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How Can Juniors Obtain ‘the Producer’s Mindset’


LBB’s Zoe Antonov speaks to producers and EPs from all over, to find out what constitutes the producer’s mindset, how to get your name out there and how to manage the first few steps of the production career ladder

How Can Juniors Obtain ‘the Producer’s Mindset’

It’s no secret that getting your foot in the door of the filmmaking and creative media industries can be a challenge like no other. The role of the producer, as the oil in the machine of filmmaking, is perhaps one of the most comprehensive and all-encompassing out there, so it can be daunting for juniors to get to grips with where to start, especially for those who are facing the realities of the production world unprepared.

At the beginning of this week, we started this list of production extraordinaires giving juniors their best advice and personal stories on how they got ahead in their respective fields. What kept coming up is the love of hustle - be it through running on set, assisting senior producers or simply meticulously getting your name out there through coffee meetings or phone calls. The one consistency when it comes to a career in production is that everybody ‘blagged their way in’, as Neil Andrews, producer at Pulse puts it. This is the pillar on which the producer’s mindset is leaning - endless passion and willingness to hustle. 

However, things aren’t always this simple - the hustle might look differently for everyone, depending on their circumstances and what they love doing most, or how sure they are in themselves. So, today we continue our comprehensive list that aims to help those struggling with executing ‘the producer’s mindset’ from early on, or those who already have it but are still unsure on where to aim that energy. 

Elly Camisa

Producer at Somesuch, UK

To start, my personal experience is that studying something related to production doesn’t necessarily give you a head start. Whilst you'd no doubt gain knowledge studying something related to ‘film’, my take is that hard work, enthusiasm, experience and more simply, common sense, take you where you need to go. Head straight out there or just study something that you’re interested in and enjoy the uni experience and making lifelong friends! 

After you’re done with this, there's two obvious routes to take. The first is to start freelancing, either as a runner on shoots or with production companies as an intern. The second is to look for a full-time position within a production company. Both are great and suit different people. You could also start with one and switch to the other if it wasn’t working for you. The APA has a helpful list of production job roles available [in the UK], as well as a clear list of companies you could contact. If you fancy the other route, I’d contact a diary service like Callbox to look for runner roles. 

If you’re not in London, remember that there is production in lots of cities across the UK, places like Manchester are growing fast. I’d suggest contacting one of the great companies that work all across the UK, for example LS Productions or Sugar Free TV. 

There are some amazing networks out there to get in contact with. At Somesuch we work with The Kusp to ensure talented creatives have access to job opportunities and experience. Other networks you should consider are Girls In Film, Sporasco, Wearepocc, Bounce Cinemas, Create Jobs and Social Fixt.

The most important thing to remember is to work hard when you’re in the room. Show enthusiasm. Ask questions. Speak to as many people as possible, and always follow up with an email afterwards. 

Samantha (Folliott) Pejovic

Producer and marketing manager at Frank Content, Canada

Getting that first job in the industry is challenging and calls for dedication and hustle. The best tip I have for all aspiring producers is to do extensive research into production companies who are creating content that excites them and investigate the career paths  of their key players. Reach out to a select few who resonate with you and ask them for a  coffee or phone call, introducing yourself and explaining why their work speaks to you. Ask them about internships or shadowing opportunities or offer to lend a hand in the production office or on set. 

Although this tactic may take some time to yield results (as producers tend to be very busy), it can establish genuine connections and ensure you remain top of mind for those who were once in a similar stage of their career trajectory. Once you get an opportunity in the industry, be ready to work hard and commit 100% to the production, regardless of your position. While beginning your career, you’ll likely be a production assistant whose tasks can seemingly feel insignificant but understand that you are pivotal to the production process. Take pride in the fact that you are working as a part of the team and always be eager to help any department. 

You can learn a lot of  skills and nuance from simply observing a set and taking in how people are working together like a well-oiled machine. Learn as many names of other crew and vendors as possible, keep all call sheets, and make sure to send follow up thank you emails after the wrap. Enthusiasm and keenness go a long way.  

Regardless of where you live, there are always ways to build your skills and gain  experience. Do your research into school programs, local film offices, and online courses to get your start. Then offer your services up to the local creative community, expanding your network of aspiring filmmakers and crew in your area and gaining first-hand experience. Once you make a name for yourself, you’ll have a breadth of work to back you up if you choose to go into a lively production hub. 

Neil Andrews

Producer at Pulse Films, UK

I believe that you don’t need any formal higher learning to be a producer. It really is one of those jobs where you can’t learn from a book or in a classroom. I took a year out before going to university and quickly found myself in a job in central London working for a media company. Yes, it wasn’t in the film industry per se, but it was a step on the ladder and good exposure to an office environment. What it did do was make me realise I had a hunger to work, a hunger to learn on the job, and this is fundamental for any aspiring producer. The hustle of the workplace made me think twice about higher education, so I sacked off my uni plans and just got stuck in to work full time! You need to be hungry and want to be better than the next person. You need to be entrepreneurial in your thought process to problem solve quickly, and especially to a budget. 

