Before I Go…Some Pertinent Miscellany

SATE 13 logolarge

I’m about to board a flight to Savannah for SATE ’13;  this year’s, (r)evolutionary iteration of this Professionally Intimate gathering of creative thought leaders; Creators of Compelling Experience from across the spectrum of themed and theatrical entertainment, worldwide.

SATE – an acronym standing for the four foci of the two, intense days, standing for Story + Architecture + Technology = Experience – is the brainchild of TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) Leadership; a fantastic conference, just coming up on its 10th Annual gathering of minds.

In previous years, SATE has gathered in Los Angeles, Orlando and – in 2012 – at Disneyland Paris. This year, in recognition and support of one of our most rapidly-growing and valuable facets of the organization, we are meeting at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art & Design. With a focus on what is to come in our collective industries, alongside the priority of welcoming and mentoring New Blood from other generations and other industries; we gather, this week, at this heady, academic hotbed of creativity and futurism to share ideas, vision, pathways and lessons both learned and taught.

And talk with some amazing students.

Before I shut down the iMac, grab the MacBook and head for the airport; I want to gather up all the virtual post-it notes that have been generated from the past few posts on IMHO and share with y’all the feedback and contribution that has been engendered by these, most recent, missives.

So, in no order of Priority, here are extrapolations on what was previously posited, feedback and suggestions inspired by earlier posts, the filling-in of gaps and the clarification of an opinion or two… Irrespective of one’s position or experience in these industries, I’ll just bet that there will be one or two of these to resonate with you.

With that; to this Cornucopia of Counsel…

Ensuring Integrity of a Meeting Schedule:

At the beginning of a project or extended period of affiliation with an institution, theatre or non-profit, lay out the meeting schedule for the entire duration of the project at the first meeting. No kidding. If your regular production meetings are to take place every two weeks on a Tuesday morning, or every month or week or whatever; agree to that in the meeting, then ask everyone to put these dates into their calendars, immediately.

In this way, your regularly-scheduled meeting takes actual priority over most anything else that can arise, and when other clients or individuals seek to place demand on the time of a committee / team member, this booking already precedes that request…blocking the time, thus protecting your meeting.

IMHO, people not showing up for meetings (as well as showing up late or leaving early) undermines both the quality of the meeting and of the work done in that meeting as well as jeopardizes the efficiency and final delivery of the product or show on which y’all are working.

At bottom: catching people up slows everyone down. See if you might build that risk out of the structure of your operation from the outset.

Voicemail versus call waiting:

We’ve discussed this, before, yet here it is, again.

  • Do not answer the phone if you can’t take the call. This actually impedes communication and slows down delivery of information. “Can I call you back?” Major Fail; let your virtual secretary handle the call.
  • Do not leave a message saying, “Call me.” Seriously. Call you about what, prithee? Take the opportunity that voicemail offers you to further the conversation…when the recipient of your voicemail returns your call, give that person the opportunity to return it with value…such as the information you were seeking in the first place.
  • Dump call waiting if you have voicemail. (If you don’t have voicemail, you are hereby invited to bypass the ’90’s, the 00’s and jump right into the ‘0‘teens.) Call Waiting is rude and use of it regularly puts you in the difficult position of assessing priority and value of the caller on the line versus the caller calling in. Why sow doubt into these relationships? Keep communication clean, clear, uninterrupted.

Keep your word.

If you say you’re going to do something; do it. If you find you cannot; alert all concerned, immediately.

Late is Late:

Calling, texting, emailing someone whom you are meeting less than an hour before said meeting to tell them you are going to be late does not make you un-late. Doing so less than 15 minutes before said meeting / lunch / whatever is just plain rude.

Pretty much everyone in your context deals with the same traffic and random obstacle to being on time. On time can be done. So, do it. I quoted in a post that is included in “IMHO” the book an anecdote about sharing with someone the effect of being ten minutes late to a meeting of ten people. That’s 70 “staff minutes;” over an hour of wasted time attributable to someone’s lack of planning…or absence of concern. Don’t be open to this.

As a Professional, simply do not be late. Better to be early.

LinkingIn, Facing Book, Tweeting and Following.

