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Exodus – 10pm Channel 4 Tonight

UK readers – have a look at Channel 4, 10pm tonight – Exodus, a modern retelling of the Bible story, featuring a cast made up of the resident and immigrant community of Margate.

You may recall my interview with Ruth Kenley-Letts last summer, while Ruth was producing the film. I’ve not seen the film yet, but have heard great reports from people who saw a preview screening, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Blinding Ideas at Wired and Ready

Excellent panel presentations/discussion at last week’s Wired and Ready event at Channel 4.

Adam Gee was the chair and kicked off with an overview, from his position as Factual New Media Commissioner at C4, of some of the channel’s current online initiatives, such as the Big Art Mob project to create a user-generated map of public art in the UK, and 121 which features paired blog exchanges between the UK and countries including Iran, Russia and Sierra Leone. He also talked about Four Docs, a space for watching, sharing and making documentaries. This dovetailed with Emily Renshaw’s presentation about Current TV, billed as ‘the TV network created by the people who watch it’. Both sites rely heavily on user-generated content, but it was interesting to hear both Adam and Emily distinguish them from YouTube by describing them as ‘editorialized’ spaces. As an editor myself, I was intrigued by this – it seemed to go against the prevailing ‘wisdom of crowds’ ethos of many of the Web 2.0 success stories. So I asked them how they saw the role of the editor in the brave new internet world. Both acknowledged the value of greater interactivity between the editor and readers/users/creators, and saw this as an opportunity for editors. For Emily, the editor’s role will be to “set the tone, take a lead and curate” content in dialogue with users; while Adam emphasised the importance of the editor as a filter of information in a world of overwhelming data, who can become a trusted source of recommendations.

The second half featured James Kirkham of digital agency Holler and James Fabricant, Head of Marketing and Content for MySpace UK & Ireland. Both were enthusiastic advocates of online communities, exemplified in their recent collaboration on the groundbreaking campaign for Channel 4’s Skins, which fostered a massive community of fans on the Skins MySpace page before a single episode had been broadcast. Though understandably vigorous advocates of the possibilities of technology, they emphasised the primacy of human interaction and creativity. James K summed it up by saying that for all the technological wizardry, you still need a “blinding idea” to cut through. James F provided an example of one such idea, with Foureyedmonsters, who overcame the barriers to distribution of their film by using MySpace to get people to sign petitions to have the film shown in their local cinema, then took the numbers to the cinema owners and arranged the screenings.

Overall, a very stimulating evening that for me reinforced the sense that human creativity and relationships rather than technology per se is the real powerhouse behind the social media revolution. As James K put it, “technology facilitates, the audience creates”.

Thanks to Channel 4 for hosting and to Steve Moore of Policy Unplugged for organising yet another absorbing event.

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Creative Links – 16 February 2007

Introducing the new, slimmed-down, weekly(ish) version of Creative Links

Hats off to A Consuming Experience for bringing to my attention a series of podcasts of business advice for artists and creatives, produced by the Enterprise Centre for the Creative Arts in London. They include How to Handle Clients and Commissions, How to Make a Name for Yourself and the irresistibly-titled How to Cook the Books.

I’m going to try to resist including Noisy Decent Graphics in every creative links post – basically you should read the whole thing if you’ve got any interest in design, creativity or the business of running a studio. But I’ll just draw your attention to Cruel to be kind? about how to give feedback on terrible creative work – plenty of good suggestions in the comments. And a thought-provoking series about Sustainability in graphic design, where lots of questions are asked and we learn that “wedes don’t really have complicated messages that need to be communicated across several territories”.

The same goes for Creating Passionate Users and Russell Davies – both consistently excellent, so I won’t post every week, just remember that Quantity equals quality and whatever you do Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company.

I had the pleasure of coffee with Johnnie Moore yesterday – as engaging and inspiring in person as he is on his blog, which is hardly surprising from someone who has written 117 posts about authenticity. He writes about an eclectic mix of interesting things, including More Media and Less Stuff?, Alphabet and Goddess and The Popcorn of Therapy.

Bestseller Interviews has a collection of links entitled How to Conquer Writer’s Block – The Ultimate Guide. I know what you’re thinking – “How can it be the ultimate guide if it doesn’t include Mark’s 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block?” – but it’s a fantastic collection so let’s not split hairs.

And if you’ve ever wondered How TV shows get made, TV Grouting reveals all.

That’s all folks, have nice weekends. I’ve got a fascinating weekend ahead of me – will tell you about it next week.

Creative Links – January

OK I might have made a mistake by promising to do Creative Links on a monthly basis – there are simply too many good creativity posts. Or maybe it’s like buying a new car – as soon as you decide on the model you want, you see it everywhere. In the interests of keeping up and keeping things fresh I’ll have a go at doing Creative Links weekly from now on. But first here’s the edited highlights of what I found in January, sorted into categories to keep it manageable.

