Fostering the free flow of creativity
Creatives can be tough to wrangle, but we thrive on positive leadership, says Oliver Tan, Freeflow Productions.
In any business, effective talent management is one of the keys to success. In the creative field, this is especially important: our people are our business. At freeflow, we try to achieve this by nurturing diverse creatives, whose synergy fuels our results. However, creative talents are no picnic to manage. Often opinionated on things including (but not limited to) aesthetics, working styles and worldviews; they can be a finicky lot.
Leadership: Mentors or managers?
Creatives at freeflow are led by Peggy Goh; herself a quirky, pragmatic creature, as well as an accomplished film director. Her role comes with a myriad of responsibilities: artistic, diplomatic, managerial, motivational… the list goes on. Peggy is a locus of creativity; helping everyone see and work towards a singular artistic vision each time, while managing the expectations and limitations for the project.
Alongside Peggy are other team leaders like Wendy Cheng, Digital Project Director, who is an advocate of giving free reign to her team. When leading a project, Wendy acknowledges the need for limitations based on budget and clients’ expectations. However, she is mindful not to stifle creativity in the early stages. Instead, she monitors from a distance, coaching and mentoring. This gives her team space to explore their idiosyncrasies, daringly broach new ground, and offer their ideas.
This encouragement is extended even to traditionally non-creative personnel. Aida Johan, freeflow’s Casting Manager, has often provided creative input from a casting perspective. Given her unique position and experience in handling talents, her viewpoint has proven invaluable to developing intriguing characters for our films.
Much like directing a film, leading the creatives at freeflow is a balancing act between innovation and control.
We encourage them to explore their wildest ideas, but guide them towards the overarching goals. Most importantly, we try to build an environment and relationships that foster the free flow of creativity.
The environment of growth
Often diverse and independent, creatives can be guarded about their ideas which sometimes leads to artistic tension. The workplace environment we create is key to helping them thrive and improving results.
The creative ambience at freeflow goes beyond open-concept desks and artful interior design. For Wendy, the goal is to create “an open workplace where younger creatives are able to experiment, not one where senior creatives dominate or overwrite ideas”. On set as well, we try to create a positive environment so each team member feels rewarded for their work and motivated to give more.
While every creative prizes individuality, teammates can also be a boundless source of inspiration. Jill Soong, our Executive Producer, stands behind the family-like culture at freeflow. Like annoying siblings, feedback is always available here, but never too demoralising (hopefully). This helps freeflow filmmakers develop resilience, refine their ideas, and be accepting of alternate viewpoints, which is never a bad thing. Just knowing that your colleagues have your back has “helped us have more open conversations and has elevated the work.”
Not only does this environment foster creativity, it also helps younger creatives approach new projects with gumption. Just ask Joey Tan, our resident Director’s Assistant who took on the challenge of directing a music video all on her own, at only 22!
Our people are our success
Traditional industries manufacture cars, toys, consumable products. By contrast, our industry produces creative media that have emotional value.
This means that our raw material is not steel, plastic, or cotton, but pure, bubbling creativity. It also means that our most valuable capital is our people, the creatives who fuel our success.
For us, creativity cannot be made to perform on demand. This means we try to refrain from micro-management; something freeflow’s new Creative Writer, Oliver Tan, is thankful for. When working on video treatments, our creative leaders give him the autonomy to ideate first, and seek feedback after. This helps him to overcome writer’s block and feel valued even as a junior creative.
With artistic work, there are no bad ideas, as Ros, our most senior Director believes. The best thing we can do for our creatives is to support them as a team. Even when this means defending their ideas to clients and risking doubt or even rejection. Ultimately, when a project succeeds, we know that it was not only the vision of the creative that made it work, but the unwavering support of the freeflow team as well.
Do you have a story to tell? freeflow productions is an award-winning production house that specialises in all forms of videos, from TVCs to corporate videos and animation. Visit their website for a closer look at their recent works.
Photo / 123RF