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Solving the Producer Problem with RevThink

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There's a bottleneck in the motion graphics pipeline, and it's not artists or directors or even studios. It's a producer problem...and we're here to solve it.

The motion graphics industry is in the middle of a massive talent crunch, but the hidden issue plaguing many studios isn't where to find a Houdini artist or where their next job is coming from—it's what to do with the jobs once the artist is in-house! How did this shortage of talented Producers come to happen?

Have you ever felt as though you were wearing too many hats? Or that your company just couldn't keep up its current pace? Maybe you're concerned about scaling up the business and what that will mean for your productivity. These are common problems for artists and companies of all sizes, and it's why RevThink came to be. Powered by the combined minds of Joel Pilger and Tim Thompson, RevThink is a collection of consultants and advisors aimed at helping businesses thrive. And one of the key ways they approach a problem is by identifying the underlying cause. For our industry, at this moment, it's a producer problem.

The motion graphics, design, and animation industries have seen incredible growth in the last few years. Just about every product, business, and IP needs a curated and artistic solution, and that means a huge talent crunch. It almost seems like there is too much work to go around...but tell that to all the artists hunting for their next gig. What it comes down to, as seen by RevThink, is a lack of trained and knowledgeable producers bringing together the right tools and talent. So what does this mean for you?

If you've ever wondered how you can streamline your workflow, improve your performance, and become an invaluable member of a team, this is the information you need. Joel and Tim have crunched the numbers and done all the legwork, and now we're pulling that information straight from their brains just for you. Grab a mug of ice-cold eggnog and maybe a few gingerbread cookies for dunking. We're getting down to the root of the issue with Joel and Tim.

Solving the Producer Problem

Show Notes

Artist

Joel Pilger
Tim Thompson

Steve Frankfort

Studios

Imaginary Forces
Trailer Park

Work

Se7en Title Sequence
Se7en

Pulp Fiction

Resources

RevThink
Netscape

Youtube

Slack

Harvest

Paint Effects

Maya 3D

Producer Master Class on Rev Think

Linkedin Learning

Skillshare

Cinema 4D

After Effects

Transcript

Ryan:

We know there's a talent crunch. We know there's a rush to get artists of every shape and kind out there in the industry, but you know where the real problem actually lies in motion design? It's with producers. That's right. We're going to talk about the producer problem today with two of the best people I could think of. But before we dive into that, let's just hear a little bit from one of our School of Motion alumni.

Joey Judkins:

Hi. My name's Joey Judkins and I'm a 2D and 3D freelance animator and director. My love for drawing and illustrating was actually really limited by knowledge of software. I was very comfortable just drawing in a sketchbook, drawing even on Procreate, but that's where it stopped, and so when I got to the point where I thought, "I really feel like I would like to learn more about Photoshop and Illustrator, and I'd like to be able to make some of my own illustrated boards someday."

Joey Judkins:

This is where School of Motion came in. I took Jake Bartlett's Photoshop and Illustrator Unleashed course in 2018 and then I followed that up with Sarah Beth Morgan's Illustration for Motion course in 2019, and I finally learned the techniques that I needed, combined with some software tips and tricks, to be able to turn those sketches into final, finished illustrations. So, thanks, School of Motion. My name is Joey Judkins and I'm a School of Motion alumni.

Ryan:

Motioneers, normally we talk art. We talk artists. We talk tools. We talk a little bit about the industry, everything you can think of, but there's a whole other role out there that you interact with every day. You may not really think about who that person is, where they come from, how they got there, and if you fit into that role as well. But today I really wanted to bring two of the best deep thinkers, the Rev thinkers, if you will, about the motion design industry.

Ryan:

I have Tim Thompson, Chief Revolution Thinker, and Joel Pilger, Managing Partner, to talk about, what I like to call the producing problem that we have in motion design. Tim and Joel, thank you so much for coming on. I have a million questions, but I just want to say thanks. I know you guys are super busy, especially in 2021.

Joel:

It's good to be with you, Ryan. We love you and appreciate you being in our community. Tim, I know you also have mad respect for Mr. Ryan here.

Tim:

Almost too much respect, Ryan. Who you are in our industry, I find that your insights and thoughtfulness everywhere I see you and interact with you is great. So happy to be part of this podcast and we truly are fans of it.

Ryan:

Well, thank you so much. Before we dive too deep, can you just give someone ... You two are both so good at telling other people how to sum up what they do in one sentence, in a short amount of time, in a bullet point list, in the briefest amount of time. But I want to throw the challenge back at you. For someone who has not heard of RevThink, what is the shortest, most concise, most exciting way to tell people what RevThink actually is?

Joel:

Oh, I love it. Putting me on the spot here, Tim's pointing at me like, "Joel, this is yours. This is yours." We exist to help creative entrepreneurs thrive in business, and in life, and in career. What that looks like is we're a consultancy, but really what we're doing is fostering a community of business owners that span animation, motion design, production, sound, music, and so on, and really bringing them together and giving them the tools to support the resources they need to thrive.

Ryan:

What I love ... Tim, how'd he do?

Tim:

He did pretty good, actually. I was taking notes for next time.

Ryan:

What I honed in on that, though, what I love about it is that we've tried to expand the discussion at School of Motion to talk about those things, but the fact that you called those three things, very separate things. You can say career, and that means a lot of different things to people, but you call that career, business, and life, as three distinct, unique challenges to be thinking about. Can you talk just a little bit more about how you approach those three different things with your clients, with the people who are stewards of the industry?

Tim:

Yeah. Those three separate things are actually different revelations we've had over the time of the work that we're doing. I, personally, have a career in this industry. I was once a producer. I did head of operations at Imaginary Forces. I've written software and operations software at Trailer Park and other large production studios. I got into consultancy to help really problem solve. When I first got into that, I was clearly helping people with their business and solving business issues. But the individuals that came to me had issues greater than I could solve on a P&L sheet for someone's business or a production pipeline.

Tim:

They were asking greater questions, and I started realizing success in business is the beginning of the things you need to do in life and, really, the reason you might have started a business is for, maybe, a life goal or some other greater purpose of influence. Those two, life and business, definitely play themselves out. But I think the one thing that we forget to navigate is our entire career. When I explain to you what I've done over my career is I've gone from one place to the next to next, each one, I was leveraging up, making myself different, and making myself more valuable, and that navigating, in your career, is often something people don't think about.