Where do ideas come from?
Scamp takes issue with a piece of research that claims Where Ideas Come From is other people. Beeker claims it’s ethical to Steal Well, and Faris, true to his motto that Talent Imitates, Genius Steals, Couldn’t Resist the joys of plagiarism. Neither could I – here’s the picture he doubtless nicked from someone else:


If you’re looking for a balanced view, Doc Searls weighs up the pros and cons of disclosing your ideas vs keeping them secret in his post 10 Ideas About Ideas (via Creative Generalist); while Brian Lee advocates a middle way between plagiarism and the pressure to be original, reminding us that Creativity Is A Communal Act.

Tortured Artists
It may just be wishful thinking but I don’t see why artists shouldn’t enjoy themselves (and their work) as much as anyone else. I’m glad to learn that at least Douglas Eby agrees with me, in this great post on Pain and Suffering and the Artist.

Creative Partners
The subject of torture brings us neatly to relationships. Scamp continued his excellent series of Tips for Creatives with Finding the Right Partner and How to Have a Good Relationship with Your Partner – useful advice interlarded with (for me) flashbacks to my days as a couples therapist.

As a fan of creative synaesthesia and inter-disciplinary creativity I was pleased to see Mark Hancock catch the synaesthesia bug when he ventured out of the advertising world and spent time with videogame creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Noisy Decent Graphics did a brilliant piece on What I see when I listen and Russell played around with Electroplankton, which looks a bit like an online, affordable version of the Reactable.

Creative Flow
Speaking of altered states of consciousness, Steve Pavlina wrote a great description of My Experience of Creativity, prompting my inner Creativity Trainspotter to tick off Csikszentmihalyi’s Nine Elements of Creative Flow – can you spot them all? Steve followed up that post with 7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creativity.

Adliterate hosted a cracking debate on the question Is Blogging Killing Planning? I’m not a planner so I’m not qualified to answer the question, but reading through the comments on that post and judging from the general quality of blogs in the plannersphere, I have to say planning is doing wonders for blogging.

Creative Collaboration
Staying with planning for a moment, John Grant argues the case for Planning as Mediation – between the (potentially conflicting) interests of the client, creatives and customer. Simon Darwell-Taylor bemoans the lack of inter-disciplinary communication in ‘the typical ad agency’, as opposed to the more collaborative approach of TV production. Yet the grass is always greener – Richard Wilson has started a wonderfully dour blog called TV Grouting, where he says:

TV and the internet don’t seem to me to be natural partners. The internet is based on the principle of sharing information and ideas and making everything cheaper. TV is about owning and jealously guarding ideas and extracting as much money as possible from them

He contrasts this sad state of affairs with the world of advertising, where planners like Russell are ‘willing to share their ideas ‘with any number of people who might be prepared to nick them’. (As if they would…)

So what can we conclude about creative collaboration?

  • Creative people need to share to be creative
  • Creative people get scared of sharing because someone might steal their creativity
  • Creative people sometimes need someone around to get them to share a bit more
  • Creative sharing looks terrific fun from a distance, it’s a bit messier close up.

For the pitfalls of creative collaboration, see Kathy Sierra’s brilliant The Dumbness of Crowds.

Creative Think
It’s almost impossible to single out individual pieces by Roger von Oech, they are all so consistently and variously creative, you might as well pick some at random – which is exactly what you can do if you click his picture on the Creative Think homepage. A couple of blog posts that stood out for me in January were Set A Deadline to Goad Your Creative Juices, countering the received wisdom that creativity is all about freedom from constraints; and his invocation of the God Janus to usher in the New Year by thinking something different.

Enterprising Blogging
Hugh McLeod knows a fair bit about blogging and being an entrepreneur, his random thoughts on the subjects are more memorable than most people’s considered musings.


Making a Living as an Artist
The online opportunities for creative producers can be bewildering – Jonathan Bailey clarifies the strategic options available in an excellent post on The New Content Economy.

Delve into the voluminous archives of Liz Strauss’ blogs and you’ll see she’s no stranger to Unblanking the blank screen so it’s worth listening to what she’s got to say about it. She’s got loads more great posts on writing, but 10 Ways to Start a Blog Post should keep you going for a while.

For What Not to Write, look at Claudinho’s post about 20 Words Most Used in Press Conferences. ‘Best of breed’ anyone?

And just when you’re relieved that the words are finally starting to flow, up pops killjoy Brian Clark to tell you Why Creativity Can Kill Your Copy. Brian’s a master of the headline that draws you in – admit it, you’re itching to know what’s so bad about creativity, aren’t you?

