101 - Flexibility

Lawrence Lewis:

Is this really how we're going to start the podcast? You opening a bottle of wine? Yehey!

 

Sister Christian:

Ta-da! To our first episode.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

To our first episode!  

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Welcome to the Producers' Happy Hour. The podcast where two seasoned producers on opposite coasts have an honest discussion over drinks about what it means to be a good producer. It's more than just numbers on a spreadsheet. It's more than just hiring crew and renting gear. Join us on our continuing search for greater learning with host Sister Christian in New York and Lawrence T. Lewis in Los Angeles.

 

Sister Christian:

Hi, Lawrence.  

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Hey, Christian.  

 

Sister Christian:

This is it. We're doing it. Our own podcast.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yay. Yes. This is the Producers Happy Hour and it combines two of my favorite things - talking to you, and having a drink.

 

Sister Christian:

Come with us on a journey to find out what it means and what it takes to be a good producer.

 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

But Christian, who the hell are we?

 

Sister Christian:

I know who you are. Do you know who I am?

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Absolutely. You are Sister Christian Kendrick production Maven of New York City. You've produced commercials, new media content, print livestream. You're also, from what I hear on the street, is that you're an award winning pinball champion.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes. Two seasons running. And you're Lawrence Lewis, you’ve been producing longer than me. Mostly commercials, but you've done film and TV as well. Plus you're considered somewhat of an expert in the new emerging world of experiential.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Oh, yeah, I guess that's true.

 

Sister Christian:

You're definitely an expert.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah. So, granted our careers have been focused mostly on commercial production.

 

Sister Christian:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Lawrence Lewis:

But we have dabbled in all other areas of media and event production and that's what we're going to talk about on the show.

 

 

Sister Christian:

Right. It's not just a podcast about commercial film production.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah. And definitely no “woah-is-me”, producer war stories here.

 

Sister Christian:

Well, we all know how much we love doing that. So, one could slip in occasionally.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

All right.

 

Sister Christian:

But it really isn't the focus.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

No, it's not. We're here to learn and talk to people about what it means to be a good producer and to learn.

 

Sister Christian:

You're totally right. We want to focus on the role of the producer and what it means, how we as industry professionals can better support the amazing craftspeople we work with. So, that they can do their best work.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Exactly. And finding that balance between keeping a watchful eye on the money, which granted is a big part of our job, but more importantly, supporting our director's creative vision and servicing the ad agency, client network, or whomever else might have a vested interest in the project.

 

Sister Christian:

There's so many balls to juggle. As they say.

 

 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

We're putting our fingers in all the dikes as the dam is trying to break, trying to satisfy everybody involved. That all has a different idea of what needs to happen.

 

Sister Christian:

Exactly. I've often described my portion of the job as balancing the needs of the director in the company, against what is required from the crew while maintaining the relationship of the company with the vendors.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right.

 

Sister Christian:

And making sure everyone gets paid.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah, exactly. And what a lot of people think is that all we do is stare at a spreadsheet and worry about the budget and worry about the numbers. And that’s-

 

Sister Christian:

well, some producers do that.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Some producers, yes, and that is a fraction of the job, but there's really a lot more to it.

 

Sister Christian:

Big picture.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right. And So, on this podcast, we are here to learn and Christian, I wholly believe that constant learning and constant growth is important in this business and also, just as human beings.

 

Sister Christian:

It keeps you relevant.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right.

 

Sister Christian:

And with the industry changing as rapidly as it has…

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yes.

 

Sister Christian:

We all need to figure out a way to grow and learn with it while remaining relevant.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Exactly. So, the way we're going to do that, as each week we're going to dive deep into various topics about film production.

 

Sister Christian:

Plus, we'll have a special guest on each episode to explain what their position or craft requires from a producer in order to perform at their fullest potential.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yes, but this is only your first episode, So, no guests this week. Just us producers chatting over drinks.

 

Sister Christian:

What you drinking, Lawrence?

 

Lawrence Lewis:

I am drinking a newfangled Negroni that comes in a bottle.

 

Sister Christian:

Yeah, you're in Brooklyn. So, that is a special, it's $8. And you can buy it at any boujee wine shop.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

I guess we should say that, I'm in Brooklyn, which is a rarity for us to be face to face.

 

Sister Christian:

It is. But we're both bi-coastal.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right. I'm based in Los Angeles.

 

Sister Christian:

I'm New York City.  

 

Lawrence Lewis:

So, normally we'd be talking across the country, but luckily for episode one I'm here face to face and Christian bought me Negroni in a bottle.

 

Sister Christian:

Negroni in a bottle. It's delicious.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

What are you drinking?