Especially if one is seeking to build or augment a network with and through Social Media sites: DO NOT USE THE DEFAULT INVITATION PHRASE. Show some creativity and personality, personalize the invitation. If all one does is click “Invite” and allow the site to fill in the blanks; then the person being invited / approached will very likely assume that all you did was click the button and allow the site to use the default invitation copy.

Is that the impression you want to make?

I’ve had students from my classes approach me on LinkedIn. In my class, I make the point of using this self-introductory opportunity to set oneself apart, display some creativity or at least professionalism. Still, I get the default invitation.

What does this tell me…?

  1. There isn’t enough real interest in a professional relationship to personalize the invitation,
  2. My admonitions were ignored,
  3. The writer simply wants access to my network and will probably do exactly the same to all of them,
  4. There must be some unfathomable level of ignorance I did not perceive, in class.

In pertinent reality, this leaves me disinclined to offer a job to anyone who’s sat through my class or reads this blog and still uses the default invitation. It tells me the writer is not creative, at the very least. I know I am not alone in this impression of people who just click the button and call it a Relationship.

Wake up, y’all. On a level playing field – such as the web – there are a few easy ways to set oneself apart. Embrace those opportunities; they can very readily mean the difference between getting a nod in the hallway or getting a job or gig.

If you “tried” to call; you didn’t call.

If you are attempting to reach someone, leave evidence. Phoning, without leaving a message, is what drives Yoda his mind out of… (“DO. Or Do Not. There is no ‘try’.”)

Integrity is everything; even if there has been a factor of procrastination in putting off the calling someone. Cop to it. Frankly, there are far too many ways to see if one has actually called to even play the “I tried…” game.

So, when reaching out to someone; do the work. Two very important people know the truth in these contexts, the non-caller and the non-callee. Don’t lie. It doesn’t pay.

Keep communication clean and the relationships healthy. There is no substitute for this.

This is just me, but:

When someone’s phone rings in a meeting I am running; I have been known to stop the meeting and wait for the call to finish. If the call is that important, we may as well all have the benefit of eavesdropping on the conversation. So often, the choice is to continue the meeting, then stop it to bring the Talker up to speed when s/he returns to the Present. If we’re gonna wait, anyway, let’s listen to the conversation… 😉

To be fair – and to give fair warning – I usually announce / request at the beginning of a given meeting that we all put our phones on silent…which I also do and place it face-down on the table so’s I don’t glance at the screen to see who’s calling… Just sayin’

All that being said, of course there are exceptions; sick children at home, et cetera. No need to be a total hardcore, just parameters that might be set.

Listen to yourself (proof your writing); be sure you actually mean what you are saying or writing:

  • Did you mean “…everyone can’t attend…” or do you mean, “…not everyone can attend…”?
  • Did you mean, “I could care less, “ or, “I couldn’t care less”?
  • Are you clear that “Irregardless” is not a word? “Irrespective” is a word. “Regardless” is a word. “Irregardless” is not.
  • You know it’s “Hear! Hear!” not “Here, here…” Right? Think about it.
  • You’re clear on the difference between “sight” and “site,” “to” and “too”?

Especially with freelancers and those new to the industry — any industry – people make ongoing evaluations of you as you think, speak, act… A little polish, a little thinking-through goes a long way toward making and cementing a good impression.

Don’t kid yourself, this is important stuff. People who make decisions worth millions of dollars see these sloppy (or ignorant) errors and make decisions that may affect your livelihood, promotion, future… Competition is fierce, out (t)here; one person’s sloppiness is another person’s opportunity.

Do you really want to be available, 24/7?

Then, don’t be. Keep in mind that the habits you exhibit offer people the opportunity to reach conclusions about what is acceptable behavior…conclusions that favor the wants and needs of the client; not you. So, don’t answer your phone in the middle of the night unless you want to be known for…being reachable in the middle of the night.

Et cetera.

Have your boundaries and maintain them. The onus is on your shoulders; rarer than Kryptonite is the client who will ask you how late it is “okay” to phone you…who will ask if you are protecting your healthy family life and getting enough sleep. ‘Sup to you to take care of yourself. When you make exceptions, be sure they are Exceptions.

And, if you are expected to be available 24/7; be sure you are being paid for it.

Let’s talk a little about Facebook.

First and foremost; be aware of the distinction between Commenting on a Post and sending a personal communication via the message function on FB.

