Students attending the training bootcamp for our newest course NSI Lifestyle Series Producer are blogging about their experiences. Find out what they got up to yesterday on day two. Read about day one.
Rachel Coe, Paperny Entertainment, interning on Yukon Gold
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.
“Today’s speakers largely focused on on-camera talent: finding and working with them.
Daniel Gelfant touched on working with talent during his Pitchin’ In case study. Jocelyn Mercer and Connie Contardi spoke with us about finding talent. Jennifer Dyck shared her many experiences with managing talent and Drew Scott [Property Brothers] shared his perspective as someone who has been both in front of and behind the camera.
Each session hit home many of the same points. A successful series producer will come to know their talent very well and will be constantly accessible to them. By understanding their values and building that trust, you will be able to anticipate many issues before they flare up, and can work through the issues that do arise.
It is also crucial to remember the importance of talent and the vulnerable position they fulfill as the face of your show. They are your creative partners and the show does not exist without them. As Daniel said, the audience doesn’t care what problems the series producer faced – they only care about the final product, which is carried by the host.
This isn’t to say that the talent should get anything they want but it’s important to know what motivates them, what is important to them and what style of communication they need from you as the series producer. It will be different for each host you work with.
There were so many great insights that our speakers shared today and I was very grateful that they took the time to help us develop our knowledge base.”
Melissa Smith, Big Coat Productions, interning on Love it or List it
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.
“I feel like I’ve already completed a week of learning in just two days! Having said that I can’t wait to see what’s ahead of us for the remainder of the week, and I suppose my entire career.
As I rode home on the streetcar tonight my brain was whirling with the concepts/tips that have been discussed by the panel of experts over the past two days, and envisioning how I can practically apply them to production. This is both exhausting and invigorating, as I can’t wait to start ‘doing.’
The focus of discussions today was carrying out a creative vision, casting and host relations. The through line of the various speakers was the importance of communication – and I’m starting to think this may be the word of the week.
A veteran series producer shared with us the tools that are critical in executing the creative vision of a show, of which the key tool is the show bible. The creation of such a document is essential to conveying the vision and means of execution to a large team, it’s not written in stone and can/should be adjusted as the series evolves. I loved this series producer approach to the lifestyle genre. Authenticity is the name of the game: authenticity to your audience, to the host, to the vision of the series and to your interactions with all avenues of production.
We heard some inspiring battle stories of the struggles of development and concept creation, mixed with the importance of casting. Sometimes you just need that lynch pin character to make the whole thing work. The takeaway for me was don’t give up on a project you truly feel passionate about.
The importance of a series producer’s relationship to the host was described as one of the most important relationships for creating a successful series. I could not agree with this more. This relationship is so crucial that most of today was spent discussing avenues in which to build this relationship. As with most relationships this boils down to trust and communication: everyone needs to feel heard and valued.
Looking forward to another action packed day tomorrow.”
Christina Velocci, Architect Films, interning on Decked Out
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.
“Another fact-filled day wow!
It was great to see another successful ‘news person’ doing great work in the lifestyles industry. I really liked getting the notes on everything that goes along with the production of Pitchin’ In. I think it will make great reference material when I put together my own show bible one day.
There was a definite reiteration about balance and relationships both with the hosts and the network. All the speakers including Drew [Scott] from Property Brothers agreed that communication is key on all levels. Keeping information to oneself is the worst way to series produce. Everyone needs to feel as if they are in the loop and being heard.
We also focused on creating an idea for a show. Simplicity and accessibility seemed to be an ongoing theme. Finding characters that have a story, something they are invested in and following them on their journey. Clean story lines with authentic purpose is a great summation sentence I heard from Daniel [Gelfant] today.
As for casting, I found it very interesting how Connie [Contardi] and Jocelyn [Mercer] have found their subjects. They really just look in their own social groups for people who are interesting and have a skill that can be made into a show premise. The ladies also gave me a few ideas and tips for casting in difficult circumstances that I will be applying as soon as I get back to my job.
