Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The day I became a film producer

A few years ago a client approached us about conducting ethnographic research on the subject of black skin. The markets were to be South Africa, Brazil, UK and USA. At that time, and given the sample size, it was the largest project we had ever undertaken.

As soon as it was confirmed, I flew to NY for the Kick Off session. Surprisingly, despite writing a proposal with objectives and outputs, there was no clear brief. Well, there was a brief, but nobody could really agree on what the essence of brief should be. So I was asked to re-propose to include a 2 week exploratory trip, alone, to each of these markets. I was to meet and interview a range of potential subjects, experts and commentators in order to come up with a final 'brief' we could all agree on.

Four weeks elapsed and I returned with a presentation around 30 slides thick incorporating the most amazing brief which I knew they would fall off their chairs for. I presented it to a room full of agency planners, clients and agency creatives.

They all hated it.

Nobody said it, but it was clear they felt I had wasted 2 weeks and £20,000 to come up with a bad idea. I even thought they were going to ditch us and had a very depressing flight home.

But they didn't ditch us. Together we finally came up with a brief and the next step was to begin recruitment. While waiting for the client to approve our screeners, I had a call from two of them to say they didn't think our subjects would be 'interesting off' to follow. But surely if they were all interesting they wouldn't really be representative, I countered. And we would effectively be making a documentary about black skin rather than conducting an ethnographic study.

The same late evening I received an email stating that, after careful consideration, they now wanted us to make a documentary. What this did to my ego and cockiness still reverberates to this day. People in South Africa still call me, Siamack Salari the film producer!

The project did become sticky towards the end when no one could agree on a final edit/story. But what a wonderful client to have worked with. Generous, flexible, creative and incredible bright.

Here is the final output/films (go to Skin Stories and 'Watch skin Stories'. And above is a rather self indulgent film I made of my briefing generation trip. The music, by the way, is Iranian.

1 comment:

  1. So Siamack, next year you will have a Salari safari! I like that:)