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Are you ready to delve into the heart of the film and commercial production industry during its most challenging times?

In the latest episode of our insightful podcast, we dissect the current slowdown affecting everyone from seasoned producers to budding filmmakers. Join us as we explore the causes, implications, and strategies for navigating these uncertain waters.

The Union Standoff: A Tug-of-War with Time

The impact of union negotiations on production schedules is undeniable. Freelancers and unions are locked in a standoff, creating a ripple effect that's felt across the industry. Financial strains and the hesitance to face another strike have hit the reset button on film production, leaving many wondering about the future.

In-House Production: The Agency's New Playground

Big agencies are now bringing commercial production in-house, disrupting the traditional model and limiting opportunities for external production companies and directors. This trend reflects a shift towards cost-cutting and tighter creative control, posing a significant challenge for production houses trying to keep their talent busy.

The Fast and the Frugal: Ad Consumption in the Digital Age

The digital age demands fast, cheap, and targeted content. As consumer behavior evolves, so must our approach to creating ads that resonate. The rise of digital and social media ads means brands must quickly adapt to capture Gen Z's attention, requiring content creators to be agile and authentic.

Streaming Giants and the In-House Revolution

Streaming services have transformed the landscape, leading to industry layoffs and a move towards in-house marketing teams. This shift has external creatives searching for work and has upended the traditional advertising production model. However, client-direct production offers a glimmer of hope for smaller agencies.

The Personal Toll: Staying Afloat in Uncertain Times

The industry slowdown has taken a personal toll on many, from financial stress to self-doubt. It's a time for introspection, growth, and finding joy in new pursuits. The lull doesn't define your worth or talent, and it's essential to remember that during these trying times.

The Power of Connection: You're Not Alone

In this period of uncertainty, connecting with peers can be a lifeline. Freelance life comes with freedom and challenges, and having a support network is vital. We encourage you to reach out for one-on-one conversations and support, as these connections can help us navigate the storm.

An Invitation to Reach Out

We invite you, our listeners, to engage with us. Whether you're facing work challenges or need a sympathetic ear, we're here to listen and support you. Sharing experiences and connecting with others in the industry can provide the strength needed to persevere.

Join us as we continue to explore the complexities of producing in today's climate. Stay dedicated to your craft, embrace the power of community, and keep pushing forward. Until next time, keep creating, keep connecting, and keep the faith.

Read the Transcript!

Lawrence Lewis - I know what everyone's thinking. Where the fuck is all the work? It's been really slow for a lot of people. I know there are a lot of people that are working, but I know the majority of people are really struggling right now, and that's what we're here to talk about today. On this episode of Producers Happy Hour, we're going to dive into what is happening or what we think is happening, sister.

Sister Christian - I mean, yeah, we can totally tell you what we think is happening. We hope that it makes you feel better. Right? Because now we're all kind of spiraling, wondering who it is, wondering what it is. So it may not be a solution, but it could be the reason and help you, you know, navigate this time right now because it's very we're in very, very weird times.

Lawrence Lewis - We are. So stick around to the end because we just want to make sure you know that you're not alone. And we'll have some ideas on how to get through these rough times.

Lawrence Lewis - Grab a drink and let's go. You're listening to Producers Happy Hour. I'm Lawrence Lewis and I'm.

Sister Christian - Sister Christian.

Lawrence Lewis - And we're here to help you unravel the complexities of film and commercial production.

Sister Christian - Whether you're a seasoned producer, a production executive, a bitter, or a key part of the production team, we're here to equip you with the insights that I know Lawrence and I wish we had when we started out.

Lawrence Lewis - So you can navigate today's production challenges, conquer those demanding clients, and unlock the magic to seamless production.

Sister Christian - All with a cocktail, of course. So grab a drink, say goodbye to the gatekeepers, and let's dive into the art of producing. Oh. Hi, Lawrence. How are you?

Lawrence Lewis - I'm doing okay. Fortunate enough to be working. So I am a little crazed right now, but it's been a while. Like, I had a long time off, and it started to be like, Well, what's happening? Fortunately, things are coming through my way, but I know a lot of people aren't, and I get a lot of emails from people.

Lawrence Lewis - And, yeah, we need to talk about this.

Sister Christian - Oh, yeah. I mean, the emails are the thing for me because I've always struggled with reaching out to people and saying, I need work because I know how I feel when I receive them. Like I feel bad that I can't help. I feel guilty that I if I am working, I feel, yeah, like just it's so many emotions come up and we, we know that we can't control the world. I wish, you know, boy, if I were in charge. Oh boy. Let me tell you how much better it would be. But since we don't like, I know how I feel. So I've always struggled reaching out. But, I mean, I do think that reaching out still builds that community that we always talk about. So it's important like. And we have been getting inundated. Right.