Someone posts and you have a comment or contribution to the conversation. Easy-peasy; you type it into that little window below your friend’s post or the most recent comment. Good: you got it.

You have a personal question to ask that came to mind as you read your friend’s post, so you type into that window “hey, has your herpes cleared up?” Not such a good idea; as that question is now posted for all to see. Is that what you meant to do? Probably not. Same goes for “What’s your phone number” or “here’s my address.”

These latter do not belong in the comments feed or thread on FaceBook. Faux Pas. Pay attention.

Simply hovering over the photo of your friend (or going to the FB page) will offer you the “message” option. Use that avenue and your communications will be strictly between the two of you and not broadcast to the world. Think before you act…or type or tap or swipe or scroll…

Now, about Avenues of Communication:

You young’uns – don’t assume a familiarity with or fluid relationship between social media platforms on the part your peers of any age. Just don’t.

Recently, I was on the way to a lunch date with a younger associate of mine. I discovered a bit of a wait at the tram stop and just happened to open FaceBook while I waited…only to find an important communication from him about the location and time for lunch.

It is unusual for me to open FB on my phone – and as a silver-haired geek, I am way more embracing of social media platforms than the great majority of my peers. Had I not seen that communique, I would have risked completely missing meeting up with my friend. Why he would use FB to communicate something of priority rather than the email address I’ve had for 20 years is beyond me.

But. He did.

So, Kids: Do not depend on Facebook or LinkedIn or any other social platform to communicate with other people on a business level. Sure a lot of people follow Twitter, a lot of people look at Facebook all the time, but as many people or more do not. Especially if you’re confirming or changing appointments or letting someone know you are late…these are not reliable ways to do that.

And that’s the other side of this equation…for you old’uns – Don’t you be assuming, either.

IF you are over 40 and have an appointment with someone and do not hear from them and you’re waiting at the table, you might want to check your Facebook app; they may have sent you a note…or your Twitter Feed…or your iMessages and texts. The communication could be anywhere.

Ergo, never assume you’re in communication or not ‘til you’ve reconnoitered all avenues of communication. And even then; why not call?

Just sayin’…

So, across the board (and across generations) do remember that we are in a time of massive transition in the way we communicate with one another; professionally as well as personally. Most everyone, separated by a few years, has differing perceptions of and virtuosity with different communications platforms. It won’t hurt any of us to think a tad deeper when communicating so as to be sure that communication gets through and is clear and understood.

And perhaps hold off on judgement when a message is received through more than one channel. That is most likely evidence of a level of conscientiousness or an associate striving for completeness.

The world, especially the professional world, is undergoing massive transition. Brilliantly creative people are finding themselves crippled by having eschewed the web and social media, early on, and are now not only unable to but are afraid of trying to use these “simple” tools.

They ain’t simple ‘til y’know ‘em.

Meanwhile, and as I referred in an earlier post, Millennials are entering a world they did not have to learn to navigate; it’s been an inherent part of existence since the beginning of their self-awareness. Newer Millennials also perceive – as I am coming to discover and embrace as I work with so many students – the wealth of experiential and anecdotal knowledge that lives in brains just a few decades older’n them…and they both respect these Individuals of Experience and cherish access to their memory banks.

This is symbiotic, and represents what I see as the dawn of a profoundly productive and synergistically creative future among creatives and producers of all demographics. I’m seeing people look across the virtual table at the way those at other positions on the spectrum of age are doing things and finding themselves willing to adopt bits of the new into the systems of legacy we each have developed.

There is a respect between ages that I have not seen, in decades. I’m glad to see it and lucky to be a part of an industry that throws people together by proclivity and vision rather than by some antiquated hierarchy.

Buckle UP.


Finally, here is a little something to leave y’all with: I believe that there is no such thing as Free Creative. Nor should there be. Personally, I encourage creatives to charge for their work when being asked for ideas, freelance.

Don’t Give it All Away.

I never pitch ideas or concepts to a potential client without being paid to do so. What I pitch is my body of work, each and all of which has been developed by me in collaboration with respective clients.  If a client insists I pitch possible concepts and / or shows, that is not a client with whom I can work.