Alan Yentob on Web 2.0

Apologies to anyone who, like me, spent the first 5 minutes of Imagine: The World Wide Web on Tuesday night watching something else on BBC2 instead of BBC1. When I realised my mistake and switched over I enjoyed the programme, although it didn’t come anywhere near the heights of The Ingenious Thomas Heatherwick. I think this was partly down to the familiarity of the subject matter – I already knew about most of the things it covered – blogging, YouTube, social media etc., whereas Heatherwick’s imagination was like something freshly landed from outer space. But if you haven’t spent much time on the internet recently it was probably a good general introduction to what’s going on the web at the moment.

The bit I found most interesting was the film director who does his casting by asking actors to submit videos of themselves reading his script. As he pointed out, this means the actors are more relaxed and often give a better performance. This also applies to the director himself, who can view the clips repeatedly, at leisure and make a more considered decision about who to invite to a face-to-face audition. He was impressed by the creativity of the actors, many of whom donned costumes and made mini movie-clips with their friends, instead of just reading the script to camera.

This seems to be part of a shift in hiring practices – instead of the old interview/audition/c.v./covering letter, applicants are using more initiative and creativity to demonstrate their skills. E.g. when Chemistry recently advertised some planning vacancies, they received “podcasts, business plans, dedicated websites, and brilliantly written emails” in response. (Found via Russell.) And in a lot of cases, it’s not an applicant-interviewer relationship at all, just people being engaged or deciding to collaborate on the basis of cool stuff they’ve created.

‘Imagine: The World Wide Web’, BBC2 10.35pm Tonight!

One of the most popular posts on Wishful Thinking is The Ingenious Thomas Heatherwick, prompted by Alan Yentob’s Imagine documentary about the multi-talented designer. There’s another Imagine on tonight, about the World Wide Web, featuring interviews with Tim Berners-Lee, various bloggers and contributors to Wikipedia and the Arctic Monkeys messageboard. If it’s half as good as the Heatherwick programme it’ll be well worth staying up for…

Interview with Chris Grant, Consultant, 14A Conversations

Research ProjectThe next interview for my research project on Perceptions of Coaching in the UK Creative Industries was with Chris Grant, a consultant and founder of 14A Conversations. Chris has 25 years’ experience of consulting in a wide range of industries, including the Creative Industries sector.

Chris GrantAt 14A Conversations Chris and his colleague Ann Lyon work with clients ranging from Government Departments to Community Groups; from PR Consultancies to Global TV Channels. Chris describes his trade as “a builder of bridges” and aspires to be “an alchemist”.

Because of his wide experience, Chris was a good person to ask whether or not the ‘people management’ challenges faced by creative businesses are essentially any different to other industries. Authenticity is a key theme of this interview, as Chris emphasises the importance of managers’ intentions as well as their behavioural skills, whatever the style of management they employ.
14a Conversations

Thanks for staying with the blog during the recent hiatus in posting, while I’ve been hard at work on the research project report.

This interview takes us to almost half-way through the series – there will be plenty more posted over the next few weeks, plus I’m looking forward to having more time for writing posts.

Click the ‘AUDIO MP3’ icon below to hear the interview.

Table of contents for Research: Perceptions of Coaching in the UK Creative Industries

  1. Take Part in My Research – ‘Perceptions of Coaching in the UK Creative Industries’
  2. Research Project: Definition of ‘Coaching’ for this Project
  3. Research Project: Definition of ‘Creative Industries’
  4. Questionnaire for Managers in the UK Creative Industries
  5. Questionnaire for Employees in the UK Creative Industries
  6. Online questions for UK Creative Industry Staff
  7. Interview with Mick Rigby, Managing Director, Monkey Communications
  8. Research Project Featured on ‘Better Business Blogging’
  9. Interview with Ruth Kenley-Letts, Film Producer
  10. Interview with Chris Arnold, Executive Creative Director, BLAC
  11. Interview with Russell Davies, Advertising Planning Maestro
  12. Interview with Chris Hirst, Managing Director, Grey London
  13. Interview with David Roberts, Senior Project Manager, Creative Launchpad
  14. Interview with Neil Youngson, Technical Director, Cabinet UK Ltd
  15. Interview with Greg Orme, Chief Executive, Centre for Creative Business
  16. Interview with Chris Grant, Consultant, 14A Conversations
  17. Interview with Antonio Gould, Consultant, and Sara Harris, Screen Media Lab
  18. Interview with Richard Scott, Surface Architects
  19. Interview with Ben Demiri, Brand Manager, SIX Showroom
  20. Interview with Sian Prime, NESTA Creative Pioneer Programme
  21. Interview with Jill Fear, CPD Manager, The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
  22. Interview with Terry Childs, Creative Director, Silver Chair
  23. Interview with Matt Taylor, Director, Fat Beehive
  24. Interview with Mark Earls, Advertising Contrarian
  25. Interview with David Amor, Creative Director, Relentless Software