When I first met Jacki Angeletti, she was an art producer in Chicago. She was always helpful and professional and a big supporter of our group. A few years ago, I heard that she became a cost consultant and was surprised. Although an obvious career option, I had not heard of many art producers making the change at the time. And, since cost consultants are mostly anonymous on their projects (we do not get to talk with them directly), I never knew if our paths crossed again. It wasn’t until she reached out on Facebook that I was able to reconnect with her. And, once we did, we realized a blog post about cost consulting was long over due.
Jacki and I talked some before we wrote the questions and decided that the post should focus on sharing what the responsibilities of a cost consultant are as well as what makes for a successful consultant/buyer/photographer relationship. She and I came up with the questions together so if there are additional ones that do not appear here that you want answered, let us know and we can create another post.
Be sure to tune in on Thursday as we will be featuring an art producer and sharing her insights into the relationship.
Before you were a production consultant, you were an art producer. What precipitated the change?
We had lost business and my accounts were changing. I didn’t feel challenged any longer and wanted to develop a different skill set. The day I thought “Maybe it’s time to try something new”, EVP Consulting called. It seemed serendipitous.
What skills that you acquired as an art producer make you a better consultant?
· Knowledge of production and associated costs (both art production and print production)
· Costs connected with various levels of shoots
· Understanding of talent and reps
· My love and appreciation of photography and the process
Being a consultant for production is a unique position and not one people tend to know about when they first start their careers. How did you find out about this job?
I’d worked with many consultants when I was an art producer. Most Clients have production/cost consultants. When we had a new Client on the agency side or were told an existing Client was bringing on a consultant., the first question asked was “Who is the Consulting firm?” Each firm has different platforms or approach. I was doing a bid review with a consultant from EVP and she asked me “Well, what do you think?” I was silent and stunned because I had NEVER been asked my opinion from a consultant. She was interested in hearing my point of view, we talked through the entire bid together. That consultant changed my opinion of consultants and I base my approach from what I learned working with her.
How would you define your job?
Cost reviewer/Account Director/Problem solver/Collaborator/Proofreader/Accountant/Juggler/Mediator.
When you and I first spoke about this post, you shared with me a really great analogy about how you look at cost consulting. Can you share that with the readers?
While this is a layered position, one of our primary responsibilities is to help our Clients understand what they’re paying for and if the price is fair. The analogy I shared, is that we’re like a translator. The example I gave you referenced cars. When a mechanic tells you what’s wrong with your car and the associated costs, do you understand what he’s telling you? I don’t. We’re basically the interpreter to the Client, helping them understand what the production is all about; costs to scope entailed.
What is a common misunderstanding art producers have when working with production consultants?
Consultants are here to beat up the reps—to get costs down regardless of understanding scope. All a consultant does is review and approve estimates/costs based on scope and costs we see within the marketplace.
What do the most successful cost consultant / art producer relationships look like?
Fortunately I work with great producers. In particular, there is a producer in New York that I look forward to working with, it’s generally a decent budget and beautiful or fun concepts. We have developed a lot of respect for one another’s role. We review the bids together and talk through the production to see where costs could come down or where costs could increase if needed. We both know the Client’s expectations from different perspectives and our goal is the same, to get the best production at the best price.
I also work with great producers on the West coast as well, and look forward to working with them when a project comes up. The key words would be mutual respect and partnership. Bottom line, we’re all here for our Clients.
What advice do you have for a photographer when answering cost consultant questions?
To be honest, straight forward and the more details within your responses the better. The more knowledge we have from their responses, the better.
How do you reply to a photographer or agency person who says that cost consultants cut costs just to justify their jobs?
When I was on the agency side I didn’t fully understand all that a production consultant did. I thought they only reviewed bids/costs and that was it. I was certainly incorrect. A consultant does a lot more than just review costs.
If a bid comes in and costs are in-line we’ll approve it. We don’t arbitrarily reduce cost for the sake of reducing. Even if a bid comes in too low, we’ll discuss this with the producers to make sure all elements are included and that they feel comfortable with the bid. While extremely important, bid review is only one element of what our job entails.
If a photographer or agency does not think reductions can be made without sacrificing the production, what advice do you have for them on how to share this information with a cost consultant?
That has happened before. We’d recommend getting on a call with the Client to discuss the scope and the talent the agency is bringing forward. For this situation, it’s more of a creative discussion.
When is it ok for a photographer to say no to suggested reductions?
Generally if we’re making a request for a reduction and the photographer and/or rep gives justification as to why they cannot and it makes sense then we move on accepting their response. Our suggested recommendations for cost reduction should never impede the creative.
In what instances is it ok for an agency to share a budget with a photographer?
Procurement best practices indicate that a budget is not shared with a bidder; with a goal of ‘zero based’ budgeting. Bid against the specs, not the budget. No one gives EVP a budget when we bid on a project – we bid based on the needs of the project.
Have you ever had a difficult art producer unwilling to work with you or your process?
Yes, and it’s unfortunate. It makes life much easier if we’re accepted as part of the process. Our goal is to always collaborate, it makes the process smoother if we’re all accepting of one another’s role and create a partnership.
Do you miss producing?
Yes, quite a bit. I mainly miss being involved in the creative aspect. However, on this side we see a lot of large productions and a wide variety of projects.
Be sure to tune in on Thursday as we will be featuring an art producer and sharing her insights into the relationship. And, If you have other questions for Jacki Angeletti about relationships with cost consultants, please comment below and we can work on a follow up post.