Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Miss Geppetto

by Ernie Schenck

I miss Geppetto. I miss the tinkerers. The craftsmen. The crazies. The looney art directors who don’t know the meaning of the words, “pencils down.” The obsessed whack jobs who never quite know when to let it go. The font that isn’t quite right. The word that isn’t quite adequate. The 1.5-second dissolve that maybe should be 1.576, or 1.478, or something. And there is always, always, always, always, always, always something.

I miss Geppetto.

Not that there were ever very many of him. And I suppose that’s how it should be. This is a business after all, is it not? There are deadlines to keep. Expectations to manage. Opinions to navigate. So many hostile realities to turn back. It’s as if you are Neo in some advertising agency version of The Matrix and you are fighting a million Mr. Smiths all at once.

Yet, somehow a few manic souls once managed to dance between the raindrops. And somewhere out there, they still do. How they are able to do this, I wish I could tell you.

I could say it is a stubborn determination to push back, to just say no, to lock the door and ignore the world and put your head down and just keep twittering and noodling and pushing and pulling and, when there is something of greatness to emerge, then and only then are you willing to step out into the light and say, “Here it is. Now it’s ready.” And it is partly that.

I could say that it is their good fortune to work in a place far from the microscope of big time advertising. That at this very moment there is a creative team in North Dakota or Alabama or Iowa or West Virginia, and they are hunkered down without fear of the naysayers, the bomb throwers, the time-sheet obsessors. They are busily chipping away at that tiny rough stone, chipping, chipping, chipping until as bright and dazzling a bit of advertising you have ever seen comes spilling out onto the page or the screen or the god knows what.

But I know better than to believe that there are no naysayers in North Platte. No bomb throwers in Baltimore. No time-sheet obsessors in Toledo. They are there. And they are, I am sure, as fierce or worse than their counterparts in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. I could say that Geppetto has gone to ground. That he’s working off the grid. Found himself some creative hidey hole just out of range of the security cameras. But I know better. There are no hidey holes. Nowhere to hide. Not if you’re a tinkerer. Not if you’re Geppetto.

And damn it, I miss the tinkerers.

I miss their passion for the word and the picture. I miss what they once gave us. The realization that, hell yes, the work is worth sweating over. That compulsiveness is something to be coveted, instead of discouraged. That the nagging suspicion that all those faceless gray drones in the Apple 1984 spot were, in fact, not us. That we aren’t all just creative androids toiling away in our cubicles, deluded in our hopeless belief that what we are doing is fresh and worthy and edgy, when in fact it is gray and faceless and we are all mere cookie cutters working for, as John Twelve Hawks puts it, The Vast Machine.

I like speed. I love speed. I love 48-hour film projects. I love ticking clocks. I love how they put our backs against the wall so there’s no time to think, analyze, bicker with ourselves, to do anything but just explode with raw imagination. I love it all. Love moving at the speed of light, from this to that and that to this. But do I miss the fussing and the fidgeting? Totally.

You know what I think? I think we’ve gone too far. We preached the gospel of the idea and we preached and we preached and we preached. It’s the idea, stupid. It’s not about the font or the picture or this green or that blue or any of that. Why, if only the idea was big enough, nothing else mattered. Everything else was frosting. Inconsequential at best. Detrimental at worst. I believed that. I was one of the preachers. I believed it and I wanted it and I wouldn’t let go of it. But an idea is only as big as the clothes it has on. The nuances that give it heart. The subtle things that make it walk and talk and blow our minds with its beauty.

I miss Geppetto.

{Via Communication Arts}

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