4 ways a production house is better than a one-man band

Mar 30, 2016
Video Production

It’s something I have experienced firsthand — the power of a team over the power of one.

For many years I worked as a freelancer, running my own business. In many ways, it was great. For a start, I was the lead editor in my own little empire. But I was also the motion graphics guy, the animator, the colourist, the cameraman, the bookkeeper and the guy who pitched for new work.

Doing all these things was invigorating at the time, and I also learnt some valuable lessons in both post-production and business. But something else I learned was that if I wanted to grow — both as a business and on a professional level — I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed help.

Fast forward eight years and I’m the creative director at Lush Digital, working with what I believe is one of the most talented bunches of creatives in Perth. It’s not just me as the one-man band. Being part of that team I can now see that clients get excellent value from investing in a production house as opposed to the solo operator.

Here are four reasons why investing in a production house is valuable:

1. The ability to focus on creativity

Working as a one-man band I had to play all sorts of roles, some which were in my wheelhouse and many that weren’t. I found that dashing around running the business actually started to dilute my creativity. I couldn’t just sit for hours on end being creative with projects because I always had those thoughts in my head like “have I invoiced that client from last week” or “have I emailed those other clients about assets?” Don’t get me wrong, all of that stuff needed to happen — and it did. But sometimes it was at the expense of my own creativity (or worse, sleep).

Things look very different to me now as part of a team of people. Everyone works together, partnering with our clients, to deliver their work. What’s really important here is that our creatives are free to be just that: creative. We don’t have to worry about the minutia of other parts of the business’ operation. Which brings me to…

2. You’re working with a creative team

As a production house team it takes all of us to bring our projects to life. We all have a bunch of different skills — many of which overlap, of course. But when we are all playing to our strengths we really produce our best work.

Our creative team has a weekly get-together where we talk about the projects both at hand and coming up. We discuss what’s working and what’s not. The beauty of these meetings is that there is no hierarchy. I’m not calling the shots as the creative director. Nor does our senior producer pull rank. We sit as a team and we work through what’s best for the project and what’s best for the client.

It’s an idea I took from a creative I admire a lot, Pixar animation co-founder Ed Catmull. Years ago Pixar created what they called “The Brain Trust”. To this day they still have their weekly meetings.

Here’s something Ed said in Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, which also resonates.

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”  Ed Catmull

(Here’s more of Ed, talking about the book.)



3. Share the heavy lifting

There are a lot of very talented people in this industry who are passionate and brilliant at what they do. They deliver great work. What I can say now is that I can always spot something that has been produced by a solo artist. (Disclaimer: I count my own work in this, too.)

You see, we all have different strengths. In our team we can all edit, but we also all have our individual strengths. We have a 3D artist, a motion graphics artist, a colourist, a sound designer and an assembly team. These jobs can, of course, be done by a jack-of-all-trades: a solo production guy like I used to be. But excellent work, as opposed to just good work, is in the one per cent. It comes down to that extra skill that each of the specialists in their particular artistic field can bring to the project. They compound the effort of the team and the product becomes exceptional. (Star Wars Episode 8, by the way, will create 3000 jobs. That’s a big team!)

Using a team made up of individuals who all have specific strengths is always going to produce a greater end product than one person can.

4. You succeed and fail as a team

When we finish a job, it’s always great to give each other a pat on the back and say “good work”. But it’s even more important to look at where you’ve gone wrong in the process — whether it’s creatively or technically. Why? If we don’t learn from our mistakes as a team, we will never grow and improve.

Here’s Ed Catmull again (last time, I promise).

Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”  Ed Catmull

I think when a team can reflect on its successes and its failures and actually build on the strength of both, they will see synergy and cohesion.

And finally…

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against the one-man band. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if I hadn’t been a solo artist myself. But knowing I have walked a mile in those shoes, I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t swap working in a team with talented artists for anything.

We work together, we succeed together, we lunch together and, sometimes, we fail together. But we are always pushing each other creatively.

Feel free to get in touch if you have questions about how to select a video production company. There’s no obligation to use our services — we’re just happy to help out.