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Meet Your Makers: Curating the Vibe with Ashley Goodwin

Meet Your Makers 331 Add to collection

Blacksmith’s VFX producer on her journey through the industry so far, what fuels her curiosity and drive, and the secret to a successful production-client relationship

Meet Your Makers: Curating the Vibe with Ashley Goodwin

Ashley Goodwin moved to New York City from a little beach town in Connecticut to attend School of Visual Arts for Film/Video Editing. She started out at Click 3x working as a machine room operator and assistant editor although quickly discovered that her skills would be better suited in production. She got her first job as an associate finishing producer at Crew Cuts, then continued to cut her teeth at The Mill.

Wanting to hone her craft, Ashley briefly went freelance and eventually began working at Blacksmith, a boutique VFX company in SoHo NYC. She currently produces both VFX and Colour there, and is an integral member of the team who utilizes her experience and charisma to help execute her team’s vision.

In her spare time, Ashley enjoys listening to music, hand-building ceramics, baking bread, and playing Dungeons and Dragons on a live-play podcast called Try Not to Die.

Q> What first attracted you to production? Has it been an industry you’ve always worked in, or did you come to it from another area?

Ashley Goodwin> Producing is something I kind of fell into, which I feel is true for a lot of producers. I don’t think that if you asked younger me ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?’ I would have said ‘I’m gonna be a post producer’. However, I always wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, even as a choir kid in high school. Making something beautiful with a community of people that I enjoy has always been the goal - regardless of what that beautiful thing is. 

Q> What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career?

Ashley> While I was finishing at the School of Visual Arts for film editing, I started as an intern at Click3x and eventually worked my way into the machine room as a data tech, delivering projects and editing company reels. It was at Click where I got to work alongside some of the coolest people in the biz in NYC, and where I learned so much just from observing how the structure of a post-production studio worked in tandem with advertising agencies. I also realised how important VFX was in the film/TV/ad world, which wasn’t something I think I understood until I was out of film school. Learning that sparked my interest in the process, outside of just an editing perspective.

After leaving Click3x, I got a job at Crew Cuts as an assistant producer in their small VFX/finishing department and that’s where I realised I had a knack for this producing thing and so I stuck with it.

Q> How did you learn to be a producer? 

Ashley> Mostly through observation and mentorship from some incredible EPs. My assistant editor/data tech background cultivated my organisational skills and knowledge of post-production, while observing partners and producers who ran the businesses showed me how the work was stewarded through the process. This combination of experiences led me to realise that I didn’t want to sit behind an editor, but instead I wanted to be the one talking with clients, getting the work through the building, and fostering relationships with artists, producers and creatives that I really admired.

Smirnoff's 'Infamous Since 1864' - Ashley's first project at Blacksmith

Q> Looking back to the beginning of your career, can you tell us about a production you were involved in where you really had to dig deep and that really helped you to grow as a producer?

Ashley> After Crew Cuts, when I was at The Mill, I worked on an ambitiously creative, seamless-VFX-heavy Adidas campaign that was the most bootcamp-esque producing experience that I’ve ever had.

On the agency side, there was a team of several producers, but I was essentially on my own producing on the VFX side, and there were hundreds of unique deliverables. My lead on the project and I were there until the wee hours of the morning almost every night for several weeks.

Although it was difficult, that project is also the reason why I’m at Blacksmith today, via the connections I made with the Johannes Leonardo team. This was one of those projects where the result made the means well worth it. Not to mention the spots looked sick.

Q> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital experience. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Ashley> I agree, completely. The administrative, problem-solving, and social skills of a producer translate to almost any industry. It’s also made me great at planning parties and vacations, which was an unforeseen bonus.

Q> What’s your favourite thing about production and why? 

Ashley> Stewarding a project from bid to delivery is really satisfying. Watching the creative change from what was initially discussed on the first director call, and adapting to what the spot eventually ends up being is wild. Whether it comes together how we expected it to, or veers off into something even better, this process is unpredictable, so being able to problem solve quickly is something we pride ourselves on at Blacksmith.

Q> How has production changed since you started your career?

Ashley> Technology has of course cleared the way for shooting more and inevitably delivering more, but since I started producing I think the amount of post work for the VFX studio on any given job has increased - I can essentially guarantee that we will be touching every single shot. The bulk of the work, outside of a bigger CG spot, becomes about invisible effects. Many jobs that come in as in-camera projects end up being more tricky in ways we couldn’t have expected, vs larger pre-planned VFX jobs. This can make bidding a bit more challenging.