Age here really is but a number. Granted most who join the industry are relatively young, but don’t be put off if you’re considering coming at it from another industry slightly later on in life.
Some of the best people I work with spent most of their 20s and early 30s disillusioned in another field, only to discover the film industry later on by accident. But equally if you’re fresh out of school or uni there couldn’t be a better time. 

It’s no secret that finding your way in is a tricky one, and possibly the question I most often get asked. The answer is simple - you have to put yourself out there and hustle. Work at building your network and take all the opportunities you can. Do things that others may not. Send handwritten letters, turn up on the doorsteps of production companies, pick up the phone… Do anything and everything to interact to make a human connection and be tenacious. Whilst there are so many people that want to get into the industry, the ones who succeed show that producer’s mentality right from the off. They do things that make them memorable, stand out from the thousands of emails. Do something different and I assure you that you will get noticed.  

Hard work, showing interest, being personable and inquisitive are all paramount. And asking all the questions! We all like to work with interesting, fun and hardworking people so show your personality and always offer yourself up for more work. Throw yourself into everything, this industry is made up with people who blagged their way in. I remember vividly convincing someone that I knew London like the back of my hand - the next thing I knew I was given the responsibility of driving the director and producer around in a minivan for a shoot (way before the days of Google Maps), fortunately my dad was on hand to guide me step by step using the A-Z roadmap around Barnes! We all need a little bit of Dutch courage at first, so whilst I’m not condoning re-writing your CV, it’s important to throw yourself in at the deep-end and hope for the best outcome!

Speaking of London, during my gap year I knew I had to be in London to react to job interviews at the drop of a hat so I forced my move from the West Country to London - couch surfing for the best part of a year. Whilst by and large London still has the lion's share of the market, the regionalisation of the BBC has seen skilled workers within the industry shipped out to all four corners of the UK in a more meaningful way. But also, with the cost of film production becoming lower, there are so many small production companies that are making good work for all kinds of output in the likes of Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. So don’t feel like you have to make the leap before you’ve even found your feet. Speak to your local or neighbouring film office, they’re often a good source of what’s happening in the local community and might be able to give some advice if there’s a big drama or ad coming to town who might need freelance runners etc. (remember it’s cheaper to employ local than to bring crew from London etc).

You might also be unsure on which part of the industry you want to be in - I had this issue too. Not knowing whether I wanted to succeed in the camera department, direction or production… I went for the latter and it suited me. But really, don’t worry about this. So many people I know have tried all kinds of positions in the industry, so don't feel like you need to wait until the perfect opportunity comes about… getting a taste of as many avenues as possible is the right thing to do when you’re starting out. Whether it’s running at a post house, assisting the art department, or simply running on set - say yes to every opportunity and throw yourself at it. The more immersed you are the more you’ll get a feel for working in that specific avenue. 

Rich Pring

Partner and executive producer at Reverie Content, US

Pay Attention. Be resourceful. Be a great communicator. Care and be kind. Hustle.

Advertising is a big world, and there’s room for everyone. Once you get your foot in the door, work hard, be a problem solver, and build trust. Take every opportunity and use it as a building block. Be patient when you start, and you’ll find opportunities to work with the type of creative collaborators and projects you want to be surrounded with – it just may not happen right out of the gate. There’s an excellent fit for everyone somewhere, whether it be finding the right production company, production team, or film project. I’ve witnessed college graduates succeed and flourish in commercial production while some haven’t. I’ve seen former restaurant workers use the same set of skills they use to navigate a busy lunch rush, in commercial production; it’s that ability to remain calm while thinking through situations that can be highly pressurised and intense. The best production people tend to rise to the top because of their reputation of being resourceful and great to work with and, eventually, because of the types of projects they can produce.

Cat Lindsay

Executive producer at Cake, UK

My advice to any aspiring production person is to remain curious and to keep exploring and learning. It’s wonderful to work with young production people who have a thirst for knowledge and who actively seek information. Spending time at equipment rental facilities to understand various technologies, watching gear checks and interacting with heads of technical departments allows one an insight into why certain decisions are made in preparation for a shoot. It also encourages a healthy relationship between production and technical crew which will stand one in good stead for future negotiations and discussions. Taking this curiosity into post production is also valuable, understanding what happens to footage once it leaves our set is crucial to one’s overall vision of what we do. So although it may not be realistic to leave one’s current production responsibilities to attend technical and post sessions, using the days in between jobs to visit these is a wonderful use of time. 

For a young person who doesn’t yet have the responsibilities of a home and family to look after, an interesting and educational option is to work on features and long-form which are produced in travel destinations. Being available and willing to travel means that one could become a production assistant or junior cast co-ordinator on a destination shoot. Of course this requires that a company knows and trusts you or at least has some reliable reference and so building healthy connections beforehand is useful, this may mean offering one’s services on test or pilot type projects or requesting to shadow a senior person for a week or two and being exceptionally useful. There is an enduring willingness to teach and grow the industry and so being open to receiving these learning opportunities is a step in the right direction. 

