Friday, February 24, 2012

The "Redemptive Presence" Dilemma

It was sitting on paper staring me in the face.  At the time, I wasn't exactly sure what it meant, but I knew it was something profound.  I re-read the phrase... "redemptive presence".

Before I began taking on my position as Vice President of Lakeview Productions, I met with Chris Gearhart, the company's president for months leading up to my hire.  Think of them as job interviews... only they weren't.  I would drive from central Indiana to Chicago on weekends or even weekdays after work, and we would sit in a restaurant or coffee shop and just talk about our ideas for directions we could take the company.  

On one such occasion we were finishing up a discussion on the specifics for the hypothetical first 12 months of my employment.  He put a sheet of paper in front of me that listed what he called the core values of the company.  It had all of the pillars that creative companies strive for; creative excellence, client relationships, professional fulfillment.  These were things that I hoped for in an employer.  But one of the values struck me as a little odd: the two words "redemptive presence".  

I looked at Chris nodding my head as if I knew exactly what he was talking about.  Redemptive of what?  Did Lakeview Productions screw the pooch in a past life and now we're seeking redemption for a past mistake?  Chris then said something that really stuck with me after the meeting.  "We should strive to be the redemptive presence of the industry", he explained.  "In the way we do our work, in the work we do, and with the people we work with."

I was probably nibbling on a french fry or sipping my coffee when it hit me how bold of a statement that was.  We strive to lead by example.  Holy crap, we're not just talking about doing our best and striving to please our clients... we're striving to be the shining beacon of light that others lean towards!

At first this type of pledge seamed overzealous.  This kind of declaration puts much more on us than making a goal of delivering good work.  Heck, creating great work might not even be good enough for this kind of aspiration.  No buddy, this was the mother of all ambitious goals.

Months later I started working for LVP, and with that I started to embrace the mantra of striving to be a redemptive presence.  I began to realize this philosophy is what sets us apart in our industry.  Now let me clarify that I'm not claiming that we are the redemptive presence of the film industry.  Instead, our pursuit of this elusive goal is a defining attribute which us different.  

It forces us to ask ourselves at any point in a project if we're on track to fulfill that goal.  Are we doing everything we can both creatively and professionally to be on track to be a redemptive presence?  Can our work "cut through the clutter"?  

When you're striving to be a redemptive presence, the industry standard is not good enough.  It's the business equivalent to a "what would Jesus do" bracelet.  

To be a redemptive presence we are challenged in the way we work with others.  In the way we work with clients, and treat each other.  It demands honesty with ourselves and others.  It requires we value relationships higher than any one project.

It changes the way we consider the projects we choose to take on.  It tasks us to ask ourselves if a project will be of artistic or creative value to ourselves, the viewers, and our client(s).  It's a challenge to take a project to a higher level than originally intended.

This is only the beginning.  Will we ever be the redemptive presence we strive for?  To me that's not important.  It's the pursuit of that goal that matters.  It's the way it challenges us to be bold and be fearless.  It's the way it pushes us to take risks.  To try to be different.  To find our creative potential.  

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