A Peek Behind the Curtain.

The Culture of Your Team

We’re production people, so naturally being on set for us is like swimming for a dolphin. We love it. But as most people who’ve spent any time on set also know, it isn’t always flips and twirls with your friends in some exotic blue lagoon.


Production can be soul crushing if you let it be.


Attitudes can go sour, timelines can be decimated, and relationships can be strained all for the sake of filming something that at the beginning was supposed to be as fun as coloring that first picture for your parents and seeing it hanging on the fridge. So how does that happen and how do you avoid it?

Culture is Important

After being on numerous sets, we discovered that not all sets are created equal. Just like families and organizations of every size, each one has a unique set of rules or Immutable Laws as Mike Michalowicz calls them in his book, The Pumpkin Plan. Some sets value hierarchy and segregation of responsibilities at the expense of relationship and common human decency. Others value a higher purpose and relationships at the expense of timelines and budgets. Finally, others are like Oz or Narnia after the wicked witches have been defeated and seem to take the best characteristics of all sets while minimizing the worst ones.


You will always have some issues you have to deal with, we are all people after all.


But we believe strongly that you can minimize these problems while building a set that is actually inviting to people, and it all starts with your culture, what you believe is important.

Our Immutable Laws

For us at TCM Creative, it all starts with your attitude. We aren’t looking for people with some useless blind optimism, but rather…


We seek out and cultivate people who have good attitudes.


You have to see the world as it really is, but you still have a choice, an internal decision that your circumstances don’t dictate your mood, you do. There is no universal law like gravity that says you have to be happy just because everything is going your way. Trust us, we’ve met some people who have more than most people dream of, and they are the grumpiest toads you’ve ever met. Likewise, there is no law that says everything has to be going your way for you to be happy either. It’s your choice, and our choice is to work with people who understand this and value it.


Second, we believe in working hard, smart, and doing it with a heart to serve not out of recognition.


Don’t get us wrong, there are quite a few of us, we won’t name any names, who thrive on words of affirmation and shiny trophies. But that isn’t the reason we do what we do. If it was, we’d feel about as shallow as a character on a soap opera. But when your heart is set on serving others, even the most menial tasks take on an air of importance because you’re doing for your fellow team members and not just yourself. You’re willing to go the extra mile because you are supporting the team and not your own individual ambitions. Whether its lending a hand to someone carrying something, writing the best script possible, taking an extra minute to get the shot just right, or picking up a piece of trash on the bathroom floor, a heart set on serving sees them all the same, and that’s why we choose to work with people who understand and value this too.


Finally, we believe in excellence.


If you’re going to do something, do it with excellence. Don’t cut corners or mail it in. Treat it as if it’s going to be hung in a museum for thousands of years, for millions of people to marvel at. This means that we work with people who are excellent at what they do, are always seeking to get better, and we put them in situations where their strengths can shine through. When everyone is working in their strengths with a goal of excellence, it sounds like a beautiful symphony playing a masterpiece for all to hear. Everyone must have some level of aptitude in their position and a desire to increase it with each passing moment for the betterment of the team. These kinds of people will inspire those around them to be better, and that’s why we choose to work with people who understand and value this quality.

So How Does It All Play Out

Fancy words and flowery speech only get you so far, and with salt of the earth production people, it barely gets you in the front door. In fact, it might get the front door slammed in your face.


So how do these ideas get put into practice with a group that tends to prefer tangible things over ethereal concepts?


It’s quite simple really. You put your money where your mouth is. You practice what you preach, and you own up to it when you fall short of your benchmarks.

This past weekend, we had the pleasure of being on set and were given another opportunity to watch our laws play out in real world situations. If you sat back as a casual observer, the first thing you would notice is that the set is like catnip for production people. We’re pretty sure it’s a legal drug for most of them. They love it. But not all set people are that way and that’s okay. We just won’t have them on our set, as they would be happier on a set where grumpiness and ungratefulness is rewarded. Wait. Maybe they wouldn’t be happier, but at least they wouldn’t feel so out of place.

After that, you would notice how preparation (hard/smart work) is key to making this all work. With a crew of 27 people and 37 actors and actresses on set, we were challenged to film two commercials in a single day, and if that wasn’t enough of a challenge we had to film both of them in English and Spanish. Ah, the thrill of the challenge!

Right off the bat, weeks before anyone set foot on set, those among us who lean to the analytical side were skeptical it could be done. But if it was going to be done, we’d have to be prepared and organized. The filming day was scheduled and it seemed ambitious, but we prepared and worked the plan. As they say, no plan survives contact with the real world.


So what happened? Well, we didn’t finish on time for starters.


We actually finished an hour and twenty minutes ahead of time. Oh yeah, you read that right. We crushed it and, in all honesty, it was because of the culture of our team and all of them working together to support one another that made it work. Sure we had a few missteps and snafus during the day, but we came together and made it better than any of us could have imagined. Without a team dedicated to this culture, we’d probably still be in production hell pointing fingers and playing pass-the-blame as seems to be the case far too often.

Take Away

So what does this mean for you? What can you take away from our experience? I guess that’s up to you, but if you want to hear our suggestion it’s this.


Find your own immutable laws, and read Mike’s book The Pumpkin Plan while you’re at it. We love it.


Develop your own culture by starting to talk about, but more importantly act out, what is important to you and you company. Hire people who value these same characteristics and make instilling them into your people a top priority.

Who knows, maybe you’ll find that your work environment can be better than you ever dreamed too. All you have to do is begin the process and then keep at it. Hopefully we’ll see you in the warm water of that blue lagoon sooner rather than later. Either way, give yourself a work break minute or two and watch this time-lapse of our set up for the shoot we mentioned above and thanks for spending these few moments with us, we kinda like you.

