Friday, September 10, 2010

Good cop (writer)/bad cop (art director)

Although we creatives like to think we’re unique and a bit special, the reality is that all teams fall into one of two basic categories.

Good cop/bad cop

In my experience, most teams fit this mould. Generally because the art director is so deeply unpleasant, the writer is forced to try to compensate.

Art directors may not be the sharpest scalpels in the studio, but they do have one rather cunning trick up their sleeve.

I'm talking about the one where they pass off their fantastically irritable temperament as ‘really caring about the work’.

So what is in fact an almighty sulk because they couldn't have Coco Pops for breakfast, or because someone moved one of those stupid little action figures on their desk, they manage to pass off as a passionate crusade for creativity.

“Aggghh! Can’t the client see this will completely ruin everything?!” they rage, pointing to an amend in the kerning or leading or whatever that is invisible to the naked eye. Of course the poor hapless suit is obliged to stand there passively nodding until his little art director spleen is fully vented.

I must confess a certain grudging admiration for their little ruse though. They get to let off some steam AND look really creative. It's ingenious.

And of course it’s a trick that writers, in their timid-voiced bespectacled puniness, could never pull off.

Instead, we good cops are stuck with the role of trying to make light of their latest hissy fit, grinning and rolling our eyes in a 'don't worry about him, he's always like this' kind of way.

The wacky one/straight one

This second archetypal team dynamic follows in the footsteps of great double acts like Morecambe & Wise and Cannon & Ball.

The wacky one is creative and demonstrates this by wearing T-shirts with muppet characters on. The straight one is the foil – the solid, workmanlike type that never lights the place up, but gets the job done. Think David Batty for Leeds circa 1990.

Now you may be wondering which profile my art director and I fit. Well, we’re a variant on the wacky/straight formula.

You see, I’m wacky. But I’m also very sensitive. I may look like a bristling hulk of masculinity, but beneath this rough exterior is a little scared child who just wants to be accepted and loved.

The result is what I like to call the fragile flower/patient gardener dynamic.

I see myself as an orchid or perhaps a very rare variety of pansy. I must be nurtured and encouraged by my art director in a warm glasshouse of love and unconditional acceptance before I feel able to express myself fully.

Once I feel the warm sun of validation beating down on my delicate stem, I open my leaves, bud, then bloom with creativity.

Then the flowers drop off and that’s it for another year.

And so, dear readers, I’d encourage you all to take the time to study the teams around you. You’ll find they each fall into one of my two categories.

Of course, as I said, the categories are broad. Within each one are many other variants – Beauty and the Beast, Dumb & Dumber and Torville & Dean to name just a few.

Which one are YOU?!!!!


  1. So as your art director you're saying I'm the bad cop? Well you can fuck right off for a start!

  2. Yes Mance, you are a pansy.
    Now get back to work before I pull the blinds down permanently on your 'career'.