Sunday, March 1, 2009

Shades of Grey

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
I'm Syed Naqvi and I Head up Interactive Production and Delivery for Grey London. I'm responsible for educating the team internally as well as consulting clients on the most appropriate way to realize the creative vision, Grey London has in the past year seen some remarkable Digital output, it's my job to keep it that way and to shake stuff up for the future.

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?
I grew up in Winson Green, Birmingham, UK. It's famous for the Winson Green Prison and the Birmingham City Football Club. I'm a fan of neither but it was a great place to learn about one of the most important tenets of Production. If you want to do something, get up, get out and get it done - the producers hustle. I started out as a Radio Producer for BBC Radio West Midlands, back in the days when you edited tape, and cut it with a blade and lived with your decisions. No Ctrl + Z in those days. The internet was just starting and I met with a great forward thinker from a production company called Maverick TV in Birmingham, Jonnie Turpie, he introduced me to Director, HTML and Flash, the rest is history. That year in 1996 I hopped aboard a Virgin Atlantic Flight and moved to New York to learn how to make TV and Radio on the Internet. I taught myself programming and was a Web Technologist for 3 years. Video for web and Flash eventually caught up with what I wanted to do, so I naturally fell back into my Producer role and have been in awe of it since.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
Doing Stuff. I love hacking stuff together and I have a million and one unfinished projects that were borne from nights of stumbling upon a new cluster of code, or an After Effects tutorial or some new way of doing something that was tedious in the past. This industry is not forgiving to stagnancy and so you have to keep moving, there is no shame in trying to do something before perfecting it, most likely it will change and get better and easier to use or be replaced completely. I love that aspect of the Interactive world, it's a huge playground of toys that never seems to get boring and everyday is Christmas, or Chanukah or Eid or whatever... I encourage my teams to do the same. I would be worried if no-one was tooling about online in my team, they have to be immersed in it to understand it, let alone sell it (or better yet, build it.)

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Aside from the common desires of having enough time and money, which incidentally is the nature of the beast, if it's a project worth doing I will never have enough time nor enough money. Ideally I would be briefed as early as possible so that I could partner the right teams to the right campaign, if the client is willing to be a risk taker thats great but I have enjoyed some great projects with very conservative clients. Ultimately it boils down to trust, if you are trusted by external, internal and client teams, and you honour that trust, that would be the best scenario for me personally. Too often people on both sides of the fence get cold feet or lose trust and that kills great ideas or at least makes for generally miserable projects.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
I must be one of the fortunate ones in this area, I am lucky enough to be invited to client briefings where I am able to sit in an open way with the client and have a frank discussion. It usually starts with my personal mantra; STOP CALLING IT DIGITAL. I try to get everyone speaking English first and foremost, defining things as simply and honestly as possible before setting expectations and making requests. People tend to abuse the nature of this industry, it's so new and constantly changing, arbitrary labels are assigned to things without anyone really agreeing on a definition. A thorough session to kick off any client project with an opportunity for everyone to understand what we are trying to accomplish is the only way as far as my team is concerned. Then there are Metrics, I am huge believer in metrics. I think awards shows are great and I love going to them, the metrics pay the bills though so we always get that shit in writing.

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

This is a difficult question, I have kids and it's not too dissimilar than describing your favorite child. Seriously, they are all unique and memorable and I learned something new from them all.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
I am pretty hands on so I don't mind a whole bunch of Projects that keep me sharp, as with anything there needs to be a control. I make sure that we are busy enough to be challenged but not the point where we compromise the quality of the work or the mental health of each other.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?

My ideal production team has enthusiasm for integrating on and offline, is comfortable talking to clients and providing strategic as well as tactical input. They are avid champions of the best production methodologies and guardians of the Creative Idea.

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

It will always be in my interests to ensure the client succeeds. To his/her peers and management. I try to align my goals with those of the client. That way the work can shine for itself without getting dragged around politics that tend to mire the process. Once I have earned their respect and their trust and we are aiming for the same thing it's a lot less painless. Also, I learned to love procurement. That helps.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
I have a far more thought provoking version of this answer on my blog I highly recommend it for people wanting to know what is coming next. I think we should start writing things on paper again or chiseling them into stone. I am constantly terrified that we will go the way of the ancient civilizations by not keeping any permanently written record of all this stuff. As far as the industry goes, If the timeline analogy of where we are is a Black and White television, I think Colour will blow us all away.... hopefully we will learn to do whatever we want and let the producers worry about that little thing called detail....

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Don't sit and talk about things for too long. If you want something, get up, get out and get it done.

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