ZEBRAS ONLY WHEN NECESSARY

Horses look similar, right?
Horses look similar, right?

There's an expression from the world of medicine when a doctor is trying to diagnose a beguiling or unexplainable ailment. "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." It's pretty clever. If a patient comes in with a runny nose, the odds are he or she has a cold rather than some sort of respiratory infection from an exotic tropical bug.

Are there respiratory infections from exotic tropical bugs?  Absolutely. That's why you want medical professionals  with a deep knowledge  of what's possible and the tenacity to stay with a problem until they resolve a cause. But just as importantly, it's vital to go to a doctor who won't over-prescribe treatments, especially for problems beyond the scope of what he or she is dealing with.

In almost every case, creative enterprises  can benefit from a similar philosophy. Are there opportunities where sophisticated special-effects must come into play, or gyro-stabilized cameras need to be mounted on high-performance helicopters? (And if you're thinking of a project  that absolutely has to use one of those, PLEASE feel free to get in touch with us immediately!) Of course there are. But most of the time it's possible to deliver beautiful, arresting work at a reasonable budget because anything more complex wouldn't make sense for the assignment. Most of the time horses will do nicely.

Do we like stretching out with sophisticated, wildly complex flights of fancy? Yeah baby: believe it, we do. Are we capable of running with zebras? Yep: check our reel if you want to know more. But most of the time the goal is simpler than the entire range of deployable options. Elegant solutions rarely present themselves dressed in great complexity. The fact is, it's often easier to imagine wildly complex  solutions  then sleek and simple ones. Those complex solutions come with huge risks, big costs, and lots of sleeplessness. Are those reasons to avoid the power moves? Not a chance; when you need a zebra, you need a zebra. But I find this decision process is something that gets better with practice. As long as a creative person remains open to the possibility that a project might need big muscle,  he or she will likely feel more at ease making confident moves without all the exotic frippery. When your movie calls for a herd of zebras, have the guts to bring them in. But when the big cinematic scene concerns a tense conversation at an office water cooler, have the good sense to leave zebras out of the shot. You may worry that clients won't ever get to know how much power you can muster if you never show it off, but I've come to believe the opposite is true. Great power comes from the ability to deploy it when necessary, without the pressures of nervous egos to prompt decisions motivated by the wrong reasons.

--Michael Starobin

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