Tim:

They don't think about how I'm going to go from point A to Z, step-by-step, along the way. There is a possibility of strategy and politics and opportunity and luck that play into it, but you have to navigate all three of those separately in different circles. Then, of course, if you've Venn diagrammed that, you would find who you are in the center.

Ryan:

I love that because I feel you said A to Z. I think a lot of motion designers or people who have transitioned to creative directing, or maybe even running their own shop, they can't see to C. They might have been to A. They got to B; C was very murky. They stepped into a world full of fog that they didn't understand, and you don't even know that there's a D, E, F let alone, potentially, a Z.

Ryan:

I like to say it all the time, and maybe it's a little bit of a hyperbole, but we're still in the mark one of motion designer, the first generation. There's not many of us who have actually retired and waved goodbye to the industry in a full way, and especially now [crosstalk 00:06:58]-

Tim:

You mean from the digital platforms, right? [crosstalk 00:07:00] Because there were definitely a generation before me that were hand-building ... Steve Frankfort-esque [crosstalk 00:07:07] generation that was building this stuff. Yeah.

Ryan:

Yes. I couch that ... I've had this recent revelation that I woke up in the morning after driving back from LA for a week, I woke up straight up in my bed and said to myself, like, "Oh, my god." As many times as I like to call myself a creative director or a motion designer or an animator, really, I work in advertising, and I think that's starting to change. The possibilities are starting to change.

Ryan:

But the people you are talking about, they very firmly were doing animation or motion design or title design, but they were working in advertising. Maybe we'll talk about that a little later when we get to predictions, but motion design, potentially, is starting to expand beyond the possibility of just that, with NFTs and all the other things that are out there.

Tim:

Yeah. I do remember the days where motion design, might be the first time we ever said those words [crosstalk 00:07:53] separate as a discipline. They're really [crosstalk 00:07:55] the art department at an advertising agency [crosstalk 00:07:57] or something along those lines.

Ryan:

Yeah. A creative department, the art department. Yeah, exactly.

Tim:

I think what's funny is ... That whole generational thing that you point out there for a second was, I first started ... When I produced the Seven Title sequence, we did that manually. [crosstalk 00:08:14] We had physical elements and we were shooting it on film. I've sat down across from many future clients and in my introductory conversation with them, I told them I produced the title sequence, and they would say to me, "I recreated that in design school [crosstalk 00:08:29] on a computer." [crosstalk 00:08:31] I kept thinking like, "You didn't ... You had nothing ... The way we made it and the way you're replicating it are two different elements."

Ryan:

It's like playing a video game about driving and actually driving a car.

Tim:

Exactly.

Ryan:

[crosstalk 00:08:42] They're at best tangentially related. I have to tell the audience that this is a fun conversation for me because this is coming full circle, because my first seat that I took at Imaginary Forces was directly under pitch boards that were placed into a frame from Seven. There's something resonating here between just your experience doing it and my experience sitting in, through osmosis absorbing all of the good stuff that came from that frame.

Tim:

Did you ever see the frames of the end crawl?

Ryan:

Yes.

Tim:

That you said, those three frames? My wife actually typed that, and I remember the day that Kyle showed up [crosstalk 00:09:16] with it destroyed like that. The group we were working with, Pacific Title, were so frustrated. He ran over it with a car. He cut it with a knife. He put bugs inside of it. He put hot sauce on it. He destroyed this piece of art, which made it really impossible to actually make the end crawl, but absolutely genius move. [crosstalk 00:09:37] Yeah. It's fun to see that physically.

Ryan:

I think it's ... Oh, man. We're going to go down the NFT slide pretty quick, but I think there's something very interesting about the world returning back to the tactility of, for lack of better term, the [phygital 00:09:51] world, the idea of being able to combine physical and digital and have both used to their best express intents and inform each other.

Ryan:

But that's going way off the path. I think we can go down at memory lane for Major Forces or go way into the future about NFTs, but what I really wanted to talk about is RevThink has had this really incredible, very singular place in the industry in terms of, if you start your own company and you have a modicum of success to be able to be open for more than year two, there is a crossroads that you hit that you are isolated to a certain degree. You are in unknown territory, because you probably were an artist who's now running a company. You're psychologically struggling with whatever that minefield is. Previously to RevThink, there has really been no place to go to find common ground or to find a mentor, really, unless you were introduced to someone else. But there's been no formal way. There was no website; there was no person that you could ask, like a White Wolf Fixer from Pulp Fiction.

Ryan:

I feel like RevThink has grown into the place to be, the place to go. I have lots of friends who are like, "What do you know about those guys?" But I feel like this year, 2021 has been a decade in one year; a lot has happened. What has happened to RevThink and how have you positioned yourself and what have you done to help these people? The mission has changed. 2021 has changed everything and I don't think it's temporary. I think it's forever and it's fracturing and it's ongoing. But what has 2021 been like for RevThink?

Tim:

Well, 2020 definitely brought so much to a head in such a short amount of time. One thing I would explain is that we help people solve problems and last year, 2020, everyone had a problem. Either they had no work or too much work. They were working remotely. They were working differently. Their clients had different demands of them. Their life was coming into it. So all these issues that came to a head and at the speed at which it came to a head, we obviously were reacting to that. We're putting ourselves out more publicly. We did our daily video cast for a while so we could really just make an impact on some of the issues that were coming up.

Tim:

But one thing we really started recognizing is the universality of the problems we were solving remained the same. [crosstalk 00:12:09] We still were solving life issues, career issues, and business issues. We were just dealing with them at a different pace [crosstalk 00:12:17] and, in some cases in a more, at greater extreme, but not at a greater extreme than we were unfamiliar with some of our clients. It's just a higher group or greater group of people were dealing with those issues at the same time. So that created a pivot for us.

Tim:

I started RevThink about 12, 13 years ago and when I started, I was like the Wolf. I was really just a one-to-one problem solving person. It wasn't until I really started working with Joel who had the vision of scale and creating master classes and putting groups together and building community to solve this problem that RevThink was able to make a shift. I think in the last year ... Joel, you can verify this stuff that you've been rolling out ... but that community solving its own problems is probably some of the greatest excitement we have, and inside Rev Community, an online platform we have, the owners are talking to each other. Ryan, you're one of the people participating, asking the questions and finding the answers.