Lawrence Lewis - Yeah. We're gonna dive in, but we need a drink. Christian, what are you drinking for? What are you drinking for? Happy hour?

Sister Christian - I'm just having my good old standby.

Sister Christian - A nice dirty martini. You know, kettle one a little bit, you know, some olives and, a prayer.

Lawrence Lewis - And a wish. Great.

Sister Christian - Anything.

Lawrence Lewis - You know, I've never had a sloe gin fizz before, but thinks that since things are slow, a slow gin fizz, 1.5oz of sloe gin, one ounce of lemon juice, freshly squeezed, of course. Three quarter ounce simple syrup, club soda, lemon, cherry, whatever you got. I'm going to be honest, I didn't have time to make it, so I'm just I have an IPA, but I wanted to talk about a sloe gin fizz.

Sister Christian - Sounds delicious. But before we get started, have you ever listened to one of our episodes but wanted to hear more than what we can fit into a 30 minute show?

Lawrence Lewis - I always want more. So we've got all the resources, links, and some current industry news and other information that you need to stay on top of, plus bonus insights that we didn't really get a chance to mention in the episode, and it all gets delivered to your inbox for free.

Sister Christian - It's called our episode guide. It gives you more insight into each topic, into our interview guest, and each industry happening that you need to stay on top of. It comes out every other Tuesday, which is the same day our new episodes drop.

Lawrence Lewis - To get it, just click on the link in our show notes or go to Producer's Happy Hour Comment Guide and we'll send you all the goodies. Let's dive in. You know, this episode came up Christian because we had one of our boot camp students kind of ask us straight up, hey, what the hell is going on with the jobs? With the industry? What's going on? Are we going on strike again, which I have some dirt on. You wrote a very thoughtful email with a lot of insight that I thought it would be worthwhile to share with the whole audience.

Sister Christian - And when I was writing this, I was like, how is this flowing so quickly? And it was because I do like there are what I would say 5 to 7 different reasons that are all coming together as a head.

Sister Christian - And I do feel like we're in the middle of an industry shift again, you know, like a reset. So I mean, even beginning to predict how we're coming out of this is not not prepared for that yet. But yeah, I mean, I do feel we got here pretty quickly. Yeah. Over the course of the last few years. And here we are.

Lawrence Lewis - Here we are so kind of kicking it off. One of the reasons, if the question is where are all the jobs, what's going on with the industry?

Sister Christian - Why is it so slow.

Lawrence Lewis - Union negotiations, they're happening. And there's been a bunch of back and forth between freelancers and unions lately, and they are hashing things out in my friend. I don't know when this episode comes out, but at the time of this recording, a friend of mine, his friend, a friend of a friend. So it's all hearsay. Take it with a grain of salt.

Sister Christian - I love it. This is my favorite kind of.

Lawrence Lewis - He's awesome.

Lawrence Lewis - He's on the negotiating team at IAC, and the word is they're close to making a deal.

Sister Christian - I know the stomach to strike is not there. Right. And last year was I mean, like, we know that we're in this predicament now because of last years. Part of the reason why is like we were on strike last year and the stomach to strike again is just not there.

Lawrence Lewis - And don't get us wrong, everybody should be getting paid what they're worth. And we do need to make make some advancements in this industry to make it a little more humane. But yeah, I think people are desperate to get back to work.

Sister Christian - I think that savings were depleted. I think that, you know, people were shuffling houses like they were doing all kinds of things to support, you know, like they were making sacrifices in order to support. And there's only so much blood you can get from a stone, right?

Lawrence Lewis - None. The thinking is that the negotiations may be a spook some of the agencies into committing to larger jobs here in the US, at least.

Lawrence Lewis - I think a lot of stuff's going overseas. Yeah, I think that's a kind of a bit of it. Right.

Sister Christian - I do, I think that right now, the last thing, because it happened last year, last year we saw two weeks before the SAG strike was official streaming services. Everybody was canceling everything left and right because they were nervous even about it. So big agencies are not committing right now because the last thing they need is to have a job canceled because of a strike.

Lawrence Lewis - Yeah, exactly.

Sister Christian - So another big one that has happened.

Lawrence Lewis - To town.

