“You have how much to shoot this campaign?”
I catch myself thinking this all too often nowadays. My name is Connie Conway and I am a producer for Hunter Freeman and other advertising photographers and this is my new reality. Not a reality that I am fond of but one that I have learned to accept. (If I didn’t I’d be bagging groceries at the local store and I’m sure the eggs won’t be on top!)
I tell the photographers that I work with that the budgets may be smaller, but smaller budgets just make me think smarter. So much of this is obvious, but a reminder now and again is always helpful.
Here is what works for me:
-I remind the photographers that estimating is not personal, it is a process.
-I take full advantage of access to the key players at the beginning of the estimating process and am not afraid of asking the hard questions. I prepare for “the call”. Sometimes it is the only chance I will get to ask the money saving questions. I ask the same of the photographers.
-I make suggestions, I brainstorm, I provide options. I make the photographer and the client part of the decision making process. I do not want to play art director, I just want to give them what they need so they can!
-I repurpose locations and I have alternate locations in my back pocket that can replace ones with high permit and location fees.
–I make my crew aware up front – during the estimating process – about budget limitations. They need to feel like they are part of the decision to make this project come in on budget before they commit.
–I pay my talent on set – a trick that often gets me the best talent, even when the budget is tight.
–I anticipate challenges and deal with them before they become problems.
–I am flexible and nimble and require the same of my crew.
–I ask for a lot and freely take no for an answer. It can’t hurt to ask, right?
And, finally, while I know that I am a valuable part of a project, I never take for granted that there are many talented people who want to be working. I remind myself of that every day as I strive to be the smartest producer I can be.