1) Tracy Wong sometimes talks about the difference between listening with an empty mind versus an open mind. An open mind is already filled with ideas and beliefs. You might be open to hearing a different perspective, but your head is already crammed full of your own experiences as you listen. Listening with an empty mind allows you to process a story or idea without that bias. That’s an especially important skill for new directors to hone because they’re fundamentally telling other people’s stories for a living. Empathy and collaboration are critical to doing that effectively, and that starts with listening well.
2) Don’t pigeonhole yourself. The best producers are naturally great listeners, creative thinkers, and problem-solvers. They’re also super-organized. If you foster those skills in everything you do, while embracing every kind of project opportunity you’re given, you’ll add a diversity of hard skills to your kit that will make you invaluable to any production or organization. You might find that you prefer producing TV spots over apps or social content, for example, but having that variety of experience early and often will make you a better producer of whatever you ultimately decide to focus on.
3) A few years ago, I produced a series of emerging tech installations using photography, video, and 3D assets layered into various other kinds of digital development, including AR. I didn’t have a large team of producers to navigate the entire program, so I found myself relying on my production partners to fill in knowledge gaps for me along the way. I always try to recruit the smartest, most collaborative production partners I can find because they are usually the best teachers. The project wasn’t without its bumps, but if you have great partners, listen well, and are upfront about where you need their guidance in specific planning steps, you’ll learn what you need to know very quickly. I also believe we are all better producers when we’re just a bit on our heels, doing something that we haven’t completely mastered. I’ve spent most of my career at smaller shops in part because it gives me that constant variety and opportunity to learn new things.
4) Reimagining the entire visitor experience for the Space Needle was definitely a career highlight. From collaborating with the visionary architectural team at Olson Kundig, to building out a year’s worth of individual production programs, that was definitely the most expansive and inspiring project I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on. It was humbling to experience the finished product holistically—and acknowledge what amazing things a relatively small group of people can accomplish.