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Opinion and Insight

Ciclope 2018: Creativity as an Exercise in Trust

LBB’s Laura Swinton reflects on two days of open conversation about craft and creativity

Ciclope 2018: Creativity as an Exercise in Trust

It was fitting that the key theme to emerge from Ciclope 2018 was trust. A festival that’s more like an extended family reunion, with craft and creativity at its core and very little in the way of bland brandy-y platitudes, it’s a place where people can get real. On stage. At a scruffy Berlin dive bar at 3am in the morning. Nobody was too worried about dropping F-bombs on stage – or talking about their arrest record.  I can be a bit of a cynic when it comes to festival events, as they often turn out to be back-to-back sales pitches – but Ciclope’s a show that’s got its heart in the right place and its singular, cyclops eye on what matters.

On the Thursday, I spoke to Donald Schneider of Donald Schneider Studios, a former creative director of French Vogue and the man behind the now infamous H&M collaborations. Fashion is a sector that tends to work a little differently when it comes to communications and marketing – the brands are often more confident in their creative vision and there’s less interference. Donald’s worked with directors like Guy Ritchie and Baz Luhrmann, and in that case, he said they’re more likely to want to take on a project – and give themselves fully to it – if they have creative freedom. Donald also pointed to the massive financial growth of Gucci - a brand that, in his experience, is more likely to push creative collaborators to take more risks than to interfere and urge caution.

But trust isn’t just about letting your big name talent run free – it’s also about how you treat newcomers and more junior members of the team, holding their hand when needed and being open. David LaChapelle may be best known for his celebrity portraits of the likes of Muhammed Ali and David Bowie and his famously provocative campaigns for brands like Diesel – but even though he’s a superstar creative name, he says he makes sure he’s open to everyone on set. 

“For me it’s about collaboration. You have to have a director, someone who can captain the ship, but everybody’s role is important. If you look at talented people, anyone can come up with good ideas on a set. You don’t necessarily have to use them, but an intern might come up and say, ‘what about this?’ It might be a great idea. And if I was to keep myself separate from that then I would lose some of that. There’s a camaraderie in that collaboration that I love,” said David.

It’s a theme that was also picked up by director James Rouse, who this year broke all of our hearts with his spot ‘Hope’ for the Red Cross in Spain. He was at Ciclope to talk about casting and working with actors. It’s a facet of directing he takes seriously and he revealed that during the casting of the Red Cross ad he ‘fought the hardest I ever had’ for the small girl he cast in the film. It was the right move and shows exactly what top directors can bring to a job. One might draw a connection and suggest it also shows that there’s little point in hiring a top director if you’re not going to trust their judgement, which is kind of what you’ve paid for.

“Every single time you get trusted it gets amazing results,” he said, singling out people from Sra. Rushmore and adam&eveDDB who have given him the space to flex his directorial muscles. “They hand over their baby to me and they let me nurture it and evolve it and hopefully let it become a better being. You have to take your hat off to those people who do trust somebody to take their baby and run with it, because they’ve been through months and months with clients and have signed off on tiny little details. This line here, they’ve fretted over it. And they give it to a director who says, ‘that’s amazing’… and gently slides it to the side.”

Ciclope founder Francisco Condorelli had assembled a top line-up of judges and speakers and, at a time when creativity seems to be under more pressure than ever at the big networks, he’s created a safe space where people who really care about the work could speak freely about what really matters. Perhaps the theme of trusting your talent and letting them get on with the job they’re being paid to do was an easy win at an event full of creatives and craftspeople, but now, more than ever, it’s worth talking about. Paradoxically, the small number of clients and suits at the event is what lends it its relaxed and open atmosphere – but there were plenty of insights about the nature of the creative process that plenty marketers could stand to learn.
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