By Kevin Elliott
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a video producer?
It’s a weird skill set. It took me a long time to realize I had it. Once I did, I found my place in the creative world. I’m going to describe what you need to be a producer. See if this speaks to you. If so, you might be a producer too.
1. You Can Visualize
The foremost skill of a successful producer (or conductor) is the ability to see an entire project complete in your mind. A good conductor can hear all the instruments playing You have to see every shot, color correction, and soundbite. You have to hear the music tracks. It has to play like a movie in your head.
Trust me, most people can’t do this. It is the crucial skill, though, because the entire production is looking to you for direction. If you don’t know what the finished product will look like at the end, you won’t know when the project is getting off track. You won’t be able to direct your videographers. You’ll be shooting in the dark.
Do you see projects fully formed in your mind before they begin?
2. You Are Interested in All the Parts
Courtney, our co-founder and lead cinematographer, only wants to make videos. She doesn’t want to talk to clients. She doesn’t want to deal with invoicing. She doesn’t do scripting or scheduling or marketing. She just makes amazing videos.
That is typical of most artists I know. They specialize. But as a producer, you have to be interested in all aspects of video production and know a little about a lot – music, shot choice, marketing, gear, client management, interviewing, and on an on.
If you only want to be great at your one thing, that is fine. Producers need people like you. But you are not a producer.
3. You’d Rather Make Great Work Than Be Liked
As a producer, you deal with every aspect of the video production process, which means you deal with every person in the video production process. And that means feelings.
People get protective and defensive of their creative work. But it is your job to tell them if it is not up to par. It is your job to protect the project and make it the best it can be.
Don’t be a jerk, but it does no one any good if you let anything less than great work get out the door. And in the end, when the project is amazing, no one will remember that you sent them that extra round of edits.
4. You Have An Eye For Talent
The best producers see talents and possibilities in people before they even see them. Then we pull those talents out of people and challenge them to pursue them.
Walt Disney (the ultimate producer) was famous for this. My favorite story is from the legendary Disney artist Marc Davis. Davis had been a Disney artist for decades, creating iconic characters like Cruella De Vil, Maleficent, and Tinker Bell. The Walt had an idea.
He wanted to create a ride about pirates that require sculpting models for the animatronic characters. Disney tapped Davis. Davis had never sculpted in his life and tried to beg off the job. Disney refused and told Davis he know the illustrator would make a great sculptor.
And that is what Davis became. Most of the characters we know and love from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride were created by Davis.
Producers are always on the hunt for unfound talent they can inspire. Which brings me to the next trait.
5. You Can Inspire
A big part of the producer job is cheerleading. Video production is a complicated process (which is why it is so expensive) and stuff goes wrong. Gear breaks, weather fails, clients throw curveballs. All this can be frustrating and discouraging.
Despite this, you have to inspire your team to do their best and more. If you are a critical or negative person, video producing is not for you. Your job is to make people believe they can do amazing things.
6. You Can Push
When you are inspiring people to go beyond what they think they can do, people can get resistant because they are scared to fail. You have to push them through this. Yes, it is a risk and yes, they may fail. Push anyway.
That is producing.
7. You Anticipate
Smart producers look three steps ahead all the time. Anticipation is so important I wrote an entire article about it.
8. You Like to Work. A Lot.
Producer, you are ultimately responsible for the success of your projects. That means managing all aspects of the video from beginning to end and that means you work before and after everyone else knocks off.
Advertising titan David Ogilvy said it best about great campaign producers, and it’s true in video as well: “They must have a colossal appetite for midnight oil.“
Some Famous Producers
If producing is for you, it is the greatest job ever. If not, it will burn you out in no time. For further study, here is a list of my favorite producers. Study their lives and see if this crazy role is for you.
- Walt Disney
- Jerry Bruckheimer
- Julie Taymor
- Lin-Manuel Miranda
- Keenan Ivory Wayans
- David Foster
- Quincy Jones
- Clive Davis
- Chuck Lorre
- Ryan Seacrest
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