On January 31, 2013, I spoke with Michael Nixon, a Freelance Producer who was once my roommate back in 2009-2010 at NYU. He studied writing for television back in those days, but as is the way with life, he has found himself as a producer for webseries and webcasts. It was great to catch up with him, and he was very helpful at elucidating some of the gaps in my knowledge about producing in film and television.
One of the neatest facts he shared was about how closely coordinated a crew on a live production needs to be: Throughout the whole production, without the ability to cut, the crew needs to be able to communicate without distracting the performers, possibly even without talking. I’ve seen plenty of bloopers where everyone keeps it together until a serious flub or a director yells cut, but I’ve never thought about having to keep going. It’s all the stressful improvisation of a live performance combined with the stressful technology of a film shoot. Woohoo!
As to producing, speaking with Michael was also just as neat. He was the first non-ETCer I’ve spoken to, and thus, I found his explanations framed with a refreshingly novel perspective.
He described producing as “taking a bunch of disparate elements and making something out of it,” somewhat analogous to being a chef, or in his own experience, as having to take boxes of equipment & miscellanea and turning them in to a set.
I like this summary in addition to the other ones I’ve been getting. While it is a less task or goal-oriented description, it captures a different essence of producing: The struggling creative who has dared to take on the challenge of making something happen – a stage that perhaps most ideas which pass through someone’s mind rarely reach. Or perhaps I’m reading too much in to it.
His definition of producing adds a lot to my pool of responses, and I’m beginning to see the nuances, some of which might confound my original goal of discovering the “essence of producing”. As I’ve been putting it, producing seems to be something that is defined by experience and not by semantics. I think Michael summed it up best though with “Everyone has their own opinion. In some instance they are correct. There’s no ‘right’ answer.” As he referred to it, producing is “Entertainment’s Rubik’s Cube.”