LBB> What lasting impact has the experience of the pandemic had on how you and your agency think about and approach production?
Charlotte> We all know how challenging Covid was.
But I guess I am at the stage where I am now trying to take some of the positives.
From a production perspective, it has opened up access to talent in different markets, especially in the post production stage. Software makes instant review & feedback possible, recently we have worked with a colorist in LA and editors in Australia which has been pretty seamless. The reverse of course has been true for New Zealand, where many brands tapped into the world class production companies and director rosters that exist here.
For me more generally, Covid made flexible working acceptable. I have a young family and a flexi policy really helps support me being able to do my job and be a parent.
LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?
Charlotte> At Colenso we like people to be “Jack of all trades, Master of one” which I love and it’s a great way of saying – that every producer will learn fundamentals of producing, but should have an area of expertise.
LBB> And leading on from that, when it comes to building up your team at the agency, what’s your view on the balance of specialists vs generalists?
Charlotte> We are building teams of integrated producers in our department, those that can roll out a campaign end to end. However, the scale of a job might influence whether or not that is possible.
In NZ, given the size of the market, you need to be proficient in many parts of production but sometimes, and particular with the type of interesting ideas that come from our creative department, we might need to bring in a specialist for a specific aspect of the campaign.
So we have our specialists too, those that have a specific focus on film, experiential, print production & digital
LBB> What’s your own pathway to production? When you started out, what sort of work were you producing and what lessons have stayed with you in that time?
Charlotte> I studied Commerce at The University of Auckland. My mum was a social worker and my dad was in the fire service industry. I didn’t even know that advertising was a career path when I applied for a job as an office assistant at FCB in Auckland. When I walked into free coffee’s, drinks trolleys and social environment I couldn’t believe it!
6 weeks later a production assistant job opened up and I quickly nabbed it. FCB were really gaining momentum, and within my first year, a radio campaign went on to win at Cannes. Now I know how lucky it is for the stars to align for that to happen!
My first boss – Esther Watkins was really special, she taught me to value & protect creativity first. She was also a mum and had a partner who was Tongan, so being Pasifika myself I really felt supported and seen. I think I owe a lot to her as a role model. She is still someone I message for advice.
LBB> If you compare your role to the role of the heads of TV/heads of production when you first joined the industry, what do you think are the most striking or interesting changes (and what surprising things have stayed the same?)
I’ve had a variety of bosses in production, I’ve worked in London, Sydney & Auckland and they have been mostly female. All kind and supportive – maybe that’s a producer’s way! One of the biggest changes I have noticed though, is more in the industry, rather than production.
We now have more females in the room in general. It was intimidating as a young producer being the only female in the room when the creatives, the editors, sound engineers and directors are men. This has begun to change, but we have a way to go as an industry.
LBB> There are so many models for the way production is organised in the advertising industry - what set-ups have you found to be the most successful and why?
Charlotte> I have worked at a lot of agencies with very different models, Mother London didn’t have traditional account service, so producers were client facing. Host Sydney (now Host Havas) didn’t have an internal creative department, MAL in London worked solely on one client, Apple.
But in my experience the best agencies I’ve worked at - have had a few things in common. They value creativity, are nimble and you are proud of the work you do. It makes it an easy place to be a producer.
LBB>When working with a new partner or collaborator, how do you go about establishing trust?
Charlotte> Be open and truthful. I am someone who is pretty honest and I think it does go a long way – I would hope that’s how I’m seen by my production partners. There is nothing worse than someone promising something they cannot deliver on.
LBB? How important is it to you there is diversity across all partners on a production? Do you have any measures to promote diversity when it comes to production?
Charlotte> I am part Cook Island and am very passionate about diversity.
Only recently I looked around our industry and I could still see only a few people who looked or shared the same cultural experience as me. I guess previously I just didn’t think it had an effect on me, but when I stopped and really thought about it - why is it, that we aren’t represented more?
I hope now that I am in a leadership position, I can help to change that. Which is why I am sitting on the DE&I cross industry group (shout out to Bex Kelly @ Finch for leading this!).
I aim to ensure that we put forward production partners from a diverse range of backgrounds.
I definitely think having at least one female director bid on the job has helped (ordinarily there are three people bidding).and want to do the same with diversity, I’m still surprised there is still a lot of push back on it
Colenso, I feel are authentic with their ambition to be more diverse, it doesn’t feel like an add on and I love that and that truly comes from the leadership team.
As an aside, every agency should do the training led by the organization ‘Courageous Conversations’ its brilliant and an investment in your staff and journey.
LBB> Speaking of casting, what is your approach to this side of a production? How do you work with directors to ensure a fair and fruitful process?
Charlotte> Most casting briefs I’ve seen in the last 8-10 years encourage diversity. Directors are supportive of that as they want the best & fresh talent.
Our IKEA client in London was the first to really push this on the agency & the directors and it was brilliant. The industry is moving in the right direction in terms of this.
LBB> Should production have a seat in the c-suite - and why?
Charlotte> Production isn’t just about producing work, it can play a major role in industry issues such as diversity and sustainability. So if someone has a good handle on how to tackle these issues, then there is no reason they can’t be involved in C-Suite conversations.
LBB> Clients’ thirst for content seems to be unquenchable - and they need content that’s fast and responsive! What’s the key to creating LOTS of stuff at SPEED - without sacrificing production values? Is it even possible?
Charlotte> I think there are two streams of work we need to look at, the big campaign production which needs more time for craft and then the social, responsive work which needs to be quick. Both need their own pathways in the agency and both can be achieved. Small teams that are empowered to make decisions, quickly, help both streams!
LBB> To what extent is production strategic - traditionally it’s the part that comes at the ‘end’ of the agency process, but it seems in many cases production is a valuable voice to have right up top - what are your thoughts/experiences of this?
Charlotte> I love being involved early on in the process, it not only helps craft the production early, setting expectations with approach, budget & timings. it also means when you are in production it can help link back the ambition for the client and what their brand needs.
Some decisions around casting, locations etc. are actually incredibly strategic and quite often need to line up with what a brand is trying to depict/associate itself with.
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about working in production right now?
Charlotte> Well, everyone is obviously talking about AI! We worked on a campaign recently where 60% of the imagery that was used was generated through AI, I don’t think we could have made it without it as the timing was so tight, so a positive story of how AI is helping us rather than some of the doomsday scenarios.
I love seeing the emerging talent through social platforms at the moment, it’s a great way of discovering fresh talent from different backgrounds.
LBB> And what advice would you give to an aspiring agency producer?
Charlotte> Always bring positive energy – ‘Be a radiator not a drain’ it makes such a difference to the work! And to the team you work with. Have a real appetite for culture and creativity. I am always looking for what is going on in the world to keep me on my toes and explore things that I can bring back into the agency.