 

Sister Christian:

I'm having the same along with a fuzzy wine, a fuzzy wine chaser, orange wine.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

To celebrate our very first episode of The Producers Happy Hour.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Well, cheers. Let's dive in. We've got a few things to talk about.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, So, much. 

 

Sister Christian:

Hey, let's do some crews shout outs.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yes. Okay. This is a segment where we give a shout out to a crew member who recently went above and beyond the call of duty.

 

Sister Christian:

So, often as producers, we tend to get together and complain.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah, yeah. So, well, you want to take the time to do the opposite and sing some praises about the good and the great people that we get to work with.

 

Sister Christian:

And we don't just mean department heads we're talking anybody who submitted a time card is eligible. Hell, any, any vendor, like somebody rented us gear, they're eligible as well.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

eligible as well. Exactly. So, Christian, who is your crew shot for this episode?

 

Sister Christian:

So, I'd like to shout out to my, a year ago. She's my production manager on the last job that I did. And ah, it was one of those jobs where a couple of positions were cut due to money. And, um, my production team and I had to step up and fill the rolls. And one of the one of the positions that was cut was location manager. 

 

Lawrence Lewis: 

Ouch. 

 

Sister Christian:

Nothing like dealing with the location. Contact yourself for every single thing that goes wrong over an 80 acre property. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Oh my gosh!

 

Sister Christian:

And I can say that ah, the majority of the burden fell on her on and on top of everything else she did, she handled it with little to no complaints. And, um, with grace and respect. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Wow. 

 

Sister Christian:

Yeah. I mean, she really handled it well. So, I would like to shout out to her knowing that she went above and beyond her job and ah did what was required beyond what she would have to do is the production manager. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

And that's kind of happening more and more now with the budgets we were getting handed, you know? 

 

Sister Christian:

Well, flexibility. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah, exactly. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

The topic of the show be flexible because, you know, sometimes these jobs requiring us to take on more and more work on and certain department heads taking up slack because we can't afford, uh, 

 

Sister Christian:

Yes

 

Lawrence Lewis:

All the personnel we used to have the luxury of being able to afford. And a lot of that burden tends to fall in our production managers.

 

Sister Christian:

Um, the majority of the majority event. Exactly. Cheers to Maya. Cheers. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Cheers to Maya. What was Maya’s last name again? 

 

Sister Christian:

Yierdo. Y I E R D O.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

All right, well, we're going to put her contact information in the show notes, right? Yeah. Case anybody know. Take her, though. Steal her away from Christian first. And I guess we should say my is based in New York.

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, but she works all over the country on, actually, all over the world. She's international.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

There you go on in. An international lady. Yeah. All right. Well, my shout out is to Ben Taylor, who is based in Los Angeles. Um, I'm sure he's been willing to travel, but some Ben worked for me. This is a little complicated, but Ben work for me on a project I did, which was a huge activation that involved I guess I can talk about it now. It's over. Stranger things. 

 

Sister Christian:

So, cool!

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Baskin Robbins and Stranger Things. And what we did is there was a lot of aspects to the job. We took over a basket robin store in Burbank and in Toronto turned them into Scoops Ahoy! Which is the fictional ice cream shop from the new season of Stranger Things. But then, uh, we did a nice cream truck that went all around town. But what we also, does we created an ARG. Do you know what that is? 

 

Sister Christian:

No. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Alternate reality game.

 

Sister Christian:

Oh, yes, because really, I still don't know.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

You can call it a digital scavenger hunt. Got it? Is that help? 

 

Sister Christian:

Yes. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

So, I mean, there's So, many different ways of doing an ARG. But basically, it's it's, ah, alternate reality. So, you're kind of constructing a reality through whatever means this was done online and through various phone numbers that we had embedded in content ads and in the store. And we So, , had clues in each basket. Rama's across the country where we had Morse code and on the ciphers, and that led to on online ah game like an online text based video game where people just found it and started playing, and they had It was all based around the ah narrative of that season of Stranger Things.

Sister Christian:

Yes, which was such a good season and a fun plot line. So, yeah, great tie in.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

It was a great it was a great project. And Ben Taylor served as my community manager. Ben Taylor.

