Amazon’s head of production Fionn Greger and String and Tin’s sound designer and creative director Adam Smyth on why they launched The Production Podcast
The UK’s production community is one of the liveliest and open across the advertising and marketing world. You never know who you will meet in a cosy village pub, right in the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, it’s just an inherently collaborative part of the industry - but on the other hand, producers can find themselves working alone to solve problems that are completely new to them. A network of pals, mentors, occasional acquaintances can be a wonderful informal resource - and a source of camaraderie.
Friends Adam Smyth and Fionn Greger have been doing their bit to bring that community spirit to life with a new podcast, aptly called The Production Podcast. When the pandemic put paid to their regular conversations at The Toucan, they decided to do something a bit different. Most recently the pair interviewed Tim Katz, MD at Knucklehead, and upcoming episodes include Chris Watling, MD from Somesuch, Helen Hadfield at Snapper, Debbie Turner at Rohtau and Clare Donald at Publicis, amongst others.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Fionn and Adam to find out more about the project and to find out why the production world loves to chat!
LBB> What have been some of the most useful insights or things you've learned from doing the podcast?
Fionn> There’s no clear career path in what producers do. Often, we don’t even know what we want to do, but listening to that inner voice, the whisper so to speak, can really guide you as to what is in your heart.
Sometimes when everything is going wrong when filming a shaman can help.
Oh and don’t ever poke the producer.
Adam> There’s a huge benefit to breaking down the larger task into smaller pieces and building it back up. Not only making it more manageable but seem achievable. Most things are achievable if you get creative with it!
LBB> What have been some of the recurring themes that have popped up over your conversations?
Fionn> Having emotional intelligence in genuinely trying to understand where others are coming from is key.
Having empathy for those you work with allows you to see them as a person with needs, just like you do.
Whilst remote shooting has had some advantages, the feeling is that having people on set for filming makes the work better and allows producers to better anticipate problems.
Adam> Everyone we’ve spoken to has a real passion for this industry and their job. At all times everyone wants to do the best work they can and do the best for the work which ultimately means our clients and collaborators. It’s really evident that industry-wide, we all want to tell these beautifully crafted stories in the best way possible and have fun whilst doing it. Most of our guests have said how they feel privileged to be in their role.
LBB> It sounds like you're recreating that Soho pub convo that is a mainstay for production veterans but something that new joiners to the production world will have missed out on these past two years! Why is that sense of community so important to the production industry?
Fionn> One of our podcast guests, producer Anna Cartright, put it perfectly by saying ‘producing can be very lonely’. There is just one producer generally. By building a sense of community with other producers, you can share knowledge, support each other and learn from one another, all of which can positively impact your mental health too.
Adam> Working and collaborating as part of a team does so much for our mental stability and learning. Those often random conversations can lead to highly rewarding personal projects and building relationships that last for years. It’s also about sharing in that sense of achievement and development; celebrating the delivery of a long arduous job that has somehow managed to maintain its essence and be a great piece of work!
LBB> And what advice would you have to newbies to the production industry who haven't been able to learn by osmosis in the way many of us did?
Fionn> Find a mentor where possible, someone you can talk to, learn from, go to, speak to, drink with! It could in fact become the single biggest influencing factor in your career, in terms of what you do and how you do it.
Adam> Totally agree with Fionn and our interviewees. Never feel you SHOULDN'T ask the question. We are all here to help! Find the people you can hash out ideas with, talk absolute bollocks with, and most of all laugh.
LBB> Obviously A LOT has changed in production over the past two years, from remote production and virtual production to businesses changing things up to react to the pandemic - what do you think have been the biggest changes to the production world and why?
Fionn> Virtual production definitely feels like a real consideration now, as the tech is there and we are also increasingly aware of acting more sustainably.
Shoots can be handled remotely so attendance is not the default. Staying in a hotel is often not as nice as your own bed.
Pushing for everything to be signed off in the PPM, to a greater extent we would have done in the past, allows more time on the day for virtual tours and feedback from folks dialled in.
Adam> A hot topic on the podcast has been the change in work/life balance. The pandemic allowed us to work from home in a professional manner and continue to deliver across most projects. It’s been a real positive for those in the industry who thought they’d forever be at their desks. We need to be mindful that we do take time away and out from the job, and don't let the lines blur too much. It's more easily said than done when you're passionate about your job/craft though.
LBB> What are the topics you think the production community should be talking about but aren't?
Fionn> It’s not just a TV advert anymore, it’s dozens of unique deliverables for different platforms and customers. Influencers are making content themselves, social media demands grow and grow, real people are making content from their homes and impacting millions of others. Production as we know it needs to continue to evolve. To stay relevant we have to be open to change.
Adam> Taking time to craft something is key. If and wherever possible, give the production/creative team/editor/sound designer/colourist etc time to experiment and craft the work further. See what happens when you change something and allow mistakes. It’s surprising what a piece can become with just an extra few hours to craft away.