Brandice has a scheduling and budgeting epiphany: it’s day 4 of NSI Lifestyle Series Producer bootcamp


NSI program manager Brandice Vivier is keeping us up to date on the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer bootcamp taking place in Toronto this week. Check out  day oneday two and day three.

Tomorrow is our last day. It feels like we started a month ago. When I think of all the speakers and information that’s been shared with the participants I’m amazed it’s only been four days.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow [Friday, October 19] for a number of reasons: Al [Magee – program advisor for the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer course] and Steve Mitchell’s plan for the day is fantastic. The participants are having their photos taken which is always fun to watch and I will be flying home to see my family again (I’m a giant suck and miss my kids and husband a ton. And my own bed).

I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit it’s going to be bitter sweet. I’d love to stay and see how the participants thrive during their apprenticeships. It’s going to be challenging for them but I have no doubt they are up for the challenge. I’d love to be here to help them celebrate their successes.

Before I go home tomorrow however, I should fill you in on what happened today.

Maybe it’s because I try to quash my nerd-like love for organization, puzzles and all things contract, but I was blown away by the obvious enjoyment Toni Miceli, line producer and executive in charge of production, gets from her job. Seems I’ve been looking at scheduling and budgeting all wrong. After listening to Toni talk enthusiastically about the relationship between line producer and series producer I realize I’ve been short changing the business side of this business. Creating an accurate and detailed schedule and budget is an art that takes a lot of creative skill. There is also an art to playing with those numbers you so carefully locked into your budget – agreeing to rent the jib because the running tally in your head tells you you’re under in another category, and it will make the show better. Now that’s a talent. I absolutely love how there’s room in this very creative business for a self proclaimed ‘lifestyle lifer’ who loves the business of it all.

I’m reminded of something a very smart woman once told me: you need all personality types on a successful production team. She likened it to a hospital. You need the drivers (the doctors), the expressives (nurses), the amiables (orderlies) and the analytics (the lab techs). The relationships and talents of each of those positions is integral to running the hospital. It would fall apart without one of those team members.

Arguably one of the most important relationships on a production team is that of the series producer and the line producer. The relationship needs to be incredibly tight – or as Toni called it, like Frick and Frack (I love that expression). They should be talking continuously to keep on top of scheduling, production and budgeting concerns and to ensure no frogs get boiled (Google the metaphor if you’re confused).

Toni and Al worked together for many years, so it made sense for Al to follow on Toni’s well heeled heels (she had on a pair of fabulous high heels) and walk us through the post production process.

Both Al and Toni are huge fans of creating systems and tools to keep you on track. Al shared his strategy of using a generic series rundown as his ‘capture tool’ to make sure the series stays consistent from episode to episode (sometimes a challenge with multiple editors), that the story beats are being hit, and to keep track of consistent notes. Creating the rundown also forces you to identify the value of each beat and to visualize the show and final series structure.

I can’t tell you how cool it is that someone who is so smart, so creative and so (insert expletive here) good at what he does has these really practical (and arguably geeky) systems in place.

There is of course a lot more to the post process than simply creating a generic rundown but I’d end up writing a book if I wrote it all down here. Lets just say you need to be insanely good at juggling. Instead I’d like to talk about our final guest(s) of the day.

Lindsay Vodarek from the Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA) – and one of the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer course sponsors – stopped in for the second time this week. She came bearing gifts (USB sticks with the terms of trade on them) and an offer which she made good on to buy the group drinks afterwards. But I digress.

John Gill, NSI’s CEO, stopped in for a quick visit to meet the participants. While waiting for us to finish up our post discussion John became fast friends with Brenda Myers, story producer on Candice Tells All and our final guest.

Now because of the ‘cone of silence’ we all swear to at the beginning of the course I can’t tell you everything we talked about because I’d be giving away trade secrets. I can tell you that we screened an episode and had a good laugh. I can also tell you that Brenda’s job is to be the series producer’s voice. She writes the scripts with her co-story producer Janice Shatford and monitors production on set every day to make sure they hit the story beats they need. I just made it sound really easy but in fact Brenda’s job is to manage the incredibly delicate balance between design and reality all while staying on brand.

Brand has been a big part of our discussions this week as it relates to hosts and the networks. Maintaining the network brand, maintaining the host’s brand, making sure neither of those get in the way of product integration’s brand. I can get completely lost – in a good way – in these discussions. However, while I’m willing to let my inner nerd out a little bit, I’m going to do it one geeky topic at at a time. So with that, I am closing the discussion on brand (my brand).

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