After a couple of decades as a freelancer (and project manager), it's not difficult to take direction.
In fact, it's imperative that you follow script notes and direction as closely as possible to maintain continuity of production and coherence of the director's vision.
With dozens of artists working on a production, there is simply no room to do otherwise.
Doesn't matter if you think you have a better way or if you just want to show off. What matters is advancing the creative vision of the director no matter how good or bad because... quite simply... that is the job we are paid to do.
You have to realize that this not your project or your vision but a collective work put together to support someone else's vision.
Basically, it means it's not your baby but you need to treat like it is within the bounds of direction and script notes.
Doesn't matter if you think the lighting would be better this way or that. Sure you can mention it if that is within your responsibilities otherwise we have to take what we are given and make it shine as best as we can.
We have to put the best lipstick on that pig we can find... it may not be our job to change pigs or comment on the pigs all. Sometimes projects are just too big and regretfully sometimes they just don't want to hear it.
RESPECT THE VISION
This should go without saying but it there are so many prima donnas and divas out there creatively that a few slip into the mix. They give their opinion either dismissively or scathingly. Neither is professional nor do they add to the project. To disagree is one thing but to disrespect a vision and /or person is going over the line. Tamp down those feelings. Open your mind and embrace their vision. Better yet IMPROVE their vision but don't change it. If you continually disrupt the production cycle with personal critiques, you can suck the creative air right out of a project along with your career.
SHOWING OFF VERSUS FOLLOWING DIRECTION
This one slips under the radar for a lot of new freelancers but it's not long before we all catch on. We know you can do great and shiny things... that's why you were hired. So don't show off by showing us what you can do. That's what YouTube and Facebook are for. Show off to your family and friends so they know you aren't selling drugs for a living but keep it out of the work environment. Do exactly what the script calls for to the BEST of your ability. Improve but do not change it! There are differences in the two.
ONE DEVIATION CAN TUMBLE THE WHOLE DECK
Think of a production as a house of cards. Layer upon layer of work is woven into a coherent story-line much like layer upon layer of carefully placed cards create the foundation of the house. Everything is lined up and supporting each other until... someone decides to change the plan and jiggles or worse jerks one of the cards completely out from under the rest. It's also like the CEO of a company that has a great idea and implements it with gusto only to find out that someone down the chain thought they knew better and torpedoed it by not giving it the attention it needed or shelving it altogether. Don't pull, shake or rattle any part of the foundation or it could have catastrophic results.
If you sign onto a project of any kind, be it professional or for fun remember that what you are agreeing to do is advance the creative vision of that project with your own skills and not get bogged down in personal preferences or opinions. Make it better by doing work to be proud of.
Simple mantra: Enhance the vision, move the project forward. Follow direction.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. You can learn more about MD at his website.