I know it might not a very controversial position in 2018, but  Chicago playwright, director and screenwriter David Mamet can really tell a story and hold your attention.

And he does it by being ruthless

He’s ruthless on himself, on his ideas, his scripts, on his actors and everything else he can be ruthless on.

All in service of holding the attention of his audience.

And that’s one reason he’s great. He is more impatient than the audience whose attention he is so desperately trying to attract and hold.

The prospect of losing an audience’s attention clearly causes him physical pain.

He understands that attention is the most precious and fleeting commodity.

If your audience has to think for even a second, you’ve lost them.

And his entire working method is built around the notion that attention is  sacred.

It’s kind of common sense when you think about it. But it’s really hard to do in practice.

It’s tempting as a filmmaker, playwright or advertising or marketing person to delude yourself that you somehow have a right to people’s attention. Like they have nothing better to do than watch your shit just because you did it and you like it.

I highly recommend watching this video if you are a professional storyteller of any description.

Mamet makes a great point in this video that I figured out years ago. Thank god.

If you like an idea, tell it to someone who doesn’t give a shit and then watch their eyes as they react to your idea.

In other words, get out of your own head and see how the real world reacts to your ideas.

It’s brutally effective. And it keeps you honest. And you sell more ideas.

If their eyes don’t twinkle when you tell them your idea, throw it away. It’s worthless.

I figured this one out the hard way. When I first worked at a big agency on a big flashy account.

It was a very competitive situation.

So my ideas had to tell well in order to sell.

They had to get a positive reaction from EVERYBODY to make it into the presentation and then get bought by the client.

So out of sheer panic at not wanting to fail miserably, I would tell my ideas to anyone who would listen before I presented them to my boss.

Literally anyone. The Fedex guy. The receptionist. Didn’t matter. All I wanted was an honest reaction.

Let’s say I have five ideas I liked. I think they’re all good. Equally good? Probably not.

What I found was that in the process of telling random people my ideas I would automatically, and unconsciously, spit out the best ideas first.

Suddenly it was apparent that I didn’t have five good ideas. I had one good idea and two meh ones.

Simply because I wanted to make this person laugh/like me, I was now in the real world of storytelling,

I was on stage. I was performing. I really wanted to impress them.

Suddenly I got very ruthless on my own ideas. That way I wasn’t waiting for my boss or the client to be the first to get ruthless ony my ideas.  I got there first.

This process can be painful but it never fails.

I encourage all junior creatives to do it.

Guess what, only the really hungry and desperate ones do.

By | May 21st, 2018|Categories: blog|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments


In partnership with gun control advocates The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, The Escape Pod produced and unveiled a very unique idea that was designed to provoke conversation and attract media attention.

It did just that. And a lot more.

This was the brainchild of our executive producer Kent Kwiatt who last October pitched us this idea.  And we immediately loved it.

It was a visual play on the bike-sharing program that has popped up all over the city over the past few years.   And a comment on how ludicrously easy it it is to get weapons of war in this country.

Producing this monstrosity was another story. When was the last time you created an interactive art installation that literally weighed a ton? Well neither had we.

But luckily for us, we had partners that could help.

And in collaboration with our sister experiential agency OUTCOLD, and digital partner ORA, we literally brought this idea to life over many months.

OJO Customs did the actual hard physical work of shaping the steel and building the installation.

Nick Berg and his crew did an amazing job and were great to work with.   Thanks dudes. You did an amazing job under pressure. It was our first rodeo, clearly it wasn’t yours.

The idea was to find a public space in Chicago where people could interact with the piece, get some knowledge, maybe post a pic to Instagram, and, ideally, donate to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Our intrepid location scouts Annie Clark and Kate Levinson secured us a spot outside Chicago’s Daley Center.

Non-Chicagoans will know this as the building where the Blues Brothers paid the taxes on the orphanage at the end of the movie

It’s a popular tourist attraction and a busy but open space. I couldn’t believe that we managed to get it. But we did.

So, last Thursday we trucked our installation to the plaza and unveiled it.

Whenever you create something that’s explicitly designed to cause conversation in the real world (as opposed to just the ad/marketing world) there is a moment right before you launch where you wonder if you’re completely insane and nobody will care a hoot.

Good news: we’re not insane.

And people gave lots of hoots. And tweets. And instagrams.


You can see it here

You can see it here.

And then this clown chimed in.  Thanks for helping spread the word dude!

The plan now is to max this piece out and find new places for it to live while the weather is still nice.  The Brady Center wants to put it in front of the White House.  That’s thinking big.

Big thanks to Escape Pod design director Dana Krzysztofiak for designing this piece. It took forever to get that bit right, but it was worth it. Thanks Dana.

Thanks too to CD Ryan Dickey for keeping a keen eye on everything as it came together.

And thank you to Clara Malkin for helping formulate the argument on one side of the poster.

And Cindy Mayer, we couldn’t have done this without you.  Much appreciation for all you did on this one.









Get to Know the Newest Escape Artist on the TEP Social Team

1. What do you do to escape?
When I need to escape, I reach around for my headphones and put on Spotify. Depending on my mood, that first song could be the newest hip-hop, Billie Holiday or the next indie band to blow up.
2. What are you known for?
I like to think I’m known for my energy, always having a laugh and my never-ending love for all things tasty, sweet, and fried.
3. If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Zach: Here’s Not Here
4. What destination is next on your travel list?
I’ll be crossing off a destination on my bucket list in April and traveling to Amsterdam (for a bachelor party no less). But next up would have to be SE Asia, either Singapore or Japan.
5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Choose One: Comfort or Growth.” When I’m faced with a difficult decision, whether its professional or personal, I try to determine which decision is going to help me grow the most.
6. What’s your karaoke jam?
Oooh that’s a good one, I’d have to say “It’s Tricky” by Run-D.M.C. would be my go-to!
Illustration: Dana Krzysztofiak
By | March 1st, 2018|Categories: blog|0 Comments
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