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From ABC to PSN: Why Michael Moffett Went From News Anchor To Worldwide Services Producer
Founder of the Production Service Network Michael Moffett offers a local perspective on the production industry shooting overseas
- Monday, Oct. 10, 2016
Local shoot support is critical to most every professional film and photo shoot overseas. No surprise the AICP has invited PSN to join a panel discussion on foreign production, AICP/EAST Town Hall on Foreign Production, to be held in New York City on October 26, 2016
The journey from TV news anchor to running an international production network is not a straight line, but for Michael Moffett, EP and founder of PSN, it was a foregone conclusion.
Having created a one-stop shop that harnesses local support to service shoots worldwide, Michael explains his unique background, how he came to find himself in production in Spain and why he brought together over 40 like-minded production service companies into a worldwide association.
You were once an ABC news anchor. What made you decide to work behind the camera in a commercial setting?
Moffett: Fresh out of school I started as a one-man-band TV reporter –shooter, editor and news presenter for local primetime news. The daily news grind offered precious little opportunity to fine-tune a story with all the means available to filmmakers. I found that I gravitated behind the camera and toward projects that offered more production value.
The first documentary I produced and directed was a thrill. But it was during similar work on a series for European television promoting developing countries that I saw how client interests could blur factual boundaries – it was a great learning curve.
You originate from the USA, and you’ve worked around the world - what brought you to settle in Spain?
Moffett: Wanderlust got me to Madrid. I am a Los Angeles native, but this country is now my second home in Europe. I’m grateful to have first landed an opportunity to produce factual programming from Spain and Portugal for US Public Television and later National Geographic Channel.
What drew you to production services?
Moffett: When I moved to Spain, filmmaker friends from the US often rang me up for some local assistance when coming to town to shoot corporate and brand films, as well as TV show segments. My Spanish wife, Cristina Mateo, and I coordinated it all between the two of us. We soon realized what a booming industry it was in Spain, so we founded our boutique service company, Camino Media.
Why take the leap to start the Production Service Network?
Moffett: Our commercial and TV clients were asking us to service their shoots across Europe. We didn’t want to squander the opportunity, so we had to find a way to deliver quality, local service that didn’t result in double mark-ups. It was in our own interest to remain front of mind for our producer clients when shooting overseas - even if the brief took them elsewhere. This set the foundation for a reciprocal relationship between PSN Partners. We are a very carefully formed community and each member is happy to refer client projects to fellow Partners when the brief calls for it.
You call PSN a ‘community’. How are you different to a network that represents service companies?
Moffett: At PSN we don’t charge anything to connect producers at agencies, brands and production companies with local services. We are joined by the idea that we can share jobs globally to find the right fit for a production, as opposed to limiting ourselves to our own individual countries.
We also call ourselves ‘Partners’ because we each contribute some of our annual marketing funds to finance PSN promotion and client relations that spread the word.
Every project, and thus every producer, has different needs. We’re here to deliver locally, even when the brief calls for us to push the envelope. For example, we don’t represent directors but we can provide them.
Our community of Partners shares knowledge and expertise to make even the most fantastical production briefs feasible. We can supply the optimal locations to Clients and Producers to shoot their brief on budget, in record time. PSN is the common denominator positioned to provide all local support that is needed.
You provided directors on both Sony’s ‘h.ear on’ launch in Europe and on IBM’s recent Watson commercial with Australian oil and gas company Woodside. How did that process work?
Moffett: The Japanese production house GunsRock, working for client Sony and agency Dentsu, wanted an up and coming European director to capture the authentic street vibe for the roll-out of ‘h.ear on’ across Europe. Tapping into our network, they were looking for trusted local connections and resources. We were able to present great freelance directors from across Europe who might be suitable for the job within the 24-hour deadline. The client shortlisted three who quickly drafted treatments before choosing to work with David Vergés and shoot with us in Barcelona.
When it came to IBM, the requirements for this shoot were very unique. Only a limited production team of five people would be able to fly out and shoot onsite on Woodside’s rig in Australian open water. It required a director with dual DOP skills. The Barbarian Group in the US tapped into our network and we were able to set them up with a suitable director in no time – and at no extra cost.
So how does a company become a production partner at PSN?
Moffett: We’re all about quality, and we aren’t looking to expand into new countries for the sake of it. We are primarily located where Producers most often need to shoot. There is at least one board on the market for every one of our Partners at any given time. We only have one Partner in every chosen country because we aim to make a connection that is good for producers and our local service Partner. We only work with local companies that demonstrate expertise at delivering shoot support to the most demanding clients. In a 3 – 6-month recruitment process, I personally vet each candidate company and make numerous reference checks drawn from their credits before presenting it to our Partners for final approval.
What are your views on the production landscape right now? How do you see the production process working in 10 years?
Moffett: The genie is out of the bottle. Decoupling will remain a buzzword for some time to come. The next decade seems destined to involve a fine-tuning of the commercial production process that promises to deliver more for less.
Nevertheless, I think we all have a vested interest in supporting an industry model that nurtures the best directorial talent. I have faith in the passion that draws people to this industry and compels us through the challenges to create and deliver a film we can all be proud of. It is the pursuit of excellence that propels us forward. Consumer expectations will keep driving brands to achieve that same excellence for high profile work. At the same time there is a proliferation of media outlets hungry for content that brands will produce with more modest means, at least until they can better measure the ROI for being omnipresent.
You’re on the panel at an upcoming AICP panel in New York City about foreign production. How is PSN involved with the AICP?
Moffett: PSN is proud to be an associate member of AICP. The screening process AICP used before admitting PSN was similar to our own internal vetting process. We share the good business practices upheld by leading commercial production companies in the US. The US Production Liaison we brought on board this year to bridge time zone differences with US clients is Carolyn Hill, an AICP Board Member.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re looking to discuss on the panel?
Moffett: War stories from the trenches! The AICP has brought together a talented group of production veterans to identify the challenges of shooting overseas, and how we all have (hopefully!) overcome them successfully.
About Production Service Network (PSN)
Production Service Network is the one-stop shop for full local shoot support worldwide. Boots on the ground Partners are vetted production service companies in more than 40 countries.
PSN pools its resources to offer comprehensive assistance to producers shooting overseas. It puts this local expertise at producers’ fingertips for no added cost.
A successful shoot earns PSN the trust and friendship of producers who call the Network Partners time and again. That’s how they roll. productionservicenetwork.com