What is Creative Development?
What is Creative Development?
Good question… It’s one we get asked a lot and it’s never been a simple answer. So, allow us this opportunity to indulge ourselves a little and give you the answer that there’s never been the time – or appetite – for at any social occasion we’ve ever attended.
The answer it deserves.
If you bravely ventured into an advertising production office back in the noughties, you would occasionally cross paths with mysterious, solitary beings, known as ‘researchers’. But these weren’t the kind of researchers you’d find running frantically around TV studios. These were a different breed entirely.
For a start they would never run anywhere, that job was reserved for the runners. ‘Saunter’ would be a more accurate description of their nonchalant manner as they entered the production office; often after arriving on a motorcycle and smoking a cigarette.
Understandably wanting to distance themselves from their tea making TV counterparts, these researchers preferred the term Director’s Assistant, Creative Researcher or perhaps the French term Art Director. Make no mistake, these were cool cats. As runners starting out in the world of production, we wanted whatever it was they had.
And so, to work…
Fuelled on a potent cocktail of caffeine, nicotine and Itsu, creative researchers spent their days and nights camped out by the office scanner, pouring over towering stacks of beautiful coffee table photography books. If not there, you’d surely find them wading waist level through an encyclopaedic DVD library of arthouse and classic Hollywood movies; which they’d proceed to ‘rip’ at a time when the process required hacker level tech. The fact that these guys were literally risking jail time for a 480p screengrab says a lot of their dedication to the cause.
But what is the cause?
Put simply; being a creative researcher is a role that gets you a unique seat at the director’s table for the creative starter. This is the precious – and finite period – when a concept is still fluid and malleable. For the creative-curious, it’s an opportunity to gain priceless insight into the dark art of directing. But not only that, it’s a chance to contribute ideas and inspire the process.
The role of creative researcher entails becoming an extension of the director’s eye and taste, hunting and gathering visual material to ultimately convey the vision in the director’s mindseye. It requires sensitivity, taste, diligence, an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop culture and a near-telepathic ability to tune in to a creative feel, that is sometimes too abstract for words. It often falls to a creative researcher to paint in the details of a location, add flesh to the bare bones of the characters, or visually illustrate an essential filmmaking technique that could be hard to describe in words. Think ‘contra-zoom’ or ‘chiaroscuro lighting’.
All this hard work and appreciation for the craft of filmmaking is distilled down and poured onto the page for the creative agency to read and admire. That page is known as the ‘director’s treatment’ or sometimes ‘the deck’, ‘director’s interpretation’ or simply ‘the treatment’.
The treatment is what it all comes down to. For a commercial, in this case, the director’s pitch distils the essential information on how they will tackle a creative agency’s brief and execute the film idea in a style that harmonises perfectly with the overall brand campaign. It’s also a chance to add a different spin, inject comedy, make a pitch perfect casting choice, or suggest a technical execution that will turn heads and garner the brand huge media attention.
These aspects, among countless others (along with a preferable budget from the production company) are what will ultimately win a director and their production company the job.
In the early days of the digital revolution, a treatment often consisted of a simple word document containing a written director’s interpretation, supported by a handful of essential visuals to convey the idea. But, as technology developed and the internet became an ever deepening well of moving and still imagery, the scanner lay dormant and the DVD library grew dusty. The director’s treatment tracked with that, steadily growing in sophistication; the humble word doc became a bespoke design document, adding another layer of visual wrapping to the director’s vision for the project.
But, while the technology and methods have changed somewhat, the cause remains the same.
Since embarking on a journey in this field over 12 years ago, we feel privileged to have been around to witness and be part of the evolution of, what has become a vital part in, defining concepts for commercials, music videos, films, television series or games, before they get made.
As we immersed ourselves deeper into this field we continued to add more strings to our collective bow. We applied aspects from our own backgrounds in screenwriting, creative and copywriting, while developing skills like treatment writing, moving image research, mood film editing and footage licensing. We became familiar with the essential process of storyboarding and discovered the value of concept art.
The goal has always been to inject even more value to the development of a project and continue to try and push the boundaries of what a treatment could be.
Travelling this path, we came to the conclusion that ‘researcher’ was becoming a redundant term, failing to fully encompass the breadth and depth of the work being done in these crucial early stages. So, along with a small group of our close colleagues working in our field, including the incomparable Aleks Cvetojević, we grappled with the idea of redefining what it is we were doing and sought to give it an umbrella term that sufficiently captured everything we do.
And so, the term Creative Development was settled upon as a moniker that seeks to encompass everything it is that we currently do, while also leaving space for further progression of the craft. As with many multi-disciplinary fields, it’s never easy putting what we do into a box, but as more and more people working in our field adopt the term, we feel it’s a good fit.