Anatomy of a Producer – part 2

Anatomy of a Producer – part 2

Can I be a Producer?



In 2016, I made the decision to study for my MA at Sunderland University rather than Teesside. There were several reasons for this but I think it boils down to the fact that I have never seen myself as a Boss, -see part 1.

A discussion with the course Tutor at Teesside indicated that the MA in Producing for Film and Television was about being in control and worse, being the Boss. (Dramatic music sort of duh, duh, duh, with a rising pitch and lengthening of the final cord, you know the stuff).

People would say that I can’t even manage myself how could I possibly manage other people. In my whole career I’d only been in a managerial position once, Beefeater Steakhouses, and it wasn’t much fun. In the end I attended Sunderland to actually make films, seems I couldn’t do that either.

Although a great of my time in Sunderland was wasted waiting for permission to film an asylum seeker, (twelve weeks of a fourteen week module) I learnt some important stuff. While researching, well wandering around and banging my head off the wall in frustration trying to find a suitable subject for Al’s amazing exposé that would destroy the evil Right-wing’s press stories about Asylum seekers, I met a lady who kindly introduced me to ‘Belbin’. I know I’ve made it sound like a religious sect but it isn’t. Its’ much, much more than that.

You know at University, college, school, or work when some-one says “I want you to work in groups” but they have no idea of how groups function, well they need to consider Belbin, because he developed a system identifying why some companies and groups work and others fail.

Meredith Belbin. Raymond Meredith Belbin (born 4 June 1926) is a British researcher and management theorist best known for his work on management teams. He is a visiting professor and Honorary Fellow of Henley Management College in Oxfordshire, England.
(1) Wikipedia

I know I should really trust Wikipedia, however with such a brief extract 100% accuracy was not felt necessary.
When I think of my own unsuccessful attempts at trying to get various business ideas off the ground over the last few years, Belbin clarified many thoughts and ideas.

see chart 1.

My foremost characteristic is a ‘Plant’
No, not a weed, but I’m a creative, ‘free-thinking’ ideas person. I have the ability to think imaginatively to solve problems.
For a large part of my adult life I thought I had no imagination, emotionally beaten out of me at school by English teachers more concerned with spelling and grammar than the ideas put forward. My struggle to spell and use comma’s correctly (you might have gathered that by this point) effected my enjoyment of writing fiction. This continued until I was advised that actually poor spelling is a sign of individuality and non-conformity, me to a‘t’.

I began to realise that I was an ‘ideas person’ and a ‘problem-solver’ with a pretty good imagination whilst working with children who stammered. I had to think creatively in order to keep sessions interesting, I had to think ‘on-my-feet’ when a child didn’t understand my explanation or I was presented with a new problem that needed a unique solution. It was at this time I wrote my book “Stammering…scarier than Voldemort”.

I’ve always had a sharp sense of humour, well since I was old enough to understand humour; my first sentence wasn’t delivered with biting sarcasm.

I think that in the early stages of my producing career, I see myself as probably developing my own ideas, of which I have a great number. At this moment I feel that I would consider myself to be aiming to become a writer/producer.
My next characteristic is ‘Team worker’. I feel that I am naturally good at communicating with people, in group working I am very adept at noticing when some people maybe being excluded and I try to bring them in. If involved in group discussions I try to get the opinions of everyone.

I know that I am really great at making people feel good about themselves, the ideas they give and any contribution, no matter how small, I am keen to praise other people as often as possible, while trying to avoid the praise becoming meaningless.

I have used ‘brain-storming’ in the past to gather information and ideas to tackle. One of the main principles of this process is that in the first round, where new ideas are generated, all suggestions must be written down without judgement and I mean ‘every’ idea.

If any suggestion is questioned or commented on, or even praised, it can throw the whole process off and become much less effective. Brianna Hansen, 2016

I bring this process into team working where I try to include every member in the decisions, or at least feel that they will be listened to and included. I watch for quieter members of the group and try to engage them, or I try to discuss what skills they may bring to the group and I try to encourage these.

