When you hear the word producer, what comes to mind? The answers may vary based on personal experience or on the amount of time you’ve spent learning about the production process in the digital and film industry (...which I’ll assume is little to none). But, it may be comforting to know that even many successful producers today also did not understand what the role was truly defined as, even when they were at it working full-time.
If you’re now curious… STAY HERE! Don’t you dare visit Google. Instead, hear from two producers themselves who were once total newbies to the role. First is Bianca Nicdao, who works at Capitol Records in creative producing & directing artist marketing campaigns and content pieces. Then we have Natalie Dahl, a producer at a prominent advertising agency, Leo Burnett Worldwide. Although Bianca and Natalie’s producing focus may be different, their day-to-day operations and end goals are crazy similar.
Alyssa Ortiz: What did think the producer role meant and how do you define it now?
Bianca Nicdao (BN): A few years ago, I personally thought producing just meant picking up a project and working with the director to get locations, crew, crafty, and money to do it. It’s technically correct but definitely only covers a quarter of what it looks like to be a good producer. It’s a lot of problem solving and that means being creative in decision making whether it’s regarding budget, adjusting the creative itself, or even just being creative in conversations to best sell ideas and push tasks across the line.
Natalie Dahl (ND): Coming out of college, when I thought about the word “producer”, I thought of someone who edited movies. It wasn’t until I was in an ad agency that I learned what the role of a producer was. A good producer is a unique blend of poised, craziness: a schedule master, budget controller, group therapist, favorite happy hour friend; keeping an eye on the end goal, while wading through the weeds; treading water for weeks on end, with a smile on your face.
Okay, now we can look at Google… but could this be any more vague?! But, in their defense, they have to be due to how frequently the role changes based on the scope of a project.
The ‘“aha” moment I had on what a producer’s role was came from two places. One was from a Chicago Tribune article that used a sports reference to help express all the roles on set; ending with the producer:
“The studio or whoever finances the movie is the team owner. The director is the coach. The star is your star athlete. And the producer is the general manager. If you use the Cubs as an example, I’m Theo Epstein. I put it all together, while staying in the background.” says Robert Teitel, a longtime producer and Chicago native.
That second moment came from an article featuring an interview with film producer Muireann Price.
She simply defined the role in one statement: “the overarching umbrella of a production” followed by, “A producer will be involved in every department and will help balance creative ideas against budgetary demands. As a producer, you’re in close contact with pretty much everyone on the shoot. A producer will typically be involved from the very start of the project to the very end.”
“the overarching umbrella of a production”
AO: Use one word to describe what a producer does on a daily basis.
BN: Support. Whether it’s supporting creatively contributing story ideas or through tangible tasks in order to get aspects of production rolling or even emotionally supporting - bringing good energy and lending a helping hand to every person involved.
ND: Relationships. These are the backbone of a good producer. Whether with the creative team, the client, production partners, or the coffee shop barista - building and maintaining friends across all areas of the business goes a long way — and always comes back around.
AO: What’s a quality one must possess in order to be a successful producer?
ND: Go with the flow. This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn but has easily been the most profound change for the better, for me. Being able to pivot, stay calm under pressure, and “go with it” is a daily coping and strategic mantra.
BN: A top quality in my opinion is being a great people-person. In this role, you may have to create quality products for little to nothing ($$$) and that’s when you have to be extra good and strategic about getting people so excited about the art and vision and being able to have people trust you that it’s worth their time and contributions.
AO: What advice would you give to those pursuing a career in producing?
BN: Focus on networking laterally as much as you can. There are so many up and coming creatives that are extremely talented but may not have the number of projects on their portfolio to fully show it. Help develop that talent being the one that gives opportunity and create a more inclusive environment for this industry! That pays dividends as you will form the most amazing authentic group of creatives to ride this crazy entertainment industry with.
ND: The answer is never “no.” Instead, it is "let me see what I can do." A good producer works tirelessly to support the creative idea and will go to the ends of the earth to find solutions to bring the creative to life. Nothing is impossible...and people remember and appreciate when you show them that.
Producer Bonnie Curtis gave other advice for young producers moving to LA trying to get their feet wet with, “I always tell folks to just get their foot in the door somewhere. Take a temp job answering phones. My take on it is the real jobs in this business happen at a moment’s notice, and if you are on-site, you will more than likely get the gig. Do anything ...get people’s lunch, pick up their laundry… and add your own flair to that endeavor… make it the best dang lunch they have ever had… make them remember you.”
So there you have it, you officially now have the smallest glimpse into what the role of a producer is! As a producer at Salvi Media myself, writing this has opened my eyes more to what this role is and even what is can evolve to. I have a long way to go on my producing journey, but I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job just getting started.