by Dennis Daniel
Let me tell you about the time I hit rock bottom.
I was at a point in my career when nothing could excite me anymore. I was so sick and tired of doing just one club spot after another. If I said "Get 2-fers on Buds and Bar Drinks" just one more time I was going to slit my throat! Here I was, 29 years old, still telling college kids where to go to get laid. The quotas set down for salespeople were so large, they all sold time like ravenous wild animals, out on the streets, trying to drag in any dead carcass of a client they could. Soon, I was overloaded with all these "one shot" deals -- clients who expected their commercials to be Clio award winning masterpieces. Never mind the fact that they supplied me with tons of information that had to be in the spot -- you know, useless information like a laundry list of name brands, specific long detailed directions, ego influenced mentions of owners names, the whole deal. All of this was coming at me non-stop for about two years. I was creatively numb and uninspired most of the time. (Occasionally, I pulled a rabbit out of my hat, thank God!)
Then, Steve Morrison walked in my door.
I had met Steve ten years before when he sat next to me in algebra class at college. (We both used to whistle "taps" whenever the last few minutes of a test were drawing to a close. We're both miserable at Math.) From the horrors of math class we struck up a pretty neat friendship. We both shared a lot of the same interests, with movies being the prime one. I eventually moved to another school and we lost touch. We ran into each other again about eight years later when he came in to the station to cut a commercial for a comedy club. Steve was now, among other things, a prominent stand up comic.
After we cut the spot, he offered me his services, should I ever feel the need to collaborate on any commercials or comedy. I wrote his number down and told him I'd give him a call sometime. (Yeah, right. Fat chance. I don't need any help!)
The time had come.
With the crazy amount of "meatball" production coming my way, I was slowly losing touch with my creativity. I decided to give Steve a call and ask him to help me out on a comedy piece for our Friday evening drive show. It was the smartest thing I've ever done in my radio career. In Steve Morrison I found, for the first time, a person I could truly collaborate with. Working with Steve gave me that much needed shot in the arm! He began to wake up the dormant creative edge inside of me and helped me get back on track.
If you haven't guessed already, the subject of this column is the unique act of collaboration.
For many of us, the mere thought of collaboration brings chills to our spines. It's bad enough we have to "collaborate" with the clients, agencies and salespeople! "Collaborate? Are you kidding! I'm the production wizard of the century! I don't need any help! I can do it all! Kneel before me and bend to my will oh ye of little creativity." That was the way I looked at things too! After all, every award, citation and acknowledgment of my talent was always based on the fact that I DID IT ALONE! Every voice! Every effect! Every word! Written, produced, directed and starred... ME! Share the limelight? HA! Well, I was wrong. Dead wrong. I guess my biggest fear was losing all that praise and admiration. Instead, the pride I felt for my work increased when I began to work with Steve. I felt more confident. Two minds are better than one, right? (As for praise, guess what? It came to me in droves! "It was really brilliant of you to find a guy like Steve Morrison to work with Dennis! You compliment each other beautifully!")
Mind you, it isn't always a picnic. Clashes do occur. Often. But I'd rather clash over a great idea than stare into space with no ideas in sight.
I was lucky. I knew Steve. I knew where his head was at. You, dear RAP reader, may not have someone that you know that thinks like you or understands your perception of things. You may not even know where to begin looking for someone to truly collaborate with.
I'm going to make a suggestion. Take it for what it's worth. Right now, there are literally thousands of comedians working all over the country. Practically every town has a comedy club. Most of the comedians that appear there on a regular basis are local talent. Why not give the club a call and see if you can get some names? These comedians are very much like the old vaudeville entertainers of old. They tour around the country practicing their art and honing their craft. They would probably love the chance to do some radio work. If you need to think up funny bits or funny spots and you just can't devote the time to it that you would like, try finding a local comedian who'd be willing to do the work for free in exchange for the opportunity to get his work on the air. You'd be surprised how many would jump at the chance!
Of course, if you have a friend with talent, there's nothing wrong with asking them for some help. The important thing to remember is: collaboration does not mean the end of your own creativity. It's just another form of it -- a form that I'm sure will light the spark necessary for you to get back in the game and end up creating more of your own individual work as well. I hate to admit it, but Steve and I have a sort of unspoken rivalry going. When we don't work together, we try to top each other. It's a healthy way to keep your edge.
Finally, keep this in mind. The person you collaborate with does not necessarily have to be at all like you! Sometimes, the best teams in the world are the ones where the partners are as opposite as they can be. You can expand your creative horizons by entering the world of another. You might find yourself saying, "I would have never thought of that." Best of all, it's fun performing the work of someone else you admire and respect. It's like being in a play.