WHEN THE STAKES ARE HIGH
AARON K TALKS TO BRIAR PACEY, OF THE PACEY PRODUCTION COMPANY, ABOUT WHY IT TAKES FAR MORE THAN A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER TO MAKE A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN SHOOT
I’m sure that many photographers dream of shooting international advertising campaigns for huge global brands, with shoot budgets often exceeding $100K — I know I do! But, at this upper end of the photography market, the stakes are very high and so are client expectations. To be taken seriously by the ad agencies who award these jobs, photographers need to offer a full range of professional production services — such as location scouting, talent casting, catering trucks, childminders, animal wranglers, safety officers, etc. For photographers who have agents, that’s no problem, because their photo agency can provide production support. But what do you do if you don’t have an agent and you get the chance to bid on a big advertising job? Well, in that case, you simply pick up the phone and call someone like Briar Pacey, from the Pacey Production Company — who just happens to be my interview subject for this issue.
Aaron K: What’s your background — how did you become a producer?
Briar Pacey: I started out as a camera assistant when I was 18 and straight out of art school then moved over to London for about eight years and ended up working for quite a well-known photographer over there, a guy called Rankin. My role involved producing his exhibitions, books, personal projects, and all sorts of commercial projects. So, I kind of fell into production that way — wanting to be a photographer initially, and ending up just doing production and really enjoying it. I came back to New Zealand and started up a hire studio for my old boss, Janek Croydon. Then I did a stint with the lovely girls at Our Production Team, before opening up the Pacey Production Company in 2008.
What sort of services does your production company provide?
We provide full-service production — so, starting from the initial shoot brief, we’ll produce estimates, coordinate logistics, find locations, source talent, engage crew, manage the shoot itself, oversee postproduction, make sure the final output is delivered on time to the right people, finalize budgets, and clean up any loose ends. We handle every aspect of a shoot, from start to finish, so photographers can focus solely on being creative and don’t have worry about all the logistical details.
Who are your typical clients?
Our core business is international line production, which is where overseas photographers or filmmakers are coming to New Zealand as a shoot location. We provide very high-end services for those big campaigns being shot here. For New Zealand photographers who don’t have agency representation, we can help out when they get a really sizeable job that they don’t feel confident producing by themselves. So, they can just call me, and we can provide production services directly to the client to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Can you help photographers with bidding/ estimating?
Absolutely. It’s a tricky one for production companies, because, if the bid isn’t successful, there’s no charging for services, but it’s the work that we need to do to land jobs. What I tend to do is come on-board with the photographer and help them through the whole bidding process, because often you’re doing five or six bids for each job as the brief keeps evolving and changing. If the photographer gets the job and then decides to go ahead without using our production services, I’ll charge for that process. But, generally, you’re throwing your hat in the ring with the photographer, and you end up working with them on the job to make sure they really nail it for the client.
How would you describe your role in the creative process?
I’m the organizer. I use my contacts to pull together a creative team that will achieve the best result. I facilitate communication. I arrange the schedule. I run the crew. I manage the budget. As a producer, you’re like the lynchpin for the entire shoot — keeping everyone informed and on task, because you know what’s happening across the entire job.
What are some common problems you encounter when you’re producing a shoot?
It’s everything, I guess. The main challenges tend to come from a lack of time or a lack of money. Often they go hand in hand — which makes it difficult. You just have to get good at managing people’s expectations — working out the logistics and intricacies, and offering up options [that] the budget allows. I love that puzzle solving.
What can photographers do to make your job easier and get a better end result?
If photographers are handling the briefing stage, it’s vital [that] they get all the relevant information from the client as quickly as possible. What’s the deadline? What’s the usage? How many talent? What are their location requirements? That sort of thing. I need to know all the nuts and bolts so I can start putting things together. Using some form of checklist or email template to help you gather information can make this task a lot easier.
Over the years, you’ve worked with a lot of very successful photographers — are there attributes or qualities that they have in common?
They all work extremely hard — they’re workaholics, basically. They all do a lot of their own, self-funded personal work. They have tenacity. And they have gift of the gab — they are great communicators, visually and orally. They’re just cool to be around and can work with anyone and everyone on set to get a great shot — whether it’s a young kid, a make-up artist, an art director, or a celebrity.
To read more about the Briar’s services, head online to paceyproductioncompany.co.nz.
Marcel Pabst, marcelpabst.se