 

Sister Christian:

is what? What was that? 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

I'm going to tell you. You may or may not know, but I have done a little bit of immersive theater in my time here in Los Angeles. And Ben has been my stage manager for a project. I have called thee alone experience an immersive theater show here in Los Angeles. And he was there from the very beginning. He started as a AA. But he was So, smart and So, into what we were doing that he just grew with us as we kind of road, this renaissance of experimental and immersive theater in Los Angeles. So, long story short, he's great. And I brought him in to be a community manager for this ARG, which basically meant he was a mole in the discord channels and in the red, it forms where all the participants were talking about how to play the ARG. So, he scanned all of these conversations, summarized them and monitored how the community was responding to the game and reported back to the developers of the game, which was my experiential director, Mike Woods at Missing Pieces, which is the production company who this job was for. And he helped advise us if we needed to make things harder or change the way the chat box was talking to people, or he give us insight into how people were actually playing the game. Because you can't test these things. You can't rehearse them. They're, live. They go live. And So, Ben was kind of our eyes on the ground who saw how people responded to and how the gameplay actually played out amongst thousands of people. And he reported back to us and helped us make it even better. So, that was great! He went above and beyond. Everyone was So, impressed. He did an amazing job. It is such a weird, specific thing that he did a specific that Ah, this shadow close to him. So, cheers to ah, Ben Taylor cheers to been Taylor, and again we'll put his contact information and Maya's contact information in our show notes. If you guys need to get ahold of them,

 

Sister Christian:

Yes, if we're not using them,

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Check with us first. 

 

Lawrence:

Rolling, and speed. Christian, do you know what time it is?

 

Sister Christian:

It's time for the tip of the day,

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right? And, uh, I'll start today. Step for me is what you do when you have a celebrity in your shoot, on your shoot or somehow involved in the project. Either celebrity ordinance, instagram influence or something to that effect. So, what I always tell my production team is, too, you know, close your eyes. Imagine yourself asked this celebrity think about their entire journey to get onto set and do their job. Because a lot of these people there, they're shouldering around from event to event to shoot to shoot. They don't know who's who. They don't really know what's happening until they're in the car and they get the script and they're on their way, you know.

 

Sister Christian:

I've never met you. They've never met you. Maybe not even never spoken to you on the phone

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right thing. It was a very vulnerable position for them to be in because they're there to look good. Represent the brand as best they can, and it's dizzying the kind of promotional work that these people do. So, it seems like a very L. A kind of thing to like cater to celebrities. But really, in order for you to have a successful shoot, think about every touch point along the way. There's a car that picks him up at the hotel. The car rolls up on the set. Where does that cargo is? The car nowhere to park in the car. Get right next to the trailer. Who greets them at the car and walks them out. It should be a second AD, but maybe it's not. Maybe they're busy, So, you just have to think about every single step. Are they going to be hungry? Are they going to be thirsty? Where's their trailer? Does everything in? There are other scripts printed for them. They might not have the script yet. The director should be standing by so they can come and say hello. The agency should be standing by so they could come say hello and then once they're in the in the trailer, you know, you need to know how long it is until they're ready. How long it is until you need them on set. Every step of the way should be thought about and curated. So, that way there's no celebrity meltdown or

 

Sister Christian:

Which we've all and which

 

Lawrence Lewis:

We've all had and you want to avoid. And also, you know, the agency wants to make sure that this person that might be their spokesperson, they want to make sure that they're catered for and taking care of. So, really, as much as it feels like baby sitting, it's really important to make sure that every step of the way is thought about curated and taking care of to have a successful shoot.

 

Sister Christian:

I agree anytime that I've taken the extra time to do all those things. Um, it's you gotta thank you at the end of the day because not everybody thinks about a celebrity's day the way you just described. Yeah, they assume that they're coming to set and know everything, but they don't. So, every sets different. And if yours is running well 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right.

 

Sister Christian:

Then it's a good thing 'cause not all sets run well.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Exactly. Christian, what's your tip of the day?

 

Sister Christian:

Here's my tip.  Going to sound very simple and, like, common sense. But not everybody thinks about it because you're budget conscious. Yeah, spend money on food. Do good. I know that. I mean, are you guys and I certainly have had pushback from my dean before because something that we can't afford. But here's the thing. Um, it's your decision. What you feed people is your decision. So, you should think of many different things like, would you, are you going to sit down and catering and have lunch? Because if you're not, then why would you serve it to somebody? Um, you have, especially if you're on a challenging job. If you're already budgetarily challenged, you should know that every you've asked the crew to maybe be less in size, you've asked them to work harder. You've asked vendors for deals and such, But in the end, if you, it's like a kick in the face to feed them something that isn't good, you should always spend money on food. Yeah, always. Like nobody wants to walk up to a table of PA craft service um, that is, you know, some granola bars and a few packets of nuts.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

and we know, sometimes you have to do

 

Sister Christian:

that sometimes. But just go to Trader Joe's, huh? Yeah, maybe like the best out of it. Get some fresh fruit. Yep. Yeah, just add a little bit to it. Or some La Croix. Shout out there. Look. Right. But just if you take a little extra moment because when they win your crew of however many people it is walks in for the day, they're there for the entire day. They cannot go anywhere and get anything for themselves. You have to provide it. So, just think about what you're providing them. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Absolutely.

