Friday, March 13, 2009

Guerilla Warfare

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
Darren Himebrook, integrated producer, director and creative strategist. I've always hated long titles but I've found it's hard to describe my capabilities to a potential Client or anyone for that matter. Right now I'm freelancing and have recently joined Guerilla FX as an Integrated-Director/Producer/Digital Strategist. Pretty much means I'm there to expand their current capabilities-they have a killer team and I've had great experiences working with them on the agency producer side with visual effects, production, post finishing, design and interactive so getting together was really a no-brainer. By joining forces, we have a knowledge base to be really integrated and create amazing work-efficiently-something on the mind of all Clients and Agencies these days. It's nice that we also have the combined experience to be able to understand how to best work directly with Clients and Agencies. We are a truly integrated creative production house right now and we love what we do-all things that make for good business.

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?
All accidental, like much of my background, I've been lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time and presented with interesting opportunities. Having great mentors along they way didn't hurt either. I went to Savannah College of Art and Design and studied studied Film & Television and dabbled in sound design. From there, I took two suitcases to NY to get my start; worked hard as a PA with some big Clients as well as my fair share of music videos and features. I got my first taste of producing and digital on the same project, an ARG before the term was know, for Sharp/W+K with Chelsea Pictures and the Haxans. From that an opportunity came up at CP+B, it piqued my interest as I'd worked on some very challenging experiential projects and I wanted to expand my experience within interactive all the while getting some agency experience. The work and the push to make it happen was truly incredible, and it was great experience to work on award winning projects for big Clients and have the support of the agency in doing so. This led me along my career to other agencies such as W+K, really molding me into the creative producer and strategist that I am now. We not only had to get the best work done through impossible timelines and new technologies but we had to be really strategic in our approach to work with such big Clients as BK, VW or Coke. The way I see it, anyone can be a producer but you need to bring something more to the table. The true hybrid talents - producers/creatives/developers/everyone, know that by rolling up their sleeves and really getting involved in the work-understanding it so it can be pushed, creative can go farther, be more efficient with different ways of handling one project and be strategic in the approach. I try to do that everyday, some days are more successful than others, but without trying I wouldn't be a producer.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?

I'm a nerd. I am constantly connected staying on top of new productions and new ways of doing things and have many plenty of fellow nerd friends along the way that help me problem solve or even to discuss the battle plan on Call of Duty IV. I've found a group of people who are also my friends who share the same passion for doing great work, no matter what our role is in the process. If there's anything I've learned from being a producer is that you are nothing without your team. I've found that I get the best work from people when I treat them with respect-listening to them and let them know what's going on. You have to be flexible with your team as well-for example, if you know you get the best work from them at 1am-let them work the time they want to work if possible or you know someone on your team wants to try to do that animation, etc-give them the opportunity to do so and grow them-they may surprise you and you realize that you just saved a few bucks. It really comes back to sharing a mutual respect that in return, gives you the best work and the most fulfilled team...which keeps them motivated and hungry for more.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
I can't say I could name a brand or a specific project per se but what makes something great to work on is the ability to work with a client or project where you can tell that everyone put their knowledge and backgrounds together to create a seamless, solid movement. Where people fulfill their roles and everyone is on their game. It's when Clients understand their brand and how they will need to communicate their offerings or who they are differently these days and we strategically solve it. It's when a project has been put on the back burner because it was deemed "impossible" but then, we come up with solutions to make it happen; that's the most fun.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?

This sounds like a trick question, I don't have realistic expectations for myself so it's hard to ask that of a client. When it comes to a new project there is as much of an education for me as for the clients so that becomes the approach for me. We learn and do as a team, clients included, sharing the information, having a point of view and it's my job to provide leadership to the project to make sure that's happening. From there, we hope, we can all have shared expectations, realistic or not.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?
I've enjoyed every project, so picking one doesn't make too much sense as they've all been so fun/challenging/painful in their own ways. I'm always looking forward to the next project with the knowledge gained from previous projects, and hope that maybe the one that qualifies as "best" is my last project. One thing about projects is that they really give you a chance to make new friends and meeting more people who will challenge you with their ideas, as much as I would love one "best" project the more, the better as it's just a continuation of life experiences.

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

Depends on the scope of each one and my bandwidth of course. I've been known to juggle 7 interactive projects at one time-some of those being as easy as banners while doing a couple of microsites on hurried timelines dealing with challenges like e-commerce, games, sound etc and working on rebranding a site while working with animations while going out on shoots to make sure I have the right footage...all in a days work-long days at that. I have to say though that comfortably is a state of mind. If I'm working on some really cool projects-I would do anything I can to keep working on all of them.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
Whats the project? Video, Web, Mobile? The right team for the right job.

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

One word-Communication. Solid communication is the only way to ensure that the Client gets the best work. It is keeping Clients aware of the steps necessary to get work done along with letting them know other ways of completing steps which may make for a better product or create efficiencies. It's about exceeding expectation and bringing more to the table-letting the Client know other ways they can use the creative or new mediums worth exploring. It's understanding their business so we know why it's important to deliver on their needs.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
It might look like a building, or a cellphone, or a (fill in the blank) but not to make light of it; it will be collaboration of technology, creativity, design, business. We're being faced with challenges on a large scale globally that are affecting our business to the core. It can be a fearful time for many but is also an exciting time for those who want to collaborate-and innovate. Luckily our industries' future isn't any where near decided so I'm gonna try to have less of a vision and hope it happens with more of a workbench approach-by trying some stuff, taking in what's working and be a part of it.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
While having the knowledge to know how to get the best work done is important, one cannot go far in this business without having integrity. You must be honest and treat others (EVERYONE) with respect. There are the whole set of unwritten rules in this business but, following these simple "rules", integrity and respect, is the secret of creating solid, long-lasting relationships. This is a very small industry and if you do great work, you will have the privilege of doing more great work. But again, simply, be nice.

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