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Meet Your Makers: Paul Holmes



Executive producer, co-founder and CEO, Red Rage on effective producing, changing technology and the joy of long running ads

Meet Your Makers: Paul Holmes

Paul is CEO of Red Rage since 1997 and has produced over 500 advertising films for leading clients in Ireland an abroad. He has also produced some critically acclaimed TV documentary films. He is a graduate of the London Institute of Directors Chartered Directors Programme and is a former chair of Commercials Producers Ireland.

What first attracted you to production - and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?

I studied Film & TV in college and then I went on to work for TV stations Sat 1 & RTL plus in Germany as a cameraman. I then got hired as a Telecine Colourist at Windmill Lane in Dublin (and later in post houses in Sydney, Australia). When working as a Colourist, I listened to a lot of conversations over my shoulder from directors and producers and these had a massive influence on me realising that production was the right fit for me. I liked what I was hearing over my shoulder and I took a lot of notes. 

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?

I set up a production company in 1997 with very little production experience, bar a documentary I made and a few small film projects, so my first role in production was as producer which may sound a bit mental. I really had no idea what I was doing! I just got stuck in, convinced people to give me gigs, made many mistakes and learnt on the job.  

How did you learn to be a producer?

I learnt firstly by listening to lots of producers and directors talking about production (while I worked in post) and then by trial and error on the job with some valuable assistance from good Production Managers and great crew.


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?

On one of the very first large jobs (10-day shoot) I produced, I had some issues with the director and DOP (with whom I had not worked with a lot) being quite 'un-production friendly' and it was quite a massive challenge. I learnt the importance of this relationship and how producer, director and HODs have to all be on the same agenda and to communicate and work together. Having good solid relationships with your directors and with HODs is critical to being a good producer – without that, there is no enjoyment and little point.

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? 

I would strongly agree with this statement. This is a people business. You have to understand people, get on with people, compromise with people and ultimately entertain people. Producing is pulling all the parts together to make something happen. I was doing a large renovation job on a house a few years ago and I quickly realised how similar that business is to ours. The Architect (Director), Project Manager (Producer), QS (Production Manager) the Client (in this case me) and the Tradesmen (the Crew) all work in a similar structure to a film set with the ultimate goal of creating a great end result on budget and exceeding the client’s expectations.

What’s your favourite thing about production and why?

I love how production pulls great people together in the absolute belief in making great work. Film crew are true professionals always wanting to make things the very best they can be. I love the addictive nature of making films – the energy that erupts on every job, no matter how small. I love the challenge of the pitch, the reward that comes from thorough planning and pre-production and the satisfaction that comes from making good work. I love the people, the places, the crazy situations and I love to exceed expectations.

How has production changed since you started your career?

Technology has changed – I started working in post on film. The speed of information has changed. Everything happens much faster. The creative environment has changed in that the ambition of agency creatives is to make world class work. On the downside, the social aspect to the business has all but vanished. We need to make more time for this as, at the end of the day, it is all about people.

And what has stayed the same?

We still have a budget, a brief, and a client and we still strive to make the very best work. The process is largely the same (despite new technology and everything being faster) and good work, good ideas that are well made always cut through.  

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?

There are two parts to being an effective producer – you need to be very good with people and good with money. You need to understand people and what motivates them, get on with them, collaborate with them and be able to direct them when they are wrong. If you cannot manage money well, then stay well away from production. I think that a lot of producing talent is inbuilt in certain people, but it needs to be nourished. Not everyone can be a good producer.

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

When something runs on TV for 10 years (no matter how simple) it always pleases me. We made a Christmas ad for Spar Ireland in 2010 and its still running every year – we must have done something right!  

Spar Christmas

It’s always nice to receive recognition for your work and these ones that I produced were big award winners globally:

TG4 – Coldcase

Irish TV channel Promoting an Irish language soap and the well know US drama 

Today FM -  Ian

National Lottery - Daily Millions

And then the ones that you just love for other reasons:

Teletext - Nice Bus

A demo ad we made that got huge attention and launched director Brian O’Malley

Barry’s Tea – Best Man 

A memorable production experience shooting this one in South Africa

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

Having produced several hundred commercials in many parts of the world and in sometimes quite bizarre circumstances, I have plenty of war stories but what has happened in the last year beats them all. The challenges that COVID has placed upon us all are huge, but the way the global production industry has adapted is admirable. We shot for three days for Tesco for Rothco Accenture Interactive before Christmas and the director Lena Beug did not leave her apartment in New York for the entire production. It all went without a hiccup. We now have agencies, clients, sometime directors communicating over various platforms. Our pre and postproduction are entirely remote.  Who would ever have believed that would be the case a year ago?  

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?

The Bahamas 2013 with directors DADDY (Mike & Enda). I allegedly convinced the client that we go to the Bahamas with 60 cast and crew to shoot for a week to capture paradise for a series of Lotto Commercials. It rained and rained and rained. Monsoon style rain. Everyone we met said “It never rains like that here.” We all sat in the hotel and waited and waited. I paced the lobby for days and drank many “dark and stormy” cocktails. I prayed and just hoped. The client said, “This was your idea.” And then shoot day 1 – we saw our first Bahamian blue sky.  Someone was looking down on me!

Lotto - Bahamas

For the relaunch of Irish telecoms brand Eir, together with the wonderful director Michael Geoghegan, I was challenged to pull together a 7 day shoot with 35 cast shooting all over Ireland with just two weeks of pre-production. It was insane. No sleep, lots of driving, long, long days.  Just hard graft with a wonderful team and we pulled it off.  

EIR - Launch

What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?

My ambition has always been to make great work and to exceed the expectations of the agency and client. We are in the business of communications, so I want to make work that connects to people – that gets through to people and that means something to them.

As a producer your brain must have a never-ending ‘to do’ list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

Over the years I have become much better at switching off. With experience you get better and managing time and I love to spend time with my wife and two girls. We love to hang out by the sea where we live in Dublin and at our house in the West of Ireland where we enjoy watersports, walks, and any adventure that comes our way. We used to love to travel (remember that?). And not forgetting rugby for me (Munster and Ireland).

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

I have sometimes described my job as akin to the fire brigade. Once you are on a production, you are ‘on-call’ and be in no doubt that the phone will ring with problems. If you learn to expect problems and issues every day you can be ready to quickly and effectively put out the fires!

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

If you have it in you, you will probably already know. You need to be good at managing people and managing money and making those two sometimes conflicting pressures live in harmony can be a massive challenge. Be ready for 'uncertainty' as that word will travel with you everywhere you go, but don’t give up - persist. When I started in business a good friend gave me a gift of a poster with a quote from former US president Calvin Coolidge that hangs over my desk to this day:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” 

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

In simple terms, for a production to be deemed successful, you need a happy client, and you need to have made some money.  I would add to that that you have enjoyed the production experience; you have grown in yourself from your collaborations with great people and you have made something that you are indeed proud of.

What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship?

For me this starts with the producer understanding what the client’s job is and how the pressures they face are very different from your own.  It’s good to invest some time in reading marketing publications, put some resources into understanding the jobs of those with whom you work. After that it’s about openness, honesty, respect and hard work.

One specifically for EPs: Producers are naturally hands on - they have to be. How do you balance that in the more managerial role of an EP?

I have always been a hands-on producer and also filled the EP role all at the same time.  We like to get our hands dirty and get stuck in.  One of our directors who works a lot in the US told me that there were five people doing my job on her last US production:  talent scout, directors rep, bidding producer, line producer & EP.  

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Ponder, Tue, 02 Feb 2021 11:56:03 GMT