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5 minutes with...

5 Minutes with… Chad Muserlian

Executive Producer at The Brownie Film Co. on moving from New York to Madrid, reforming the local production market and the evils of sangria

5 Minutes with… Chad Muserlian

Chad Muserlian has overseen some of the most ambitious commercial filmmaking projects coming out of the Spanish market, from sleek car ads to big-name sports spectaculars. As Executive Producer at The Brownie Film Co., he’s a consummate producer and businessman, but his interests extend much further than just his company. As Spain’s representative in the Commercial Film Producers of Europe (CFP-e), he’s enthusiastic about making the Spanish production landscape as robust and successful as possible. He’s also a great advocate of producers’ role in bringing the next generation through the ranks, as evidenced by his continual support for the Young Director Award.

LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with him to get his unique perspective on the Spanish advertising and production market and finally lay some regional clichés to rest.

LBB> How did you end up working in production? Were you single-minded growing up or did you stumble into it by accident?

CM> I laugh when I think of my first job in production. I really knew nothing about the industry and, following some bad advice, wore a suit to the job interview. I got the job but, needless to say, the suit didn’t make it past the first day of hauling rolls of negative up and down the streets of New York. I think it’s hard for any young, aspiring producers to really know if this is what they want to do before actually experiencing it. 

LBB> You grew up in New York and started your career there. What was it like moving to Madrid? How does the Spanish advertising production business compare to that in the US?

CM> At first, arriving in Madrid was quite a shock. The industry was tiny here compared to NY. Everyone knew everyone, and shoots sometimes seemed almost like a free-for-all. However, quickly I saw that without the strict unions of NY and with lots of young energy, we were able to produce things that would be unthinkable in the States in the time and budgets we were given. That was also a very creative time for agencies in Spain when clients took more risks with their advertising and production houses built reels with incredible scripts flowing in. 

LBB> Do people have any misconceptions about Spain that you have to deal with a lot? Or is there something that you wish more people knew about?

CM> First of all, I wish people who visit would stop asking for sangria in every restaurant they go to…I don’t know how to say this but sangria is just not something we generally drink! Also, no one really takes two-hour naps in the middle of the day anymore. In fact, in Spain we have some of the most ceaseless, hard-working crews around. I think because Spain has been a country that has received so much service work for so long, we have technicians and crews here that have worked for some of the most talented Heads of Department from all over the globe. That ‘training’ per se has professionalized our industry in a way that has placed our crews among the most experienced in all of Europe. 

LBB> As an active participant in the European Federation for Commercial Film Producers (CFP-E), what has been your experience? What about Spain’s local commercial producer’s association?

CM> As Spain’s representative in the CFP-E, I have received tremendous feedback on the way our local, Spanish association (APCP) has developed. This year in the European annual meeting I presented a summary of the quality certification developed by our association in order to assure advertisers and agencies that production companies within the association were complying with industry-wide best practices and legislation. The certification requires undergoing annual, external auditing of each associated company. Over the three years that the plan has been rolled out, the number of member production companies has over doubled and some clients have even announced that they will only work with member companies. The presentation was so well received that many other countries are considering implementing a similar certification.

The CFP-e has served as a good exchange of information, problems and solutions among similar companies operating in vastly different environments. Many times the issues that arise in other countries are a forecast or indicative of what is just around the corner in our own market.

LBB> What changes in the industry right now are most impacting the way you do business?

CM> There seems to be a trend in the industry toward dichotomy, with large, top-tier production companies on the one hand and small, ephemeral ones on the other. This is forcing middle-tier production companies to redefine themselves and makes the success factor to winning pitches more and more complex.

LBB> What do you miss about New York, or the USA in general?

CM> Hmmmmm, probably Obama…can’t we just skip ahead four years???

LBB> You were juror for the Young Director Award this year. What are your tips for spotting the best new talent?

CM> As a juror at the YDA in Cannes these past years I have seen literally thousands of spots, short films, music videos and web films by young directors. With the overall level of quality so high, the jury has sometimes had a hard time narrowing down the prizewinners. We’ve had to apply a criteria to judging that holds the young directors nearly to the exact same standards as experienced, seasoned directors. This makes winning at the YDA an even more significant achievement. This year’s jury prize was a chilling, all-too-relevant short film by a young Danish film school student that you can take a look at on the YDA website. http://youngdirectoraward.com/2017-winners/

LBB> What's the key to maintaining and nurturing a good roster of directors?

CM> Keeping them challenged and shooting! 

LBB> As a production company, what are you looking for in an agency to work with?

CM> Team play. With shrinking budgets and schedules, in my experience the best way to make the most of the resources available is to get directors and producers in a room together with creatives and agency producers to work things out. I’ve received some five-page scripts for 30-second commercials which are just impossible to approach unless everyone is working on the same team! 

LBB> And when you're servicing a production job, is there anything that helps things to run smoothly?

CM> Yes, two things. 

One, hiring the right crews. It’s important to understand what heads of department will be the right fit for the project, especially when sometimes your first choice might not be available!

And two, treating every job as if it were your own, most important production ever. I’ve had to hire service companies in other countries myself and the best have been those that understood what I was going through as the main production company and looked to resolve the job’s challenges instead of creating them. 

LBB> How do you wind down the when you get a break after a stressful shoot? Are you an active guy or do you just chill out?

CM> After half a bottle of wine from El Bierzo [a region in the northwest of the province of León], a 10km run and a couple of episodes of a Netflix series (not necessarily in that order), I’m good as new!