Times of transition often breed a hybridization of old and new, methodologies that straddle where we’ve been and where we’re going. As content continues to outgrow its reliance on traditional television, the media industry finds itself at such a crossroads. Budgets are being stretched into new areas, and broadcast marketers, production studios and agencies alike are being forced to do more with less.
Gone are the days when every project was staffed with very specific, singular roles. Today’s strongest creative teams are comprised of hybrid creatives, those multi-skilled talents who can stretch and fill multiple roles at once. They may have to plan, shoot, edit and finish an entire project without any other collaborators, only essential crew and input from the client.
In my case, hybridization began out of passion rather than necessity. I entered the business as a tape-vault librarian. I didn’t go to film school, so when I decided I wanted to become an editor, I had to seek out mentors who could help me learn on the job. I did the same thing each time I wanted to further expand my skills, ultimately leaving the editor’s chair to cross over into creative direction and live-action direction. I’ve worn many hats, but I apply all the skills I’ve learned along the way to my job on the set.
Here’s what I’ve learned is the best way to master the art of the hybrid creative:
- Cultivate as many mentors, strategic partners and experts as you can. Get to know them and build relationships based on trust to enable an honest exchange of ideas. These people should challenge you; offer critique (good and bad); encourage you; and educate you. Be a sponge and learn from every conversation by listening, actively participating and asking questions — not just from those in positions you want, but from all of the people who collaborate with them. In other words, if you want to be a director, don’t simply befriend directors. Get to know great cinematographers, executive producers, creative directors and producers. Develop a holistic view of the process, not a specific area of expertise. Learn how to be a good teammate by understanding your role in the overall process.
- Research and practice. Some advocate focusing on improving your strengths, but to evolve you have to work on skills outside your wheelhouse. That means learning new things, exploring uncomfortable places and practicing them to get better. In an increasingly digital world, for example, how would someone in broadcast become more interactive? Homework and practice. Seek out knowledge and then try to apply it, either on a real project or by creating a personal one. Pair this with talking to experts in the field and suddenly you have post-grad, on-the-job training.
- Be willing to fail. It’s been said so many times that failure is the best way to grow. You always learn more from the mistakes. Constant success promotes the misguided belief that you never have to alter your approach or try new things. The ability to problem solve is essential. Yet we are all terrified of making mistakes that could result in losing our jobs, credibility or even our confidence. Growth means living through some skinned knees. Seek opportunities that will insert you into the process in new ways. Don’t get comfortable. While some mistakes are fatal, the vast majority are not. And if you’ve cultivated mentors, you’ll have a wonderful safety net of people to help you when you are completely in over your head.
Becoming a hybrid, at minimum, requires a willingness to keep learning. Beyond that, it’s about maintaining a level of humility and resolving to never believe "you know it all" or that you can do it alone.
Brian Eloe is creative director of 2C Creative.