And when talking about talent, it was very exciting to here Jennifer Dyck talk about her experiences with big star personalities. I think in many ways she confirmed to me many things I have already learned in practice at my current job. Being your characters confidant and being truly interested in them and their lives is key to developing a good producer / host relationship. I have also found [it the same] to some degree with show participants that are only on for one episode. They want to feel important and heard, even if they are only a small part of the show.
Drew was great. It was nice to hear from a host, what they need and what is important to them in a series producer.
Excited to see what tomorrow brings.”
Kate Green, Frantic Films, series TBD
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 Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and at Kate Green Productions.
“We started the day with Daniel Gelfant from Frantic Films talking about the creative vision using Pitchin’ In as a case study.
Daniel really brought home the importance of having a clear vision of the premise of the show. If you have that clarity it will help you lead the team. Everything comes from knowing the premise. You are always looking for the clear storyline with an authentic motivation for the host/subjects.
That led us into our afternoon sessions that focused on characters and hosts starting with veteran casting directors/producers Jocelyn Mercer and Connie Contradi of CJ Mercon Productions. It was valuable to hear about their process in finding those big characters that have great stories. The recipe is as follows: they start by finding people that are larger than life and have that over-the-top ‘It Factor.’ They also need to have a special skill or interesting job and a world that is dynamic with other characters around them that engage the audience and are relatable. Finally they need to be great on camera.
Many things became really apparent to me when Jennifer Dyck, producer, and Drew Scott, host of Property Brothers, finished off our day talking about the relationship of the series producer and the host.
Your hosts/subjects are the face of the show. They are the ones that are on camera and will be praised or harshly critiqued for the show’s success or failure. As a series producer this is one of the key relationships that you need to nurture in order to make your show happen and be successful. Recognizing their strengths and remembering the small things, like what they take in their coffee for example, will pay off in spades especially when you need them to feel confident and have a willingness to try things they are hesitant to do. Hosts want to protect their integrity as the ‘expert’ and it’s important to respect their knowledge and need to be authentic in what they are saying. Gaining respect and trust is pivotal. It’s easy to label someone as a diva if they ask for specific things like a tuna sandwich for breakfast or three bottles of chilled water at high noon. But this is what they need to make your show great and the importance of these requests can’t be underestimated.
Yesterday Al Magee asked us to start thinking about writing a Showrunner’s Code of Conduct and today added another plethora of items to the list. I am so excited for the rest of the week and the pearls of wisdom that await.”
Jessica Vander Kooij, Cineflix, interning on Property Brothers
Jessica has been working on Property Brothers since it’s 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.
“What an inspiring day. Not only am I learning and gathering the necessary tools to become a series producer one day, I am feeling so motivated and inspired to move forward in my current role/career path and be the best that I can be for my colleagues and the show I’m working on.
As mentioned in my blog from yesterday I was having the feelings you use to get when it was the first day of school all over again as I prepared for this program. Today I’m having those feelings again when you knew you were learning something new and were so excited about what was going to come next. It’s a really rewarding feeling. I wasn’t sure what my expectations for the program would be when Cineflix first told me about it. Obviously I was excited and honoured to have the opportunity but I really didn’t know what the first week of training would really bring. It’s been so insightful and interesting. I just want more.
We are surround by such talented people in Canada and it’s so great to see how everyone wants to stick together and help when they can to keep the television industry growing and thriving. It’s really refreshing because sometimes in this industry people can get caught up and forget what’s really important. We love TV and want to make entertaining programming for the viewers at home.
My blog today wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t give a shout out to one of our speakers. I may be a little biased.
Drew Scott one of the hosts of Property Brothers (the show I work on) came in to give his perspective from a talent/hosts point of view. It was really interesting to hear from Drew in this capacity because talent/hosts are one of the key (if not the key) components of a great television show. Everyone we have heard from over the past two days can’t stress this enough. It’s a relationship that needs to be nurtured and not taken for granted. What’s that saying, ‘Happy wife, Happy life’? I guess you could say ‘Happy host, happy show.’ Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it but I think you know what I mean.
