Director’s Blog – Has anyone seen my left arm?

May 7

Today is Thursday. It’s coming to the end of my sixth week of the UK’s lockdown to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. 


For the last few weeks, I’ve come to terms with my working conditions. I’ve set up a temporary office in my teenage son’s bedroom (he lives with his Mum during the week) and I’ve surrounded myself with musical instruments, note pads and make regular contact with my team over video calls twice daily. 


It’s different, but I’m making it work for me, my staff and my business. 


Recently I’ve noticed that something is missing. It’s my left arm. You see my left arm is how I’ve decided to describe my business and creative partner Paul Ambler. 


My right arm is as good as it always was, after all, I’m right-handed. So I can still do the following with ease…


1. Write ads

2. Pick my nose

3. Lift my coffee cup

4. Use fingerprint id

5. Wave to neighbours

6. Fist bump my youngest child

7. And, well let’s not go there on this blog!


But a creative business owner working from home can not work effectively with his right arm alone. I’ve found out the hard way how tough it can be without my left arm permanently by my side. 


For the last 10 years, I’ve sat opposite, behind or adjacent to Paul in our office at ABF Pictures. When you see your business partner more than your wife or spouse you tend to take them a bit for granted. It’s only when you go without them for a prolonged period of time do you discover that something is missing. 


Paul is someone I need with me when I’m being creative. He’s tough when he has to be, thoughtful, reflective and extremely clever when helping me weave my madness into structured ideas for TV commercials. 


I remember coming up with a silly idea for an advert that involved dancing orangutans. I was jumping around the office swinging my arms like a lunatic and singing at the top of my voice. This, of course, caused much hilarity and excitement for some members of the ABF team who sat back and enjoyed the show. It was only when I finished my stupid routine that Paul calmly turned around and asked me to explain how I was actually going to bring this ridiculous idea to TV screens based on the budget and the timescales the client had set. Spoilsport! 


Paul was right and at this point, he’d focused me on what I needed to do. By the next morning, I told him the solution (which was animatronic orangutans) and in the coming days, we pitched and won the job. 


So without my left arm sat in the same room as me, how am I finding new ways to be creative and more importantly making sure my creative is successful? The truth is that when I’m writing ideas or scripts I’m thinking what Paul would say. I’m having to be brutal and often upset myself in the process. It’s taking me longer to think, I’m having to be more organised in my work and most importantly I’m having to keep a note of my questions for him as I go along. Then when we catch up on calls I can spill my guts. 


We’ve been lucky enough to win three pitches so far during this lockdown period. We won’t give up on creating great TV ads and video content just because we are forced to do it differently. The current situation has helped us be even more creative, as we search for different ways to work under strict social distancing rules and a lack of traditional live-action film making. I’m really proud to say that we are making this work and we are performing exceptionally well considering the circumstances. 


Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for this all to be over and I can return to my natural working environment, with my team around me and my left arm waving at me from across my desk when I need it.