I stopped writing blog posts cold turkey. For a while I was really into writing them, and then I wasn’t. It’s not that I wasn’t getting something from the process, I was and at least a few of you were as well. Apologize for the disappearance.
Working at Skidmore College, where I teach Branding and Commercial Production, has allowed me to develop my business into more of a consultancy. I joke at home that I’ve become the brand whisperer. It’s work I can do remotely and not interfere with my other obligations. I’ve also been developing Vocal Pictures, the production arm of the company. Maybe it’s a leg, maybe even two legs …. for now, we can call it an arm.
Most of our film projects are for clients engaged with Brandforming, with occasional independent forays into short doc and narrative. One of the larger projects involved shooting over 14 days from early spring through late fall of 2019. Then the pandemic hit.
Working with the students is a near constant source of energy that keeps me on my toes. Of course, teaching during Covid-19 has been the cause of the Zoomdemic, turning us all into Zoombies. On the whole, the students are doing their best to keep their heads in the game while staring into the abyss. After about 5 weeks, I decided to get off-line and back into the classroom. It’s not that the technology was not working, or that my lesson plans were running afoul, I was simply bored teaching over Zoom.
We’re super cautious, we follow all the guidelines. I follow the Covid dashboards like a day trader follows the markets. So far, so good here in Saratoga Springs. As of this post, the virus is having its way with a good deal of the country. Refusal to comply with the scientific guidance is coming home to roost.
My first year as The F. William Harder Chair Professor of Business Administration at Skidmore College has been a bit of a roller coaster. The good kind, thrilling without the sense of impending doom that you get in those “poop your pants” rides that seem to push the limits of engineering.
I went into this gig with some trepidation, not knowing how I’d fare. Not knowing is a good thing in my book. I like not knowing because it means I’m learning and I’ve learned a lot.
The first thing I’ve learned is that being a Professor is real work. From this day forward, if I ever hear anyone say, “those who know do and those who don’t teach,” I’ll offer to have them give it a try. They have obviously never stepped foot in a classroom full time. The occasional rock star visit does not come close to staring down a room full of 20 something’s at 8:30 am on Wednesday & Friday mornings in February when it’s 20 below. It takes real effort to keep them engaged. Effort, planning, follow-up and creativity. Sounds just like any other business.
The second thing I can tell you is the work outside the classroom far exceeds the work inside the classroom. But I’m still new to all this and it has already gotten easier but like any other gig, you get out of it what you put in, so if you’re doing it right, it’s never really easy.
In both courses, I bring in real clients, with real business and brand challenges. My approach is to workshop the challenge in a real-world format. It took some adjusting on my part to make this work for students vs professionals. It’s one thing to do something your entire career surrounded by pros and another entirely to codify it into a syllabus for people who have never done it before.
I can tell you the world is in for a treat when these young people hit the workforce. The other observation I can share is that Skidmore students are smart, with a causal confidence that belies their intelligence and strong work ethic.
It’s a unique experience working with students. Eager to learn and challenge themselves as much as I challenge them; to push their creativity and put it to work within a strategic construct. Working with creativity as a skill, with a business purpose, changes their ideas about creativity and helps them see it as vital and vitally important no matter their career choice.
This semester, my Commercial Production students took on an assignment for Garnet River, an IT Professional Services Firm that is launching an internet security service designed for threat detection and response for small to mid-size business. We spent the majority of the semester discovering all that is involved in the making of a TV spot; perhaps more contemporarily defined as content. Most of these students had never before produced narrative content, so we invested ourselves in the art of the story, the heroes journey. We examined other spots, listened to the words of Directors and Directors of Photography, Casting Agents, Location Scouts, Production Designers and Musicians. We practiced concept development and story boarding our concepts. Then we focused our efforts on building production books to catalogue and manage the production. And finally, with approximately 4 weeks remaining in the semester, these Management and Business student went to work on their final assignment; a 30 sec spot for Garnet Shield. A few examples of which are included here. Their skill levels vary but their creativity is strong.