Producer = Protector – Part Deux


…picking up the conversation from the previous post…

As Producer, as Leader of the Team, Admiral of Your Chosen Metaphor, you set the tone and establish the standards of and for your Team. It is your example by which members of your team should be inspired and offer themselves measure. Your integrity must be sacrosanct; the respect with which you treat others should be unshakeable, your communications clear and complete, your leadership inspirational and enlightening.

This really isn’t difficult, if the commitment is within you. That and a little zen discipline and you’re there.

As producer, you stand accountable. Responsibility for anything that goes wrong with the production is on your shoulders. This means that you jump up and acknowledge responsibility for anything that goes wrong or falls short without a second thought. Never let an employee take the fall; not publicly, in any case.

Conversely, anything that goes uniquely or impressively right with the production is an opportunity for you to publicly acknowledge the professionals on your team who are or were directly responsible for what stood out. ‘Tis a good Rule of Thumb to simply never take credit; always find someone to credit, or simply credit your Team.

Without that team, you’re just a big, good-looking bundle of Good Ideas (and maybe not even all that good, without the collaboration of the gang that makes it great).

Remain approachable. Work to be approachable, watch out for seeming “too busy” to be interrupted. Each such interruption likely bears the potential for some Learning, some Evolution, some exchange of ideas or even the sharing of some bit of information that can perhaps save time and or money, down the line. Guard against dismissiveness and discount no one.

Vest your people with responsibility and let them know you mean it. (This takes discipline for the Type A; but if s/he really wants to build a dependable and ultimately reputable team, then delegate, one must … and mean it).

I launch virtually any production with a few, regular conversations; one of which is the stressing of the fact that, on my teams, no one will be penalized for making a mistake, miscalculation or mis-judgement. Penalty is levied when that mistake is hidden or kept secret.

The moment one sees that what is intended may not happen as envisioned; that’s the moment to raise the flag.

Someone makes a mistake: that person is probably the person best qualified to devise and implement the solution. Ergo, when someone comes to me with a mistake, my first response (after the “oops,” “omg,” or “holy cr*p!”) is usually “well, what would you suggest we do?” And we figure it out together.

This teaches practical skills and problem-solving and is a compelling and resonant example of the trust you are placing in your team. This makes what you have been saying tangible and makes you trustworthy to them.

And, pertinent to what I was saying, above; should one of the team come under fire for a real or perceived error, the immediate response of the Producer is to stand by his team and take any heat, resolving direct responsibility issues offline and in private.

If your team knows you will stand by them, they will go the extra mile for you, push their own envelopes and take considered (and some not-so-considered) risks in the pursuit of higher standards of storytelling and production.

I want to underscore the Responsibilities of the Producer from last week by reprinting the comment from Ben Tripp, brilliant artist and author…

“The one-point-of-contact thing really is critical.  A couple of other things that happen with diffuse communication:

Conflicting critiques — a couple of executives may have directly contradictory opinions.  They deliver their reactions independently and expect results.  This leads to creatives acting as liaisons, taking sides, or believing the process had broken down (which it has).

In addition, specialists can create difficulties by delivering their criteria without regard for the rest of the show — I was once on an entertainment project in which the PM gave equal voice to a guy way upstream whose central role was leasing real estate.  So the entire design ended up geared to making it really easy to swap out retail tenants.  

You need communication to flow through the point man — the filter.”

Time and again, I see weak producers taking opinions from far too many others; not trusting professional instincts enough to take responsibility for the result. Go out on a limb, dammit, and stand behind your beliefs, your instincts, what you trust in your heart.

To illustrate, I am going to repeat an anecdote I’ve cited, before, in this space…

Twenty years ago, in the final months of run-up to one of my first globally-visible ceremonial spectacles, the Board of Directors suddenly began to second-guess and challenge my concept and the execution of it (because, as you know, everyone’s a Producer). I spent many a sleepless night exploring the course I should take. Finally, winnowed it down to this crux:

  • If I capitulated and caved, if I made the changes the Board was seeking, and the production was a failure, I’d have nothing…just the fact of the empty failure on my shoulders.
  • If, on the other hand, I stuck to my vision, refused to capitulate and held the line…and the production was a failure, then I would at least know that I’d been wrong…and that had to be enough for me.

I decided that it would be enough. Knowing I had been wrong in my vision would have been far better than having only the failure to my credit with nothing learned. I would also have had to live with having relinquished my integrity and forsaken what I knew in my heart was right.

…and, by the way, the production was a smashing, paradigm-shifting success. Just sayin’…

Trust yourself, and stand by yourself. Don’t cave to the armchair experts; irrespective of how convinced they are that they are right.

Remember, you are vested with the result, with realizing the vision, with knowing how best to manifest the idea. You cave and it bombs, you’ll be blamed. At least be able to own your bombs…do that, and you’ll have far fewer, if any, of ‘em.


Meanwhile, feel free to download my eBook, “imho,” for iPad from the iBook Store – No charge to the Adventurous.

2 thoughts on “Producer = Protector – Part Deux

  1. I agree with everything you said, especially the part I’m in. But what the world needs is more producers who are aware of what you describe. It should be industry standard, not a rare treat. And by rare treat, I mean you, of course.

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