We have a common theme on Property Brothers. We say to homeowners when we are about to tackle their renovation: “Everything has to get a whole lot messier before it can get any better.” I believe that’s going to be my focus over the coming months. I’m going to have to break out of my routine and really shake things up (for myself). Because this is something I’m really passionate about and I will need to keep focused so I can continue to be the best that I possible can be.”
Ann Whiteway, Cellar Door, interning on Chef Michael’s Kitchen
Ann Whiteway 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.
“Well, day two was another amazing day full of great speakers with lots of information for me to assimilate.
Thank you to Daniel Gelfant, Jocelyn Mercer, Connie Contardi, Jennifer Dyck and Drew Scott for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come in to speak to us.
Quote of the day: ‘Help me help you!’
A few key things I learned today are that a series producer can’t be the same person to everyone. All team members have different needs and the series producer has to act accordingly. While you are responsible for a large series, you are still leading individuals.
Secondly, the series producer is the holder of the vision. They have to understand everything and ensure everyone has the same shared vision. They make sure all the pieces of the puzzle come together.
For most of the day we discussed the host/cast and their relationship with the series producer. While they can vary from show to show and person to person, here’s the top 10 list as I see it:
1. LOVE your host/cast.
2. KNOW your host/cast very well. You need to know what is going on in their lives to help anticipate any issues that may arise on the show. And you need to know how they will react when the camera turns on in different situations.
3. NEVER give the impression you are trying to ‘produce’ or trick your host/cast. They’ll know and will not like it.
4. ALWAYS listen to their concerns and work with them to find solutions.
5. RESPECT their knowledge.
6. COMMUNICATION must be prompt with your host/cast – don’t let a text, email or phone call go unanswered.
7. GET to the point – don’t waste time sugarcoating something.
8. GREET your host/cast on set each morning – you should be the first person they see.
9. Make up is the BEST TIME to go over the day with host/cast.
10. WALK them on set each morning.
It’s an interesting list and I don’t know if all hosts and series producers would agree with it – but it is a starting point.”
Nicole Butler, RTR Media, interning on Mother of the Bride
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 was, once again, a testament to the right-side, left-side brain power that series producers need to display. Our four panels of speakers addressed, with an amazing sense of clarity, how to develop and articulate the core storyline or episodic structure for a series, how to develop and nurture characters for factual entertainment and how to play to the strengths of the talent at the heart of a series.
It was great to be led through the exercise of defining creativity with expert series producer Daniel Gelfant. After years dealing with logistics and budgeting, I’m keen to explore more creative aspects of production, such as storytelling, which is definitely an area where I’m looking for more practice. Simply defining creative types as people who constantly ask ‘why not’, are constantly curious, delight in the nuances of life and celebrate other people’s passion reminds me how you can harness creativity in every facet of your daily experiences as long as you are willing to accept the idea that creative vision requires an ability to take risks.
I really appreciated the amazing package of resource material Daniel Gelfant provided us to look through. It showed the time, thought and preparation that is put into articulating the vision of a series. It was comforting (and yes, daunting) to see how you must put the work in to break down and organize the creative structure of a series. The series producer I’m working with on Mother of the Bride also displays a high degree of organization and preparation. He is always pushing the team to feed into and buy into the process of defining exactly how the series works. I see that it’s creative, it’s leadership and it requires an immense degree of clarity.
It seems you have to very efficiently articulate the needs of a series in order to get crew and talent to feed effectively into the process. But you absolutely cannot over-simplify what talent or your team is voicing to you.
In our next three panels we heard from the producers Jocelyn Mercer, Connie Contardi and Jennifer Dyck about supporting and nurturing talent and from the show host Drew Scott about his experiences. A great deal of the discussion focused around authenticity both on screen and off screen. It’s obviously a complex position to be talent. Supporting the talent and ensuring you are instilling confidence in your cast seems to be where many producers draw their passion for the job.”