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Producers on Producing Post Production – Part 2

If editing is considered “the invisible art,” then the men and women who supervise a film or television show’s post production process are a part of something even more arcane and misunderstood.

Producers who specialize in post production can go by an assortment of titles: Post Producer, Post Production Supervisor, Co-Producer, or even Associate Producer. No matter the title, they all have one thing in common, they are vital to the smooth day-to-day operation of the post production process.

To give you an understanding of how versatile the job is I interviewed four Producers working in a variety of genres to hear in their own words how they think about their work. Over the next three months I’ll be sharing excerpts of our conversations.

What’s presented here is a compilation.

Part 2: People Management

Post Producers and Post Supervisors manage the Post Coordinators, the Post P.A.’s, and often the Assistant Editors (collectively known as the support staff). Speaking to my peers I discovered that many see themselves as a career coach for a show’s most junior members. They give their team the opportunity to try new things, and protect them from making career-ending mistakes.

Although the role isn’t generally considered a ‘creative’ one, the depth and breadth of a successful Post Producer’s responsibilities, and their ability to establish the show’s operating style, exerts influence in a multitude of ways.

Gobler 

Shifting gears to people management; who do you manage? What kind of team do normally have? 

Danylevich 

So on The Orville we had a core post production team that by the end of the second season is myself and then our amazing Post Supervisor, Sabina. Then we had a Coordinator and two PA’s just to handle the amount of stuff that came up so that we could delegate. Then, even though I didn’t directly manage all of the people in the visual effects department, I did have to work very closely with the Visual Effects Producer.

I guess on a typical day I would start out with checking in with everybody, because I saw a lot of my job as making sure I knew what was going on. I’ve always told people to CC me on everything. I’ll tell you to stop if it gets to be too much. Whether I was a coordinator, supervisor, P.A. whatever. But, particularly as the post producer I’m like “please loop me into everything.” Even if it’s a drive on for somebody, I don’t care, just tell me.

For me the management aspect of it…. I think that you know the aspirational pie in the sky is to empower everybody to do their best you know whatever that may be. And so I think for me what that means is going around and actually listening to people and trying to leave my ideas about the schedule or any sort of agenda at the door. And just checking in and being like, “hey like how are things going? Do you think we’ll hit this deadline? Talk to me. Tell me what you think is realistic or what do you see as a hurdle.”

Gobler 

How did you learn to be that kind of manager? 

Danylevich 

That’s a good question. I think it sort of was something that I developed from being managed myself. So I learned what styles of management worked for me and which didn’t. As far as like when someone was managing me what makes me want to bring my best? Or what makes me super resentful? I didn’t want to be the latter. I didn’t want to be someone who came in and just said: “well it has to be this way, so I don’t care.” That’s not the kind of conversation I ever want to have with somebody. So I think it’s like just the idea that there’s certain ways I’d been managed in my life, whatever job it was, that really worked for me and others that didn’t. That’s also to say that it’s not about making my employees the happiest employees in the world because that’s not my responsibility. At the end of the day it’s about the show and we just have to do what we have to do to get it done. 

Gobler 

So what’s one thing that kind of inspired you as a manager? One kind of habit that a manager you worked for did that you were like “oh this is what I want to do.” 

Danylevich 

The thing that’s coming to mind is actually a manager who was the last manager I had at a restaurant job, the last restaurant job I held. I’d been unemployed for like eight months before hopping onto The Orville, but also had this restaurant job. And, I was waiting tables on the weekends and was getting totally burned out. And the manager recognized that. And he approached me and basically was like, “hey look like I understand that you’re doing what you need to do, but it’s having an impact on the people around you and the company as a whole. With how burned out you are, is this a good fit?” And I got super defensive at the time, but then went home thought about it and the next day I told him, “you know what you’re right. This isn’t good right now. This isn’t a good fit.” So, even though it was really scary and I felt like I really needed the income, I left the job because it wasn’t good for my health. And it was brought to my attention by this manager who I was pissed at, but at the same time I was like he was right, you know? And he didn’t make it personal. He was like, “look we’re running a business here. We have to make sure that we’re all in it together.

Gobler 

We could do the flip as well. What’s a bad experience that you had that you were like, “I never want to do that to someone.”

Danylevich 

I mean I had a lot of those. There was a boss that I worked for that never raged at me specifically, but he would storm down the hallways raging, cursing up a storm and it’s like suddenly you’re walking on eggshells the whole time. And then there was another person, that I had worked for early on, that when I’d bring him concerns I had he would always brush them off even when they were very valid. And not only was it disrespectful but it also was kind of ignorant not to listen to people around you that may see things that you don’t.

Gobler 

So let’s talk about people management a little bit. How did you learn those skills? First off, describe a little bit about when the light bulb went off like, “oh there’s a people management component to this job that maybe I need to bulk up my skills on, or be more aware of.” 

Holt 

Some people are born innately as nurturers and then a lot of it comes from experience. I think every job I’ve ever had up until now is still a learning experience: what can I learn about this person? And the more personalities you work with, the more you get to learn. And then the longer you’re in this business, you know how you want to be treated yourself. You know what’s my path? What’s my career path? What bosses have I had that I like, don’t like, and for what reasons? Similar to parents. I think parenting is not too dissimilar. You learn from your parents what you like, and what you don’t like, and how you want to be treated. And you try to apply that to your kids. It’s very similar to working in the industry.

