months that I became a full-blown raketista, I felt really down.  Depressed even.
It's tough when you realize that now, you're using your creativity for survival rather than for art, for fame, for awards.  The sparkle just died.

In those dark days, when a friend (I wasn't able to avoid) would ask what ad agency I was connected to at the moment, I was kinda sheepish when I softly replied, "I'm freelance now."

There was this weird self-pity and self-loathing that ate my innards whenever I uttered the word 'freelance'.  Specially when I see the shocked and then disappointed look in the asker's eyes.  Could be my imagination, but hey --15 years in one of the world's most glamorous businesses and then pfft!-- that does something to you.

That's all in the past now.  I've long shed my unnecessary issues and insecurities, and have passionately embraced my new status in creative life.

But for those just starting in the freelance biz and feel a little lost emotionally, here's something a good friend of mine (one I would never avoid!  Lol!) got from Wiki.

The doodle didn't come from Wiki.  Duh.
It's what you stand for.  You're a tough dude, you're your own person, and you're a rare commodity.  And the 'mercenary' part must definitely turn you on!

As a proud freelancer, it's something that made me smile.  And, heck, I'm in a sharing mood. :P  Thanks, Joey!

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Love Mondays

No, I have not gone insane.  For the past 20 years, Monday and I have shared nothing but brutal hatred for each other.  I utter the post title for one reason and one reason alone:  I have gone freelance.

Being freelance means you manage your time, your work load.  And what I've done since entering the colorful world of Raketsville was to erase Monday from my work's periscope view.
Mondays will hereby be treated like a weekend extension.  There shall be no meetings.  No briefings, no presentations, no productions.  I fully intend to spend the entire Monday vegitating.  While other breadwinning folks go about panicking on the most hated work day of the week, I shall bum around at home --watching TV,  in my jammies, drinking super fattening chocolate milk.

It's not an entirely huge win.  I do need to make up for the lost day in other days --sometimes even during the weekend if I have an immovable Monday deadline.  But at least I managed to lay low on the first day of the work week when others didn't.  Couldn't.  THAT is a false sense of triumph, too.  But I love Mondays now more than ever.  It's like we've kissed and made up and threw the life-long grudge out the window.  And I feel fresher and more severely pumped to go out and work on Tuesdays because I've basked in the shallow glory of my preceding Mondays.

However, there WILL be killjoys bumming out my simple yet excellent Monday-Bum Day plan.  I mean, it wouldn't be an action-packed entry without some antagonists thrown in, right?
Some clients will demand rush work on a Monday.  Uh-huh, they will.  I'm cool with that.  I can write as long as it's an easy, quick revision, a tagline, or an alternative headline.

And... I will ONLY write while watching TV, in my jammies, drinking super fattening chocolate milk.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Procrastinate Now. Panic Later.

This has been my battlecry in life ever since school report cramming became a reality.  And it has never failed me. 

There must be a scientific explanation out there.  But simply put, there's this adrenaline rush that floods through my body when the deadline looms precariously over my head.  That's when my creative juices start to churn big time.  That's when all the puzzle pieces start to click together.  That's when EUREKA! happens.

Oddly, my best ideas pop up at crunch time.  So the lengthy lead times I demand --they're usually just so I can get lost in Facebook, Twitter, and omg! gossip before I finally get down to business.
Ok, ok... hear this:  Procrastination is a good thing.  I have to relax my brain before diving into the work at hand.  It's the calm before the storm. 

When I say 'storm', I mean a death-defying hurricane, by the way.  Along with the adrenaline surge comes panic.  I'm a firm believer that Panic and Creativity are best bed buddies --as long as you know how to keep the balance.  If Panic takes over, then your workload topples in a heap of failure.  And then you lose the job.

Now, if Creativity uses Panic and visualizes it as some sort of interstellar war zone scenario wherein you have to slay 53 invading humanoids in 30 minutes flat so you can be the hero of the watery planet, Aquania... then you're in for confetti-throwing delight and a fat paycheck in the end.

See?  This work style does wonders to your brain AND your heart!   Not to mention the cold sweat opening up and cleaning your pores.

Procrastinate Now... Panic Later.  I will take this battlecry to the grave.  If it occurs on a daily basis, THAT might just be soon enough.
Eh, I'm sure a lot of like-minded masochists see it my way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

sucker punching

This goes out to those wise asses who say RaketChick is a rip-off of Sucker Punch.
Guess what!  The answer is a big, fat NO!

And to an extent... a tiny, skinny yes.

But, come on --RaketChick is more fun than those Sucker Punch chicks!  I mean, she's perfectly ok with looking ridiculous every now and then.  She's hell fine with dancing, too.
A good plus is that she doesn't need back-up to kick ass.  She does it well on her own, thank you.
Despite the eternal presence of a samurai sword, a fully automatic M249 machine gun, a katana pair, and an MK19 grenade launcher ...her most vile weapon is her sarcasm.  She wields it fairly well, I might add.  And beheads without bloodshed.
She's also quick to admit that she's in love.  She's not all angst.  She's part-angst, part-cheesy.
She is not abused.  She abuses herself, most likely, and then blames others.  What's wrong with that?
She's also not a product of a person who is mentally institutionalized.  Believe me.  Please.

Admittedly though, RaketChick shares some of BabyDoll's delusions.  RaketChick, like her, is a tougher alter ego, an escape from reality, a default superhero battling life's monsters and mutations.  We all have those in our heads sometimes.  And whether we make a film or a blog out of our internal diversions is immaterial.  What's important is that we have moments of running away --but we make sure we always come back.

Oh and girls in tight leather clothes toting hardcore ammo is always cool.  So I guess Sucker Punch can sue me there.  High five, chiccas!