Saturday, January 31, 2009

General Contractor

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
I'm Amy Miranda, and I'm the Director of Production at Grip Limited. Grip is an advertising agency based in Toronto Ontario. I just joined Grip in December, so it's still fresh. They're a great group of thinkers looking for efficiencies and change. I respect that immensely. Prior to Grip, I was the Production Director of Interactive for TAXI. I've been in the interactive space for almost 11 years and I still love it. I also love jokes. :)

Q: Interactive Producers come from all walks of life, they are a hybrid of talents, tell us about your background and how you got interested in digital production?

It's funny, I still say I'm not sure how this happened. It was a series of events, like most things in life. I went to school for Film, but it was a media arts program and I didn't want to take Multimedia. With school, it tends to be pretty structured, so there were certain things that were mandatory in terms of the technology. I tried my best to work around those rules and ended up teaching myself Media 100 editing. I always spent a lot of time online, always made things, I just never imagined it could be a job. Needless to say, I withdrew from school halfway through and had made up my mind that I wanted to work at CNN in Atlanta. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave school on a hope and a prayer. The stars aligned, I got lucky and CNN saw Media 100 on my resume and that was my first gig. Working on, as an interactive editor, doing streaming media. I fell in love with it. That was the late nineties. From there came back to Toronto, tried to get work, of course at the time, very few people knew what I was talking about. Finally landed in several streaming media/technology/interactive related jobs, doing design, development, support, product development etc. coming through the dot com deadpool from supplier side, to client side and then finally I decided I wanted to try out agency life. It felt like the place i'd be able to merge everything together. So here I am now, almost 8 years later, still working agency side. I think all of those experiences when added together increased my love of the work. I think in terms of background it was a perfect storm, I think that's where I get my often unconventional approach to the work.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
Talking. I really believe in open dialogue. The interactive industry as a whole, wouldn't be what it is today without the open-source mentality that started things. I'm big on connecting with people. If I see something I like, I reach out. There's no better way to learn than to ask questions. None of us woke up knowing how to do this, I think that's the one thing that strings the places I've been together, it's taking that leap into something new and admitting the things you don't know. It's what I love so much about the interactive/digital space. We are a certain breed, something changes every day. It's what keeps it interesting. I am the co-founder of a group/event in Canada called inter-action. It really stemmed from the realization that competitors don't do a great job of talking to one another, the premise was to get a dialogue going. So we do events where it's a completely open forum. We pull back the curtain and go into the details of how something was produced. It's the best way to learn and the best way to keep people informed. It's a motivator for me. I think sometimes, especially in this business, it's easy to forget why we do this. Talking to people always helps me to remember.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Someone who is willing to take risks and think differently. Someone who has a sense of humor and is willing to be a part of the process. I don't believe in the man behind the curtain approach to digital production. I think the more open the process is, the easier it is to keep things moving and do great work. I look back at some of the most successful work I've done and it's when everyone was collaborative, engaged and invested. I think everyone has to be a part of it, and own something. I always equate a good interactive production experience to a high school play. It really is a cast that makes something successful. Any project can be ideal, it really just comes down to the team, including the client.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Dialogue. See above, I really believe in engagement with the client, letting them into the process, allowing them to see the inner workings of the machine. I don't believe in getting approvals and then showing the final product weeks later. It has to be iterative, agile. Agencies need to get comfortable with clients seeing work at the prototype stage- before the fit & finish. To me it helps in two ways, 1) Clients are actually able to see the production value and investment, and 2) it's an education. No matter how educated a client is, there's always something to learn. That can be said for everyone involved, often we're doing things that haven't been done, or working against the clock, we need that support. The more involved the client is during the production cycle, the less hiccups. It helps set expectations. How many times have you heard - "Oh, That's not how I'd imagined/thought/envisioned/ - Can we....?" Let's face it, often the investment for a digital piece can be huge. Walking through the production process. I think there's less of that when we pull back the curtain prior to final review.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?

