Tag Archives: larry roy

Realistic Optimism

28 Dec

By: Larry Roy

Realistic OptimismAs 2010 winds down, I can’t help but reflect on the year’s events, both good and bad. As a business owner, this year has certainly presented its share of challenges. It’s also brought about opportunities. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two. My experience is that it’s purely a matter of perspective. There are always cycles in business, as in life, and those cycles are mostly out of our control. What we can control is how we deal with them.

Flash back to 1987. Our business had been booming for several years and of course we expected that it would continue that way. Silly us. The economy changed and, like many other businesses at the time, ours started to tank. As the saying goes, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” We had grown to 2 locations and more than 50 employees. It became clear that our revenue streams were drying up, and something had to give. We continued forward with blind optimism for a short time, leaning on our reserves and hoping to weather the storm. But that wasn’t going to fly any longer. So we had to make some hard choices—the hardest being to lay off fifteen people just before the holidays.

There is nothing more difficult in business than having to let people go for reasons other than their own bad behavior. This economic downturn wasn’t their fault, but they were the victims.  I remember thinking at the time that this just isn’t fair! But as my father so eloquently pointed out, if we didn’t take these steps, we were going to find ourselves selling pencils on the street corner. That didn’t sound like fun. Pencils weren’t in great demand at the time.

So we did what we had to, and survived the crisis. That wasn’t any fun either, but it was a huge learning period for me. Crisis management is truly a test of one’s character and resolve. We ultimately found new opportunities, new ways to generate revenue, and better ways to manage what we had. Through it all, we found a way to maintain our sense of humor, keep our focus and trust that we could find our way back to the “promise land.”

I know that for many, 2010 has been tremendously difficult year, and I feel for them. However, what I admire most is the optimism I hear in the voices of other business owners. Yes, times are tough, but they are committed to fighting through it and getting back to the business of doing business. To me it’s not blind optimism, it’s about accepting the things we can’t control, having the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Yes, there’s a prayer in there somewhere.

So I for one will enter 2011 with a renewed conviction to grow and prosper; to seize opportunities, to face whatever challenges come our way, and to remember to find joy through it all.  Otherwise, what’s the point? Pencil anyone?

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Rallying Around the Claus

9 Dec

Santa Claus

by: Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, 1-1-1881

by: Larry Roy

For most of us, this is the time of year when we tend to draw closer to those around us, to be less intense and more forgiving. Do you buy that? Truth is, I don’t know if that’s true for most of us or not. I can only speak for myself, and simply hope that’s the case for everyone else. It does feel good, however, to believe in the ideal of a more connected, less cruel society, even if only once a year.

Why is it that we draw closer? For many, it’s about faith and what the Christmas holiday represents. For others, it’s simply about the joy of giving (and receiving). Still others want to believe in Santa Claus—or at least the idea of Santa Claus, a jolly old chap who brings gifts to all the world. For me, it’s all of these things. Whatever one believes, the holiday season should be comforting, inspiring, joyous. I hope it is for you.

Sadly, this is also a season where many find themselves more hurried and frantic, or more depressed. Perhaps it’s the weight of another year of unfulfilled wishes coming to a close. Maybe it’s rooted in a magnified sense of loneliness or distance from friends and family. Whatever the cause, it is my hope that those who feel this find some connection to the world, to the season and all its wonder.

There’s that word again—hope.  Ben Franklin said, “He that lives upon hope shall die fasting.” Perhaps he was right. Simply hoping for the best for others doesn’t make it so. That requires action. So for those of us who find ourselves in a giving spirit, let’s make the effort in some small way to touch those who are struggling through the season. It may be no more than a smile to a stranger, a cup of coffee and a conversation, a donation of time, money, clothing or toys. Just do something. The action is its own reward.

Now where was I before my plea to you to be charitable? Oh yes, that inescapable yearning for connection to one another during the holiday season. I think much of it is fueled by the pervasiveness of the season. It becomes the center of attention—in the news, in advertising, in our own little worlds of holiday parties and mall traffic. It reminds us that we’re all in this together. We all rally around a cause or event that affects us as a whole. That’s why movies about alien invasions are so inspiring to me. They unite the world against a common enemy. It’s why there is such a pouring out of help and support when natural disasters strike anywhere in the world. We realize that the event is bigger than any of us.

So whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, I implore you to believe in what he represents. Don’t dismiss the power of the myth of a jolly, white-bearded chap being whisked across the sky by tiny reindeer just because you’re a grownup. Let that giving spirit and sense of unity draw you closer to those you know, and those you don’t. Be a kid. I promise it doesn’t hurt. Just ask a kid. They’ll tell you.

Original Thinking in a Template-Driven World

3 Dec

By: Larry Roy

Improving Your Brand Template #4What happens when you hire a company to help you improve your brand, or increase the flow of traffic to your website or your business? What’s their process? Do they go in the back room and grab “Improving Your Brand Template #4” off the shelf, rename it and say, “Here you go?” I hope not.

We can’t tell any company exactly what should be done to accomplish their goals through marketing and advertising until we thoroughly understand a few things. Let’s start with who they are–meaning who they think they are, who they want to be, how they are really perceived by the public, and do any of those match. It takes some significant probing and prodding to get a sense of this, but our clients appreciate it. They get what we’re after.