Ryan:

There was a safer time, I feel like, in motion design, ending a year or two ago where everything was just like [send them over to your 00:13:23] after effects or live action. We know how to book them. We know how to kind of price them. It's fairly reliable. We have the crew that we always use. We know who we outsource. Just fit it into the box. Now, I feel like we're returning right back to Wild West times, again, like anything can be everything. The rates change based on what somebody's doing, if they're on vacation or if they're doing an NFT that week. The variability is all over the place.

Tim:

Yeah. It's actually reminiscent ... I think I've been lucky enough to be around doing during the late nineties, early two thousands, transitioned onto a digital platform, [crosstalk 00:14:00] because I think some of the questions that we're asking, even though about a different transition and a different type of transition, to watch an optical house and a physical, practical house, slowly disappearing or trying to find what their footing's going to be in a space that went fully digital, [crosstalk 00:14:18] what I'm seeing now is very reminiscent of that kind of move.

Tim:

It was right before the dot boom. The internet was only about websites. It wasn't about really producing much else. We produced the homepage for Netscape or something like that. It was low end. There was no YouTube, so no greater influence impacting or pushing against our economy.

Ryan:

Right.

Tim:

And then, just overnight, a desktop computer could process at the same speed as a $100,000, $200,000 item, [crosstalk 00:14:46] and the old model of if you build it, they will come, slowly disappeared. No more post house; no more video house. No more color correction place; [crosstalk 00:14:54] we can just do that in our small little boutiques. A boutique back then was like a hundred people. Today, a boutique's like five people and [crosstalk 00:15:03] people have gone away.

Ryan:

In five separate garages.

Tim:

Yeah. The situation we're seeing with producers in our industry today is that we're missing that education that used to happen when you had a hundred people in a room and there were PAs, and then there were coordinators, and there were producers and you had the ability to make your own.

Ryan:

Yeah.

Tim:

Now, we're very segmented. We're missing some of those positions that people could learn, [crosstalk 00:15:32] the apprenticeship positions people could learn hands on. We are just infusing people at gigantic problems, hoping they get it right, and hoping that Slack and Harvest do their job. It doesn't all click.

Ryan:

I want to rewind a little bit back to what you said, because I feel like there's a certain amount of consternation, I think, amongst creative directors and art directors that this distributed, everything remote, everyone sitting in their own space, working alone, is going to affect the artist pipeline eventually. Right now, there's a talent crunch, but all those people who used to be juniors that got to work with seniors, that then got to be exposed to clients, but in a safe space with creative directors around them, that is going to be subverted and almost capped off.

Ryan:

It's not the same experience. If you're not in the drive in the car with the creative director and the producer, listening to them talk about how they're going to approach the pitch, then you walk in the room and you see how you handle that, and then you come back and do the postmortem and you have that cumulative, shared experience, that pipeline of I go from junior to all this, that gets disrupted at some point, and we have no formal training or any kind of institutions that help replace that.

Ryan:

I would argue that we've been feeling that with producers for at least the last three, four, five years, because the amount of things Motion Design is asked to do, no one can understand all of those. There's no place where you go, "For the next year, I'm going to learn just how to do XR-related projects, and then for the next year, I'm going to train myself as a producer to do just broadcast, and then I'm going to be this Bruce Wayne, Batman superstar, six years into it." That does not exist and I feel like we're already feeling the effects of that, because, like you said, there is no ...

Ryan:

You worked for Imaginary Forces when I was there, you'd come in as a PA. You might be able to be a coordinator. You'd sit and watch a junior producer; that junior producer gets promoted to a senior, they spend a little time, and then you hop into a one-off senior producing position, but you have somebody there to guide-rail you, and then you just work your way up into head of production, managing producer, whatever those things might be. There's a natural hierarchy, the same way artists to have, and that has been gone for, I feel, quite a while, or it's been [crosstalk 00:17:38] on its way out.

Tim:

I have not seen ... I've seen junior producer-producer relationships in the last 10 years, but the word coordinator has rarely existed unless you're talking about a resource manager only, so a solo position of just finding, booking talent. But PA? I mean, why would you need one anymore? There's no need to have just people sitting around waiting to help fix something when clients don't show up to your office anymore. There isn't tapes to run across town. That generational that we skipped is really something that you can see it in, truly, the age of most producers, [crosstalk 00:18:14] or at least successful producers. You can just see it in our age. I was a producer at 24. I haven't met a 24 year old producer at all.

Ryan:

No. But I've seen a lot of 24 year old predators. I feel like predators ate the PA job title. You're expected, walking in the door, to be able to throw a little bit of graphics together, know how to write a good email to a client, be able to produce, sit on final cutter premiere and cut something together, make it sizzle, do some social media ... That is the equivalent of what a PA position used to be five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago.

Ryan:

Joel, how do you feel about this? Because I feel like we probably also hear from a lot of studios, you guys hear probably more than I do, that, "I can't find the artists I need," or, "I want to pitch and I don't know how to do it," but I feel like it's a bigger problem even a step before that is how do you have the talent that knows how to respond to an RFP? How do you bid out a job knowing if you can actually take it on or if you can make a profit on it? Are you feeling that same kind of pressure that I keep on hearing from my friends at studios and people that I know that are running small operations?

Joel:

Hmm. Well, I think what's really challenging about the producer role, first of all, to start with, is it's really not a defined role that you can go out there and go to School of Motion, learn how to be a producer, go and get your graduate degree. It's just not like the other disciplines. Motion Design, at least you can take courses and come out and say, "I know how to do this." What's the equivalent? What's the analog for a producer?

Joel:

So there's a lot of confusion about what even is a producer. What does a producer do? What impact do they have? So that's part of the problem because when I was running my business til seven years ago ... But I'm thinking back 15 or 20 years ago, producers were these magical creatures that when I was first running my business, I was convinced I don't need a producer because I can do the project myself. I'm a creative ... I'm organized. I can do this. It wasn't until scale and also this thing I saw happening, where I was trying to be the creative person and also the production person at the same time, in one brain, and it was failing. I had clients saying to me like, "Hey, we trusted you on this project. It turned out great, but we'll never work with you again because the process was so difficult."