Sister Christian - To town. This one's an interesting one. This ties back to the I keep, in my opinion. So big agencies as we know for years have started their own in-house production companies, quote unquote. And they don't have signed directors because that would be a conflict. They do triple bid internally. So they and they keep the jobs in-house because that means the markup is just kept all in under one roof. Even the ACP recently put out a letter warning companies don't loan out your directors, which is originally I think is called white labeling or something.

Sister Christian - Right. which I know that term is bad. It's warning production companies not to loan out their directors. But honestly, if there's no work going around and you've got signed directors on your roster, how are you supposed to pay them? Yeah, yeah. But it actually encourages agencies to keep the work in-house. More. See, I remember when the, when this, this whole big thing started with agencies doing their own production companies, the creatives would complain that the directors were not caliber because they weren't the big sign directors at the big companies. So now now if you're giving agencies, your big directors, then what's the incentive to ever come back to you again. So yeah that's part of the slowdown I feel is in-house agency work.

Lawrence Lewis - All right. So here's another thing. We talked about this before on the podcast. But like the the way people are consuming commercials is changing. We've known about it for years. I remember coming back I filled in for an EPA at a company like in 2016 or something like that in New York, and I came back to LA and I'm like, warning, warning, warning.

Lawrence Lewis - Like it's just not a thing or it's a, it's a dying thing that the, you know, million dollar, 32nd commercial, close your eyes and picture a time when we all watched from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m..

Sister Christian - Three channels must see TV.

Lawrence Lewis - Yes, the entire country watched three channels and then maybe four. Yeah. Fox. That's how we saw ads. But it doesn't work that way anymore. And no one's attention span 30s I don't even watch 30s of a TikTok. You know, it's like, oh, you got to get in. You got to get it out. And the way we consume content is changing and it's obviously having an impact. Ads need to be fast and cheap because they're so disposable. And I'll say this again, I probably stood on this podcast before. I remember talking to a CMO of like some cosmetic brand and they, you know, their budget for video content used to cover two national broadcast ads a year. That's what they had. That's what they could do in order to keep up with just the current marketplace of content, they needed to produce 50 pieces of content a month with the same exact budget.

Sister Christian - Which is just. Yeah.

Lawrence Lewis - So you can see how. And yeah, of course, it doesn't all have to be a, a big, you know, national spot, but still you're taking that money, dividing it up because each, you know, it's more targeted, it's more focused. And, you need more of it, more consistency.

Sister Christian - Have you ever wanted to take your commercial film production skills to the next level?

Lawrence Lewis - I always do. Based on that, we've got something special for you. We want you to join us for our very first in-person producers boot camp.

Sister Christian - That's right. It's super exciting. You're hearing it here first on Sunday, April 28th, 2024. Coming up very soon in Santa Monica, California. We, Lawrence and I are hosting a half day immersive deep dive into the art of commercial film production.

Lawrence Lewis - I mean, talk about community and mentorship, right? We're finally got someone kicked us in the ass. His name's Jordan Brady, and he's like, just fucking do it.

Lawrence Lewis - So we're doing it. We're gonna be in person and we're gonna we're gonna import all of our knowledge into your brains. Limited spots are available just to make sure that everyone gets personalized attention. It's going to be a very small group. So grab your seat now.

Sister Christian - And we're so fortunate to be presenting alongside Jordan Brady's commercial directing Boot Camp. This workshop is your ticket to mastering the intricacies of producing stellar content at top tier levels.

Sister Christian - That's right.

Lawrence Lewis - Elevate your filmmaking skills with insights covering everything from deconstructing director's treatments to negotiating agency and client relationships, all from the producer's point of view.

Sister Christian - This course runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for solid hours and is only for 95. Hell, that's a bargain. Plus, it's the day after Jordan Brady's Director's Bootcamp, so you can make it a weekend of learning and growth.

Lawrence Lewis - And as a special bonus, we're offering a $100 discount to everyone who is participating in Jordan Brady's commercial directing Boot Camp.

Sister Christian - Head over to Producers Happy to secure your spot today. Which kind of leads us into number four, which is social media.

Sister Christian - So I've seen in the last year or so the importance of the digital ad versus the broadcast ad becoming more important. And equally for sure equally as important, but almost more important than the broadcast ad right that that happens in treatments, that happens in agency briefs. So that's what I've been seeing. And then adapting that to how Gen Z, views ads. And so it's all social media. So brands are basically scrambling to figure out what grabs their attention. It's a trial and error basis for sure, because you don't know what's going to work until it fucking works, like trending and viral and all those lovely words for you. what's on your for you page? Like it? Well, if somebody doesn't like it, like, quote unquote, you know, you could, you know, smash that like button. If you're not smashing that, then it's not working. And then the advertiser needs to pivot. And pivoting costs money. They've already spent money on these ads. And so so they want to spend less so that they can make a volume.