I've had the pleasure of working on so many incredible pieces with a lot of amazing people. So, It's hard to choose one. "Best" is a hard thing to define. I think probably the best was this year on a project I worked as Exec. Producer on for MINI called MINImalism ( It was a reuniting of the same creative team who I worked on MINI Dominates Winter for MINI Canada with TAXI with back in 2005. We'd been lucky enough to be awarded a gold cyberlion for that piece back then, and this project came down from MINI in Germany, which was very exciting. Working with the same team for the second time, while training a new producer, on a really technically interesting piece was a pleasure. It was nice to be involved from a different level, seeing the producer on the project cutting his teeth on the interactive side (he's been a broadcast producer for probably 15 years). It was a fantastic experience. Broadcast producers make amazing interactive producers if the interest is there. They know how to hustle, they know how to engage with creatives and they learn fast. In terms of all the of metrics for success being attainable, they were on this one. The campaign was successful from a numbers standpoint, which always means more to me than anything else. The producer on the job had set one of his goals to win a Gold cyberlion. He did. This was the project. His first, my second, and it actually meant a lot more the second time for me because it meant it wasn't an anomaly, the team was that solid. I think that only happens once in a lifetime in your career. I'm humbled to have had it happen twice.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?

Unfortunately, that is a loaded question, I am comfortable managing upwards of 20 at various stages of production. This is probably one of my weaknesses. I love making things, so I usually take on too much - even personally, I'm always spinning plates, working on personal projects, saying yes to projects for friends, working on a painting or two. I think it's part of being creative. I realized this recently, for me it's a cycle. 1. Figure out what to make 2. Make it. 3. Figure out what to make next. It's usually tons of stuff in varying stages. When the load lightens up, I always start adding again. Now it's more the operational projects, managing the department, suggesting process improvements, coming up with ideas for the organization as a whole. So even though, I've stepped back from producing day-to-day, I'm still doing projects. I still like jump in an produce projects now and then, it's a good way for me to tell whether things are working.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
I really believe in integration. I know the word is overused, and old, like convergence. Convergeration :)
Some of the best work I've done has been with traditional/mass creatives. They don't have any rules, they think in terms of stories, the idea is an idea before it's a spot or a site or a print piece. My dream production team would include creatives because, without them, there's nothing to produce. I believe in Creative Developers, Creative producers, I think anyone who works in this space has the ability and capacity to offer creative insight. Some developers are to interactive what directors are to broadcast. Multifaceted and talented cross functional teams make the best production team in my mind. Putting different types of people in a room and working through the idea to make it better is the ideal scenario for me.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?

I think about doing the best work, for the best value I can. I negotiate to get the best level of quality and value I can. It's also recognizing that there's always going to be someone somewhere who will be willing to do what looks to be the same work for less. I think we have to be honest about that, and showing our clients the difference between that execution and a production is key. I take client's best interests seriously, trust is critical. Many clients have had poor experiences in the interactive space, I'm cognoscente of that, arming them with honest answers and providing consultation is crucial. I still have a lot of clients who i've worked with throughout the years at various stages in my career who call me with questions, or ask for counsel on engagements they're making. I appreciate that, and I'm always happy to help. I take what we're tasked with doing very seriously and if it's not something I'd do with my own money, it's not going to be something I'd ask a client to do. think

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
I don't think there will be the same kind of dilineation we've seen in the past between mediums. Ideas will be the currency, the production approach will be less of a secret. For a long time people have been protecting their approaches, like a secret recipe. I really believe the more people know about producing this kind of work, the more successful we'll be. The ideas will the the things that set different agencies apart, not just the production expertise. I think there will be more of an emphasis about getting off of the computer, million dollar microsites are dying, I think we'll see an increase in digital displays, innovation and installations. I think most of us are ready to be mobile while still having interactive/digital experiences.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.

Talk to each other. Ask questions. Keep an open dialogue. This industry won't be going anywhere if we don't band together. To impart an analogy -
I really believe a producer should be like a general contractor, you many not know how to actually install wiring, but you know what you need, and you know the best people to do it. Interactive producers should have a good sense of the big picture.

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