There seems to be lots of animation blogs out there vent frustrations about producers who make the lives of animators intolerable. But you’ll hear the same complaints from designers and other artists. In fact, I’ve heard similar complaints from construction workers about architects! Whether animation, design or website producer, it’s an eternal conflict between the producer and talent.
What is a producer anyway? If they don’t actually draw or do the work, how can they rightly be called “producers”? Well a producer’s job is not to make something, but to sell the artist’s work and allocate time for the artist to produce more work. They work with the artist. Together they are team mates for the company they work for.
In some cases, the artist’s work is so good that, as they say, the work sells itself. Here the producer takes the work into a client meeting and presto, the client is instantly happy. In this case the producer gets the Super Bowl ring just for showing up to practice.
But in other cases, the artist may create work that is not up to snuff. It could be that the artist is simply not talented enough to tackle the task at hand or that pressing deadlines distracted the artist from doing a perfect job. In this case, teamwork comes in, as when the artist drops the ball, the producer picks it up and runs it in for the touchdown. Imagine a meeting where the client says, “Well, this is not what I really wanted.” A good producer bounces back with, “Really? I kind of like it this way. In fact I think it’s much better than the original idea we talked about.” His purpose is to sell the artist’s work.
Too often producers mistakenly believe they work for the clients. They’ll side with the client in such cases. “It’s not really a nice color” says the client. “Yes, I agree. And this area needs to change as well. In fact, this whole second half needs to be redone,” says the producer. It may seem like the producer has the client’s best interests, but it’ll only mean disaster for the company, because at the end of the week, when the beans are counted they’ll find the artist doing 80 hours of work, but only getting paid for 10. The client doesn’t care if the company it employed goes bankrupt so long as they get their “product”. But If the company fails, the artist and the producer both get canned. (Which goes first depends on how many artists versus producers the company is currently employing. If you have 10 producers and 2 artists, you can bet a couple of producers will get the boot. And visa versa. (Why you’d need 10 producers for only 2 artists I’m not sure… but I have seen it. I’d imagine those artists would have a red cape and a big S on their chest.)
In addition to selling the artist’s work, producers allocate time for the artist to produce more work. Here honesty is the best policy. Again, that’s teamwork. “The client needs this by Friday,” says the producer. “I can’t finish it until next Tuesday,” says the artist. “Well, I’ll have to either push the meeting to Tuesday, change the client’s mind as to what he wants to see on Friday, or get you the resources you need, if possible, to make that deadline” the producer should say.
Often producers make the mistake of being under the impression that they are above the artist. They’ll tell the artist what to do and expect the artist to jump. That’s not teamwork or working together. Sometimes they’ll belittle the artist by requesting work before the deadline. “If I tell the artist I need it on Friday, I won’t get it until next Tuesday. So instead I’ll lie and tell him I need it by Wednesday, so I’ll get it by Friday!” That’s not only dishonest but also disrespectful by putting undue pressure on the the artist. It not only ruins the art itself, the very function of the company, but also ruins the notion of teamwork. Eventually this will hurt the company by creating a workplace filled with mistrust, dishonestly and selfishness. That’s not a good environment for a companies’ prosperity.
I’ve been pretty lucky in working with great producers who work with artists and trust them. I don’t know if those producers played high school football, but I believe school athletics could help in teaching people how to work together. I played high school football, and frankly sucked at it. About the only thing I could do was run full speed into a guy. I can say with pride that I gave a kid on the other team a concussion. But I lacked skills of actually playing the game. I did, however, learn about teamwork. There were lots of guys on the team I didn’t like and perhaps didn’t like me, but we trusted each other on the field. We were a team. Because, if I did well, the whole team took credit and if I did poorly, the other guys shared my shame. There’s comfort in that. There’s security and teamwork. That’s what I’d imagine a company that makes animation or web design or rolls of toilet paper to be.
So I say, some producers should be required to play football with the artists to learn basic trust, respect, teamwork and how to cover each other when one drops the ball. And that way, even in the worst scenario, an artist could vent his frustrations by running full speed into his pain in the ass producer, giving them a concussion at least!