What skills and qualities are needed to be a good video producer? Juice’s Becca Dymock shares her thoughts, experience and top tips…
For me, preparation is key. You have to be organised. Make sure all aspects of the shoot are agreed and signed off by the client before you arrive on location.
Remember that changes to wardrobe, props and scripts will delay shooting. This inevitably costs time and money (and tends to annoy the Director). While spur of the moment changes will always be likely, it is best to try and keep them minimal – or at least have ready-made back up plans for potential, foreseeable problems.
Learn from others
So much of what makes a good producer is about learning from those who know more than you. I had a couple of fantastic mentors when I started out who gave me just the right amount of responsibility. They gave me space to grow and learn from the odd mistake – whilst stopping me from making costly ones!
I do remember some other ‘questionable’ mentoring however. In one particular temp job I had as a fledgling production assistant, I asked the producer if she could help me when applying for child licenses. With her feet up on a table reading a book she replied, “Darling I wouldn’t have a clue, I haven’t been a PA for 12 years”. I’m not sure she even looked up.
Know your team
Gathering the right people and setting the tone of the production is paramount. Knowing upfront which Directors/Editors are right for the creative treatment is absolutely essential. We’re all there for a common cause, to get the best output for the client, and we can only do that if everyone is on the same page.
Knowing the people you work with and understanding their craft is key to having a smooth shoot. At the start of a project, you need to ask yourself what skillset does your team need in order to bring the creative vision to life.
You really need to be a good communicator. With a looming air date or deadline, you need to move fast to get all those necessary approvals and that requires respectful but determined communication. Setting out and sharing your key milestones in advance will help everyone know what is expected of them, and when by. This helps keep the project on time and in budget.
No getting around it, budgets aren’t what they used to be. As the belts tighten, producers need to be great negotiators. You’ll need to prioritise multiple expectations whilst keeping the budget on track.
You need to be able to ballpark costs by just looking at a script. Knowing what’s possible for the money up front helps to manage expectations and lead the project in the right direction from the start. No one wants to be discussing overtime with the crew at 2am on an unscheduled night shoot.
Even though you don’t need to know it all, it’s a good idea to keep up to date on latest creative technology. I’m a facilitator and it’s my job to know what’s available and then gather the experts that can deliver those technologies in order to achieve our creative goals. Don’t be a luddite.
I started as runner and worked my way up. Whilst working in a Post House somewhere on Wardour St a client gave me a dressing down at 2am for bringing her a baked potato with butter ‘on’ the potato not on the side. I was a bit perturbed to say the least.
Consequently, I always treat everyone on set with respect. Please and thank you should never be under-estimated, whether it’s your Director going the extra mile for the client or a cup of tea and a biscuit delivered by the runner, being polite doesn’t cost a thing but makes everyone feel valued and usually results in a better end product.
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