Tim Seddon and Gene Brutty function like a buddy cop flick set in the creative industries. Creative Directors at Google Japan, the pair grew up in Perth, Australia yet still manage to prove that opposites attract…even if they argue a bit.
Truly, this is an up-close look at a deeply productive bromance. CONVICTS caught up with Tim and Gene at the Emergence Creative Festival in Margaret River to get their word on the creative importance of disagreement, the crucial role of compartmentalization and the way that, together, the two of them form one fully functional human.
To start today, can you give us a brief introduction of yourselves?
So hi we’re Tim and Gene. This is Tim. I’m Gene. Perth born and raised and happy to be back at Emergence from Tokyo.
Do you remember the first conversation you had where you realized you had a cool, shared creative energy?
It was on that first trip where we didn’t know we were gonna be working together. I’m not the most sporty or athletic dude. Sitting next to Gene who was just absolutely ripped and quite intimidating, and feeling like we had nothing in common. But then we had a few beers and talked about the stuff we wanted to do. Realizing it would work out was just really surprising because everyone says we’re very different, which is good because we come at it from two different directions.
How do you all play off one another creatively?
Opposites attract. For that creative pairing, it’s really important to have that other person question your ideas and question the way you think. If two people sit together who are identical in the way they work and think, they’re not gonna come up with as interesting of an idea. One thing we’ve always done is question the other person and specifically the work at every point and phase. We always come back and ask “Is this the right thing? Is this good enough?” Tim brings with him so much technical knowledge that I don’t have so it’s really great to be able to bounce off each other.
It’s important to have one person that’s on the ball and committed. Often, Gene might feel more passionate towards a project than I, or vice versa, but always having someone who’s willing to die for a project is super important. We talked about deferring to passion and that’s a huge part of how we’ve managed to work together for so long. We really respect each other’s decisions. If Gene thinks it should be blue and I think it should be red, he’s gonna push back for it but gladly make it red. This isn’t a science — you should really respect people’s passion for something
You should have made it blue though. I liked blue better. But yeah, always having other person’s back is why we always work so well together. We always come back to the work, it’s nothing ever personal. That pure honesty from a personal and professional point of view has kept us together for so long. This is definitely the longest and most meaningful relationship I’ve ever had. It’s a bit of a marriage.
When we first started in Japan, we said that if a project going smoothly, it’s probably not going to be very good. Having those difficult conversations makes work better. If everyone is happy, you’re probably missing a trick. Having arguments and being frustrated are parts of the creative process. They just mean that everyone cares. We have to stretch ourselves out to make something new. If it’s too easy, anyone can do it.
Even if it’s not one of us, if it’s an account manager or client or parents, if they say something smart you should defer to their passion. Good creators are able put their egos aside and incorporate everyone’s input to make something better. It shouldn’t be about you personally, it should be about the project.
How often do you guys argue?
I don’t think we argue as much as we could or should. We’re really pretty aligned on a lot of project vision. There might be tiny details on art direction of a project we have a disagreement about, but we stay pretty lined up on the larger vision or purpose. We realized that to do this long term, you need to be able to switch on and off. You should be super super passionate in the boardroom, in the meeting room, when working with production companies, but you go nuts if you take that home with you. You need to compartmentalize your life. That was difficult to do in Sydney because we also lived together so it was 24/7 yeah.
The theme of your talk today was kind of around frustration would you briefly tell me about kind of frustration in your experience?
The stereotype of the frustrated creative exist for a reason. Instead of trying to deny that aspect, we’ve leaned into it and used it as a motivator. Feeling frustrated means your body is telling you that something should change. You can either use that negatively and argue and hate your job and take it home with you, or you can use it on a positive way and try to think differently. If you do that, it becomes a driving force. I think if you make the client always part of the process and part of that journey, you realize very quickly whether their intentions are true or not. That’s something we’ve built into our working style: making them apart of the process and giving them as much ownership over the idea and the journey as ourselves.
I feel like that makes the deal so much easier to close too because it’s not like some surprise last minute?
Yeah. It’s really interesting, because as an industry we’re trying to sell things that make people feel things. We’re trying to use emotion and human truths to either sell products or services, but we don’t use those human truths to build relationships with the clients. We approach it really scientifically, when in fact, choosing between idea A and idea B is merely preference. There’s no ultimate truth about which one is better, but creating that relationship is very important.
When was the last time you guys were embarrassed?
In terms of the work we’ve done, it’s inevitable that we’ve expressed our frustration in a non-constructive way. Like every creative, we’ve had a few projects that have gone very, very, very badly. You lose your professionalism and take it out on people in an unhelpful way.
The only time we’ve felt embarrassed is when we’ve lost that constructiveness. We’re at a stage in our careers where we should know better. So it’s more about feeling embarrassed because we should be better than that and we should always be constructive and helpful. When we’re not, that’s when you leave the meeting or workshop and need to check yourself a little bit.
How important is it to break the mold when it comes to creative ideas and thinking?
Breaking the mold is just a literal part of what we have to do as creatives. If you keep working within the system, you’ll keep making the same type of work. To make new things and go in new directions, you need to step outside of that system.
Thanks guys, it’s been a pleasure.