Liz Browne

Head of production operations at No.8, UK

The best [post production] courses to study are at Ravensbourne, Bournemouth and through Access VFX. Access VFX also does some great work on networking, which is super important; their website is a great source of information, and I would recommend attending any events or talks that they hold. Screen Skills is a good resource too for career paths and holds workshops. 

When it comes to getting that first job the best thing you can do is send your CV into studios, get trial weeks and hopefully get taken on eventually! Show work you have done (films, animation, art, photography, etc.). Your creative hobbies are a really good hook for those looking for a creative or production runner. Do some work experience and summer jobs when you are at university if possible. 

And don’t be discouraged if you’re not in the capital. There are studios outside of London now that are doing brilliant work in Manchester, Glasgow, Bournemouth, Doncaster to name a few. The industry is not limited to London anymore, which is great. 

If you aren't sure what you want to do then spend time in the different studio departments if you can so you get a good understanding of how they work and that can help you decide where you see your career going. Be adaptable and try lots of areas. 

Be as helpful as you can to the studio team you may be assigned or find a mentor that will give you some training tasks. Take an interest in the projects that are running through the company, be proactive, confident, punctual, enthusiastic and approachable and that will make an impression on the studio team and clients. 

Will Farquhar

Producer at Eyebolls, UK

I personally didn’t take a particularly orthodox route into production, having studied business and marketing at uni. While the most obvious route would have been choosing a film related degree, studying something that was both creative and academic outside of film, still furnished me with a tonne of vital professional and personal skills that I draw on every day as a producer. In many ways, I think the exact nature of your studies is not the most important part. What’s more important is the skills and traits you pick up throughout your studies. Whether you studied an art, a social science or a stem subject, I think what's important is that you study something that challenges you, encourages you to think critically and creatively, and forces you to work with people from all walks of life. If you’re developing all those skills whilst doing something you enjoy, and that keeps you inquisitive, you’ll stand yourself in good stead to hit the ground running in production! 
Approaching production companies and producers for opportunities as production assistants and runners is probably the best and easiest way to get your first taste of production life. Working as a runner is not only a great way to get a foot in the door and make yourself indispensable to productions but also a great way to experience multiple different departments and facets of production. If a production company is looking to hire in house, make sure you tailor your introduction, cover letter and CV to the company to show that you’ve done your homework and know what it is that you’re looking to be a part of. 

Finally - network network network. It can be a tough slog and a bit of a daunting task at first but attending as many events as possible to meet the right people is a central part of getting into the industry and, once you’re in the door, growing your network. Whilst not every city boasts the same abundance and calibre of production opportunities as somewhere like London, almost every major city has a production company or two servicing the needs of agencies and businesses in their local area. Even if their client list isn’t wall to wall with household brand names, small production companies like the one I started out in still present a great opportunity to learn the ropes, start growing your network and hone your skills. Chances are you’ll have much more of an opportunity to get hands-on experience in a variety of departments in a smaller production company before making the move to somewhere larger and more established.

Tilde Franzén

EP/MD and partner at Giants & Toys

Producers are perpetual problem solvers and a film production can be attacked in 100 different ways so I'm a big believer in on-set experience, when talking about training or studying. However some take the 'baptism by fire' concept too far. Very early on in my career I found myself producing a global campaign, filming in London, Tokyo and LA, against three time zones without a production manager, assistant or proper support. I didn’t understand that I had the right to these things and that production was extremely tough but it also taught me the valuable lessons of when to say no and to ask for help.

Surrounding yourself with people who share your passion is a key start. Production is a highly collaborative and shared world and so much work at a junior level comes from being in the right place at the right time. In those early days you need to listen to and learn from people who have more experience. It helped me observe how others work and helped me design my own way of producing. Be responsive, observant and ask a lot of questions to understand how everything is connected and works. You also have to show that you are prepared to step in and help where needed. Be ambitious, but check your ego at the door and embrace patience. I have benefited immensely from working my way up and believe I'm a better EP because I know what it is like to also work the craft table, etc. 

And that also goes for those who live outside a major city or production hub. For example, I come from a small town in southern Sweden and after graduation I worked at a local theatre. There I met one of the producers who was moving to Stockholm to work on her next feature film. She asked if I wanted to move up with her and work as her assistant and so I started working in feature films before switching to advertising. One thing led to another and soon after I found myself producing a big shoot with Justin Timberlake before starting my own production company.

One of the big questions is how do we get companies and networks to connect with a more diverse talent pool? So many people from certain underprivileged backgrounds don't even know they can pursue their film interest via commercials. That is definitely something that we lack here in Sweden. 

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LBB Editorial, Thu, 06 Apr 2023 15:27:03 GMT