The first in a series of posts delving into the recesses of the minds of creative people. Copywriters, Art Directors, Creative Directors, Graphic Designers, Photographers, Illustrators, they’re an odd, mysterious bunch – or are they? Introducing Mick Sands, Writer/Producer at Substantial Films.
Hi Mick, welcome to the So, What If… blog. Please make yourself comfortable on the couch, this shouldn’t hurt a bit.
Firstly, tell me about where you work and what it is you do.
I work in my office at home, and I’m currently writing the pilot for a TV series (which I’m very happy to say is paid work).
What first got you into a creative career?
I was interested in writing from the age of 8. When I was in my late teens, my brother worked in an advertising media department, and one day came home and said they have writers in advertising, which had never occurred to me at the time. So I pursued that and managed to get myself a job as a copywriter.
What’s your go-to starting point to get the creative process moving?
I try to make sure I fully understand the problem to be solved. There’s no point in looking for solutions before then. (When I was first in advertising, I used to start coming up with ideas before I’d read the brief.)
So, once you’ve understood the brief, do you have any tricks up your sleeve to overcome writer’s block?
I find that once the problem is clear, my mind naturally starts looking for solutions. I read once that the cure to writer’s block is always research, and this seems to support what I’m saying. I’ve often found that when I got stuck, it was because I hadn’t properly defined the problem. For example, when I’m writing a commercial, I need to figure out exactly what it is that needs to be dramatised, and then it’s relatively easy. All of this is especially true of dodgy or unclear briefs, and there’s plenty of those around. The only trick is not to censor ideas – let them all come, no matter how stupid, and censor them later.
Who have you worked with along the way who has influenced you?
Pretty much everyone I’ve worked with has taught me something. I try to steal any useful ideas I come across.
What ingredients make up the ideal client?
Intelligence, which can be rare, and the willingness to bow to a better idea, which is rarer.
Tell me one thing you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to other creatives.
Never give up.
What three pieces of work do you wish were in your portfolio?
This is just off the top of my head, but the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Manhattan, and Casablanca – because I think they were all really well-written.
What one thing would make your job easier or better?
A high speed fibre optic connection to inspiration rather than an old dial-up that keeps breaking down.
If you weren’t a Writer/Producer, what would you be?
Depressed or bored.
Thanks Mick. Now get back to your laptop, that pilot won’t write itself.
If you enjoyed this interview with Mick Sands, check out the next post in the series, Graphic Designer, Riz Jaffer