Monday, January 4, 2010

Blue Collar

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
A: Hello. My name is Tom Lehmann and I'm definitely not an interactive producer…however I am part of the food chain that "produces" interactive, so for the duration of this interview, please consider me an interactive producer. If we can slide the term "creative" in there I'd appreciate it! I'm one of the founding partners of Blue Collar Interactive (, a new full-service interactive shop in Hood River, Oregon.

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?

A: Being anything "interactive" requires a very diverse background in the industry as you're almost never solving a problem the same way twice. You're also in many cases combining many different types of media online and off…which is probably why this industry used to be referred to as "multi-media". I went to art school to learn graphic design/advertising and graduated with a limited view on what the industry was becoming. At that time Photoshop 2.5 was all the craze…imagine Photoshop without layers. Fun. I was hired as a motion designer for a post production house, which exposed me to a world in which I had no training, which was interesting to say the least. Nevertheless, I took it on and acted like a sponge around the talent, learning everything I could and actually did quite well. This diversion from my print design education made me realize how boring print seemed and piqued my curiosity to learn interactive, which was just emerging as a new media. The rest is history.

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

A: Curiosity. If you're not interested in taking the lid off and looking into the jar you might as well remove yourself from interactive, or kill yourself…whichever seems more appropriate. To truly stay on top you need to tinker and use what you already know to make solid educated guesses on how things work. You also need to enjoy the process of failure, doing so is the key to getting closer to success the next time. In my experience when you take this approach you naturally have others wanting to follow you to see what happens next.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?

A: Have you ever seen Casper the Friendly Ghost? I'm serious. The ideal client is the one who gives you the information and tools to do a great job and leaves you to it. That's not to say collaboration isn't a good thing, because it definitely can be, especially when the client has a clear vision of where they want to go and loves their brand as much as we (hopefully) do. The ideal project is one that has the opportunity for success, which isn't always the case.

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

A: Patience. Honesty. Mutual respect. At the end of the day we both want the same things…to complete the project on time, on budget, and make it kick-ass. Obviously lots of variables can pollute any of those things from happening, but keeping focus and good lines of communication open make all the difference.

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

A: That's a tough one because so many projects have their moments of greatness but as a whole I'd say it was a redesign for Buck Knives. Buck embraced the importance of allowing digital to lead the way for a large creative initiative. Not only did we concept and direct a multi-day / location photo shoot for the site and their offline needs, but we also were given the time to do a proper discovery where we really got inside the skin of their customers. Time was spent in the woods, looking closely at the details. We spent time with the employees of Buck and the Buck family at their homes in Idaho. Everyone had a story to tell, from the single mother of 3 grinding hardened steel blades in the factory to CJ Buck showing us his remote wildlife cameras on his property. We never felt rushed or discouraged which really breathed life into the final result.

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

A: I like to focus on a project and really give the client and brand my undivided attention. That said, it's not always reality…and in most cases not even close. Sometimes it's the insanity and cross pollination of concepts and problem solving that bring the best ideas. How many projects do you have?

Q: What tools do you use to help you better organize your projects?
A: A chain saw and blow torch.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
A: That's easy because I truly believe we have the dream team. We're a motivated group of inspired and experienced thinkers, adventure seekers, look-insiders, tinkerers, and curious souls with a never-say-die creative drive to improve each and every day. Done and done.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
A: Normally our client's best interests are truly those of their customers. Every decision we make has to meet the customers expectations first and foremost, if we do that, 9 times out of 10 the client's interests are met.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?

A: I see more amazing stock images of business people achieving greatness via teamwork. Maybe it's an image of two business people (one white and one african american) on a track performing a text book baton handoff in the relay of life. If it's not that, it will be more focused on the individual and the customization of each persons experience. Advertising continues to get more targeted, I believe in 5 years people won't see advertising that wasn't intended for them. I'm already inundated with Viagra and porn ads so maybe the future is now!

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

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