“… like plate spinning, fire-fighting and herding cats at the same time.” Illustration by Louis Hudson

What A Digital Producer Does

Recently I have given a few careers talks — telling prospective job seekers about my path from student to Digital Producer.

As a result of that process I’ve become aware of just how hard it can be to express the breadth of responsibilities involved in the role.

So to that end — and to explain to potential clients why you may want one for your project — here are some of key things I do as a Digital Producer…

I see things through from beginning to end.

I’m frequently one of the first people in and last people out. Working up concepts and practicalities for a pitch or commission, then taking active responsibility for production and delivery as well as any distribution plans and post-project ‘wash up’.

I see it as my job to proactively shepherd an idea from post-it notes and discussions into a complete final audience-facing thing. But more than that, to take it through that journey acting as the advocate for the core client and audience needs, even as elements have to shift.

I project manage…but I’m not a project manager.

I usually take on responsibility for generating and managing the administrative elements of projects — a budget, project plan, risk log etc. but for me they are a means to an end — not the core area of interest. As a Digital Producer it’s not necessarily my job to be a whip-cracking, gantt-charting force managing a project’s progress in the abstract.

These are tools to give everyone visibility and help me plan and frame the project at a macro level — but not an excuse to avoid the nitty gritty. A Digital Producer needs to understand and take hands-on responsibility for every block, dependency and milestone on a plan. It’s much more important that the right progress is happening ‘at the coalface’, and that is ultimately the Producer’s responsibility.

I put together and manage creative teams.

I see it as my job to help bring together the right mix of skills to deliver a project. Sometimes that’s a case of knowing the right people to call on. Sometimes it’s about taking on hands-on elements of the work myself or coming up with creative workarounds for things that are difficult to achieve.

It’s about having a network of trusted collaborators that you know you can work with, then proactively taking on responsibility for managing and supporting the work they have to deliver.

I’m creative…but I’m not THE creative.

You have to be creative — not just with ideas and editorial, but with solutions.

Digital Producers often have a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ side to their production skills. Whilst some favour one particular discipline more than others — you often need to know the basics of writing, coding, graphic design, video production, post-production and everything in-between. All in order to understand the practical considerations of getting something produced.

You need to employ your knowledge of these requirements to identify and work with partners to solve creative problems. To be a fresh pair of eyes for someone’s particular specialism and to be creative with editorial ideas, technical solutions and process/budgetary magic to help make things happen.

I worry so you don’t have to.

This one is pretty self-explanatory but feels core to the character of all the best Producers I’ve worked with. We’re professional worriers — anticipating, catastrophising, mitigating so that issues are headed off or dealt with effectively as they arise.

Sometimes that means escalation, sometimes that means making proactive decisions or taking actions based on a wider understanding of the audience/stakeholder needs.

If there’s one person that makes it their business to know and wrangle with every element of a project — and what might go wrong with it — it’s the Producer.

I act as the conduit/filter

As part of ‘owning’ a project — a Digital Producer manages the flow of information. Not in a megalomaniacal way, but in a position that makes sure everyone is free to focus and fulfil their particular role. Like I say — I worry, so they don’t have to.

The stakeholder doesn’t want to know about every minor niggle or small decision that needs making to unblock a process. The team on the front line are unlikely to want to know the musings of or problems arising from wider stakeholders unless it becomes something clear and actionable.

My job is to defend people from distractions. To be the force that keeps things moving and keeps everyone happy.

Illustration by Louis Hudson

I get things produced!

As obvious as it sounds, I ultimately make it my job to get things ‘Produced’ — whatever that takes. The Digital Producer is someone to whom a client can delegate responsibility for the practicalities and detail of getting something made, and to whom the creative team can look for support, guidance and protection as they work to make it happen.

Sometimes it’s a smooth process — managing others who deliver the bulk of the hard work. Sometimes it’s more hands on, learning a new production tool or technique to plug gaps in resource or to maintain momentum when time is tight. Whatever the project needs to get from where it started to what goes in front of an audience, I see it as my job to make it happen. To win the budget, to manage and facilitate creatives, to champion the project until it’s done…

People don’t always understand it but it really is such a hybrid role. As a Producer I’ve been a director, a scriptwriter a continuity person, a runner, a sound designer, a foley artist, an editor, an agony aunt, a friend, a pain in the backside and everything in between. All in the service of a project’s particular requirements.

It can be like plate spinning, fire-fighting and herding cats at the same time. It can be thankless at points— enough in the thick of things to have responsibility and stress but not necessarily in the limelight as a creative force. However at its best it’s also wonderfully rewarding — a great way of placing yourself in a fantastic position to see all manner of interesting things brought to life for audiences.

It’s hard to express just how satisfying it can be knowing that an idea you helped pitch, a team you pulled together, the funding you helped corral, the people you supported, the bureaucratic issues you wrangled, the tiny decisions you had to make — all helped get something new created.

For more about my work visit http://www.sideburnpanda.co.uk