Challenge Conventional Wisdom

Just because you’ve always done it that way it doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it wrong either, though. Sometimes the tried and true methods are still the best, or at the very least, they make great foundations for building something new.

But sometimes, just sometimes, you have to completely challenge the conventional wisdom. This was true for TCM Creative as we continued to work with one of our favorite clients, Shriners Hospitals for Children.

There’s no crying in fundraising

The conventional wisdom of DRTV fundraising was “tell a story from one person’s point of view and make the viewer cry and feel guilty.” As we mentioned before, sometimes the conventional wisdom works, but we wanted to see if, perhaps, there was a better way for this client.

What was it about them that connected to the audience? It’s quite simple really: the kids.

Filming with the stars

So how do we do a better job of connecting the kids to the Shriners Hospitals for Children audience? Make them the stars of the commercials and inspire viewers with the amazing things these kids can do… and they can do some amazing things.

We took the focus off the story and let the kids star in spots that were more concept-oriented. We couldn’t abandon the key story structures, scientifically-validated influence factors or other important aspects of making successful spots, but we could change the message.

Fingers crossed

So what happened? It worked. It worked really well. Side note, not all risks like this work. We’ve had our share of flops, but without being willing to risk failure, you won’t ever truly achieve success. So risk on!

The new kid-centric spots outperformed the previous story style spots 2 – 1 and, in some instances, 3 – 1.

Risk, it’s more than just a board game

So wherever you find yourself as you read this, we bet there is some conventional wisdom you can use to build something new from or better yet, completely challenge in the work you do.

It is our hope that you challenge it bravely and make the world a better place in the process as you do something that matters.

Enjoy the day!

P.S. You can see the new spots we made from the risk we took here:

Love Is… and Imagine a Kid

We hope you like them too 🙂

The Secret Ingredient

While most of us enjoy being on set (we’re not naming any names), we understand that everyone who hasn’t been on a set has this romanticized view of production. (There is Craft Services, which is sort of like a fairy tale, right?)

Invariably, however, after spending even just a little time on set, everyone quickly wakes up from the dream and realizes that there is more business than romanticized creativity to production, and the storybook ending is more about call sheets and legal documents than anyone riding off into the sunset.

Creativity and Coffee

The same is true for creating successful fundraising spots. People picture us sitting around in an artistically decorated room (probably with a fancy pour over coffee area and some super hero artwork) developing creative ideas that will become an award-winning spot. They think creativity is the secret ingredient to fundraising success.

While creativity is important, almost anyone can dream up a crazy idea, and you can do it with a cup of regular coffee from a Mr. Coffee pot. Shocking, we know.

It’s alive!

Then there are some that picture us as mad scientists, mixing and stirring scientifically proven influence factors until the perfect mixture has been created, and we have a potion that will cause everyone to give. They think that is the secret ingredient to our success.

While you do have to understand basic human responses and key influence factors to make a successful spot, anyone can see the science and put it to use for themselves. We don’t own the patent; they publish it online and in books for less than $15. Crazy!

So then, what is the secret ingredient?

As any veteran of the kitchen knows, you can give three different people the same recipe and one of the products is going to taste better than the others. Why? The intangibles.

The only difference isn’t in the recipeit’s in the cook.

There is only one you!

So while almost anyone can write a book or shoot a basketball, there is only one Hemmingway and Jordan. It is those things that only you possess that make you able to do what you do.

We like to think our team at TCM is the same way. While there are plenty of companies that make commercials, the people that have come together here give us the intangibles to do the job in our own unique way.

We’re different

It doesn’t make us special, just different. You and your company have your own intangibles, so go celebrate them, and make the world a better place in the process.

(Besides, all this talk about recipes and secret ingredients made us hungry. Where are those leftovers from our company lunch?)

Tell Stories to Make a Difference

Do this, get that. Use this, be that.

There is definitely a place for features and benefits when talking with your target market. But all too often everyone misses the value of what we are truly offering them when this is our only focus.

This is where stories come in.

Stories have the power to take us out of the noisy world we live in and transport us to a place that we can then feel a part of and develop an emotional attachment to. Stories share the values behind the features and benefits, they go beyond simply advertising and begin to develop relationships.

That’s why we chose to tell a story when it came to helping Shriners Hospitals for Children build awareness for the incredible work they do for children like Sadie.

Her story of hope and love is nothing short of amazing, and we wanted people to experience it in their latest DRTV campaign.

When you immerse people into a story, you’re no longer fighting for their attention, you’re speaking to their heart, and that’s where true value is shared.

Watch Sadie’s Story here: Sadie’s Story and be sure to support the incredible work of Shriners Hospitals for Children if you can.

Becoming Remarkable

We’ve all heard the story of Cinderella and countless others who have had their lives magically changed from ordinary to extraordinary in an instant.

No Fairy Tales

While those stories might seem far fetched, the idea of taking something mundane and making it remarkable is still a noble one. Just because something doesn’t seem exciting, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

In fact, something as unremarkable as a corporate report can become as remarkable as a short film and children’s book if you have the creativity to see it.


That’s just what we did when Edge Direct, First Degree Marketing, and CDR Group came to us for help in creating their corporate report for Shriners Hospitals for Children.

They’ve poured their hearts into their work for this noble cause and have done some pretty exciting things to help build awareness for Shriners Hospitals for Children. They knew a typical corporate report with videos wasn’t going to cut it.

We had an idea.

We took Fezzy, the newest ambassador they created for Shriners Hospitals for Children and made a custom short film showing all the things that have been done to build awareness through the eyes of a child reading a children’s book with her grandma.

It took the ordinary corporate report and made it something that was remarkable and would be talked about long after the event where it was shown.

But don’t take our word for it, watch it here for yourself and remember:


Even the most ordinary things can be extraordinary with a little creativity!


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