What I Learned in 2014: Alex Spahr, Director of Production, twofifteenmccann

By Egotist / /

About three years ago I went from being a freelance producer to being responsible for twofifteen’s production department. I found the new challenges instantly energizing and nerve wracking as I assumed a sense of personal responsibility for everything we put out the door, and I knew the bar was high.

This past year I had the pleasure of spending a little time with fellow production heads in San Francisco, some my former bosses and mentors, and I was eager to hear what all the answers were. How the pros do it, so I could just do that and relax. But I discovered they don’t have it all figured out either.

I learned the struggles we face in production are common to many. And I grew to appreciate even more through my own experience, the things inside of twofifteen which contribute to our special sauce.

It’s not a newsflash that clients want things cheaper and faster. Budgets are spread thin across multiple media touch points more and more. But feasibility begins with the creative idea. There is ever more pressure on producers to bring solutions. And while we’re seeing an evolution of options across the industry and inside agencies to meet those demands, there are some concepts that just can’t be executed for 100K. At least not executed well.

For the right idea, the agency can produce it ourselves. In-house content production has become scaleable and no longer requires a team of editor, animator, engineer, shooter etc. This year we hired our first production Generalist and he performs all of those roles for us.

I also learned there has to be a willingness to have those reality check conversations to protect for good work. Conversations between production and creative early enough in the process to help ideas become doable. Conversations between account and client where the same reality filter between budget and timing is clear for everyone as early as possible. When we’re arriving at solutions and setting expectations together, the results are something everyone feels good about.

I think fostering that dialogue and collaboration is something twofifteen does really well. Scott Duchon started the place with an intention to never put anyone’s names on the door. The place always has been and always will be the sum of its ingredients.

And if people feel heard, they feel invested. The production side of it is easier to pull off if everyone is on the same team with the same goal to make the best ideas real.

That runs the gamut from newer relationships like Pandora and Workday to Xbox where the relationship is 9 years strong. In this post-AOR environment especially, that’s an inspiring thing.

Production will always be riddled with challenges, underfunded projects, and jobs never go exactly according to plan. But if you can be the producer in the shop where people respect what you have to say and trust that you are there to make the ‘what if’ ideas come to life… then you can wrangle almost anything.

  1. Kappie Bara December 19, 2014

    Scott Duchon is one of the most creative, honest and inspiring person I have ever been honored to meet. Enjoyed article very much.