Joel:

This was the moment when I realized, "Oh. Scale and speed, you have to divide these things in your brain." Let the creators be the creators, but let the producers get the work done and make sure that the client's happy and the run time, on budget, all these things. So even I had this ignorance and had to learn the hard way what the role of the producer is. Once I hired my first producer, everything changed and I started saying, "I'm going to make this investment. I'm going to find more producers because they make such an impact on my business."

Joel:

But there was really no understanding other than I got lucky and hired a senior producer, so when other producers came on, she was able to coach and mentor that PA, that associate producer, that junior producer, that mid-level producer, and that created a culture and an understanding of what the production ingredient is in a business. This is one of the reasons that Tim and I have been for a couple years trying to figure out how do we help the industry understand the producer role, the producer method, and start meeting those needs, because as you said, Ryan, huge demand right now.

Joel:

Some business owners don't even know they have that need and, trust me, they do. They do. We all know it. But the people that are running the larger shops, they know they have the need. They are just really struggling to get the talent or to make their own producers.

Ryan:

Right. Well, there's so much to unpack there, Joel. You said something that made me laugh because I feel like it's the creatives motto, but it doubles down as the motion designer's model is, "Hmm. I think I could do that. Let me just do that. I don't need anybody else to do it. I'll just do it." I think that that is one of those things that it allows you to find a certain amount of success early on in your career and it becomes your instinct, and then it becomes your crutch. [crosstalk 00:22:45] you carry that with you as you consider starting a studio.

Ryan:

But I think the other thing, one thing I love to talk about at School of Motion is trying to find things that studios or companies or sister industries do that we can borrow as the individual operator or someone running a small collective, and one thing that I think is really interesting is a lot of people who listen to this probably don't think they need a producer because they think what they're selling, the final product is the work that they're sitting at the box right now making.

Joel:

Right.

Ryan:

But what you just said really goes back to what I think is one of the hallmarks I've heard both of you say all the time at RevThink is that really what you're probably selling to your client is at least 49% how you got to that final product you've been sitting in the box doing, if not the majority of it is, actually, what was it like? [crosstalk 00:23:31] Was the process smooth? Did I feel involved? Did I feel taken care of? Do I feel trustworthy? Do I feel like I was trusted? That does not come from being great at Houdini. That does not come from being a great creative director. That comes from your producer.

Joel:

Thank you. Thank you. There was a moment when I had produced this amazing, all-CG spot ... Do you remember Paint FX in Maya? We had done this [crosstalk 00:23:58] car commercial with a CG vehicle and it was so hard to do, and we did it. We pulled it off. We hit the deadline; the spot looked fantastic. The agency for this big car company calls me and says, "Dude, the spot turned out great. It looks amazing. And I'm just calling to let you know, we'll never be working with you again."

Ryan:

Yes.

Tim:

Yeah. Ryan, I had a good friend, he was a producer, and he told me the reason he chose to be a producer was when the Oscars are handed out, best director goes to the director, but best picture goes to the producer, and it's this idea that the whole product is wrapped in production. Because there is a client deliverable that if you don't deliver, it honestly doesn't matter how gorgeous it is. And then, vice versa: you can always deliver, but if it's not gorgeous, it also won't be accepted.

Tim:

There's these two parts to the equation that the client you're working with wants to know that they're covered. Like you said originally, there are way too many business owners now that are basically inventing or making up what production and a producer would do based on what their entrepreneurial ability is when they started their creative business as a creative person, without any real experience of understanding there's a technique, a skill, and a method to get getting the project done, giving confidence to the project and to the client, and then also, protecting and financing the creative vision.

Tim:

That's what a lot of creative businesses would really benefit from is knowing that somebody is there to making sure the vision comes true, beyond just coordinating people showing up on time and making independent contractor agreements, or what other tasks that we give these producers roles today.

Ryan:

Yeah. I find it really fascinating to talk about this because until you've actually been through the ringer a couple times, on both sides as a creative director, as an artist, or somebody who's had to help produce, you realize that most creatives are either really good at being a good cop or really good at being a bad cop. Very few know when and where to be either of those and that's what a producer has always helped me. They've always been able to say done is always better than perfect in a company. You can be perfect with your own art.

Ryan:

But they've always been able to help me when I'm too close to the metal or too in the clouds to be able to remind me, "Right now, we need to walk in the room and be the good cop because there's some challenges coming our way," or, "You know what? You go ahead and be the bad cop and explain to them why the direction needs to be this way and I'll smooth things over." But having that partner, having that person that can see the forest for the trees or remind you to get pulled up into the clouds when your nose is inside your motherboard, those things are the things that I always remind myself, that partnership, that person that's helping you see everything, is really, really helpful.

Tim:

I'll pick back on where you were going with what you said, Ryan, because there's we just finished this thing we call the producer masterclass. In the master class we were teaching the producer method. The ultimate goal of the producer method is to get people to make decisions, so decision-making is what it's all about and how do we get to a point we can make decisions. It goes way beyond, like I was saying earlier, the systems of a budget in the schedule or Harvest or whatever, just the software systems and managing that and getting the data in there. Way beyond that. In those systems, you have to create visibility that then give you insight, and that insight helps you understand the decisions that need to be made. You're not making the decisions, at least with the insights you're getting, you understand those decisions.

Tim:

You have some visibility to understand the impact of those decisions. And then, you want to grant permission or receive permission if you're the producer in order to make those decisions on behalf of the company, the project and the client and the creative team. That guiding or building up of your producer is a way greater impact on all the possibilities a project can go, the relationship you have with a client in the long term, the direction of your business, and even the direction of your career. If you find a good partner and a producer, that producer can make really amazing things with you for your entire career. I think there is a great magic and ability in our industry when we are finding those connections and making them well.

Ryan:

I love what you said about that, because I really feel like that's half of the producer's ... I don't know ... the plight. The producer's issue is there really are those four things. You said the project itself, the company, the client, and the creative team; you're literally juggling four of those. You're spinning all four of those plates at the same time and it's very typically not just one set of four plates. You're looking at the past and trying to figure out what to learn from or to avoid; you've got whatever's current right now. But a producer a lot of times is also like the tip of the spear when the future jobs, the RFPs, are coming in, the requests, the bids, all of those things.

