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Why Collaborate?

Collaboration is Sterling & Stone’s biggest buzzword, and the studio’s most powerful catalyst for success. We like to say that in the right collaboration, 1+1=11. 

Beyond the obvious perks of teaming up — accelerated project completion, increased revenue, the joy of working only on those activities that play to our individual storytellers’ strengths and make their work feel more like play — are only the first steps in a marathon of shared achievement. 

Imagine a world where every mistake is a learning opportunity caught by an extra pair of eyes, where solitary toil transforms into a shared journey, and the work shines brighter than anything you could muster on your own …

(I really hope you read that in Trailer Guy’s voice.)  

Collaborative riches can be found in the division of labor, of course, but there is far more treasure in the unexpected ways a creative partnership can propel us to excel beyond our solitary limits. 

Raising the Creative Bar

Two minds uniting in creative endeavor sets the stage for elevated performance. Striving to surprise and delight your partner leads to a higher standard of work, with each party bringing their best to the table. 

In every project I ever tackled with Johnny, from the nascent stages of brainstorming to the final polish, there lived an unspoken challenge to awe each other with ideas and Easter eggs. That spirit shows up in the quality of our work. 

Growth Beyond the Page

Collaboration is both a bridge to better output and a catalyst for personal evolution. Merging creative paths with a partner or partners will naturally introduce new strategies and perspectives that challenge your business as usual. 

Teamwork serves as a mirror, reflecting your strengths and the flaws you might have been comfortably ignoring while flying solo. The vulnerability and honesty required by a successful collaboration forges strong bonds because it pushes each party to confront and refine aspects of themselves that might hinder creative flow. Our storytellers are all individuals, which means they have unique ways of working. We embrace that, while holding everyone to the same baseline standards. Together we all grow. 

Collaboration is a Communication Workshop 

Poor communication can strain your relationships, but in a collaboration, it will directly impact your bottom line. Avoidance, passive aggression, and the myriad ways we fail to express our needs become both personal failings and professional hurdles. 

All ideas are not created equal. From hashing out character developments to refining the core premise, the challenge lies not just in what we say but how we say it. Our studio ethos of “candor and manners” ensures that even the most critical feedback is delivered with respect, fostering an environment where ideas are confidently exchanged and freely refined.

Pushing Boundaries Together

Collaboration is often seen as a series of compromises and concessions, but it can be a potent force for innovation, if you start with the agreement to keep looking until you find the idea that both people love. You might have to stretch beyond your comfort zone to get to a solution that thrills and satisfies both parties, but it is worth refusing to sacrifice quality for the sake of harmony. 

Dave and I have different ways of approaching story (and life). But our narratives should never suffer for it. Dave will always take the darker turn, whereas I prefer to see at least one daisy sprouting from the sidewalk. I like chapters that are packed with dialogue. He errs on the side of sparsity. Our collaborative writing reads as a harmonious blend of darkness and light, where sparse dialogue meets lush narrative landscapes to form a unique storytelling voice.

Refining Your Process Through Shared Insights

Collaboration is a mirror, revealing the hidden contours of your habits that escape notice in isolation, forcing you to confront the true cost of the procrastination, comfort tasks, and low-impact activities that pad your day. 

I am more effective at every step of the process when I am collaborating, because I will always hold myself accountable to my partner at a higher hit rate than I will for myself. Yet, even when I’m working on something solo, my improved habits up my game in isolation. 

Building a Shared Language

Partnerships often have a secret language, a lexicon born from shared trials and triumphs. This unique vocabulary becomes shorthand for complex ideas, emotions, and shared history,  giving you powerful new concepts that improve your own thinking.

I once returned from an entrepreneurial mastermind high on the idea of starting a new company that had nothing to do with Sterling & Stone’s core business. But when I pitched the idea to Johnny, he was like what the fuck?  “We could also make blinds in Manila, but that doesn’t mean we should.”

From that point forward, “are we making blinds in Manila?” became Sterling & Stone’s shorthand for reminding us to evaluate any new project in light of our big-picture purpose and helping us to recognize when we might be tempted to let our mission  creep.

The fruits of collaboration are many, but that path to a creatively lucrative partnership is not without its briars. 

Next week, we’ll explore the barriers that often keep us from embracing the power of collaboration.

See you on Wednesday!