 

Sister Christian:

That's my tip of the day.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Excellent. Okay, So, this episode is just kind of our teaser episode. But we still have a show topic today, and I want to talk about it because it's kind of what we're doing right now. It's called flexibility. Being a flexible producer in today's media landscape is critical. And that's what you and I are doing right now by extending our producing skills into this new arena of podcasting.

 

Sister Christian:

Exactly. Like I've never produced straight audio content before. Even though I've boasted that I can do anything, this is a first for me. But as we were talking the other day, continuing to learn new things and stretching out of our comfort zones is really critical to being a good producer.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Exactly. And, uh, you know, we're going to learn a lot from the people we talked to about this, uh, our guests on the show. I hope.

 

Sister Christian:

I think getting other people's perspectives because I've been doing this for long enough to understand that I learned how to do this a long time ago. And things have changed. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Things have changed dramatically.

 

Sister Christian:

Especially in New York. I'm sure they have. In L. A is very much so. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Very much so. Ver much so.

 

Sister Christian:

Things have changed from, you know, your standard commercial that was shot on film to now content is being used on every platform that you can name. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah. 

 

Sister Christian:

And So, remaining flexible and the how you produce a job is very important. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

It is.

 

Sister Christian:

Vital.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

My entire last job. We shot 9 by 16 not 16 by 9.

 

Sister Christian:

Did you protect for a 6 x9? 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah. Yeah, of course we did. Of course we did. We were hoping for something that's 16 by nine consent. But you have nine by 16. Because everything was an instagram story. The whole entire job was based on instagram stories. So, it's a whole different approach.

 

Sister Christian:

It's a different market. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

It's a different market. It's a different approach. Is different methodology and you have to be able to kind of, you know, immediately become an expert at those kind of things. And flexibility as a producer is the way you're going to do it, not being stuck in the way of how we used to shoot things, being open to the current landscape of how people digest content.

 

Sister Christian:

Exactly. And I do think that, um, what we do is a formula. You're always going to need a camera you're always going to need need a sound person, but would have found is remaining flexible in the approach that we have for how to achieve the creative 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Right.

 

Sister Christian:

is how you're going to get your creative done on budget and on time.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

And it's So, , flexibility -  new types of crew members, new types of equipment, new types of technology that is helping us do our job easier and do it better when you know, I've been caught many times saying we can't do that. That's way too expensive. And then all of a sudden some 28 year old’s like oh, no, I have this thing that makes this thing really simple and easy to do

 

Christian

Well, I don't know if you've heard or not, but 28 year olds are the future.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

I think I have with ones they're doing. I have heard that. I think I was told that when I was 28 and I was like, “No I’m not.”

 

Sister Christian:

I know I said that, Yeah, when I was 28. But remaining open to suggestions and from all crew members or everyone within your immediate community on that job is important because it allows you to produce your job more efficiently. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Absolutely. I think that's it.

 

Sister Christian:

Okay, that's it for this episode. But we want to hear from you.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yes, any questions, comments or any ideas on how to be a more flexible producer, sent us a note.

 

Sister Christian:

It is up at producershappyhour@gmail.com, or you can find all of our contact info at www.producershappyhour.com

 

Lawrence Lewis:

And a big shout out and thank you to Kyle Puccia, who is a commercial music composer, and he created our intro music. And another shadow today to our engineer, Tom Tenney at Radio Free Brooklyn for the studio space and making a sound great.

 

Sister Christian:

It sounds So, good! I love it, Tom. Thanks, Lawrence. How do people get a hold of you personally?

 

Lawrence Lewis:

You can get a hold of me, an www.indelible-arts.com or at www.voiceoflawrence.com for my voice over work. What about you, Christian?

 

Sister Christian:

I never knew about www.voiceoflawrence.com.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Yeah. Good. Don't look it up. 

 

Christina:

I can be reached at www.sisterchristianproduces.com

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Great. We have a lot of great guest schedule, that are coming on to share their knowledge with you. And together we will continue our search on what it means to be a great producer.

 

Sister Christian:

And if you think that you would like to be a guest on our show or have a suggestion of who we should talk to,

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Absolutely. 

 

Sister Christian:

Drop us a line. Yes. Yes. All right. All right. 

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Bye.

 

Lawrence Lewis:

Join us next week for another edition of Producers Happy Hour with your host, Sister Christian and Lawrence T. Lewis.