Having just given a keynote talk at the Creative Exchange (slides above, or if you’re browser isn’t letting you see them, click here), it has been a genuinely invigorating experience to talk to and get feedback from creative industry businesses, entrepreneurs and freelance workers. The talks and Q&A sessions all had stimulating content with tangible repercussions for how creative industry business can collaborate, access finance and reach their audience (whoever that may be). You can relive the day through the twitter stream, #CE11.
Part of the day’s remit was to inform those involved in the industry on a day-to-day basis about some of the prevailing issues, but also how to develop the creative industries in Cardiff. Not knowing too much about the incumbent sectoral presence in the city (other than the headline facts about Dr. Who’s production), it was refreshing to hear from those who do, and to bring empirical colour to the theoretical ideas. The three main themes that came out though focused around…
1. Collaboration is key
Too often, creative industry personnel preach the virtues of collaborative activity but rarely practice it, partly because it is often impractical. However, there was a sense from all the sessions that getting out of your comfort zone, speaking to people from outside your discipline, even outside the creative industries in general is a great way of extending the creative process into different and previously uncharted territory.
2. Mentors matter
Dave Sharp, a new business development consultant for the creative industries (a computer game industry specialist) gave some incredibly useful pearls of wisdom about getting finance for a creative endeavour. It seems that investors hold a very much stereotypical view of creative types as hair-brained mavericks who say ‘I think’ and ‘I feel’ too much – with some justification. Too often creative people pitch for money with an idea, a vagueness that puts off potential money men. There is a need for those who clearly have all the technical and creative flair, to get to grips with ‘facts’ (saying ‘I know’ instead). If they can’t, get someone in who knows about targets, audiences, turnover, distribution avenues etc. ‘Suits’ may be a pain in the proverbial but they bring in the investors.
3. Universe of media
Films are no longer just films, but part of broad spectrum of themed cultural offerings. TV shows are commissioned on the back of how they get talked about/virally marketed online and their ancillary digital content. It may seem obvious to us as consumers, but some content producers, it would seem still operate in ‘old world’ traditions of unidirectional platforming. Also ‘second screen’ was a phrase that stuck a chord. As someone who regularly uses the Internet while watching TV, it seemed obvious that content should be simultaneously broadcast ‘transmedia’, but apparently not all companies are thinking that way.
So kudos must go to the organisers of the event for establishing good, conversational content, and the venue was pretty spectacular too. The creative industries in Cardiff have a critical mass, an institutional inertia based on some quality incubator spaces and the presence of the BBC. Events like Creative Exchange will not catapult the city into international creative city status overnight, but developing a sustainable sector is an (often painfully) slow process. But events like these aid in the development of collaboration networks which are the foundations of such development and should be encouraged.