Natalie Davies: Prod the Pros

Prod the Pros

www.prodthepros.com

I created Producing the Producer to place myself directly within the industry, to explore the job first hand by interviewing producers and getting a realistic insight by performing as an Assistant to the Producer (see Appendix 19 for details). Throughout this experience, I have undertaken several activities within the sphere of public relations, such as drafting press releases, and realised my skills and personal interests were more suited to this sector. My communication, organisation and interest in the building of brands are facets that I would really like to develop within a professional domain; and the interviews I have conducted have shown me that producing isn’t the correct career path for that. Alternatively I would appreciate the chance to further explore marketing as a prospective vocation, this is down to the fact that I have become aware of the vast potential of social media for marketing and how it can be utilised to build and direct audiences online. This blog post will reflect on my journey (see Appendix 1 for the project’s journal). It will be written to benefit individuals who are considering a career in producing, as well as being a useful point of reference for production companies; companies will be informed about the issues in the industry, and will be provided with ways of addressing it.

Before my first interview, I attended a dinner party where I was able to network with a TV producer. She told me to carefully consider a career in producing, she said that children or a social life are very hard to manage along with the nature of the job. This made me angry- why should my career choices be limited depending on if I want children? It was at this point I realised there was a potential problem in the industry, so I contacted Tamsyn Dent, for support (see Appendix 4 for her profile). Interestingly her research evidences the impracticalities of a work-life balance in the creative industries as a myth. This contradiction made me curious. I started Prod the Pros to explore producing in general, and now my area of investigation narrowed down to consider how a work-life balance is managed, and how females are represented in the industry.

All of the producers I interviewed acknowledged the difficulties of managing a work-life balance, but no more so than challenges in any other ‘out of office’ job. I did notice that three of the producers had set up their own company [Jacqui, Jeremy and Alison], and when I questioned their reasons for doing so, they each explained how owning their own company was their only option for gaining control of their career, work-life balance, and advancing their career. After interviewing both men and women, I discovered it is not just a challenge for women, rather for anybody who wants a family.

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As well as the issues of managing a work-life balance, female representations in the industry was a big area I wanted to explore. This was discussed by relating to recent debates around the F-rating, which was introduced at Bath Film Festival. Each producer acknowledged there is a problem in the industry, but pointed out there is a bigger issue for female directors or ethnic groups, than producers. Karin made an interesting prediction towards the future of the industry: the increasing pressure on large production companies to be more competitive and foreground their commercial values, will have a negative implication towards female representations. As I met producers in their workspace, I was able to make subjective observations. I noticed the women were based in their homes, whereas the men were based in an office/ studio. Perhaps this was a coincidence, but to me it suggested differences for producers who own their own indie company, according to their gender. Fortunately, Alison discussed how she chooses to work with females, which proves there are people in the industry attempting to address the problem. Nonetheless, the negative incline of female representations, evidences the need for Prod the Pros to continue. How Prod the Pros will assist in combatting these issues is discussed later on and in the Executive Report.

Myself with BAFTA nominee producer, Alison Sterling

All of the producers were based in the South West, which minimised expenditures, but also allowed me to explore the challenges of working outside of London. They all claimed their location is a disadvantage- particularly Alison and Jacqui. Most of them had started their career in London, and then moved back to the South West after gaining experience. From this I learnt, as an entrant you must be willing to move to the capital in order to gain experience and work your way up in a large production company. Based on this, future interviews for Prod the Pros could target producers based in London, to explore contradictions/similarities and advantages/disadvantages of their career paths and future ambitions, in relation to those based in the South West.

I found it surprising, out of all of the producers, only Jacqui had a ‘media related’ degree. This was encouraging for me- and hopefully for other entrants too, as I was worried limited practical experience would hinder my potential. Jeremy and Jonny explained this well from an employer’s perspective, stating how practical experience is not essential for an entrant, rather you are judged on your attitude, trainability and likability.

Throughout the interviews I learnt producers are extremely difficult to get hold of, which reflects the busy nature of their job. This was particularly evident when I met Jeremy; he was expecting a different Natalie and had completely forgotten about our meeting. I was oblivious to this, and introduced myself as if I was pretending to be the other Natalie. Although slightly embarrassing, it shows just how busy producers are! Appendix 8 shows an email conversation with a producer, who failed to respond to an interview request. I had to utilise the network around me to ensure success of the project. Having a mutual contact to approach producers proves invaluable for convincing them to slot you into their busy schedule.

By going out and interacting and networking with producers, I was able to experience and understand the nature of the job, as previously discussed. This would not of been possible to learn through completing online research. I learnt about the benefits of working in production, such as the glits and the glamour, as well as the challenges that go with it. You must be extremely committed to this industry and pathway to make the challenges worth it. The project has allowed me to confirm producing is not for me. I do not want to work unreliable hours; I want to use my degree to further my career, instead of competing against thousands of entrants to get a step onto the very long ladder; I’m not passionate enough about creating visual content, to desire the life style of the producer. Nonetheless, I enjoyed several parts of the project such as communicating with producers and writing press releases. Prod the Pros has allowed me to create relationships with several contacts in the industry, which will be invaluable to me when I am looking for jobs in the future. It has also allowed me to consider PR as a potential career path within the entertainment industry, to utilise my skills and interests.

I have created an Executive Report, to further develop my skills in this new direction of interest. Prod the Pros is an invaluable contribution to the industry, which fills a gap in the market. This is evidenced within feedback provided from the blog’s audience – see Appendix 12. The blog will be a legacy to the Bath Spa University. As outlined in the financial records (Appendix 14), the blog’s theme and hosting cost £82.69; for all control to be passed over, this cost will be reimbursed by the university. An objective of Prod the Pros has been to inform entrants interested in the industry; therefore the blog has been an important intervention to achieve this. The platform must be continued, whilst working closely with companies, policy makers and organisations such as Women in Film, to ensure the problems arisen in interviews are contested. Prod the Pros could inform companies about the implications of their working conditions, and suggest ways they can make their company ‘family friendly’. For example, just like the F-rating, there could be a classification awarded to companies who support parents. It is in the company’s interest to do so, as it will reflect well on their values, provide a happy work environment, as well as optimising the talent of their employees. The report outlines future directions and themes for the blog, for example the benefits of working with Bath Film Festival; shows my efforts to get the blog ‘out there’ and the blog’s traffic; and includes hand-over instructions for its next owner. I have created a draft press release to be used by Prod the Pros’ next owners, to publicise it being a point of communication for Bath Spa University’s film department.

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