I guess even people who write (hilariously) for a living need a writing outlet and lately Tina Fey has chosen The New Yorker as hers.
In last week’s essay, entitled “Lessons from Late Night,” she talks about things she’s learned from Lorne Michaels about managing creative people; and while I’m sure neither Miss Fey, Mr. Michaels or anyone who’s ever been on SNL means advertising writers and art directors when they use the term “creative people,” the lessons were fantastically apt.
Ipad technology, subscription firewalls and a healthy fear of intellectual property lawyers keep me from linking you directly to the article, but let me quote one especially insightful passage and then recommend you pony up for the real deal, in print or in Conde Nast’s beautifully designed app. Here, the first thing Tina learned from Lorne Michaels: producing is about discouraging creativity.
A TV show comprises many departments–costumes, props, talent, graphics, set dressing, transportation. Everyone in every department wants to show off his or her skills and contribute creatively to the show, which is a blessing. You’re grateful to work with people who are talented and enthusiastic about their jobs. You would think that in your capacity as a producer ylur job would be to chum up creativity, but mostly your job is to police enthusiasm. You may have an occasion where the script calls for a bran muffin on a white plate, and people from the props department show up with a bran cake in the shape of Santa Claus sitting on a silver platter that says “Welcome to Denmark” on it. “We just thought it would be funny,” they say. And you have to find a polite way to explain that the character is Jewish, so eating Santa’s face might have negative connotations, and the silver tray, while beautiful, is creating a weird glare on camera, and maybe let’s just go with the bran muffin on the white plate.
Cast the fly right over there by that stump.
But I want to cast over near the grass…
The fish is near the stump.