Ryan:

Is that something you talk about in the producer's masterclass? Because I feel like there's a lot of tactical things; there's tools. You've talked about Harvest a couple times. There's things that you can adopt and methodology, but there's also just the big picture point of view, being able to understand. Do you talk about that in producer's masterclass? How do you get your head around the full suite of things a producer is going to be asked to take advantage of or take control of in a studio?

Joel:

Well, I'll jump in and say the lesson I've learned about what separates the really good producers from the great ones is that great producers anticipate. Anticipate. Anticipate, right? It's like they're managing expectations all the time with the team, especially with the clients, but they're also anticipating. I will say that the other plate that they're spinning, which is a word to me that was conspicuously absent back there, was the word cash.

Joel:

Producers are empowered. Great producers are empowered with not just the responsibility of getting the work done but with the authority to go and spend money to spend the time and the resources, and so they have enormous ... Tim, who has more power and control over the money that's spent inside of a creative company than the producers?

Tim:

Yeah. Often it's 50 to 60% of the financial decisions being made are being made by producers, not business owners, because that's where your cost rate is on projects, and some companies even greater, or some types of projects, even greater.

Tim:

Joel, you remember one of the words we used when we were teaching the idea of anticipate future needs, was we specifically use the word visualize, that a producer visualizes the desired future state, is how we said it. I like to choose that because I think we often only allow creatives to have vision and picture things, but I know personally as a producer and, I know, the really great producers I worked with, they sit down and they're thinking of the project and they have to, in their minds, visualize that future state so that they can see the parts that need to be produced, the specific products and pieces to put this whole thing together, how we're going to get there, who's going to help create that with us, what skill level do they need, and that vision that they have compliments very much the creative vision.

Tim:

I think that's why there's two parts to it. But the other word that we were very careful on was this idea that the producer also that has to empathize with problems. They have to be empathetic with what the client's actually trying to solve, the real problem the client's trying to solve, not to just get our job done, and the real issues the creative's up against, so that it's not just pushing, pushing, pushing like a work boss, but actually understanding the parts, and complimenting financing, and working through solutions.

Ryan:

I've always found it very interesting how, in the worst of shops, there's almost a rivalry between the creative side and the production side. Sometimes it's physically, like the producers sit above or below and they're in a separate place, but a lot of times it's just strategically, it feels like they're set up against each other. Their goals and intentions are actually like, "Creatives have to try to get the most beautiful, most creative, most inventive thing, and the producers have to make sure they don't bankrupt the company."

Ryan:

But the best situations I've been in is when they're joined at the hip as true partners, because there's something interesting when you work at a shop as a creative that gets to work with a producer that you're not just looking at that one job. You're also looking at the jobs alongside it, the opportunities getting ready to come in, and the ones that have just finished that may be able to be exploited or leveled up for an even bigger relationship. That job that just shipped is sometimes the best way to open the next stage with that client. The creative directors very rarely ever thinking about that, but they're going to get tapped on the shoulder by the producer to make it happen. Those two people should be working way more together in the big picture and the vision state of the studio as well.

Ryan:

Have you ever really had a producer that's been able to do that? That's been able to be like, "I understand the wide picture, but also can go very deep on one single thing," at the same time? Because in the 20 plus years I've been here, I've only had one partner in my entire career that's been that type of producer.

Joel:

Well, I'll say yes. I've been fortunate to work with some producers, especially at the senior and executive producer level, that really do have that sense of, "I'm here to facilitate and bring to life this vision called this is where this creative company is going. But I do that by interfacing with clients and solving their problems and being an advocate for my creative teams."

Joel:

But the motto that I would come back to ... Tim, you should talk about this because, you remember, there was an era in our industry when the companies, and I'm going to say the sales and the finance, the production side, was winning. It was sort of a dark era, and in the motto that I was referring to that, Tim, I heard you say many, many years ago was, "No. Creative must win."

Joel:

It's a very simple statement that says every project is going to have like a creative lead and a producer lead, but those people are collaborators. Now, do they fight and argue and battle and negotiate? Absolutely, they do. [crosstalk 00:34:56] But it's always in the spirit of, "We're going to figure this out and creative has to win," and so I think there's ultimately a deference that the producers in a way, work for the creatives, they work for the owners, and they work for the clients, and this is part of the reason that great producers are massively talented, because they really have three bosses.

Tim:

I do think, though, there is a tension when one person and believes they have authority over the other. You can imagine in a bad creative-producer relationship, the producer believes they have the authority to shut things down, to stop the creative direction from flowing because they have authority over the project because of budget that's been granted to them or scheduled that the client's imposed on them.

Tim:

But that tension can also be healthy where there really is a limit, no matter what. These aren't infinite projects with infinite client needs. There has to be some parameters even to keep the creative team healthy, to say, "We can't work forever, extra hours beyond the limits of the client gave us." So when it's working well, it really defines the creative problem to solve, and that's what most of our clients are doing is creative problem solving. The producer is the one that gets to define those limits so that the creative is solving the right problem with the right amount of resources. That's the result you're looking for. It's matching those resources and those needs and living within those limits.

Tim:

To be a person that has that burden, I can understand producers becoming frustrated, people being pushed over the limits, and then when the owner's a creative person, they often feel like they don't have a voice and that can be very unhealthy. But there really is a symbiotic relationship when done well, and that's what we want to teach about mastering the creative ingredient, I think, is understanding those limits.

Ryan:

Yeah. We've mentioned producer master class a couple of times now, and I'm really interested in finding out who is it necessarily for? Because we've talked about the wide range of ways you can get into producing, the wide range of ways of actually defining what producing is. Who are you targeting? Because there is a dearth. Like we said, School of Motion does not have a producing class. There's no place you can go. You can't go to LinkedIn Learning or a Skillshare and get a really solid course or instruction about how to become a producer or how to be a better producer. So what is it all about, who's it for, and when is it going to be available again?

Tim:

Well, you just gave me a great idea. I should call LinkedIn Learning and see if they'll take our producer masterclass and put it on it [crosstalk 00:37:37]. That'd be really great. It's funny; you asked the question earlier of how RevThink has pivoted in the last 12 months and this is one of those areas where our primary focus has been on the business owner, the creative business owner, and helping that person navigate what it means to run a creative business, as well as be a creative director or salesperson or producer, whatever that primary role might be.