Sister Christian - And then they can they can put out and see what works. Now.

Lawrence Lewis - Yeah I was looking at some posts. This was a little while ago, I think last year on, on where spot somebody posted about, you know, work being slow and some someone on a brand team commented that they get more ROI out of paying a content creator a couple hundred bucks to do a little user generated content than they do on commercials. They spend, you know, 300 grand on. So.

Sister Christian - You know, so beware for. Well, I think that I think that part of this, you know, like we'll get into like some things that you can be doing, but just know that the old attitudes of, oh, it's just for digital or oh, it's just for social media, don't do that. That absolutely will incite the person that you're working with because they are very important. This is how we consume advertising now. So think about that.

Lawrence Lewis - And we're gonna have a whole episode on that. I think the next episode with an agency called Loud and Clear, then that's exactly what they do.

Lawrence Lewis - They come onto your set and they capture all this social media and all the these assets, good producers these days, you need to know how to partner with them and make them feel welcome and give them what they need, because it's becoming more important. Even though you've got a team of, you know, 60 to 80 people and they've got a team of five, don't think that they're dismissible, they're not. So next, streaming services, they've had an impact on commercial production. Really? Yeah. You don't say, come on.

Sister Christian - They certainly have had an impact on not cable.

Lawrence Lewis - Yeah. Gone. Right.

Sister Christian - So you know, I mean it'd be silly to think that they didn't have an impact on advertising.

Lawrence Lewis - Yeah. You know it's like there's Amazon Prime, there's the Prime with commercials. There's a Prime without commercials. It's really shifted the game. And a lot of networks have kind of been trying to get into this space. And I think, you know, it's there's a lot of layoffs in this space.

Lawrence Lewis - So the whole streaming. Services industry is kind of a little bit up in arms. The shareholders want to see better books. and if they they're stopping, they're stopping producing content. I saw this documentary and it was like it was a race. Right? So Netflix is like, we're just going to spend, spend, spend our way into this huge market share. And they did it and they won the game. Congratulations. Now they've stopped producing all this content. They stopped producing all all these shows. That's a big part of the slowdown as well.

Sister Christian - Even though they need advertising for these, you know, ad based, you know, model that they have now they're creating that advertising on their own in studio. They're not going out to ad agencies. And then ad agencies are going straight to, you know, production companies doing triple bidding like that model is becoming ancient, which is another hot take. They're hiring their own marketing teams in-house. They're not going out to an ad agency, which is traditionally how the production company gets the money.

Sister Christian - So I see more and more production companies actually pivoting to client direct, which is a little bit of hope here. So clients normally have their own marketing teams, you know, that kind of thing. And the agencies have become, you know, we always have said it for years that agencies are bloated. They're taking 40%. You know, they it's so much out of a budget, like, say, a client has $3 million to spend on something. 40% of that goes in the agency's pocket. So really, once it gets to the production company, you have 600,000 to do a job. It's not 3 million.

Lawrence Lewis - And we've met so many people through this podcast, through producers boot camp that are involved in these small direct to client agencies or production companies. You know, it's a team of one or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 people, and they can get shit done for ten grand, 50 grand, a hundred grand, and they're saving on the ad agency fees as well.

Sister Christian - That coupled with like how social media is now is vertical.

Sister Christian - Yeah.

Speaker 4 - Yeah.

Sister Christian - You're not looking at this cinematic 16 by nine, right. things can be like iPhone is cinema quality now. I mean, like there's no bones about it. People are able to film ads on these things, and those are more desirable because they can. Well, not only they fast and cheap, don't get me wrong, but they're authentic. And what we're hearing have been hearing for years now is on. Authenticity is what's required, because people are no longer willing to take the dream of airbrushed photo spreads and that kind of stuff. They want to know what they're getting and what it looks like on a real body, on real skin and or what? How it really drives. Sorry, Tesla truck, but you can't you can't just make these things. You actually have to be authentic. And so I think that part of the pushback that we're going to see, like as a brighter side here, is that we're going to start seeing more client direct, because the need for those oversold ideas from agencies and the bloat that comes around it are going to start to fall away.

Sister Christian - I think.

Sister Christian - We'll see.

Lawrence Lewis - Yeah, yeah. We're watching this in real time. Right. We're seeing oh yes, we're seeing the model reinvent itself. And I know people are always you know, we've heard a couple from a couple people. It's like, oh we're here. It's going to be slow until next year. Oh we hear it's going to be slow until blah blah blah. Nobody knows. Nobody knows. Right.

