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Producers on Producing Post Production Part 3

If editing is consider “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 3 Resumes, Hiring, and the Future of Post

Post Producers are usually responsible for hiring Coordinators, Production Assistants, Editors, and even Assistant Editors. Since many resumes cross their desks, I thought it was worth asking them about how to make a resume standout and how to engage in the interviewing process.

Gobler

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to break in, or like a P.A. who’s kind of in but looking to grow their career? 

Danylevich

If growth is the goal, chase down the most difficult jobs you can. There’s no other way I would’ve been able to move into post producing after being on a show for two years. There’s no way. So, where it may be uncomfortable, it may seem crazy, that’s definitely like an opportunity for growth, if you look at it through a different lens. As far as specific career advice, I would say the mindset of no task being beneath you is really important. Even when I was post producing I was helping vendors lay cable and drill holes in walls in New York and that’s definitely not a typical post producer job. Typically you’re not handling physical equipment like that. It’s down to making sure the Showrunner has a specific type of water that he wants on the mixed stage. So it’s all the big picture stuff and also like the small stuff that makes a difference. I’d say don’t be afraid of leaning into the discomfort. We’re all human it’s supposed to be an uncomfortable journey if you’re really comfortable you’re probably not going to grow. And don’t don’t let your ego get in the way of doing tasks that you might otherwise think are beneath you.

Gobler 

And when you interview and hire post supervisors and post coordinators, what are some of the qualities that you look for? 

Phelps  

I look for somebody who’s flexible, because post changes every single day. So somebody who’s flexible and adaptable, as well as detail oriented. Those are the biggest things. I think post is pretty black and white. Personally, I think deliverables are deliverables, specs are specs, frame rates are frame rates, codecs are codecs, but what is most important is having somebody who can handle pressure and change every single day, with ease. 

Gobler  

And how do you uncover those things in your process? Is it something that you look for in a resume? Or, something that you look for in an interview? 

Phelps  

Resumes are hard. You don’t really get a lot from resumes. I want to meet somebody because I’m intrigued by a resume. But it really comes down to a recommendation and meeting with the person. I look at body language during an interview to see how nervous somebody is. I also look at how somebody talks about specs, because specs can be very nerve wracking for a lot of people, or codecs, or cameras. When somebody handles it with ease, that’s kind of how I determine if I think somebody can handle it, because, to me, it’s not that scary, but for a lot of people it can be scary. I don’t expect anyone to know everything, it’s impossible, but somebody who’s willing to learn and dig in.

Gobler 

And, before you mentioned that when you look at an intriguing resume it makes you want to meet with someone. What is an intriguing résumr? Do you have any examples or stories of something that you saw that caught your eye? 

Phelps 

I like when people put icons on their resume. It’s not often I see icons but if they are familiar with AVID I think that’s really key. Post supervisors don’t need to know AVID in a technical sense — that’s why we have AE’s — but I learned to Supervise on an AVID, so I look for somebody who values knowing Photoshop, knowing AVID, knowing After Effects, knowing Media Encoder, any of the programs because that shows me that they’re technical. And, if they have a little icon on it I think it makes it fun. 

Gobler 

It’s interesting that you don’t see very many technical post supervisors. Right? 

Phelps 

Yeah, I do not. I think post supervisors can be technical, but I don’t see a lot of them and sometimes I think they’re a little shy from it and they have AEs. If you have really good AEs they take care of all of your post needs from ingest to delivery, and you have editors around you, but I think it’s really important for me to: a) understand how long something takes, so that I can respect somebody’s time; b) understand what’s involved in that, so I understand what I’m asking someone to do, because I don’t believe in asking somebody to do something that I have no understanding of. And so I look for those qualities because I think a post sup who comes in and isn’t afraid to sit down in a bay, and troubleshoot with an AE, and have some input, is valuable.

Gobler 

What do you look for when you’re hiring? 

Stevenson 

Ok, so first of all, this is just saying it’s not a recommendation, because obviously with a recommendation from someone I respect I’m going to look at them no matter what. So if it’s just someone blindly that I don’t know, with no recommendation I look first at how their resumé is structured. Does it look organized and readable? Because if it’s got weird mistakes, and weird typefaces, and looks really odd, I’m gonna think how organized is this person? How does this person’s mind work? Do they have an organized mind? Or do they have a mind that’s all over the place? 

Then the next thing I’m going to look at is what their experience is and where did they go to school? If they don’t have a lot of experience, I want to know where they go to school? What did they study? Do they have a degree? I know there’s a lot of people that don’t have degrees but there’s also a lot to be said for completing a college degree and the type of critical thinking that you learn in college. And so if I had a choice between two people with the same experience, and one had a college degree in anything, I would choose that over the other person, just because, if all things were equal, that person would have that extra bit. I knew that they worked hard to get their degree. They know how to think and how to deal with situations.