Tim:

This is one of the first times we actually reached into the company and said, "We will train your producers for you," and then signed up people who wanted to be producers regardless of their ownership criteria. We did that because we recognize our clients needed somebody to build up their production team or future production team, give them some skills that might have been missing or, at least, some insights that might be missing in the job that they're doing, but also hope that we had something available for a greater market. If someone was interested in production or had the need to grow their business and realized they're missing that production ingredient, we would have a resource available to them.

Tim:

So future goal is really to make this available and make it available often. Joel, in the last few years, has really worked hard to develop, as I said earlier, our community and in that our learning platforms, and so, as we evolve this program, we're going to do it again in early 2022, probably with another 15, 20 producers liked we did last time. We will then be able to capture this and even put it in video and let people take it passively. It's probably not the greatest thing to do just solo [crosstalk 00:39:18] because there's some interaction that I think is vital to the learning of some of the skills, but it's definitely something that we think we can do at scale in the future.

Joel:

It was fun when we ran this first class that maybe a third of the people participating were owners. So we were targeting producers, but also, in a way, owners, because there are still a lot of owners asking, "What exactly is a producer? And how does the role work?" And then they're also asking, "If I can't find one, how do I make one?" [crosstalk 00:39:53] And that, of course, I think is a skill that every pretty producer should master at some point if I'm going to make a producer.

Joel:

But to Tim's point about the group and the live dynamic, we'd love the fact that when you have 15 owners and producers in a masterclass setting and it's live, the questions, the discussion is incredible. When you think of there's some real rockstar producers from all over the world that are at this senior or executive or head of production level, and then you have a junior producer, or someone who's not even yet a producer, but wants to become one, and the sharing and the interaction ... I mean, even just picking up the bedside manner and some of the ways [crosstalk 00:40:45] they talk and the way they think; there's a lot of really cool nuance that comes across in that experience.

Ryan:

Yeah. What I love about what you're saying is it sounds like the producer masterclass that there's a place for anyone who's interested in producing. Like you said, an owner who wants to get a better sense of how to craft one out of thin air, the producers who want to get better, who may have been isolated, or may have had a limited amount of mentorship to learn the tips, the tricks, the methodologies, maybe you're in a smaller studio and you're getting ready to take the next step and grow, having that opportunity to learn. But also, correct me if I'm wrong with this, but I feel like some of the best producers come from those frustrated artists who may not be, to use your term, the rockstar creative director, but an artist who understands the pipeline, understands every little bit of how to make something, but also wants to be able to see a project and have more ownership from a higher level than they would.

Ryan:

I feel like that's where that raw material, a lot of times, is a great place to pull from. If you had a system and this feels like this system to identify and safely test, not in the line of fire, but safely test to see are your interests really here? Do you have a capability? Can you be mentored to start becoming a producer? Does it fit all three of those profiles?

Tim:

Ryan, that's a really good point, that when you come from the creative background, and your thoughts are being a producer, you become a producer, what's awesome about that conversion is there's a technical side of production that the creative person knows. They've been in deep inside the software. They know the filters and the rendering issues and the composite problems that would come up, so that they can anticipate them sooner and solve those issues or solve them for multiple people. When you're on the box yourself, you can fix it for yourself. If you take on a producer role or technical producer role, you can systematically fix it for a whole company or even, sometimes, for a whole industry. So I'd love when that creative person steps into that role has that thought and does take on that responsibility.

Tim:

But you can say the tension that would exist is sometimes people are taking on that role in spite, to show a producer, "I can actually do it," and they might be missing some of those other attributes of how do you empathize, and how do you add clarity, and how do you consider the other pieces of the pie than just the creative?

Tim:

No matter what, I feel like you want multiple sources of input in that production team so there's balance between that center job, because they really are the spoke of a wheel. So many decisions are being made for the company and for the project, for the creative, for the client, as Joel said, the cash. All of those pieces are really going to come together on one person's shoulder and the method and the practice that they have learned and can put in place is great, when it's working in symbiotically with all those elements.

Ryan:

There's a secret tip in there, I think, for a studio that's starting to grow, that's getting larger, and there's decisions to be made, whether it's the EP or the head of production or the owner. That producing core, I've always found this, they're very responsible for what the outward facing culture of a studio actually is perceived as, whereas the creative directors, really, a lot of times, maybe the owner or the creative director, can really help establish the inward facing culture, the language you use, the vibe, the way you talk about yourselves.

Ryan:

But the producers really manage a lot of what a client may think of you, and I feel like there's a lot of times where that clash of the inward facing culture and the outward facing presentation of it, those break down in terms of the overall corporate culture, and having an artist in as a junior producer, working their way up the line, I feel, helps find that balance where the way you talk about yourself out to the world and the way you talk about yourself inside start to find some kind of equilibrium, I think. Those have been the healthiest producing teams I've worked within, when it's a studio that's bigger than an EP and one producer, when you have a team of five or four. You have a squad of producers, all trying to keep everything spinning. That mix has something magical. There's an alchemy when you have that mix, I think, of producers.

Joel:

Yeah. I think you're describing a certain empathy that just comes from being in the trenches and knowing what it's like to have those 11th hour changes coming through [crosstalk 00:45:07]. As an artist, you want to be set up for success and I think the producers that come from that creative background are the ones that know, "I am going to take what this client is saying, this feedback, and I'm going to translate it, because if I was a creative, this is how I need to hear it," or, "I need to anticipate, because I see where this is heading, so therefore I'm going to set up my artist for success by giving him or her what she needs at this moment, so that tomorrow, next week, next month, we're on track and we're winning."

Ryan:

Yeah. I don't know how you guys feel about this, Tim or Joel. But I've always wondered if a studio of a certain size or a certain scale or a certain momentum, that there might even be a job title of a creative producer who is in that position, that maybe they're not on a specific job, but they're constantly interfacing with all of the different teams working on the different jobs within the studio, that can take the temperature of the creatives in a way that a regular rank and file producer either wouldn't or wouldn't be able to, because maybe the trust wasn't there. But they could understand and see, look in that artist's eyes, look at the working files, look at the schedule, and almost be the studio-wide go-between between what the artists tell you they think they can get done or what they think is possible, versus what really is actually going to happen.

Ryan:

Almost like a prognosticator; a creative producer that can be in at the early pitch or RFP or bidding stage also that you're not taking the time of the creative producer who's sitting there and ideating and trying to figure out the pitch. You're not going to pull that person out of that process to say, "Do you need seven artists or do you need three? Do you think you can get it done in two weeks or do you think you get in five?"

