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A Video Producer Talks About the Job

Read an insider's perspective on video producer careers.

Meg McHutchison

Video Producer-Director, Self-Employed
Over 15 years in the field

How did you get started as a video producer?

I came in through films and television commercials, doing script supervision and then location and production managing. My first job was as a script supervisor on an independent feature. I was making a transition from working in print media to working in theater and film, and I wanted to see what happened when text went from 2D to 3D. The process of working with a group of people was similar to theater, and I loved it. I found that I was really good at organizing things and people, which led me to producing.

How did you transition to a video producer career?

As I got more experience, I started doing larger jobs, production managing and line producing on smaller projects and that inevitably led to working in video as the medium changed. I moved into producing features and television, then into more corporate work. When I returned to video, everything was digital.

What's a typical project for you?

My projects lately have been in the nonprofit sector. I sometimes work with a collaborator, and we go in and pitch a concept, or the company will have an idea they want to communicate. We pitch the concept, the schedule, the budget, and proceed from there. I prefer pieces that are a little bit longer and have an actual story to tell.

What are the main stages of video production?

  • Pre-production involves scripting or development. There must be an agreement on the script, the budget and the schedule. Generally there's a hard deadline. Once there's approval on the creative direction and the budget, then you set about wrangling the logistics of the crew, securing equipment, locations—whatever you might need.
  • In production, you go out and film based on your breakdown of what you want to accomplish that day. You film the pieces, then put them together in a rough cut.
  • Post-production includes editing, graphics, audio sweetening, and sound design. It's a complex process that results in the finished product.

What do you most enjoy about being a video producer?

What's most satisfying at this point is the development process and the editing process. I shoot occasionally, but the creative direction all the way through is the most satisfying: writing, figuring out the shots, editing. I love the collaborative nature of the medium as well. Video production requires more than one person to pull it off, and I work well in creative collaboration.

What is the most challenging aspect of a video producer job?

Usually the most difficult part is working with clients who don't understand the medium or how much money, time and effort it requires to complete a product. We need to educate our clients to understand that if you choose to include certain elements, it affects the budget. People don't see that relationship, or don't understand that after certain review points it's difficult to make changes.

Avoiding those pitfalls has to do with my ability to articulate the plan in the first place. The client needs to agree to the script, storyboards, budget and schedule, those key components. In post-production there's a lot of detail involved in editing and graphics generation that's hard for people to understand. What they see is a 30-second segment, but it's taken 25 hours for someone to do it.

What skills do people need to have to be a video producer?

You need to have a passion for moving images and what those images communicate. From the production side, you need good communication skills, the ability to work well with people, and good management instincts. You need to let people do their jobs; trust the team you've put together to do the work.

What advice do you have for aspiring video producers?

Look at groups that work with media or film, and check out their classes. A lot of colleges have certificate programs for both production and production management. In most cities there are small independent projects being shot on video that you could get involved with, because they're always looking for help.

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