But you will virtually always be asked for ideas. If you are willing to give your brilliance away, to have your ideas stolen or co-opted and executed by someone else without your depth and vision; then, by all means, go ahead and share. This approach, full of risk to the Creative, has been an industry standard for decades, and one I have resisted for decades…sometimes to the detriment of my own financial security.

However, I have rarely been sorry to have withheld ideas and I have pretty much always been sorry when I’ve caved and later seen my concepts, poorly executed by someone else. I’d rather keep my integrity and protect that of my concepts and process. It is not unheard-of for someone to steal an idea, execute it poorly, then blame s/he from whom said idea was stolen as though it were the concept at fault rather than the executor.

My best work comes from that collaboration; from delving into the minds and passions of the client and principals, thereof, to learn motivation, history, inspiration and what keeps these people working with and for said client. All of this informs a perception of the mission of the company, agency or institution and affects the ultimate interpretation of the goals or objectives of a particular show or Experience being considered and developed.

I was encouraged to read the comments of Mark Busse, founder of Industrial Brand out of Vancouver ( who, in the face of this high-pressure dynamic, asserts, “…but the industry has profoundly risen up against speculative work in the last few years, establishing that earning work by pitching free creative devalues our industry.”

Well, Hear! Hear!


Download the free eBook for iPad from iTunes or the iBook Library; it contains the first 20 posts of “imho,” covering the basic methodologies of Ozier’s Tenets for the Creation of Compelling Experience along with a few interactive pieces and galleries.

Managing Audience Expectation…

…amidst the Deluge of Data and Information: Evolving media consumption, managing audience expectation, and the responsibilities incumbent on our audiences.

Not easy, and not a simple subject.

Before I address this, though; perhaps an explanation as to where I’ve been for the past several weeks.

Nowhere; actually.

In the middle of Nowhere, actually…

My bedroom

In August, I spent two weeks in the extreme wilderness, the Gifford Pynchot region of Washington State. Invited, welcomed and embraced by a group of Native Americans and believers of disparate origin to discover, explore and “ …Walk the Red Road” (google or wikipedia it), I found my time off the grid and deep, deep in the wilderness to have been recalibrating, revivifying, regenerative.

It was a powerful experience; about which I have written, here:

I shall be returning to Washington State and this group of spiritualists, again, many times. This was exceptionally good for me; with long days and nights, completely alone on a mountaintop with no food nor water, feeling the world drain away and sensing my inner, creative, empathetic soul gather itself and strengthen my core sensibilities, feelings, talents and skills…

I recommend something such as this for every creative person; every producer, director, creative director, writer, production manager… Whether it be at some Benedictine Hermitage (one of which exists, a completely silent retreat, year-round near Big Sur) or a more peripatetic group of souls such as this to which I was called; this is a profoundly cleansing and inspirational exercise.

To find a way, in…to explore and rediscover oneself…the value of this is beyond hyperbole. Leaving familiar surroundings and spending time, alone and unhindered by Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday can be naught but healthy and positive. I offer y’all find a way to do something like this.

…and now, back to our regular programming.

As I was saying; Managing Audience Expectation…

Some weeks ago, Kevin Spacey offered an articulate rant from a London Stage to networks and broadcasters, worldwide. In this speech, he admonished the networks to pay attention to narrative, to storytelling, and to eschew the Box into which story development is regularly, traditionally forced from the beginning of “Pilot” season. Further, he strongly advocates awareness of and respect for the digitally sophisticated audience that is taking over the viewing of film / television / stories. Audience can no longer be told how and when to watch something; each individual wants to watch entertainment or experience Story the way s/he wants to, when s/he wants to and in any favorite format.

The choice now longer rests with the formerly all-powerful network; the greater cache is becoming something in the hands of the audience, rather.

He also, quite eloquently, asserted the position of the audience in choosing how we consume media experiences; our choice of screen(s), time and timing, binge versus episodic. He exhorts the networks to relinquish attempts at controlling when and how people receive the shows, and implies (imho…) a bit of a revolution, underfoot.

A revolution which I embrace, btw. Whether we “should” or not be able to watch the way we want; we shall be able to watch the way we want, and that’s that. So, what new context is this…?

Two, widely disparate, issues come to mind, here, for me.

  • The first is the detrimental affect of simultaneous multi-screen viewing pathways, and
  • The second is the heightened danger of the Overshare to those who’ve not yet consumed a given piece of media.