Ryan:

I feel like there's almost a hybrid role for the right size studio that could be really, really beneficial that doesn't really have a name yet. I always put in my head a creative producer, but I feel like there's another role that's starting, especially as we start taking on this wider range of types of jobs that are right over the horizon coming up to motion design studios.

Tim:

Yeah. That's a great question. The title creative producer has existed in different segments of our industry. I think of like when I did movie trailers: a producer there really was the creative director, way more than they were the business manager, like in other segments of industry. So there is a role there, but you're right. There is an opportunity for someone who's creatively-minded and technically-minded to do a center role. If you come up through the creative ranks, you usually end up in a technical director role and doing the same thing where a producer asks TD, "Can you tell me who I need, how long it's going to take, and the software I need?" and that technical director can walk through those elements.

Tim:

But coming from the creative side, many producers are creative, and so coming up through pro producer ranks, that creative producer has that opportunity to say, "I know what it takes to get something beautiful out the door," and "I understand some of the creative decisions to be made. Maybe I'd be more viable in a certain producer role than actually be the one pushing the pixels out the door, or doing the face-to-face client meetings and getting that presentation done." There's definitely a lot of hybrid opportunities nowadays, especially with remote working, that we need to fill in the blanks, and so, probably a lot more opportunity for people to invent their own job and their own specialty.

Ryan:

I think that's a really great point. I feel like something like this producer masterclass maybe even gives you the tools to be able to define that. The next place you go to ... There isn't going to be this job title of this role sitting at LinkedIn waiting for you. But the next place you go to, you can craft your own opportunity from the skills and the understanding, the experience, you could get from something like the producer of masterclass.

Tim:

Yeah. And the scale of your career, having that attribute. I think of when I work on really heavy projects or building out businesses that are a little bit more complicated, more in the technical space, or the work I'm doing now with companies in the NFT space; it a lot more complicated because you're dealing with heavy technical issues, some gaming issues, some fine art issues, and then obviously getting stuff out the door as regular motion design production stuff, and that this new element of deliverable is requiring people to think and act differently. Those skill sets can be divided and shifted when you're building up a new economy like that, so some huge opportunities to take advantage of that in the near future.

Ryan:

Well, I want to invite Joel and Tim to join me in raising a glass and taking a drink, because you said the magic word. You said NFTs.

Tim:

It's like the new drinking game, right?

Ryan:

Exactly.

Tim:

Metaverse [crosstalk 00:49:50].

Ryan:

We've done pretty good by not bringing it up too much, but now that we've talked about producing ... We're at the end of the year. It's kind of in the air already. Can I just bother you all to maybe give me a prediction about what 2022 and further, the next five years, 10 years, of motion design will look like? Because there we are living in a world where there are a lot of people in our industry who are going to be asked their opinion of NFTs and Dows and metaverse and Web3 and Decentralize This and machine learning tools. There's so much out there. Is there any one thing that each of you are either super excited about or very concerned about for motion design in the near future?

Joel:

Well, I'm going to let Tim dive in on the NFT thing first, because he's our resident ... Is it fair to say expert, Tim? I know they were just invented, naught but a year or two ago.

Tim:

Right. The opportunity that's happening in the crypto space, let's call it, that the NFT contract is allowing for digital ownership in a different way, is a very exciting platform, especially for digital artists, creative people on a digital platform and ownership of that. You can almost imagine what it's like: it's mixing what music artists and singers were once getting for their songs, now could take place in a digital form for JPEGs as well. So I think there's a gold rush right now to those kind of principles, but that's very shortsighted to what the opportunities are right in this new decentralized, Web3 vision that people are having.

Tim:

Specifically, just how much growth there's about to take place. The analogy I've been using is, is in this space right now, it's the internet before we even had a web browser. I feel like the NFT contract is the equivalent of inventing HTML. [crosstalk 00:51:45] Think about how young the internet it was before there was even a webpage and we experienced a huge boom in the nineties, 1990s, just for websites, just creating websites, which are now so easy and so passive. Google does most of it for you.

Tim:

So the evolutions that have taken place in a 30 year span are about ready to take place on a new platform, and the exciting part is it's in the digital space, which many of us who are listening to this podcast and are working on this for years, it's in our own backyard, and that's what's exciting. But I want people to lean into that influence that they have and not be afraid and not walk away and not actually commoditize this, or put this down too much of how simple it is. It's truly a large value proposition we have and our vision often doesn't carry us as far as the opportunities that are there. [crosstalk 00:52:42] I want people to lean into that vision and lean into those opportunities because it'll be a great opportunity for many people in their career and their life in the next 30 years.

Ryan:

I am as excited as I am for people to finally be recognized for the quality and value of their digital art. I'm also seeing a lot of people taking it as their golden ticket out of the industry; what I'm far more interested in, on a macro scale, on a wide scale, is how does it reshape the very definition of what motion design is? Because there's an opportunity for it to not just be ... Motion does not have to be defined as, "We do what everybody else does, but we just do it for ads." When I see [TRICA 00:53:26], top line on their website, they normally have the types of work they do, contact us, about us, whatever it might be.

Ryan:

They also now, of the four or five things on top line of their website, they have NFTs and they have fandom. I don't know what that really means right now for one small studio, but in the next year to three years, I'm very interested to see how motion design absorbs and leverages everything to do with crypto, NFT, this entire world, because it's an opportunity, I think, to not just be an order-taker.

Tim:

Yeah. Because here's the good news right now: the brands are in need of your strategy [crosstalk 00:54:03] and that's often flipped with their strategy already worked out and given over to motion design companies. The fact that they're asking the creative team, the design team, to think of a possible strategy. But the education necessary to give good strategic input instead of, "I can render 10,000 JPEGs [crosstalk 00:54:21] for you" is a very different proposition, and that's where, I think, as Joel joked, it's truly just a couple years old but the speed at which it's climbing, it feels like a month is a year, [crosstalk 00:54:33] in this space, to lean in soon so that when given three or five years down the line, you're one of the first people, and seeing the trends take place. Then you'll have a greater expertise to deliver.