I think this comes from my own annoyance of when groups are dominated by an egotist, the one person who does not listen to anybody else’s suggestions. I need to have my ideas heard and acknowledged otherwise I stop talking and contributing, I become withdrawn.

I have been in groups, Sunderland MA, where one person dominated the whole project, from start to finish. It wasn’t that this self-appointed leader was not a team person, they did not listen to suggestions from any other person in the group and, as a result, I very quickly lost interest in the whole project.

The two best bosses that I have worked for have been Jane, Area Manager of Macmillan Cancer. When I volunteered she was brilliant at making me feel that my ideas would always be welcomed, she had the skill of letting me know without letting me down of which ideas were useable and which weren’t. The other was Eddy a presenter on Spark Radio in Sunderland. I worked as his producer and had to find stories for Eddy to cover and, even though it was his show and he had more experience, Eddy was great at accepting my contribution and ideas.

From diagram 2, this suggests that I have skills in the areas of ‘thinking’ and ‘people’ but lag when it comes to ‘action’. I know that there are several areas of being a producer that I will really have to work at.

I don’t tend to take risks, or even calculated risks, and uncalculated are a definite ‘no-no’. I’m not a thrill seeker, adrenaline junky (to use way too many cliques) but I am intelligent and calculating and I can think my way around problems.

From a learning point of view, I am a visual learner, I like to be shown how to complete a task on a 1:1 basis, due to my competitive nature and low self-esteem, I do not like to be shown in a group, unless the tutor or lecturer is highly skilled at watching all the students and is aware that people learn at their own pace. I can read instructions from paper better than a computer screen, must be my age, but I use YouTube a great deal for video’s on ‘how to”.

Where there is a group of us being shown something technical I become anxious at the slightest possibility that I am not understanding and the tutor keeps going, I’m not good at drawing the tutors attention to my struggle. What I tend to do is withdraw and then watch an instructional video on the internet or seek another tutor to give me individual attention. But by the reverse I like to think that when the boot is on the other foot, I good at spotting people who are struggling.

I love presentations, I think this goes back to trying to show-off to my family and be the ‘centre-of-attention, or it could be that during my working life I had to do lots of presentations to parent groups, teachers, doctors and other health professionals. This was a strange twist because in my younger years I was desperate to avoid this sort of thing.

I worked at Beefeater Steakhouses and took part in management training; a key part of this is staff training. I received excellent training in how to train. I took these skills and used them when I moved onto ‘Brewers Fayres”.

At Brewers Fayre, one of the management training exercises was a hypothetical situation of several ‘restaurant’ managers having to negotiate a share of an allotted budget. Each manager had to barter, haggle and negotiate a share of the budget in order to improve their restaurant.

Not to put too fine a point on it but I wiped the floor with the other ‘managers’ in the discussion, I think I actually got over 50% of the budget when there were 6 teams involved.

On a similar theme to my confidence to stand up in front of large groups and present a subject. I delivered the main eulogy at my father’s funeral. Afterwards several people suggested that I try my hand at stand-up comedy, which I did. I would have taken this further had it not been for a total lack of opportunities in Teesside. The biggest challenge was standing up in front of three hundred year nine, ten and eleven pupils at a school in Darlington and talking for half an hour about Mucopolysaccharidosis, an illness that my son has. This talk was to raise money for Jeans for Genes.

However this ability to stand up and talk, about subjects I’m passionate about, will be a powerful skill as a Producer. I know I have the ability, when it comes to selling any film that I’m involved in and passionate about, to stand up in front of a group of potential backers and ‘sell’ them the project.

From taking part on a Writers workshop at Northern Film and Media, facilitated by Paul Fraser, I was made aware of the concept of the ‘Elevator Pitch’. I’m not sure if this is an urban myth or a thing of legend, but I was expected to stand up in front of a panel of four industry ‘big-wigs’, as well as an audience of thirty others invited by NFM, and talk about my screenplay, ‘James and the Giant Speech’ about a teenager who stammers. I got a big ovation at the end, as well as valuable feedback.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meredith_Belbin

7 Techniques for More Effective Brainstorming, Brianna Hansen, https://www.wrike.com/blog/techniques-effective-brainstorming/ 16/11/2016