There is much more we need to learn before we can devise a real plan of attack and the necessary weapons to employ, but let’s skip that for now and jump to the process of brainstorming. What a cool word—raining on the brain or, I guess, from the brain. In any case, it’s fun and challenging at the same time. In our group, we tend to take the information we’ve extracted from our clients’ heads, then sift through it independently. Allowing individual thinking first, without the influence of others, pushes our team to think for themselves. That’s a good thing.

When we do come together in a brainstorming session, it’s a free-for-all by design. I don’t want us hung up on the how-to or the inherent silliness of an idea, at least not at first. If we’re not laughing hysterically at some point during a brainstorming session, then we’re probably not unearthing the best ideas. When you let diverse minds interact with a singularity of purpose, but with total freedom to dream up anything they want, it’s amazing what comes out of it! Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” and I listen to what he says.

So after the frivolity of a brainstorming session or two, we switch sides of the brain to zero in on the best, most feasible ideas for a client. Then we fine-tune them, and organize them in terms of priority. Next step, present to the client.

“You think we ought to do what?” It’s not an unusual first comment from a client when we sit down to review our ideas. That’s okay. If we don’t surprise them with something they haven’t considered before, then we haven’t earned our keep. That’s not to say that our sole objective is to shock the client with some crazy idea, but they’re paying us to think differently than they do. They ought to get their money’s worth. Besides, there’s always a method to our madness, a strategic logic behind our crazy ideas, and typically some precedent of prior success.

This is phase one of the process we follow with our clients. Phase two is defining budgets and timelines for implementation; more on that in the next installment. In the meantime, my advice to those seeking brand enhancement or advertising help is to look for a company that isn’t afraid to ask you hard questions, and then tell you what they think. It helps if they’re a little off their rocker, too! Just a little.

Stock Footage, Editing, and Music with Larry Roy

14 Sep

By: Taylor Vick

The editing process is something that has always amazed me. It takes such skill, attention to detail and focus to edit footage. Larry Roy was available to answer some questions about editing from a producer’s viewpoint, and how he manages all of that content.

Taylor Vick: Stock footage versus original footage?

Larry Roy: Stock is more cost efficient when the style or quality of footage you need is way beyond what the commercial budget will allow. Footage from a certain era, for example. It’s obviously easier you use stock WWII footage, than to attempt to re-create it, unless you have the scene calls for something very specific, and you have the budget. Or maybe you need footage of sharks – not something you would typically go out and film even if you have the budge, since there is great shark footage available.

If you need to portray a specific location or event, or a very particular style of footage, then original footage is best. It localizes the message and adds credibility. We prefer to shoot footage whenever possible, but again, it’s gaging what is more important–the quality or the specificity of the shot? If you can afford both, shoot original footage in most cases. Since stock footage is of course available to anyone, we often add a treatment or filter, or vary the speed, to give it a unique flair.

TV: Do you have any editing tips?

LR: Editing is really where a story gets told, whether it’s a commercial or it’s a short video or a feature film. It’s where you piece together the sequence, timing and flow.

Beyond timing and flow, editing is a lot of decision-making about what to use and what to leave out. On most projects, we overshoot to give us options in post. (It’s no fun to produce a 3-minute video with only 2 minutes of good footage!) Editing can and should involve trial and error, because the timing and feel is so important.

In commercial advertising, we typically edit video to audio. In other words, you have a recorded script or on camera talent, or music–something that marks a beginning and end. Audio and video of course have to work together in some logical or aesthetic fashion. So if you lay down your base audio track, driven by words, sounds and/or music, then you’ve got something from which you can tell the visual story. Audio is generally enhanced, or “sweetened” at the end of a project, but in its rough form, it typically starts the editing process.

In short, my advice is to be prepared, have a vision for the project, but allow for creative ideas to flow once you sit down to edit.

TV: How do keep track of all the different edits/shots?

LR: On set, we use verbal remarks, slates, shoot logs, and good script supervisors! Often the audio remarks a director makes on set while the camera’s rolling guide the producer and editors in post. And even in this day and age, a good paper log to refer to when in post-production helps. Digital production makes shot management much easier now, as opposed to tape and time code, since each take of a scene can be captured as a separate clip.

Also, we tend to shoot to edit. Because I’ve done a lot of producing, I understand what an editor has to go through, and try to think ahead when shooting so as not to make the editor’s job a nightmare. Yes, we’ll overshoot, but mainly to give us options where we expect to need them. When shooting B-roll for some long-form product, our shots are pretty planned, but we improvise on the fly as well to capture different angles or elements or scenery, just for variety. There is a “must have” list of shots, then there’s everything else.

TV: How do you go about selecting music to go in the commercials?

LR: To me, the mood that you want to create with the commercial should drive the music selection. If it’s intended to be light-hearted and fun, then the music needs to follow suit. If the tone is more somber and serious, then the music needs to match that. Some of the best post-scoring to me in commercials is what’s NOT there–a strategic break in all sound to accentuate a point. We often use a straight percussion, or a recurring sustained note to create a unique feel or sound.