Joel:

Well, Ryan, I like that you used the phrase definition of motion design because I think [crosstalk 00:54:54] ... Do you remember when motion design wasn't even a term? We called it motion graphics [crosstalk 00:55:00] for a long time. Right? You remember that era. And then it became motion design. I think we're going to continue to evolve the definition because, as the years play out ... You and I have talked about this a lot; we're speaking each other's love language here.

Joel:

But motion designers, I think, are tapping into such an interesting amalgamation of disciplines that have so much value to bring to bear in the world, not just for brands, but also just for audiences, for human beings. [crosstalk 00:55:37] I'm struggling for the words because when I say motion design, it just sounds like I'm talking about a cool ad. But I think what we're seeing is that the world is waking up and realizing that we're in this hyper-connected world where everyone is communicating and the pace at which we're communicating, the richness of which we're communicating, the things that we're experiencing together, these are all things that ... and I'm putting motion design in quotes. Because what motion design is becoming, I think, is the solution to that need.

Ryan:

Yes.

Joel:

It has myriad applications, so I'm not going to even say 2D and 3D and VR and AR. No; it's going to go so much farther. But you've talked about it being this intersection of storytelling and communication and typography and screens and all this. I think it's just a very exciting time because I look at the owners I've been talking with, now that it's end of year, in my Mastermind and some of our communities. We're starting to do this, reflecting on last year, setting goals for the year ahead, and so forth. And you know one of the common themes that the owners have said about what would you have told yourself back in January 1st, 2021? "Knowing what you know now."

Joel:

They pretty much all said, "Don't be so afraid." Yes, there's uncertainty. But you know what? The year played out and everyone ... We just talked about it today. There was this one owner that was like, "I'm so anxious about 2022." Why? Because there's so much opportunity.

Ryan:

Yes. Yes.

Joel:

Not like, sure, there's danger and there's risk and it's scary and so forth. But he was groaning about, "If only I could capitalize and seize all the opportunities in front of me. Ugh. I'm excited but I don't know what to do about that." I think, overall, that's a statement about the industry. It's not slowing down anytime soon, so get out there and get out there in the marketplace. I heard this corny phrase: your net worth is your net work.

Ryan:

[crosstalk 00:57:56] That's almost as good as ...

Joel:

Right?

Ryan:

I think what's very interesting about what you just said though, joel, is that the person you're talking about, there's an anxiety amongst shop owners that they cannot capture and take advantage of the wealth of the work they already know how to do, and they're overwhelmed by that. But I think they're also, potentially, being really blinded by the amount of opportunity there is by these types of things that Tim is talking about. There's an overflow of broadcast and social media and the types of things we're used to doing, but that is masking or hiding the amount of opportunity there is in these Wild West spaces for people who ...

Ryan:

To me, the definition of motion design is not [send them over for D+ 00:58:42] after effects. The definition of motion design is unlike every other creative arts industry that got really good at doing one specific thing with one specific type of delivery and one specific type of tool set, motion design, at its core, is always about being able to do more with less and being able to adopt new technologies and new methodologies and new trends faster than anyone with the fewest amount of people.

Ryan:

That's why I think motion design, as a philosophy, not as a tool set or not as a bunch of companies doing something, as a philosophy, a creative philosophy is poised to take advantage of all the stuff we just talked about, all these things that in three years are going to be commonplace if not cliche. We are ready and waiting to be able to problem-solve and connect the things together and speak to the clients and speak to the audiences in a way that agencies are not set up. VFX studios are not set up. Animation studios are not set up. There's power in the way we approached our projects for the last 20 years that this new field is dying for, that needs.

Tim:

Gosh. That's such a powerful thought, that motion design as a philosophy, because there is a perpetual motion that is happening when it comes to creative, isn't it? And no matter what evolution takes place, there will be a creative need, a storytelling need, and an execution need, and even if AI were to produce some of those deliverables, the human interaction into that system is a gift that you've been given, and it's your responsibility to grab that gift and implant that in the world to make the world a better place. I think most of us want to live that.

Ryan:

Yeah. I'm super excited about it because I feel like it's a one time opportunity for an industry to redefine itself or to capture what the spirit of it might have been when the industry was coalescing. That has been why for the previous five years, I've been very disappointed and frustrated and bored with most of the work that comes out of motion design. Say what you want about NFTs or the cliched couple of styles that you think of when you think of NFTs, that word is not going anywhere. The blockchain is not going anywhere. Crypto is not going anywhere.

Ryan:

That is only going to become more asked for, more wanting to be helped out with by clients, more understandings going to be needed by audiences, that you're going to have to put a little bit of that initial bias away, if you want to take advantage of what you already do right now, what you already offer the world and your clients and your audiences right now.

Tim:

Yeah. What a huge moment we have and it's not just ... It's a worldwide movement. We're seeing more and more worldwide conferences and worldwide movements taking place in this space, so not only is it expanding just with our own discipline. I would encourage people to really just think through those three attributes we talked about before of just your business, your life, and your career, and know which one should have the priority at what time. As much opportunity as before you, it's important to choose the right one for who you are, what you are about, and the life you want to live, so you're not trying to grab everything and therefore miss it all.

Ryan:

Exactly. Exactly.

Tim:

But take the one that's in front of you and live it out to your satisfaction is a very important part of having a successful life.

Ryan:

Thank you so much. I just want to ... Is there a place people can go to find out more about the producer masterclass somewhere they should look?

Tim:

Yeah, absolutely. You can always go to our website, revthink.com and find out about us, join our mailing list, and if you're a creative business owner, join our rev community space there, where we publish a lot of our articles, have open conversations, do a weekly video podcast, and publish things like the weekly brief or the producer masterclass that people can join us. Besides that, obviously, we have every social media platform. Just look for RevThink, Tim Thompson, or Joel Pilger. We exist so people can thrive in business, life, and career, and we say that all the time and we want people to reach out to us and make that possible.

Ryan:

Well, there you go, motioneers. There's the producer problem in a nutshell. It's a hard job to define, it's a hard job to find mentorship and training, and the definition is just going to keep expanding as our industry grows and changes with everything that's just across the horizon. But if that job sounds interesting to you, maybe take a look at the producer's masterclass with RevThink with Joel and Tim, because it sounds like it's one of the best places to go to learn how to get in the spot in the first place.

Ryan:

Well, that's another episode, and as always at School of Motion, we are here to inspire you, to introduce you to new people, and to help elevate the industry the way we really think it should be. Until the next time, peace.