Gobler 

So would it be fair to say that you feel that your role as a supervisor is to understand the trajectory of people on your team and to help facilitate getting from where they are today to where they want to go, amongst other things? 

Holt 

Amongst other things. I say it depends on where you are. On the show level, yes but probably to a little lesser degree. If you’re managing someone on a show, it’s harder to do that because sometimes they’re freelance on that show and they might not be in that same company or realm forever. So if I have an AE on one show and I transition to another show, it might not be the same AE, so it’s a little bit more of a challenge to do that and try to look out for the big picture. When you know you’re going to be around people for a long period of time, that’s the number one challenge. When it’s on the short term, then what keeps me up at night is am I doing a good job communicating to them what the daily needs are, what the weekly needs are, what the monthly needs are, so that they’re not surprised. I’ve come to find everybody, because of those different personalities, will have a different reaction to different levels of stress and trying to mitigate surprises tends to help that tremendously.

Gobler 

What do you agonize most as a manager of people? 

Phelps 

I would say if people feel happy and respected. I want to make sure that people, whether it’s the bottom or the top, feel like everyone is giving them the best that they can and I don’t want anyone to feel unheard. 

Gobler 

Can you elaborate on that a little bit? What do you mean by feeling hurt? 

Phelps 

So, I think everyone has ideas. And a lot of times, you know what’s possible not possible. But, instead of cutting somebody off, I want to hear them out. I want to say “well, why do you want to do that? How do you achieve that?” And then, oftentimes, based on budget, I have to say “well, that’s not doable because of X Y and Z,” but I want to make sure that we’re addressing concerns by everyone and explaining why something is achievable, and why some things are not, so that way everyone has an understanding. As opposed to just, “no, you can’t do that.” 

Gobler 

For Post Supervisors or Post Coordinators, what are some of the more sticky conversations you have as a supervisor of those supervisors? 

Phelps 

I think the link between production and post can be really challenging and I’m a big proponent that anyone who works in post should work production and anyone that works production should spend some time in post. Oftentimes if somebody, whether it’s a coordinator or post supervisor, hasn’t worked in production they may have a harder time wrapping their heads around why something happened and why this came back the way it did. And, instead of working through it with production — like calling them up and saying, “hey, so I know that you guys shot this like this, and you know we can’t have that because of X Y and Z so let’s try to work through why that happened and how to prevent it in the future.” I think that’s what needs to happen as opposed to: “you shot this wrong don’t do it again.” So I think a phone call. That’s one of the things that I deal with a lot is trying to create the relationship between production and post. 

Gobler 

It’s like building a bridge as opposed to having an adversarial relationship. I experience that sometimes where, if something is back from the field, the first thing I like to do is to call the sound department, or the DP, and speak with them first, and then present it to the executives as a united front. Like, “this is what happened and just no finger pointing.” But it is hard. 

Phelps 

It is very, very hard. I’ve been in a situation where it’s very hard to understand but I think setting up the show and basically telling production: “here’s my cell phone, I want you to call me literally day or night. I don’t care if it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. I want to work through it with you right then, as opposed to after it’s all done. I feel like that really helps. And that goes a long way with production where they feel like, “OK post is on our side.”

Gobler 

What do you agonize over as a manager? 

Stevenson 

I think the biggest thing that is stressful to me is when you have someone that you’ve inherited as a worker whether it’s an assistant editor or a coordinator. Somebody that’s on the show before you, or you’ve had to hire them because of a nepotism hire, and that person doesn’t perform well. And I’ve had a situation with an assistant editor and also a PA where I couldn’t get them to do the job. I mean the PA was always on the phone. I couldn’t fire him because of the person that referred him. And I kept trying to coach him and this and that and he just was always, “huh? What?” And I tried to get him engaged. It was really hard.

The other thing I agonize over, I would say agonize, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but that’s frustrating, is sometimes we have a situation now with credits. Credits is always a big mess. I think credits should start in production and have all that stuff dealt with and get to post and then post finishes up the process but this is not the case — we keep getting all these notes that are coming in and that starts causing a problem. Other problems are with facilities getting the time you want if your show changes, like your schedule changes, then you can’t get the time you want, or you might lose your mixers. 

I mean I feel like if you have a good team you can manage any challenge. So I don’t feel like…. Are there any other examples of things that maybe you’ve had challenges with or agonized over yourself that I could relate to maybe? 

Gobler 

What you said very much resonates with me. I agonize over when I have assistants who don’t get it, or they don’t hustle as hard as they need to, and you try and you explain or whatever else. And when it doesn’t work out, sometimes when you have to let them go, it never feels good to me, because I always feel like, “well was there something more that I could have done?”

Stevenson 

Yeah.

When I set out to talk to fellow producers, I wanted to hear whether their experiences were similar to my own. What I learned was that despite having different entrances into the business, we all shared similar traits, like a knack for problem solving and a passion for editing. In Part 3 of this series we talk about Resumes, Hiring and the future of post production.

Liz Lipschultz contributed to this interview.