Creative and production

Creative and Production. In your organization, it might be called Marketing and Operations. Or writers and publishers. Or dancers and stage crew.

But you get the idea: One group is supposed to be doing something artistic. And the other group is supposed to be mediating between the artist and reality in such as way that the artistic expression can connect with a sizeable audience.

Finding the perfect balance between the two is an art in and of itself. The concept “respect” usually figures prominently — even when there’s a lot of swearing going on.

Friday night I was involved on the production crew for the installation of the artworks for a highly ambitious performance art event. The artists were putting the final touches on massive pieces. The production crew was going over schedules and handing out radios and flares that would be involved in rolling the artworks a mile through town to a display area.

The artistic director sprang onto a stage of sorts and began rallying the crowd, talking about the impact of the upcoming performance and the uniqueness of the work to be presented. There was cheering and applause. Music came on; dancing started up; the performers were ready to roll.

A few minutes later, the artistic director, partially costumed and clearly inhabiting his performance persona, approached one of the production crew chiefs. He called out “Let’s go! People are ready to move; let’s not lose this momentum.” The crew chief looked up from his clipboard and said firmly, “Got it. But we still have one key person to get into place. We’ll move out when it’s safe to go.”

Friday night was my first time working with this community, but I’ve heard that exchange between Creative and Production hundreds of times in my career. It’s a sign of organizational health when both speakers are calm and full of conviction. (Whining, muttering, and tantrums are signs that Something Is Wrong Here.)

I was thrilled to see that this was a good group (and the rest of my weekend experience with them bore this out).

What didn’t thrill me, I must admit, was to find myself on the Production side of the event. Throughout my career I’ve moved back and forth between Creative and Production. I was discouraged to find myself entering yet another organization on the Production side when I want to be in the Creative end of things.

Next year.

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