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Creative: Focus - Agency Producer

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First Conference Spotlights Role in Creative Process
An agency producer is a "part-time psychiatrist, scheduler, creative, producer, placater, baby sitter and the eyes and ears of an agency," says Frank Scherma, executive producer of radical.media.
Just how this jack-of-all-trades affects the creative process was the focus of the first Broadcast Producers Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., held two weeks ago. Scherma, who discussed "Nurturing the Relationship Between Production Companies and Agency Producers," claims "trust is the answer to creating the best work."
Some 130 executives from ad agencies, production, post-production and music companies and industry associations, such as the Screen Actors Guild, gathered to offer advice on making commercials.
"I wanted attendees to walk away with the understanding that there needs to be this kind of forum and dialogue to promote change within our industry," says Jane Jacobsen, a freelance agency producer who formed Intrigue Communications, host of the conference.
The two-day program highlighted a wide range of topics and segments within the creative community. Among the presentations: director Erich Joiner of Tool of North America offered "A View From the Director's Chair"; Steve Neely, deputy executive director/executive producer at Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, discussed the "Evolution of the Producer as Creative"; Robert Riccardi, director of account management at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, spoke about "Building a Positive Relationship With the Account Team"; Mitch Kanner, executive director of commercial marketing at Digital Domain, gave an overview of "Special Effects and Digital Technology"; and Carolyn Giardina, senior editor at Shoot, defined "HDTV for Agency Producers."
Panel discussions opened the topics to debate. For example, among the concerns discussed in a production company panel moderated by Grant Hill, executive vice president/executive production director at DDB Needham, Chicago, were client insurance policies, the bidding process and the use of spec creative, a hotly contested issue.
While some view spec as a way to build a director's reel, others see it as an abuse of relationships. "This is a creative community about talent and creative product. These models say it is a commodity," says panelist Matt Miller, president of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. "The second we start believing it is the second this industry erodes."
Overall, attendees and participants voiced their appreciation for the chance to convene, discuss and learn. "The people in the room are responsible for millions of dollars. [They] are trying to turn a piece of paper into a piece of film. Why not share that information and make the relationships as good as they can be?" asks Neely, whose 10 steps to becoming a good producer include: "It's OK to say I don't know" and "Be Prepared. For Anything."
"I was happy someone took the time and was brave enough to launch something for broadcast production," says Hill, who served as one of 10 agency producers on the conference's advisory board. "It's worthy of study, review and analysis. This will make people in broadcast production better at what they do, more informed and more connected with people at other agencies."
"We're kind of a disenfranchised community," adds Jennifer Golub, director of production of TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, and executive producer on the Apple account, Los Angeles. "What was most valuable was not only the issues that were raised and the thought-provoking concepts, but to come in contact with your colleagues, to have that fraternity. It was really special.