Chapter 2

A Sharp Pencil Works Best

Some thoughts on getting started


As an employee in an agency creative department, you will spend most of your time with your feet up on a desk working on an idea. Across the desk, also with his feet up, will be your partner—in my case, an art director. And he will want to talk about movies.

In fact, if the truth be known, you will spend a large part of your career with your feet up talking about movies.

The brief is approved, the work is due in two days, the pressure’s building, and your muse is sleeping off a drunk behind a Dumpster or twitching in a ditch somewhere. Your pen lies useless. So you talk movies.

That’s when the project manager comes by. Project managers stay on top of a job as it moves through the agency. This means they also stay on top of you. They’ll come by to remind you of the horrid things that happen to snail-assed creative people who don’t come through with the goods on time.

So you try to get your pen moving. And you begin to work. And working, in this business, means staring at your partner’s shoes.

That’s what I’ve been doing from 9:00 to 5:00 for more than 20 years—staring at the bottom of the disgusting tennis shoes on the feet of my partner, parked on the desk across from my disgusting tennis shoes. This is the sum and substance of life at an agency.

In movies, they almost never capture this simple, dull, workday reality of life as a creative person. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not an easy ...

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