Whether it’s a film, TV series or a commercial, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes of what we watch from the comfort of our own homes. So how does a crew reach the final product? Chloe Franchina spoke to Kevin Harwood, a freelance producer, to find out what this career really involves.
How did you become a freelance producer? Did you need any specific training or education?
I worked my way up from runner: I made tea, drove people around, did photocopying – the usual! I was then given the opportunity to work on the studio floor as third, second, and then first assistant director. Whilst still accepting work as a first assistant director, I moved back into the production office as a production manager, before someone gave me a smaller project to produce. You always start with smaller projects then work your way up, learning as you go. I had no qualifications and I entered the industry when I was twenty years-old, having been in the workplace since I was 17.
What personal qualities do you think are essential to be good at your job?
Being a people person is vital: You need to empathise with people, identify and solve their problems, as well as use your role as team leader to motivate others. The ability to work both logistically and creatively is also important so you can get the most out of the resources available to you to make each project look stunning. Time and budget management skills are also imperative.
What does a typical day consist of?
When I’m shooting I tend to work 8am–7pm, but it’s usually a little longer as you will discuss the previous day and/or next day with the director and key crew members. In pre and post-production the hours can be shorter, but I will always plan to be out for at least 12 hours a day. In pre-production I help to schedule the shoot, working on budgets and doing deals with studios, crew and suppliers. I also work closely with the director to offer a creative opinion where needed or to keep them on brief if we are making a commercial. During the shoot those responsibilities tail off a little and client/advertising agency handling takes a fair amount of time, plus being an extra pair of eyes and ears on the shoot. Post-production will be spent in an edit then the post-production house work on polishing the project with CGI and sound. All the while I will be keeping an overarching view of the budget and of the creative side of things.
What is the best thing about your job?
Most days are different and present new challenges and problems to solve. Also, seeing an idea that you have nurtured from the back of a beer mat all the way to it being on TV is very satisfying. I really enjoy working with the crew – the banter and camaraderie are second to none.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
‘No regrets – whatever decision you make will be the right decision in the end.’ That’s a nugget from my dad. There is no shame in admitting you made a mistake, in fact it can be healthy, but when it comes to the big stuff in life have courage in your convictions and keep your head held high.
What would be your biggest tip, for someone looking to follow your career path?
The sooner you can get into the industry the better – do some intern work for free, work hard and don’t moan! It will not be like anything you have done before but that can be very exciting. Hard workers that show real interest in what themselves and those around them are doing (no matter what part of the industry) get noticed and recognised with a call for the next project.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Last year I was lucky enough to be involved with the John Lewis Christmas commercial – The Bear and the Hare. I was involved very early on, helping to make big decisions creatively and logistically. I was incredibly proud of my crew and of the end result.
What’s been the most challenging part of your career so far?
Unfortunately I would say it’s being a freelancer. When the phone doesn’t ring for a while and you’ve sent two hundred CVs to every production company that Google can offer, it can be mentally very tough to stay focused on pursuing this career. Money runs low, temporary jobs have to be taken and you get what we call ‘the fear’. It’s a fear of where your next job is coming from and even after 12 years, I still get it!
If you could spend one day in a different career, what would it be and why?
It’s epically clichéd but I’ve got to say a racing driver. I love pushing myself to the edge, being scared and I am also exceptionally competitive!