How NOT to be your project's Executive Producer
Everybody loves this classic scene from "A Mighty Wind," because everyone has a micromanager in their life. Content producers who work on complex projects with their clients for a living, draw special meaning from this "Stagecraft 101" scene. In fact, I wish I could show it to all my clients before embarking on the next big production.
As the client, you are in effect, the project's Executive Producer. You represent your company who is providing the funding for the project. You are the person of record with regards to the project's success or failure (good thing my projects never fail!). Here are some keys to being a successful EP:
- Choose the right producer for the project-- and for YOU. Don't just call the three producers who show the best looking stuff on their websites. Look for samples that are in a similar realm as what you are looking for, and try to glean other clues about them from their site. Then pick three and call. Bring them in for a chat and to look at some additional samples. Provide them with your creative brief (I cover this later) beforehand so they can informally present some ideas when you meet. If you have a formal RFP process, fine, but don't let that get in the way of a real exchange of ideas with your producer. It's vital to get a sense of what your working relationship with this person will be, so take the time you need. With a detailed proposal and budget, and a feel for how you relate to each candidate, you should be ready to make your choice.
-Don't be cagey about money. Please. Don't. Here's what too often happens: Client calls a producer and gives a very rough idea about the film or video they want to produce. Then the client asks, "how much would that cost?". If the client gets too caught up in the description and makes it sound like a Cecil B. DeMille film, then the producer, not knowing the client's budget, might throw out a number: $20,000 - $30,000. The client only has $5,000. The client thinks this producer is too pricey and ends up choosing someone else-who may not be as good a fit. Don't make your producer try and guess how much you want to spend. Instead, tell her what your budget is up front, then ask: What can you give me for that? If the producer tells you she can't do what you describe within your budget limitations-- that's a good thing. She's being honest. And any good producer will then give you options for what she can do.
-Start with a creative brief. Your brief is the blueprint for your project. You fill it out first, then fill it out again, in greater detail with your producer. It keeps changing as you move through the process, but it will keep you on track to be sure the project hits your targets. Here's one source for free creative brief templates. It literally keeps both you and your producer on the same page. What's great about a creative brief, is that it translates perfectly into a contract document. If an element of the brief gets changed, be sure to negotiate how that change will affect the project's pricing. It will help avoid problems when it comes to final cut delivery time as well. This way, your creative brief becomes the micromanager, and not you.
Don't be THAT EP.
Be the one with a plan, a sense of fun, and the one who implicitly trusts her producer to make her look great.