Boiling frogs and famous skaters: it’s day 4 of the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer bootcamp

It’s almost the end of bootcamp for our NSI Lifestyle Series Producer students. Catch up with day four of training below. You can also read about day oneday two and day three.

Rachel Coe, Paperny Entertainment, interning on Yukon Gold

Rachel-Coe-photo

Rachel has been working with Paperny Entertainment for four years and is currently the associate producer on Yukon Gold for History Canada. She has a BFA in film production from the University of British Columbia.

“We had two great guests come in today—Toni Miceli from 11 Television to talk about scheduling and budgets, and Brenda Meyers from Candice Tells All to talk about the relationship between story producer and series producer. Al [Magee – program advisor for the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer course] also gave us a nice overview of the post production process, and how a series producer fits into it.

Toni and Al have worked together for many years and their strong relationship came across so clearly through their interactions today. The stories they shared and their dynamic underscored the importance of trust and respect between a series producer and line producer. Plus, I love that logistical side of the business, so it was fun to talk about it all morning and learn from someone as knowledgeable as Toni.

Brenda [Myers, story producer on Candice Tells All] gave us a great overview of what a story producer needs from her series producer. This was a huge help to me, since it’s an area I’ve had less exposure to. I look forward to getting more deeply involved in it when I’m back in Vancouver. Same for the post process.

Our entire day tomorrow is dedicated to deconstructing You Gotta Eat Here with Steve Mitchell. It should be a great last day.”

Melissa Smith, Big Coat Productions, interning on Love it or List it

Melissa-Smith

Melissa has been a member of the Big Coat Productions team for the past five years. During this time she’s fulfilled many roles and is currently acting as the on-set producer for the Gemini nominated W Network series Love It Or List It.

“Another successful day filled with so much learning.

The morning started with Toni Miceli discussing the importance of scheduling and budgeting – and the direct impact they have upon one another. Toni’s level of experience, wisdom and passion was quite inspiring. The budget directly impacts every decision that is made in production and it is crucial that a series producer clearly communicate with the budget controller to discuss any potential changes or adjustments that may be made to the schedule or creative. Through frank discussions you can work together as a team to determine where the budget can give to accommodate creative/scheduling and where it cannot. Know your tax credits, contracts, bank loan agreements, budgets and deliverable dates. Even a minor decision made without considering these factors can be extremely detrimental to production.

Al Magee and Toni provided the group with some insight into organizational techniques and templates. Organization is the key to maintaining a schedule, and a well-planned schedule is the key to meeting your broadcaster deliverable dates. Meeting your deliverables is crucial to staying on budget – in your role as a series producer this is one of your top priorities. These are certainly organizational templates that will be helpful reference tools in the future.

Brenda Meyers of Fusion Television provided some excellent perspective with regards to what a story producer and crew need from a series producer. A series producer needs to have a diverse background in order to successfully lead teams in various departments, while trusting in the team that supports the production. Brenda and myself seem to fulfill similar roles for our respective employers, and it was interesting to hear her perspective on some parallel experiences.

I am eager to add to my tool-box of skills during our final day of the training course and throughout the two month apprenticeship that lies ahead.”

Christina Velocci, Architect Films, interning on Decked Out

Christina-Velocci

Christina is a communications graduate from York University and journalism graduate from Humber College. She has been working in the television industry for over seven years. Her experience includes television news as a production coordinator, videographer / reporter and, most recently, a news writer. Her current position is in lifestyle television as a researcher/coordinator at Architect Films

“Big day from the prospective of the production manager. One major lesson I learned is that you need a good PM because the amount of numbers and logistics they deal with on a regular basis requires organization, accuracy and attention to detail.

That said, it is obvious that a good series producer has to develop a symbiotic relationship with their PM in order to run a tight ship and, again, I have a new found appreciation for yet another member of my current team.

I have to say, I have been feverishly writing notes throughout all of the sessions on how I can apply certain principals to my current job. I think the leadership skills are applicable to any situation and if I can successfully apply them in my current position, it will better prepare me for when I do become a series producer.

