Sometimes the assignment isn’t what we think it is.

In fact it’s often something else entirely.

For me, things tend to go a lot smoother when I remember that. I get more work, more referrals, too.

Story

A while ago, a producer hired me to write scripts for a series of videos for a tech firm. We had a long conference call with his client and her team, talking about their objectives, the nature of their technology, the content we have to cover, timelines, milestones. The usual.

After the call, the producer asked for my take on the situation.

I immediately launched into a four-minute speech on my concepts for the videos, the structure, the tone of the narration, how it would be tricky to make their technology simple enough — and on and on. (Mentally calculating my fee all the while.)

The producer listened patiently, without comment.

When I was finished, he told me about the client, Elaine, who he had known for a few years.

Eighteen months before, she had been downsized out of a big corporation and spent seven months looking for work, demoralized and scared to hell. She eventually landed the job at this smaller tech company, a huge culture shift for her.

The video series was her first major project in the new gig, initiated by her.  She was still feeling her way around the company’s techno-geek mindset and hierarchy.

The producer didn’t say a word about budget, or creative, or shoot-days or casting.

He was telling me, sort of sideways, that our mission, what we were getting paid for, was to deliver storyboards and a script (and later a video) that Elaine could present to her bosses and score a huge hit.

She needed to wow some people in a big way.

That’s what Elaine was hoping for. That was ‘the objective.’  That was the ‘creative problem.’

He was right.  It wasn’t about my personal artistic vision or any pie-eyed illusions about going viral with these things.

It was about giving Elaine something that would get a rise out of six guys in a conference room two weeks from Tuesday.

That was the deal, right there.

And that’s the image I held in my head while working up the treatments and scripts. I pictured Elaine pitching our (her) video concepts, and the nerdy bosses nodding.

I found the rudder, the North Star for the project. It simplified everything, made everyone happy. Made good money, good videos, too.

Elaine is a true fan to this day.

Out here, at ground level, sometimes ‘solving the problem’ means making a client look like a genius.  Or not making them look bad.

Sometimes the ‘creative challenge’ is to give them a way to score huge points somewhere.

The more I’m conscious of that, the better I do.