I met Anne Curran Conrad when she first worked as David Martinez’s studio manager. She was always on it, totally buttoned up, friendly and easy to work with; even on the high pressure jobs. If a job got challenging, you could never tell by asking Anne Curran. And, that is the case even more so today. Anne Curran is co-founder of First Light Productions where she and her partner Nicole have almost twenty years in the business between them. Variety is what drives them.
So, in an effort to provide her with some variety in her promotion, we asked her if we could interview her for our blog. Of course she smiled and said yes!
Being an on-set producer is such a unique position. You do not really learn about it in college and many tend to discover by means of another job. How did you discover what the role entails and how did you know you wanted to hold this position.
After a brief stint in political consulting & marketing, I realized very quickly that I did not want to spend my life sitting at a cubicle, so I quit my job and decided to change gears. I started interning at a photography studio and assisting photographers in Manhattan. After a few months in NYC, I moved to San Francisco and attended an APA event in order to meet people and network in my new city. I met a producer who mentioned that David Martinez was looking for a Studio Manager / Producer. I worked for David for five years and produced shoots for him in SF and LA. I learned a lot about the world of production in this position and I have so many fond memories from my time working with David and his crew.
Growing up, what were your creative interests and what things interested you most that led you to your current position as a producer?
In middle school I had the opportunity to meet Sally Mann in her hometown in Virginia. I was inspired by her work which led me to start taking photography classes in school. I continued studying photography in high school and college and cherished my time in the darkroom. This passion for photography led me to my current position. I had an entrepreneurial spirit growing up which was evident in lemonade stands, bake sales, and a holiday gift wrapping service. I also had a father who always told me that being my own boss should be a career goal. After I left San Francisco I moved to New York and started freelancing. Last year Nicole Hektner and I teamed up and started our production company, First Light Production.
What are the advantages of having a business partner?
Its a dream to be able to bounce ideas off of each other and share resources. If we have a last minute job or a large production that needs more support then we will tag team and produce the job together. We’ve worked with each other over the last five years so we know each other’s strengths and work well together. It’s also nice in terms of availability. If there is a scheduling conflict then she can step in and help and vice versa.
Did you ever consider becoming a photographer yourself?
Briefly. I realized that shooting commercially would zap all of the fun out of taking pictures for me, so I quickly decided against that route and there’s been no looking back.
How do you describe your job to a family member or someone else not in our industry?
Lately I’ve been telling people that my job is similar to that of a wedding planner except instead of planning a wedding, I’m planning a photo shoot. I’m from Virginia where weddings are a big business, so people seem to be able to relate to this response.
What one thing has changed in the industry since you have started that you think makes for a better production experience?
Technology tools. We no longer need to be chained to an office. If I’m traveling for a job and I get a call from someone needing an estimate right away, I can pull over, take out my smartphone, laptop, verizon jetpack and work from (almost) anywhere. Clients often need estimates or a response right away and having the ability to be able to work from anywhere has been huge since I’m often on the road.
What do you love about your job? What is the most challenging?
I love the collaboration process with the client, agent, photographer and crew. I like to surround myself with talented people that are a joy to be around so this typically makes for a fun collaboration process. I also love the travel. I feel fortunate that my work has taken me all over the globe. The last minute nature of this job is something that can be challenging in terms of having a personal life and its a balancing act that I’m still trying to figure out.
What one thing would you want someone looking to become a producer themselves to know about the skills needed to get the job done?
Being a multitasker extraordinaire! Also, being a problem solver is a must. Every project has its own set of challenges and being able to try and look into that crystal ball and predict those obstacles before they happen is important. I’ve had some challenging jobs involving weather (tropical storms in St. John, hurricanes in Mexico) but all you can do is have a backup plan in place and a positive attitude.
Photographers tend to find a producer or team and use them consistently making it hard for a new producer to get noticed. Do you find that most of your clients are long term? And, if so, how do you handle new photographer requests?
Having started our production company early last year, we are always looking to build new relationships. We have been very fortunate to have clients and photographers who keep coming back. Working with the same team, be it clients or photographers, makes each shoot more seamless; you know their preferences, how they like their shoots to run and what is most important to them.
New photographer requests are exciting for us! It’s a chance to build our network and work with someone new. As mentioned before, having a partner is helpful with this. Not overloading your schedule, but not turning too many projects down is a delicate balancing act that is made much easier when you have someone to share the workload.
What are you known for in the production world?
Both Nicole and I are known for being cool, calm, and collected even under stressful situations. It take a lot to rattle us.
Where are you based?
We work between New York and Los Angeles. This spring we are also opening an office in South Florida so we look forward to exploring the Sunshine State.
Favorite way to spend a Sunday?
Morning hike or dip in the water, sharing a meal with friends, and bluegrass in the park.
The Fanny Pack. It may not be new to the world of accessories, but I recently started wearing a fanny pack on set and I’m never going back. It’s the perfect place to store Sharpies, Call Sheet + Schedule, phone, mints, and a jump drive. It’s a winner.