Producers are a magical breed. They marry creative vision with logical instincts and harbour the Herculean ability to remain composed whilst moving mountains. All the while they are deftly dealing with a myriad of often anxious and overworked stakeholders.
Whilst a majority tend to remain on their side of the table, others have worked across agencies, brands and production companies. These rarer breeds are a wealth of knowledge and of invaluable help in piecing together the puzzle that is a successful film campaign.
One such oracle is Pia Dueholm. As a producer Pia adapts seamlessly to her environment, whether it be surrounded by creatives, marketing executives or directors. Yet unlike a chameleon, her presence is always noted, leaving accolades, fans and fantastic films in her wake. Over the years Pia has worked with the likes of Partizan, ACNE and most recently served as the Executive Producer at the renowned Swedish agency INGO. Pia is now freelancing with agencies and brands such as H&M, iZettle and Hedvig.
With the increasing shift towards in-house production, Goody Bag wanted to mine her treasure trove of knowledge in the hopes of imparting some pearls of wisdom on brands looking to start producing internally.
Q> What key decisions should a brand make about their film before reaching out to external production partners?
Pia> First of you all need to have in-depth knowledge of the film production process. If not, hire this competence on a freelance basis to help scope the project. It’s important to be thoroughly prepared before reaching out to external parties. Some key decisions and preparation include:
- A clear strategy
- Roll-out plan
- Asset list
- Usages and options
- Finalised script
- Alignment of overall creative vision
- Corresponding budget and production schedule (key dates)
- Production brief
- Standard Industry Production Agreement and payment schedule
- Covid Addendum and client’s financial responsibilities
- Align on internal approval processes and mandates
It’s important to optimise your creative idea for film as an emotional medium and match it to the relevant production conditions/restrictions such as shoot location, budget, estimated launch date and communication needs.
Q> What are the key pieces of information a brand should consider in their roll out plan?
Pia> In order to maximise the return on every penny spent, it’s important to have a clear strategy and carefully consider what exactly you’re trying to communicate, who the target audience is and how to reach them.
I strongly believe that clarity and laying a solid and realistic foundation for the project massively increase the chances of a smooth production, reaching the desired end result on time and budget as well as managing expectations along the way.
Q> How can these pieces of information influence the film’s creative and potential production partners?
Pia> For example, if the company has a vertical mobile-first approach, they shouldn’t bank on long narratives or dialogue-driven script ideas, cinematic framing and so on.
In short, base the creative idea on the relevant media/format.
Q> How should brands go about developing a budget for their production?
Pia> Before commencing script writing, they need to be clear on creative expectations and what they’re able and willing to spend on the production. To get an idea of costs and what they can expect for their budget, I recommend consulting an agency producer (or someone knowledgeable and experienced with filmmaking) to share ballpark examples for comparison and advise on possibilities and restrictions.
Q> Some brands are small and nimble, others large and slower. What can brands do to speed up the film approval process?
Pia> Clarity on key decision makers and mandates will help meet key deadlines and respect the final delivery date. One main contact person should be nominated to align with the production company on collective feedback and approvals.
It’s crucial to flag in advance any potential lengthy and unavoidable internal processes, legal requirements, extensive bureaucracy and numerous stakeholders. They should always be considered in the initial scheduling as they are highly likely to have both practical and financial consequences throughout the production.
Q> Do you recommend bringing in external creatives for film briefs or developing the script internally?
Pia> I think it’s a balance for the individual brands to decide upon. Brands of course have in-depth knowledge of their needs and key values yet external creatives specialize in certain styles of script writing, creative executions and can possibly bring new and unexpected ideas to the table.
Q> What should brands consider when reaching out to potential production partners?
Pia> As well as sourcing engaged and passionate directors, they should of course aim to secure a solid production company/producer to manage and maximize their budget.
A few key points to consider when compiling a shortlist of directors:
- Are they suitable in terms of realizing the creative idea? For example, are they a strong visual, a poetic storytelling, humorous, or dialogue based director? Do they have specific experience with cars, VFX, celebrities, or children?
- Is local knowledge or a good grasp of a certain language important?
- Are they flexible and collaborative or do they have a “less flexible” vision?
- Are they a realistic match in terms of the budget available?
Q> Would you advise brands to hold a traditional pitch or single bid?
Pia> Given a reasonable budget and when time allows, I would recommend inviting three directors to outline their creative interpretation of the script for variety and different perspectives. By not putting all your eggs in one basket, you can afford to include less “safe” directors, who in turn might contribute with unexpected and new-thinking ideas to create memorable and engaging content.
Also, from a more practical POV it is always interesting and reassuring to understand how different production companies propose to tackle the actual execution before making a final decision.
Q> What are the most common mistakes you see brands make when beginning a film project?
Pia> For brands and agencies alike, I’d say being unprepared when reaching out to production companies, not fully understanding the film production process and underestimating what is required in terms of time and budget to realize their creative idea.
Q> Do you have any thoughts on brands producing themselves versus working with external production companies?
Pia> It completely depends on their creative expectations, scale and complexity of what they are aiming to achieve. It’s a question of getting the right competence onboard to secure the process and execution. These days so many good people have joined client-side, but you want to avoid becoming a “Jack of trades, master of none”.
Q> And if a brand is working on a film via their agency, why do you think the Account Team holds such a key role in the production process?
Pia> The roles of the Account Director and Account Manager should never be underestimated. A strong or weak account team can make or break a production, as they hold a key position right between the client and creative side (creatives, director, producer and key crew etc.).
In an ideal world, you’ll want an experienced and fearless team, who has succeeded in building trust and winning the client’s confidence to secure a good foundation and enabling a creative and non-restrictive execution. The opposite is roughly the equivalent of a bad editor single handedly ruining perfectly good footage
Q> Looking at your career, have you been able to notice any common threads between the films you're most proud of and that have gone the smoothest?
Pia> A film production consists of hundreds of elements and people from start to finish and, once in a while the planets align, when there’s a true sense of collaboration. People taking pride in the application of their craftsmanship or specific knowledge to create something beautiful, meaningful, unexpected, fun or given a fair wind, a combination of these.
And as mentioned previously: Fearlessness, trust and a solid foundation to enable a creative and non-restrictive execution.
Finally, surround yourself with switched-on, open-minded and slightly mad people who love what they do.