I think one of the most important points for me today – from all the speakers – was about organization. Each speaker had organized their work with paper after paper and category after category. And all that paperwork makes for accessible and available information for everyone on the team. I’m a pretty organized person but I was definitely reminded that there is no such this as being too organized. I will be reassessing my own work folders when I get back to work.

Finally, it was great to hear from a story producer [Brenda Myers, story producer on Candice Tells All]. I hope that will be my next step on the road to series producing. Hearing how she goes about her daily duties was very interesting. As well as hearing how the same story producing position can be a little different with each show you work on. I’m learning throughout this seminar that jobs are not finite, each position has fluid and changing responsibilities depending on the production.

One more day to go, can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Kate Green, Frantic Films, series TBD

Kate Green

Kate has over 15 years experience working in the film and television industry as a producer, director and writer. Kate’s passion and enthusiasm for each project is what drives Kate to produce quality entertainment on time and on budget regardless of genre. Find Kate on FacebookTwitter,LinkedIn and at Kate Green Productions.

“If you haven’t noticed already the entire group of participants are all women. I think this is really inspiring as the role of series producer is that of a leader. I am totally humbled to be mentored alongside such talented and articulate women who are going to be the next generation of leaders in lifestyle and factual television. Look out world (insert Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air moment) here we come! That being said, it was the morning after Bachelor Canada and needless to say we were all talking about Brad.

We started the day with Toni Miceli who spoke to us on the relationship of line producer and series producer. I have line produced and production managed in the past but it was an excellent opportunity to be reminded that your decisions as a series producer affect everything that the line producer does. Your goals and the line producer’s goals are not always the same. Your creative decisions have a financial impact. Once again communication is key.

I think Toni summed up this relationship best when she said that you and your line producer should be like Frick and Frack. I also learned from Toni that wearing high heels that make a clicking sound as you walk down the hall does instill a little fear into people when they hear you coming. I also learned that I will never enjoy snakes, spiders or rats being on a show that I work on.

Mr. Magee then led us through the post production process and I learned another thing about his career that actually made me a little star struck. One of his first jobs in television was on Lorne Green’s New Wilderness. I loved that show as a kid and always wondered how they captured the animals doing what they were doing. The truth, of course, is that they didn’t. Al went through the explanation of how they would always have three story lines and how they would be played out throughout the acts. It’s a strange feeling when you know you’ve learnt something really great and your childhood illusions are smashed all at the same time. Thanks Al. I think we probably could have spent a whole day on post but the examples of schedules that were given and the outlines that were reviewed were excellent.

We ended the day with story producer Brenda Meyers. We looked at Candace Tells All as a case study and backdrop for the discussion on what your story producer needs from a series producer. However, from my own experience as a story producer and from listening to Brenda I think it boils down to:

  • Getting their time and attention when you need it
  • Clear communication
  • The series producers ability to make decisions especially when time is of the essence
  • Not to be micro-managed
  • Trust. You trust them to be there for you when you need them and they trust you to get the job done.

I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day. It has gone so fast and there has been a lot of wisdom shared with us. However there are some reoccurring themes like clear communication, pick your battles, don’t micro-manage, leadership through inspiring your team, and of course Brad Smith.”

Jessica Vander Kooij, Cineflix, interning on Property Brothers

Jessica-Vander-Kooij

Jessica has been working on Property Brothers since its first season launch, most recently as an associate producer. Over the last 10 years in the industry she has worked on several lifestyle series and in live morning news as well as various awards shows.

“With each passing day I’m feeling more and more comfortable asking questions. I feel that sometimes I can be afraid to ask questions because people will think I should already know the answer. Sometimes I may think I know the answer but I like having other people’s perspective on different scenarios. I think it’s really important in our overall learning process. All the speakers, class participants and Al himself seem happy to answer each and every question we all have.

Every student has different work experience and every production can have a different way of working. Hearing insight from other industry experts and tapping into their daily workflow is so fascinating. I can’t say enough how refreshing it is to hear how open people are about sharing their experiences with us.

