On January 30, I spoke with another ETC 2010 alumna currently at Electronic Arts: Theresa Chen, Features Producer/Assistant Producer 2 on the Sims 3 Expansion Pack team. Her background was as an artist/designer before discovering her knack for producing.
Her summary was that the “producer is there to make sure the rest of the team can do the project.”
From my own work on ETC projects, I can empathize with this statement on a ground level of getting the project done. I haven’t really yet had to market a product to executives or deal with monetary budgets, myself, since at the ETC, projects and teams are decided for you, and you are mostly involved with execution/completion. The project-based academics have been very helpful for me, but I am also becoming more aware of what I haven’t captured in my own experiences.
When talking about producer responsibilities, Theresa mentioned “being a generalist that wears different hats” and warned about the dangers of the term “an ideas guy.
I really sympathize with both these statements, and I feel like I’ve begun to see the subtleties as well. The producer must be a generalist in that they must speak the language of as many roles as possible, but they must also be able to admit how much they cannot completely know; moreover, we aren’t the guys with all the ideas but we must be able to champion whatever the vision of the project is.
Something that came up with my conversation with Theresa as well is that producing is an “experience-driven role.” It’s hard to point out the soft-skills that a good producer develops over time, and that may be strongly contributing to why it’s been so hard to pin down what producing is in general.