The production pitch process is broken

The way in which creative agencies appoint directors and producers to a project isn't working. And Katie Trew believes that, to fix it, we need to ditch directors' treatments, create partnerships between creatives and creators, and embed agency teams into the process.

Creative agencies of the world – it’s time we took a good long look at how we engage our production suppliers and directors, and ask ourselves: Is it really working for us?

The answer will probably be no, because the pitch process needs a serious overhaul. The way in which creative agencies appoint directors and production suppliers hasn’t really changed since the days of Don Draper, while the rest of the industry is barely recognisable from that era. There has got to be a better way, one that would save us time and money that we could re-invest into creating better work for clients.

“Directors’ treatments are not the best way of deciding who’s best for a project”

Directors’ treatments need to go

Directors treatments are not the best way of deciding who’s best for a project. They’re just not. Being the best ‘treatment builder’ does not necessarily make you the best director for the project.

Directors who can afford it often outsource the production of their biblical treatments: thick, glossy documents that no one gives due respect or time to. I’m sorry – but it’s true.

I am still yet to see a treatment from a director that absolutely, wholeheartedly nailed it 100%. The reason? Directors are playing a guessing game.

It’s a guessing game

Directors are trying to decipher what will win them the job, rather than exploring how powerful and effective the idea could become.

When creatives brief out a script or a kernel of an idea to a range of directors, it’s often just that – a seedling that needs water, sun and love. It’s an hour-long conversation. Instead of throwing those creative seeds out and seeing what comes back, the end result would be better if creatives planted the seeds themselves and guided their growth.

Consider this for a moment. What if creative agencies engaged only one, maybe two directors, and their producers, and together develop the treatment so that it was exactly what should be presented to client, both in format and content?

Instead of production companies spending their time, money and energy on competitive pitches, what if they could sit at a collaborative table with the creatives and agency producers working out the best way to make the idea as incredible as possible within the budget provided?

We need a true partnership between creatives and creators

Creatives and directors should, together, interrogate an idea in its infancy then present the final work as a united front. An agency’s time should be invested in workshopping the concept with a worthy director and producer until it’s everything it could have imagined and more. Be a part of the director’s development process and guide them on where you want them to take it.

What I am suggesting is the empowerment of creative teams and a true partnership between creative and creator. An art director should be the lens through which a director sees the job. Imagine if they were deeply embedded in the development process rather than just asked to comment on images on set.

Agency production teams need to step up to the plate

This new world relies on heads of TV and their agency producers investing time to really understand who is out there, and what they can do: knowledge beyond watching a reel. We need to have relationships with our industry partners that allow us to engage the right director and production team to develop the idea together. Or, at the very least, try to engage our dream team upfront.

I understand some business arrangements and procurement restrictions require more than one quote, so let’s agree that we naturally need to comply with these agreements when required. I’m not suggesting this is the right solution for every project or client, but I implore creative agencies to try it out and see how it feels.

At worst, creatives would spend more time with talented directors and soak up meaningful, and often lacking, production knowledge. Production companies would be saved thousands of dollars in the pitch stages, resulting in more budget funnelled towards the work itself. Talented directors would win back years of their lives that could be better spent working on projects that are going somewhere. And, of course, the big win, is that we would all spend more time collaborating on quality projects for our clients.

How about we give it a try?

Katie Trew is executive producer of content and production company King Street


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