Trust. How it works, and does not work in the creative world

I mostly talk about speaking tricks here, but I wanted to address an issue to do with the event production ecosystem

I came across this cartoon in the Economist. It related to the Greek economic situation which appears, in my untutored view, to be utter madness into which the European Union sleepwalked and now can’t find reverse gear. I'm sure people with much more expertise than I possess will be looking very deeply into what can be done.


What this made me think about was how big trust is a part of my world.

The first inkling I had that the whole planet did not work this way was when a builder was working on my first house and did not turn up as promised. I now know this is not unusual with builders, but at the time I had no emotional strategy for negotiating his timely arrival.

As I moved up the corporate food chain I entered into supplier agreements with many larger companies, which involved my signing contracts where I agreed that I would never undertake work without a signed purchase order. Except that I had never, and have never, been given a purchase order until the work has been completed and I have sent my invoice. I trusted that my contact would make the paperwork OK and that I would get paid. And I always did.

In over 30 years of working in something associated with the “business we call show” I've been stiffed only three times. In the first two instances it was a company which had treated me honourably in the past, but then defaulted whilst failing to continue in business. In both cases I was left with previous colleagues I would not trust again. In both cases I was told they would “make it good” and in both cases, they did not. Despite telling others they had done so.

In both cases, other people have funnelled well-paid work my way to make up for my loss. The community works that way. The last time I was stitched up feels worse. It’s recent and so raw in my mind. I feel stupid that - looking back - the signs were all there.

It’s one of the strengths of the gipsy community. We are dedicated to the project. To the show, to the best outcome for the task. We don’t care about internal politics, we don’t care about history, individual peccadilloes, or status. We are hired to get the job done. And we do.

I have experienced the paranoia of Government Departments, the protocols of corporate hierarchies, and the posturing of broadcasters. I get the job done despite all those. Over time I've become better at the diplomacy side of things, whilst being reminded of why an outsider might be better than the in-house guy to make stuff happen. On time, on budget, come what may.

We are all gipsies. We who come in on a contract specific to the job. Wherever we lay our head… etc etc. We pack up and move on. My background was in the touring theatre - that’s where I learned not to regard anywhere as “my office” which led me to event production and television, along the way I met many who had learned the same things in other places. A community of no fixed abode. It plays havoc with your relationships but it’s an interesting life.

We don’t attach to the place or the company, we attach to the project. Our fatal flaw. When I get engaged in a new project the creative possibilities take over, our right brains engage in the many possible futures and I lose sight of the present. You'd think experience would overcome this, but in trying to forgive myself for being so blinkered I realise this is just how I'm made.

So I fell. I fell for the project with the assumption that the money would follow if I got the project right. I failed to notice that all was not well with the project. How dumb. Tomorrow I'll be wiser.

Richard Tierney is the author of The Introverted Presenter


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