I’d like to know that they had some kind of other jobs too. Even if you’ve been a barista or some other customer service jobs it shows that you know how to work with people. That you have some experience working out in the world, not just on some student films you’ve never had a job. And then of course when you bring them in for an interview, I just want to know can we work together. Can we get along. I always weigh in, even on the PA’s. I know some people just say to their coordinator, “just pick a PA who you like.” I like to weigh in on the whole thing to see how the whole picture is. It’s just do we connect as people? Can we get along? Are you organized? Do you want to be on this show? Why do you want to work on this show? And then just pick the best person for the job who’s also the best fit for: do we all get along? Can we work together? So there’s a certain amount of personality that goes into it.

Gobler 

When you look to hire people, is there anything that you look for? What’s your process? Let’s start with that. Anything you look for in resumes, or anything that you would look for in an interview. 

Holt 

Totally depends on the job. I think the common thing I look for is passion. I genuinely look for passion if I can try to find it because, to be honest, I made the joke about don’t get into post management. If you don’t like this it will not be fun. Especially post management. It’s not the most thankful job in the world. And the hours aren’t banker hours. So if you don’t like this, you will be miserable and seek opportunities outside of our entertainment world. But I would just recommend that you have this passion and you love working on the shows, you love working with people. So that is the first thing I look for.

It’s hard to assess this in interviews but, you can generally find out through either recommendations, or you can sort of gauge in interviews, but it’s work ethic. And I think that comes from passion. When you’re passionate about what you do you’ll work long hours and it won’t be work. I’m not saying you have to work long hours. I’d say the best people in the world I know could work for hours and get the job done better than some people work in 12. So I’m totally fine with that. If you are excellent at your job, if you can do that show and it only takes you four a day, Godspeed. Good for you. I’d love to find you because I would put you on two shows. Great, and you can make double money. That’s sort of the nature of my business now. So I’m looking for the passion. I think it really transcends almost everything else. 

Then general talkability. I think I got this advice. This is a good quote. When I was working with Kevin Smith I got this advice from him. We were gonna do a pitch. He was going to do a pitch to Netflix and I was helping him produce a show, and I had not worked with him because we were doing all of his feature films but I was really more of the TV guy, and they were gonna do the TV show. They brought me in and so I started spinning off all of my credits and he like stopped me. He’s like, “I’m assuming that if you’re in front of me that you’re qualified to do the job. I just want to know if I want to hang out with you for eight hours a day.” I was like “Oh, fair enough. Fair enough.” I think that is a level on which we also tend to overlook sometimes. If you are going to work eight plus hours on a Saturday together, I hope you like each other. I hope you have a genuine ability to get along. I think that’s really important.

I wrapped up each conversation by asking where they saw the future of post production going.

Gobler

Let’s start to work towards a conclusion by talking about the future of post-production. In terms of your thoughts about where you see the business going.

Danylevich 

I actually just had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine who is a VFX Supervisor that I’ve been working closely with for over a decade.  Like with everything else in our economy, there’s so much automation happening. So one thing that he said he was really looking forward to is how some of the more tedious stuff that is in visual effects is going to start getting automated like Roto. So I think that’s something that we’re probably going to start seeing sooner rather than later. And in some ways that’s really good in the sense that we’re not going to have to try to manage artists that are in India, but it also means that a whole workforce is going to need to find new jobs which is always the double edged sword. 

Gobler

And there’s also an element of “Today’s miracle is tomorrow’s expectation.”

Danylevich

Oh I mean my God! Yeah I mean that’s how the show was where every single time we made the impossible happen it sort of became the normal. It’s like “it’s no longer impossible you made it happen. So now that’s the expectation.” Absolutely. I think that’s the most challenging aspect of post-production, and we’re seeing it everywhere with visual effects. Everything is becoming more and more ambitious and so the expectation is more and more ambitious and it’s anyone’s fault.

Gobler 

The future of post, where is it going? How is it going to change in the next 10 years? 

Stevenson 

That’s always the big question. They talk about 8K but I can’t even perceive that. But I feel like the manufacturers of the equipment and the software are gonna want to keep pushing the envelope even if the naked eye can’t even perceive it. But yeah it’s definitely gonna be file based. And I do worry about people trying to move up because things get so compartmentalized in jobs that especially with assistant editors and editors it’s almost like Assistant Editor shouldn’t even be called that anymore because they can’t necessarily even move up. At least in scripted. I mean they do move up but they’re expected to do so much. They’re expected to cut in sound effects and they’re cutting in… I mean it’s ridiculous. Just for a temp cut they have to cut music. So they’re doing editing work just to show the network a cut. And then also editing is set to be outsourced because people can do it anywhere. So then you wonder about Hollywood. Like how much of it is gonna be in Hollywood? Is this system gonna last? Is the union system gonna ultimately last? To a certain degree as long as editors are part of IATSE, you obviously you production people, but I kind of worry about going into the future. Is a lot of it gonna be outsourced? Because there are a lot of talented people worldwide that can do it remotely. So I feel like everybody, even people that want to get into post or move up have to have a plan B and Plan C about what else you’re gonna do if it’s outsourced.

Liz Lipschultz contributed to this interview.