Monday, June 11, 2001

Winning Awards with Collaboration and Conflict

During my tenure as the Senior Producer and Head of Production at Elias Arts, an especially productive relationship developed between our Creative Director, Alexander Lasarenko, and myself, whereby Alex considered each opportunity or commission to score a TV commercial primarily as cinematic art (i.e. a potentially entertaining experience in and of itself) –its intent as a vehicle for a brand message or marketing piece –and our budget, notwithstanding.

By contrast, my responsibility was to ensure our client's marketing and message mandate was appropriately represented in our musical and sonic compositions, –and internally, that our creative solutions were executed in a manner that left us with either a profit or a relationship that would produce one later. 

This meant when our Creative Director felt strongly about pursuing a creative thread that was not part of the original brief, he would have that conversation with me instead of ‘fighting for the idea’ with our clients, as had been the organization’s prior model. As a result we sometimes did take new ideas to the client, but only after any sense of  ‘fight’ had been eliminated from our mindset. In practice, though, now instead of fighting the clients we often fought each other.

-But as a direct result of this contrasting dynamic our ideas and our execution got better, and I think the subsequent award-winning results speak for themselves. -And I can't think of another music team that did it the way we did at the time, which turned out to be so successful, that it made us all feel we were invincible at the time.

And we were a pretty good team! Two years before we were nobodies or newbies. 

Now, a year and a half after my promotion to Senior Producer, Elias NY had become the toast of the North East, and was even drawing clients from the west coast and London. In 1996 we walked away with two of three AICP awards in the music category (Guess ‘Mambo’ (Schietroma) and ‘Levi’s Sensual’ (Jenkins)) and a Clio for a Marcus Nispel directed spot out of DDB, produced by Steve Amato, for the Digital Equipment Corp., called ‘Manifesto’.

What made that latter award all the more sweet was the fact that it had been a collaborative effort whose participants included several new composers working in tandem with Alex, Alton Delano, Fritz Doddy, and myself. The year after I left, several other awards rolled in for projects produced during my tenure, including AICP recognition for Levi’s ‘Primal’, composed by Kerry Smith.

Of the many awards the company’s staffers have earned over the years, I take great pride knowing that a creative team I recruited and assembled swept award shows in the mid to late nineties. For a time –when Jonathan Elias headed out west and Scott Elias stopped out to pursue other ventures– those of us who spearheaded the company’s flagship headquarters did a unprecedented job catapulting its capabilities back into national industry notice.

When I started my tenure, the company billed less than a quarter of what it reportedly billed during my last year with the company –according to publicly available records. We quadrupled profits in 24 months and made the Elias Brothers proud. But the awards were icing on the cake, because  more importantly, for a shy kid who didn't move to the United States until he was 13,  it was a good American dream to have lived, and to have lived it with so many generations and talented individuals.

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