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Meet Your Maker: Nick Simkins Wants Producers to Be Creative

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Recently promoted to EP at FINCH, Nick believes a good producer has intrinsic qualities. LBB's Esther Faith Lew speaks to him to find out just what those are

Meet Your Maker: Nick Simkins Wants Producers to Be Creative

Nick Simkins’s career spans over 20 years of highlights that have seen him collaborating with clients as varied as Tourism Australia, Uber Eats, Asahi, and Air New Zealand. Recently promoted to executive producer at FINCH, he has worked on campaigns that picked up awards at Cannes Lions, D&AD, LIA, The One Show, Spikes Asia, Ciclope, AWARD Awards, and many more.

Nick has developed an exhaustive knowledge of his craft and has a proven track record when it comes to making dynamic and innovative work. He has worked on numerous award-winning non-traditional campaigns ranging from a documentary about attempting to sponsor the White House for Vanish Napisan, to recording a Number 1 charting song with Ronan Keating for Air New Zealand.  

Prior to joining FINCH Nick was EP at Jungle Entertainment. He began his career at UK production house Partizan before returning to Australia, where he freelance-produced at numerous top production companies such as Sweet Shop, EXIT Films, Window Productions, Plaza, Division, and many others.

With his wealth of experience, and a professional network which includes some of the world’s best creatives and directors, Nick is set to continue to make work to inspire and expand the industry. 

LBB> What first attracted you to production - and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?

Nick> A love of movies first and foremost. I’ve always been into films growing up, but it’s not until you’ve worked on a production that you truly understand the thrill of collaborating with such a broad collection of talented people. 

LBB> What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career?

Nick> My first role in the industry was as a runner in London. I worked for peanuts at an amazing company that were making culturally iconic film clips for The White Stripes and Daft Punk and ads for the biggest brands in the world. While working there (with some of the best producers around) I learnt you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat a runner! The best producers were respectful to everyone on the production, largely because they knew how to manage stress. I wanted to take that lesson with me through my career, and I understood that if you aim to treat people with empathy, you understand each person’s role better and how they can contribute to making a production the best it can be.

LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?

Nick> Mentors. I can’t stress enough how important strong mentors are.  And then observing, working on productions over the years, and seeing which approaches suited my personality and figuring out how to take the lessons I had learnt from others to create my own style of producing that suits my personality.

LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital experience. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?

Nick> I think they should be able to, but at some point, passion comes into it too. I don’t want to just produce anything and everything. I want to produce for film.

LBB> What’s your favourite thing about production and why?

Nick> So many things. I love setting up jobs – pairing the right creative contributors together, finding the perfect technicians to execute the director’s vision. I love the collaborative aspect of production, people finding solutions together. And I love the satisfaction of the final product when the process has been successful.

LBB> How has production changed since you started your career?

Nick> I’d say the biggest changes have been on the business side in terms of expectations for treatments and deliverables. The level of referential proof needed to move forward has increased.

Obviously, the digitisation of the world has changed things dramatically, it’s enabled the process to move faster, but turnaround times have become much shorter as a result.

LBB> And what has stayed the same?

Nick> The experience on set is still very similar.  A bunch of people physically together (sometimes remotely…) working to create images and stories.

LBB> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer, and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?

Nick> I think being a good producer is something that’s intrinsic. You need to be efficient and organised, but also understand the nuances of personalities and interactions and have an understanding of the process, and codifying different immediate objectives. I think you need empathy - for the director, their process, their needs, their fears. You also need empathy for your clients and agencies, their process, their needs and their fears. And then you have to pick your battles based on experience and intuition.

LBB> Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?

Nick> I’m really proud of a commercial we made for Asahi. It was a really technical shoot, one shot, lots of set builds, stunts, VFX.  There was a lot of creative problem solving involved, but it was very rewarding.

LBB> And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?

Nick> I recently shot a job for NEDs in Europe. The script required the lead talent to smash through the ceiling and floors of seven levels of an apartment block. Again, it was really technical and a large-scale job with a lot of set builds. And then, to top it off, key members of the crew got COVID – it was during the Omicron spike. It was really challenging at times, but we had an amazing crew and production partners, and an amazing agency and client whom I felt really supported by. We were all in it together, which is my favourite kind of production.

LBB> Producers always have the best stories. What’s the hairiest / most insane situation you’ve found yourself in and how did you work your way out of it?

Nick> Sometimes it’s best not to know how the sausage is made.

LBB> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?

Nick> My ambition as an EP is to support our directors at FINCH, trust in their vision, and help guide and shape their careers as best as possible. I want FINCH to keep being champions of craft and continue to be seen by agencies as a partner they can trust with their most important, ambitious work.

LBB> As a producer your brain must have a never-ending "to do" list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

Nick> Hang out with my wife and kids, go to the beach, watch football and binge great TV.  Keep it simple.

LBB> Producers are problem solvers. What personally fuels your curiosity and drive?

Nick> The potential to experience something different. Using new equipment, a unique production approach, a new genre, a new scale, a new director. My favourite thing about working primarily on commercials is the potential to mix things up often.

LBB> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?

Nick> Be curious. Be useful. Try to be around smart, experienced people as much as possible. And always think of producing as a creative pursuit, not an organisational role. 

LBB> From your experience what are the ingredients for a successful production?

Nick> Passion, good communication (between agency/client/production company/crew – on all levels), the right mix of creative collaborators and strong leadership from the director and producer.

LBB> What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship?

Nick> Trust. Without it, the majority of your time is used up solving political problems rather than creative and technical ones. And in my experience, it shows on screen.

LBB> One specifically for EPs: Producers are naturally hands on - they have to be. How do you balance that in the more managerial role of an EP?

Nick> As an EP, you are there to guide and support a project. You want to use your experience and knowledge to counsel directors and producers, assist them to make decisions and see the big picture.  Often when you’re in the weeds on a production, you lose track of the end goal and a good EP should embolden the team on the ground to stay true to their vision and remain creatively ambitious, whilst assisting them to take the agency and client on that journey too.


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FINCH, Wed, 16 Nov 2022 05:56:32 GMT