Bossing It in association withLBB's Bossing It

Bossing It: Modernising Leadership with Anissa Payne

Production Company
London, UK
NM Productions founder and executive producer on archaic methods, being open and transparent and the importance of self motivations

Anissa Payne is the founder and executive producer of NM Productions, a global production company. Anissa started NM 5 years ago, with a background in talent management & bookings, working for companies such as Core Artist Management and Schon! Magazine, she harvested what she had learnt in previous roles, together with her rapidly growing network and built NM Productions from the ground up. She is now responsible for her core NM teams and mobilising productions in London, LA, New York, Dubai, Milan and Malaga, working with high profile clients such as Hugo Boss, CitiBank, Ford, Nike, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aman Hotels, to name a few, across both moving image and stills campaigns, globally.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership? 

Anissa> Setting up and leading my business, NM Productions. 

LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be? 

Anissa> I was working for other people, helping others set up their own companies and working under senior vice-presidents of large media corporations and production companies and I found their methods to be quite outdated and archaic. They didn’t necessarily value their staff or input from their staff, and from that I learnt a lot about how I did and didn’t want to work. I wanted to encourage and show my own team how to work and to progress.

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you? 

Anissa> From a very young age it was always hard to accept others telling me what to do, I always had my own ideas on how things should be done. So, I knew I wanted to work for myself and have my own business but I understood I’d have to work for other people to learn how to do things well and how not to do things. So, I’d say from a very young age I had leadership qualities, it was just a case of trying to decide exactly what it was I wanted to do and how I wanted to lead. I kind of fell into starting my own company based on the quality of the experiences I’d had. 

LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned? 

Anissa> I definitely think leadership is a personality trait, not everybody wants to take on responsibility or accountability of what it means to be in charge or to instruct people and delegate. But I think over the years you learn how to communicate better and get your point across. I think that my leadership skills are constantly evolving. I don’t think you hit a point where you think you’ve reached your peak, it’s an ongoing journey of learning and developing yourself. This is largely to do with your peers and the scenarios that unfold around you.

LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them? 

Anissa> The most challenging aspect is finding the balance of being in charge but also not leaning too much into a hierarchy. I think it’s really important that people feel they are able to communicate with you and talk openly with you about their ideas and concerns. But I do think there’s a fine line between being too tough or too friendly. It’s a balancing act of being stern but fair whilst being amicable and welcoming, but also at the same time reinforcing that the buck stops with you.

LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it? 

Anissa> I feel like I fail when I lose my cool over something. I think it’s really important when in charge to handle things in a very calm and considered manner, which isn’t always possible in production. It certainly comes with its challenges in terms of demands, hours, respect in certain scenarios and managing expectations. I think we have to remind ourselves that we are all human beings, however it can definitely get to you, and I personally feel disappointed when I outwardly show my frustrations. 

LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be as transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered? 

Anissa> I definitely think you need to be open and transparent in what you want and what you can achieve and deliver on, this is what my entire business is built on. At the same time, I do think you should still hold your cards close to your chest, you know if the world is burning you try and put the fire out before you let everyone know. So, I think leadership comes with maintaining the calm through the storm and making everyone think it’s ok, even when you don’t think it is, while you work through the challenges and find solutions. 

LBB> It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters? 

Anissa> It has been a challenging year, but I think we also need to appreciate that we are very privileged in the respect that a lot of us have roofs over our heads and food in our bellies. So whilst it’s challenging because there are changes afoot, I think it’s very important that everybody keeps some perspective and remembers it’s not going to be like this forever. I very much live by the ideology that it could be worse and it’s good to be grateful for what you’ve got. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are and appreciate the things we have or do in the present, this is something I like to reinforce with my team - Storms pass!

LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this? 

Anissa> I find it baffling that in 2022 there is still judgment in hiring based on your colour or background. We hire people based on their ability to do what is required. We’re very open to giving people opportunities. Obviously, it’s difficult to reach everyone and I’ve certainly experienced people’s lack of understanding of the production industry or how to get into it, or that it’s even a job. I personally didn't know about production until I accidentally fell into it. I think it’s very important that schools and education systems provide programs to shed light on the industry, the opportunities available and how to get into it. NM Productions are a small business so we don’t necessarily have the resource / space to nurture and mentor people at present, in addition to our team, but I think in terms of our hiring process from a freelancer’s perspective or a employee’s perspective, we’re open to talking to everybody and giving everyone an opportunity irrespective of how many years you’ve worked or your background. One of our best team members came to us with no prior production experience, no experience that would even lend itself to this industry however, she demonstrated determination and willingness to learn which got her a foot in the door. This brings great fulfilment to me as a leader, as I see what she’s capable of now and in the future, as we nurture her progression. For us it’s about working hard, to get to where you want to be, but in turn I still think this industry, as well as other industries, have a very long way to go in terms of opening the door of opportunity to people, showing them what the industry has to offer. 

LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020? 

Anissa> I think it is really important to treat your team well and make them feel appreciated, their ideas and input matters. I like to give them the confidence to jump in with both feet and figure it out for themselves. I think that’s the only way you can learn. We’re very mindful at NM that if you’ve worked long hours, we try to give you some of that time back or we try to reward our people in terms of giving them an away day or a bonus. NM has a very flat structure, everybody chips in and helps each other irrespective of title or role. We work as a team to try and make each other's days smoother, or weeks a bit shorter. If you need a day, don’t feel well or are not happy about something, we try and encourage open communication around it. Working remotely obviously has its challenges. Not being there in person sometimes makes it harder to communicate as effectively, but as a company we have been able to bring everyone together remotely, and we value our ability to do this well - no matter where our teams are internationally, engaging with our global producers and PAs. So, I think we’ve certainly adapted well from that perspective, not suffering too much in terms of our business morale and our communication." 

LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey? 

Anissa> Having the self-motivation to be the best that I can be, with the skills that I have. As I said before, it’s an ongoing journey – an exciting one!

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