Sister Christian - Because we all said that like oh 2023 fuck off. Goodbye now. 2024 is a new year, new time. We're all going to be it's coming back.

Lawrence Lewis - In 20s.

Sister Christian - Here we.

Sister Christian - Are. Yeah.

Lawrence Lewis - So you know I know it's for for a lot of people. It's a really, really, difficult, challenging time right now. It's devastating. Devastating for sure. And you know, I there's no time I, you know, I know you want to hang on to something, but there is no timeline. We were just gonna have to weather the storm. And and, you know, this is the time when you work on yourself.

Lawrence Lewis - You work on your websites, you reach out, you start finding other exciting things that bring you joy and and hopefully things come back to the way they were. But I think, you know, this is a contraction that's happening.

Sister Christian - It's not like I'm I'm still dealing with this and this is I mean, just to be transparent, completely, transparent and authentic for a moment, like I always am. I'm struggling. Yeah. Like the thoughts that creep in in our industry of like, well, did I do something on the last job to not get me hired for the next one? Maybe if I would just have masked a little bit better and been more pleasant and said, no, of course, no problem. Instead of bringing up the the instead of communicating the pitfalls that I might have found like which I know, I know that that can be super spiral right? Three A. You're like, okay, why am I thinking these thoughts? It's hard, but just know that it's not you. Whether or not you're working right now and you are fortunate to be working, or you're unfortunately not working, like there just isn't a lot of work going on right now.

Sister Christian - So it's definitely not you.

Sister Christian - It's them and them is them. It is them.

Lawrence Lewis - Well, I hope analyzing it all and talking about it makes people feel better. I know we're not throwing jobs out to the audience, but, at least, you know, understanding what's going on in this industry, you know, maybe feel makes you feel a little more grounded. And I, hope things change for people who are struggling right now.

Sister Christian - Yeah. I mean, I still have hope. I do like, I, I think that this is a time. Sure.

Sister Christian - Sure hope. Sure you hope with us.

Sister Christian - Well, I mean, this is the time that I've been connecting with people that I, You know, it's been a while, so reaching out and just connecting, it's, commiserating a little bit or just hearing what their thoughts are. I mean, it's the validation. It's it's the. Because I know when we get super busy and we are working jobs back to back, like, you don't have time for those things.

Sister Christian - And I remember, I, I remember why I chose freelance was like, I can pick my own hours. I get to work with who I want to, I can take a vacation, whatever I want, which was all the things we used to tell our things, right? But it's true. Like, this is the time right now that I'll wish that I had later. Yeah. If you want to talk to somebody about this, if you are going through something that, you know, like if you would like to add your $0.02 to this, sign up for these office hours that we do, because I can tell you, we talked to people quite a bit out there, and there is a theme going on right now. Yeah, of, you know, this. And so we are happy to talk to you one on one about this too because and just listen. Yeah. If you need somebody to listen that with no judgment. And who is going through the same thing you are, we're here for you.

Lawrence Lewis - Absolutely. You can grab time with us for office hours on our website. Producers happy Just scroll down to Free resources. There's also a link in the show notes to schedule some time with us. We'd love to chat.

Sister Christian - Well love it like. In fact.

Sister Christian - We always go long because it's.

Sister Christian - Like, oh, and then this. Yeah, yeah.

Sister Christian - Or you got any hot gossip? Fucking fucking sign up. We'd love to hear that. Or you want to talk about not work.

Sister Christian - Totally. Let's do it. You got some.

Sister Christian - Beef with your neighbor? I'm down.

Sister Christian - So. Yeah. Let's go.

Sister Christian - It's your 30 minutes.

Sister Christian - So.

Lawrence Lewis - Christian, how did people get Ahold of you if they want you?

Sister Christian - Oh, and and Laurence, if they want you, how are they going to get you?

Lawrence Lewis - Bye, everyone.

Sister Christian - Goodbye.

Sister Christian - Thanks for joining producers happy hour.

Lawrence Lewis - If you got value from this episode, please don't keep it to yourself.

Lawrence Lewis - Spread the love by rating and reviewing us on Apple Podcasts.

Sister Christian - And let's be honest, we wouldn't have the show without you. Your feedback helps us to keep making this amazing content.

Lawrence Lewis - This show is brought to you by our editor, Brent Russell at

Sister Christian - and Christopher Daniels, who is our branding expert and one fabulous treatment designer.

Lawrence Lewis - So until next time, always remember making.

Sister Christian - It is hard.



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