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Meet Your Makers: Ryan Smith


Whitehouse Post's senior producer on the instinct to problem solve, a passion for colour and the importance of interacting with people

Meet Your Makers: Ryan Smith

Born and raised in London, senior producer Ryan Smith began his career as a producer at Factory, an audio house in London. A musician himself with a desire to work in the creative world, producing audio was a natural first step into the post industry.  After a couple years learning the production ropes, Ryan joined Whitehouse Post as a producer in 2017, where he quickly rose through the ranks and was offered the opportunity to relocate to the NYC office. A true 'people person' known for his enthusiasm and collaborative approach to all parts of the process, Ryan recently produced Mountain Dew Major Melon with John Cena for the 2021 Super Bowl. When he’s not working you’ll find Ryan wandering his new adopted neighbourhood, likely singing and snapping pics in the streets, be sure to say hi!

LBB> 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?

Ryan> I’ve always been massively into film, and obsessed with music. I spent my twenties playing in a band and working in a primary school actually! I loved working with children, but I always had a desire to be in the creative world. I knew I wanted to be part of the process in some way. I’m the son of a film editor so I guess it’s in my blood.

LBB> 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?

Ryan> My first foot in the door to production was as a producer at Factory, an audio house in London. For me it was so important to see how audio worked within the industry. Audio is one of the last pieces of the puzzle, and I think it’s sometimes unfairly left to last minute, so it was great for that to be the focus for me. Production is such an integral part of the entire process, Factory helped me understand that producing is a real team effort. I also had a real interest in how the story was put together, and that led to a job at Whitehouse Post in London


LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?

Ryan> Producing is a lot about instinct and problem-solving, thinking ahead and finding solutions. When I passed my driving test (second attempt), my driving instructor said to me 'now you’re about to really learn to drive.'  I think that about most things – you learn when you’re in the situation, when you’re in the driving seat. Clichés are clichés for a reason, and every day I’m learning something new.

LBB> 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?

Ryan> I moved with Whitehouse to New York in 2018 and the post-production world here is a lot different to London. Here, I’m the post producer, I oversee not only the edit, but I’m part of the complete process, right to final shipping. That was a bit of a culture shock, so my first few jobs were pretty challenging. I had audio locked down, but the whole finishing process was a brand new ball game. Now have an even bigger appreciation for what goes into the back end of a production. I also found a new love and passion for colour – that’s one of my favourite parts of the entire process.

LBB> 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? Why/why not?

Ryan> I’ve had the opportunity to produce commercials, short films, and music videos, so I think I could definitely transition to longform. I think it’s all about organisation and expectations. If you have that fine-tuned, then I guess you can bring that to any medium. I’ll let you know after I’ve produced my first digital experience though…!

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

Ryan> I enjoy the collaborative aspect of it. You’re the go-to between your editor and the client. I also have the best production team around me. I speak to my team about 15 times a day, you’re always learning and teaching each other something. Nothing beats the ‘job award’ email though. That’s always fun!

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

Ryan> Well, everyone wants the champagne lifestyle on the lemonade budget, but I’m not sure that’s changed haha. I think the biggest one for me is we’re not just making :60 commercials with a :30 cutdown. We’re also making 20x :15 socials for Instagram, Facebook and Tiktok. It’s pretty wild. A recent job I produced had just under 500 deliverables! There are so many different platforms now, and so many different aspect ratios to think about.

LBB> 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?

Ryan> Communication and trust are key. Someone can teach you to create bids and the ins-and-outs of the craft etc., but it’s interacting with people that is the gold dust. I think that comes from within.

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

Ryan> I will always have a lot of love for the first project I ever produced, a Virgin Media spot with Usain Bolt. It was really exciting and really cool. Another project that I’m really proud of was an Ad Council campaign about teenage adoption. The director asked me to come and watch the spot in the edit suite and I burst into tears. I’m an emotional lil’ soul, and not afraid to show it when something moves me.

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

Ryan> Every job has it’s challenges in one way or another, and nothing proved that more than working in 2020. I had a couple of situations where we were awarded a job, they were shooting in the next 12 hours, and then production was shut down due to Covid. On the bright side, I got to produce my very first Super Bowl spot for the 2021 game, which was amazing. It was a Mountain Dew spot and it was such an enjoyable job, to see a commercial job you’ve worked on air during the Super Bowl in real time is very fulfilling. I also had a commercial air during the Oscars, and the Olympics closing ceremony. I’m going for the EGOT of advertising, lol. I also love it when I get to work on projects that showcase the queer community, and I’m also not ashamed to admit I get excited when I get to work with some stellar celebrities – I got to work on a Pepsi campaign with Cardi B. That was a lot of fun!

LBB> 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?

Ryan> Oh man , I wouldn’t know where to start! I guess a lot of the pandemic was a challenge – working through postings and trying to navigate working through Zoom had its moments. 2020 was such a weird year, I’d be taking calls at 2am to try and secure jobs. There was a brief moment when I thought people would never shoot again.

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

Ryan> Well, I’ve had some awesome opportunities already, one of the biggest ones was producing a job for my dad. That was a career highlight. I’d like to work on a Lady Gaga music video, the creative is always really cool, and she makes a big deal out of her videos. Me and my sisters used to watch The Box and MTV for hours, music video after music video. There are a few directors I’d love to work with too, Sam Levinson, for instance.

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

Ryan> Collaboration. Every person is important and has their role to play, so it’s all about working together, asking questions, and understanding everyone’s needs and ambitions for the project.

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

Ryan> As with any relationship, trust. I always want my clients to know that they’re in the best and safest hands with me, and they are.

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

Ryan> Haha, it’s not easy, but I try! I am massively into music, so I spend a lot of my time discovering new music and making playlists. I’m teaching myself to DJ too. I also recently bought a 35mm camera so I’ve been enjoying getting into that. I’m a bit of a lone wolf at heart, so you can most likely find me biking around New York. When I do switch off, I like to remind myself how incredibly lucky I am to live and work in this city.

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

Ryan> My biggest advice is to treat each job like it’s an Oscar winner. I approach the :06 online spot the same way I approach the :60 Samsung campaign. It all gets the same love and attention. Remember that there are no stupid questions, ever. If in doubt, ask. Producing is a full-on job, but it’s a rewarding one. You will have the opportunity to work on some really creative projects – every now and again you get the chance to work on something that really touches your soul, and that’s magic.

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Whitehouse Post - US, Thu, 22 Jul 2021 10:37:31 GMT