Understanding production 1: An introduction

This is the first of what I intend to be – let’s say an occasional rather than a regular – series of blogs on the topic of “understanding production”. Some will be straightforward snippets of useful information, on things like digital video formats. But more will be on the production process, and on ways of getting the best performance out of your media producer.

But before I get going… a few words of clarification that I may need to refer back to as the series continues:

  1. The people in an organization on whom the responsibility for briefing and supervising a media production falls come from all sorts of backgrounds. Sometimes they are marketing or communications experts, who will probably know much of what I have to say – though they won’t necessarily have enjoyed the viewpoint of a producer. But many, in my experience most, are not marketing specialists. They are administrators, accountants, engineers, general managers, who need the help of media – a video, a presentation, a website, an iPad app – to promote their or their company’s work. Much of what I have to say is addressed to these people. Arguably the communications specialists out there are not likely to be reading a blog called “Understanding production”. If you do, I apologize if you find my observations a little… basic.
  2. I am writing from my personal point of view as a producer. I am not trying to offer generalized advice, which you can find in text books. The underlying principle for doing this is not because I want to share my problems with the world; it is instead that I passionately believe that you get the best performance out of people if you understand what makes them tick, and appreciate the issues they have in giving you the best. Too often in a customer/supplier relationship the dominant philosophy is “the customer is king, and the supplier’s problems are not the customer’s concern”.  Fair enough: up to a point. I prefer to think that if I can get a better service from a supplier by understanding their problems and their motivations, and working with them to resolve the former and respond to the latter, that is going to be to my benefit. To give just one, apparently trivial, practical example to illustrate the point: when I book a hotel for a location shoot, I get the cameraman a room that’s as close as possible to the entrance. At the end of a long day’s filming the last thing he wants to do is to lug heavy equipment along miles of corridors. And if he doesn’t have to, he’s going to feel more inclined to do another long day tomorrow.  If you feel my thoughts are little more than special pleading, forgive me: my hope is that if you do need to commission a job you might benefit from my sharing them.
  3. A note on terminology: I use the term ‘producer’ as short hand for the organization that makes your visual communications for you. I could say ‘production company’, but I’m deliberately making the point that there is an alternative way of working, which is, dare I say it, to use my services!

I want to start off by the talking about the first act of any production process: the brief. The thing about a brief is that… you don’t need to write one. Let the producer do that. The process of sitting down and talking about what is needed can, and should be, highly productive. It’s the opportunity for the producer to ask questions, to probe and dig to find out the essential elements of what is needed, and to explore what is possible as a solution. And it’s an opportunity for the client to contribute their thoughts and ideas. It should be the cornerstone of every production, big or small. It maximizes the chances that the finished programme will be effective, and that everyone will be happy with it.

I’ll expand on the topic of the brief, and discuss the key issues that need to be discussed in arriving at one, next time.

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