Like I admitted yesterday, in my blog, I don’t have vast experience working on budgets as well as production schedules from start to finish. Toni Miceli from 11 Television definitely brought those of us that don’t have the experience up to speed on the duties and importance of having a good line producer on your team. Also the importance of working together as a unit is crucial to ensure the productivity of a show. Without it, chaos will certainly ensue. Sorry I can’t share the stories that were shared as examples, I am bound by the rules set on Monday and our ‘cone of silence.’

I think I have a new-found respect for the people that work in this industry. It’s not that I didn’t respect them before but since being a part of this program, over the past few days, I feel it has multiplied. People pour themselves into their projects from all different aspects and I think it really shows. Thanks to every person that has paved they way for us today, we wouldn’t be here without you.”

Ann Whiteway, Cellar Door, interning on Chef Michael’s Kitchen

Ann-Whiteway

Ann fell into the television industry in 2001. She spent the last 11 years with Cellar Door Productions working on lifestyle, children’s and documentary programming.

“Another incredible day. Thank you to Toni Miceli and Brenda Myers for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come in to speak to us.

We talked a lot this morning about how production is a collaborative effort and, within that, everyone should have a bit of what they want. How before creative decisions are made, producer should check with line producer or production manager to see if it’s in the budget to make those changes.

The post process was very interesting to me as I don’t have a lot of experience with post and the more information here, the better. Tips like watching the show with the sound off so you really see it – see what’s missing and what is being overused – are invaluable. How important production and post systems are, updating them on a regular basis and sharing those updates with key stakeholders; how important a post production supervisor is and what they can bring to the show.

We then moved on to story and how to write for a lifestyle series which was great. It was helpful to see how a script for lifestyle is set up. We talked about beat sheets and what the story producers role is in the office and on set and how the work with the series producer.

While my blog is short, the information from the day was not. I am really looking forward to putting everything I’ve learned today into practice.”

Nicole Butler, RTR Media, interning on Mother of the Bride

Nicole-Butler

Nicole has been working in television production for over 15 years. She is currently working as a line producer for RTR Media with credits including Mother of the Bride for Slice and Summer Home for HGTV Canada. She holds an undergraduate degree in film studies from Queen’s University and an MFA in screenwriting from York University. 

“Today we heard amazing insights from people who work daily collaborating with series producers. Line producer and executive in charge of production Toni Miceli and story producer Brenda Myers both led candid sessions on their roles in the production process and how they interact with the series producer on any given project.

Toni Miceli described the give and take between creative and financial that so deeply reflects what television production is all about. Since she and Al Magee have worked on so many projects together they shared producing tools they have developed to ensure creative and financial are always being taken care of. I won’t forget their description of trying to save ‘boiling frogs’ every day on set. A great analogy for why it’s important to catch small problems before they become big.

Toni also described a series producer and a line producer as Frick and Frack. A duo in constant communication to work out production, financial and schedule needs. Since Frick and Frack is so fun to say, I had to look up its origin. From Wikipedia: Frick and Frack were two Swiss skaters known for skating in Alpine Lederhosen and performing eccentric tricks on ice including the ‘cantilever spread-eagle’ and ‘rubber legs,’ twisting and bending his legs while skating in a spread eagle position. Only a few skaters have successfully performed the duo’s routines since. Did you know that? It’s an entertaining way to think about how an excellent team can pull things off.

Al Magee then walked us through the post process and specifically how a series producer creates an edit guide for her/himself and others. We were able to see how a generic breakdown of a series is created and is a capture tool to provide consistency from episode to episode, feedback for production, and acts to record consistent network and executive producer notes on a series. The discussion of post again pointed to the fact that as a leader the series producer must self-manage, always finding ways to track systems and be prepared.

Story producer Brenda Myers gave us a window into the necessary tools for story to thrive in a series. Her process and how it feeds into the wider needs of a series shows the collaboration required to get through a production successfully.”

Program manager Brandice Vivier – who runs the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer course – is also writing about bootcamp. Read about day oneday twoday three and day four.

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