So what do producers actually do?
Meet Ceri. She’s a producer here at Chello.
Plenty of people aren’t exactly sure what a producer does. That’s fair. It can be different between industries and even within them. Some producers specialise in digital creative, others in film and stills or events. In bigger film projects and series you’ll have line producers and executive producers. Some producers are responsible for digital software and products.
But their job can generally be boiled down to this: making things happen.
They’re kind of project managers for creative work and will do everything to get the project over the finish line. (Somewhere out there is a producer who’s sold a vital organ to close a project, we’re sure of it). For video that can include sourcing obscure props, being a child whisperer on set, begging for film permits, coordinating and doing the casting, booking transfers and hotels, and making sure that dietary preferences are catered for. A producer makes sure a creative idea works as hard as it can while staying in budget and on time.
So let’s follow Ceri in the making of one 60-second video.
Our client needs a video showing a UV light emitter in action. The UV kills germs on keyboards and doorknobs and surfaces in places like offices, schools and hotels. It feels very 2020. 🦠
Six locations, several days, two shooters, one producer.
Usually, six locations has a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong. But with no acting talent there’s less pre-production and our client has co-ordinated locations. This should be straight-forward 💪
In the background, I’m also finalising the script and organising the voiceover. 🗣
Our client needs footage sent to a news show the next day, so we start in their office. We do it at night so we can switch off the lights and film in the dark without disrupting anyone. We’re a trio: me; our senior videographer, Shea; and our camera assistant, Sean (who is actually our senior animator but happens to be handy behind the camera too).
We have to use regular bulbs in the machines because the real UV lights would end us — and the shoot. We’ve arranged some plants to give it some liveliness. 🌿🌿 But we find out that the UV light would kill the plants… so they get cut. 😵
I check that the bulbs are, in fact, regular bulbs. It would be too cruel to have survived for this long and then be ended by a UV emitting machine.
The office is your usual open plan, desk-divider situation. Perfect. Except it turns out that it’s impossible to switch off the lights! I curse the fact that I haggled for lights that we can’t use in the way we wanted. We film under the fluorescent lights and see what we can do in post-production. 🤞🤞🤞
The prime time moment: Shea grades the footage and manages to make it look like we filmed in the dark. It looks great! I’m relieved. He selects the footage, packages it up and I send it off. That night our footage makes it to primetime television. 😲
We shoot in a classroom and auditorium. I also get my temperature tested because it’s a pandemic and that is what a coffee run looks like now. 🤒 We’re reviewing the script while shooting, so emails and Slack messages go back and forth. 👩💻
The Leagues Club
Then we head to a Leagues Club which is amazing without people in it. While the guys are setting up I book parking and create call sheets for the next day.
When you’re a producer everything is a desk (including a pokie stool).
The fish wholesaler
Next is a fish wholesaler. Because it’s a pretty functional space we clear it up to get it film-ready. Producer life is often this glamorous. 💅 Sean gets soaked in an incident involving a tap in the ceiling. 😂 😂 😂
Thankfully he has a change of clothes.
The next day we’re at a hotel where the height limit in the parking lot prevents Sean’s van from getting into the building. He’s got all our gear. That means dropping everything off and finding parking nearby. Except it’s Wooloomooloo and parking is an Olympic sport here. 😫 Despite the delay, the shoot runs smoothly. 😌
Our last location is at a schmick gym in the city. We get all the footage we need and even finish a little early. Everyone is exhausted but we head back to the office to separate gear for a different shoot in the morning. Eventually we go home to be with our beds and Netflix accounts.
The end? But not really
It’s a lot of work to nab one minute of video. And this doesn’t include the pre- and post-production where the shoots are organised and the video actually gets put together. Whether it’s responding to the brief, casting talent, overseeing a voiceover or wrangling people and equipment as you rush between locations, you’re always keeping a few balls in the air.
In my work I solve a lot of problems creatively, and I solve very creative problems. Welcome to producer life.