Our schedules have also become shorter, with even more deliverables. Sometimes hundreds of them! It started with :06 YouTube pre-rolls, and now we’re making ads for TikTok. It’s wild. We started making socials thinking ‘this is a phase, right?’

Ashley's latest project, Airbnb's 'Strangers'

Q> And what has stayed the same? 

Ashley> The coveted relationship between the post house and the production company remains vital. Post has gotten so much more integral to the process, so having that solid relationship with the directors we love to work with might be more important than ever. We love being brought into the process early in order to consult and develop a methodology for shooting that could potentially aid the director in winning the work.

Q> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer - and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?

Ashley> There is no one thing, in my opinion. Obviously the ability to calmly problem solve under pressure is paramount, but I also think a tenet of being an effective producer is being able to read the room. These days, whether the room is virtual or in person, sussing out the vibe is important and sometimes challenging. This ability is often innate, but of course, experience informs this the most. Alternative producer title idea: Vibe Curator.

Q> Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?

Ashley> It might be because it’s my most recent big project, or maybe it’s because it’s getting a lot of well-deserved attention recently, but I am so proud of Zillow’s ‘The Journey’.

We had a surprisingly short schedule for the level of complex environments we needed to concept and create, along with CG augmentations to the creatures we had to implement. Tom Bussell [creative director at Blacksmith] and I assembled a 25-person A-Team, in a pandemic, across the globe. The creative team at Fig completely trusted us with their work and gave us the space we needed to make this happen in the timeframe. With our work cut out for us, we put our heads down and got to it. The best times come when we’re punchy at 12am doing accents, but my pride comes from the grace of my team in the most challenging of situations. They make it look easy, when it is not.

Check out the story behind Blacksmith’s work on ‘The Journey’ here

Q> And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?

Ashley> Zillow! For all of the above reasons!

Q> Producers always have the best stories. What’s the hairiest / most insane situation you’ve found yourself in and how did you work your way out of it?

Ashley> There are too many to count! And a lady never tells. 

Q> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?

Ashley> I aspire to help facilitate the best creative in our little corner of post-production, while helping to make it work for everyone. It’s important to me to foster a supportive and mindful work environment so that, even amidst the chaos and ad-mergencies that inevitably exist in our business, everyone feels heard, and we make the best of each work day. Work-life balance is something that isn’t emphasised enough in our industry, but being mentored by the partners at Blacksmith has highlighted that this balance is equally as important as the work.

In the past two years at Blacksmith, I have enjoyed producing an array of projects; from fostering our colour department with Mikey [Pehanich], to heavier VFX/CG projects with the whole team. Although both have parts I love, producing more complicated CG work has been rewarding and I’m looking forward to more. 

Q> As a producer, your brain must have a never-ending "to do" list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

Ashley> Obviously, I love a good bev, some karaoke and dancing – who doesn’t – but outside of the usual, I play Dungeons and Dragons in a handful of campaigns - most notably on a super magical, super queer DnD live-play podcast called Try Not to Die (shameless plug). Who would have thought that it’s pretty fun blowing stuff up with magic after a day of working in advertising.

Allstate's striking campaign from last year, Moon

Q> Producers are problem solvers. What personally fuels your curiosity and drive? 

Ashley> Money and accolades. Kidding!

I’m always fascinated with how our leads will or solve for X on set in tandem with directors. Their methodologies sometimes surprise me, but watching them have those lightbulb moments and listening to them pitch their approach on calls or on set is really inspiring for me and for the team. It encourages each artist to bring new and innovative ideas to the table during any given project. That kind of freedom and openness to collaboration is energising.

Q> From your experience, what are the ingredients for a successful production?

Ashley> Time (you can’t rush quality) and more importantly, trust. Whomever my client is has to trust our vision and our ability to deliver effectively. On our Blacksmith team, everyone has to trust that each person will do their part to the best of their ability. The triangle of trust that is fostered over many months/years of successful work together is the key.

Q> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?

Ashley> You don’t need to go to film school to learn how to produce - but you do need to find a producer who thinks you have chutzpah to teach you the ropes. You also have to like the work and the people you’re producing for. You can burn out fast if you don’t.

Q> And finally, what’s the key to a successful production-client relationship? 

Ashley> Wine and boundaries.

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Blacksmith, Thu, 03 Mar 2022 09:11:13 GMT