As to the first:

We’ve seen several experiments at engaging audience through offering smaller, ancillary screens within broader, immersive experiences. The idea behind this, while honorable and edgy, is founded on what I believe is a major misstep in the logic, in the thinking behind it.

People absorb story through the Right Brain. When this is happening; the less active and more dormant is the Left Brain – the analytical lobe – the more power is given the Right to absorb, to sense and feel.

The moment a second screen is introduced – one that calls for control, monitoring and input by the audience member – that emotional bond begins to fray if not outright break. For the adrenaline-based experience, this is not a problem: if it’s about the rush of a race or a thrill of a battle, that’s an experience that is about analysis and strategy, fueled by adrenalin, anyway.

But when a story has a mission to engage, emotionally – to evoke feelings and memories or simply to engage in a new narrative – the dynamic instilled by the second screen immediately detracts from the experience.

An associate of mine, George Mandella, articulates and deconstructs the quintessential example of this distraction in his column on the detrimental affects of AMC’s most recent Good Idea, “Story Synch.” It’s an idea that probably sounded great at a conference table of people who don’t know the physiology of being told a story; but, in reality, the idea…um, sucks.

Check out George’s opinion and experience, here…

So, as you are creating an Experience of a Storytelling nature, do keep in mind the dangers of distraction. I offer that, as storytellers, we want our audience immersed in the experience rather than working to personalize and manage it… Just sayin’…

Now, to the second thing…

What comes to mind as I listen to Mr. Spacey’s spot-on rant is what happens to me when I see too many, different trailers for the same film. Used to be (back in the olden days), there was one trailer for a film. Over the past decade, trailers are being designed for specific audiences thus contain different content. Often, a series of trailers is produced as production on a film continues and is completed: for that, or whatever other reasons those pesky whippersnapper MBA’s in Marketing conjure, trailers are cut and recut and shown in succession to the extent that – should one see many, disparate films – the chances are that one could see up to ten or fifteen minutes of a film through a de facto conflation of trailers.

Somewhat analogous to bit torrent technology with respect to bits and pieces and hints and teasers of a story coming into one’s consciousness from different directions at different times; the sum total offering ultimate discernment of the pending story and the resultant diminishing of the experience when the story is told.

For me, this pretty much eliminates the compulsion to pay Retail for a given film. I’ll wait for it to be released in iTunes or on AppleTV or even Netflix streaming. My Jones for the surprise twists will have been tempered so broadly with accumulated knowledge that my  too-informed sense of how the movie is going to unfold depletes my desire to see it on the Big Screen.

But now…there is an entirely new risk to the not-yet-viewer, inherent in the new ability to binge-watch entire seasons as early as release-weekend, for one to absorb entire, multi-episode story arcs while one’s friends are still wiping the butts of their kids; putting the latecomers all-too-easily at risk of the proclivity of others to share significant plot twists or endings long before one has the chance to experience the unfolding narrative for oneself.

There have always been risks of some <ahem> cretin saying, “He’s already dead!” or, “She’s a guy!” or “OMG; he’s Luke’s FATHER!!!” (If you didn’t already know these, you live under a rock.)

Now, with people feeling compelled to live post and tweet even as they are watching a broadcast, or discuss the ramifications of character perambulations in open forum on FaceBook; the risk to those who have not taken the first, most broad, opportunity to consume of learning too much, too soon is egregious.

Used to be, people tended to carry a sensibility toward not revealing the end of a movie or a huge plot development in a Series for a generally-accepted period of time. That courtesy seems now to have gone the way of the floppy disc.

Can anything actually be done to protect the surprise of story developments? I don’t think so. If anything, it’s more or less up to us to be as discreet as possible about what we know of have seen. On the other hand, for those of us navigating the digital minefield of FB and Twitter; we can only be ready to quickly avert our eyes when scrolling down a page, such that we can leap-away from premature information.

I see no solution, here, beyond individual courtesy and circumspection.

That, and it makes embracing the techniques of storytelling that much more important; the need for compelling experience that much more profound, so that we can take people into fantasy where they wonder about the end until the end.

I think we will always have work.

Feel free to download the free eBook for iPad, “Imho” from iTunes.