We all know that being a producer is not an easy job. The long hours, the endless revisions and the crazy requests; all without complaints, are only some of the things that make the great ones stand out. Well, Richard Gaul and Scott Davis of Planet Pre Pro are indeed two of the great ones. I have worked with them both on all types of productions and whether they are the ones that make you want to change careers or the ones that remind you why we are all doing this in the first place, they are always professional and deliver the best possible production.
When I asked Richard if he would be open to an interview for our blog, he suggested that we included Scott Davis as well. He thought it would be interesting to showcase their partnership a bit more. I am thrilled that they are finally sharing more about themselves with our readers. Thank you!
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.
East Coast – Richard Gaul: I arrived in NYC and started showing my portfolio around, I ended up being offered a job running a studio for very well known commercial photographer. It was during these years that I learned how to “Make it happen”. There was no such thing as a Producer when I ran the studio, I was expected to figure it out, “NO” was not an option. I never thought of myself as a Producer more of a problem solver in almost any situation. You learn to think quickly and think creatively. I did not have a crew of people helping to figure it out, you were just told, “ we need to get that car on the rooftop of that building, and have it ready for sunrise, OH, and we also need food, gear, shelter, communications, talent, styling, H&M………..”
West Coast – Scott Davis: Like so many of the other top Producers in the business, I got into this from the photography side of things. I worked as a Photo Assistant (after graduating from photo school) back when producers didn’t exist on still photography shoots.
After working with photographers on a few projects, I was asked to scout locations since I understood what they needed for their shoot. After scouting the locations, I’d organize things for the location so there weren’t any loose ends. This translated naturally into producing.
My first job as a producer was for the national “Red, White, and You” campaign for Coca-Cola.
Growing up, what were your creative interests and what things interested you most that led you to your current position as a producer?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: I was always tearing things apart and fixing them and I would try and make whatever it was better, not always successfully. I think the biggest asset anyone can have for this job is curiosity and an ability to look at any particular problem in different ways and figure out the best path to take. Anticipating what can and will happen will save your clients time and money.
West Coast – Scott Davis: My family traveled and moved a lot while I was growing up (Military Brat – born in Tripoli, Libya). I ended up taking a class developing and printing black and white images while we were living in Taipei, Taiwan when I was 10 years old.
I was fascinated by the magical process of capturing a moment in time, this interest led me to attend photo school.
Did you ever consider becoming a photographer yourself?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: I am a photographer, I still shoot for myself, I spend a lot of time scouting all over the world . I know what works and what doesn’t work, it’s a big advantage when producing a job. Many times we are presented with a concept that are not based in the real world, it’s our job to provide solutions and options that can be an alternative to something that does not exist. When we scout we not only look at the locations that work best visually, we also look at the production logistics. Anyone with a good eye can find a killer location, in our industry today its never just one location a day, so you better know how to find two or three killer locations that are close to each other and can support a small army.
West Coast – Scott Davis: I graduated from photo school with a degree in Industrial/Scientific photography since I thought that would better prepare me to be a problem solver in the real world.
And after a few years in the business I decided that I didn’t like other people telling me what to shoot, and my organizational skills translated directly to the requirements of a producer.
I still shoot images which gives me a common language and understanding with the photographers I work with as a producer.
How do you describe your job a family member or someone else not in our industry?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: Read Scott’s answer, he nailed it.
West Coast – Scott Davis: As the conductor of an orchestra, bringing all of the instruments together at just the right time.
Each person that works on the project plays their own part, and if there are any sour notes – everyone can tell. Finding the right blend of crew, locations, talent, and schedule, really helps the photographer achieve their vision for the final image.
What one thing has changed in the industry since you have started that you think makes for a better production experience?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: The computer/internet and cell phones. The apps that we created help to streamline and distribute all the information on our productions.
West Coast – Scott Davis: Technology. I remember producing projects before everyone had cell phones and fax machines.
Now, with the technology available and with some that we’ve created (location scouting app, talent casting app, smartphone production books, online location image database, etc.), we can bring all the parts of the production together in an efficient process that wouldn’t have been possible just 5 years ago.
We’ve created tools that allow us to keep everyone involved in the shoot, up to date with the most current information so any last minute changes aren’t disastrous.
What do you love about your job? What is the most challenging?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: Meeting creative people and collaborating with a team to create great images. Solving logistical problems and traveling the world is the best part of this job. The time constraints and quick turnaround that comes with many of our projects can be a challenge.
West Coast: – Scott Davis: Meeting new people and taking care of everyone on the shoot.
By far, the most challenging aspect of the job is the compressed schedule we’re often given by the clients. Which is why we’ve invested so much in developing tools that offer solutions for this very issue.
What one thing would you want someone looking to become a producer themselves to know about the skills needed to get the job done?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: You need to be organized and be able to see the big picture, meaning the complete production from start to finish. The ability to anticipate and stay ahead of any issues is essential, and you better be able to work on 3 hrs. sleep and be 3 steps ahead of everyone.
West Coast: – Scott Davis: Patience. The creative process doesn’t live by a set time table, so patience with the process is really important. Also, Flexibility works directly with Patience so you can work to achieve the best results for the Photographer and Agency.
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?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: Scott and I have been managing productions all over the world longer than any other producer working today. The bottom line is, our clients trust us, and many times a new young photographer will be asked to bid on a job but the agency will asks or suggest they call us to produce the job. Our long term clients are the most successful. We have offices in both California and New York, managing new request is never an issue with the team we have.
West Coast – Scott Davis: Many of our clients (photographers) are long term, that we’ve become friends with, and work with quite often. We’ve worked with some so long that they’ve actually retired from the business and we still stay in touch.
Since we have offices on the East Coast and the West Coast, and we aren’t just a “One Man Band”, we can usually accommodate requests from new photographers. Many times we’re introduced to new photographers from Reps or Art Buyers that we’ve worked with previously.
What one thing would you want a photographer looking to partner with a new producer to know about you?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: I am not looking to be in the limelight, I am hired to make the production run smoothly and we bring a tremendous amount of experience, professionalism and integrity to the table. You are not just getting and individual producer, we are a legitimate production company with a staff that is involved with every production, its not just one office managing the production, it is a complete team behind the scenes that is experienced in solving problems and responding to our clients needs. We have created software that makes our productions run smother and more efficiently and you can trust that our team is committed to your success no matter what part of the world you are in.
West Coast – Scott Davis: That it’s not just me, we’re more than a “One Man/Woman Band”. Both offices support all the projects that we’re responsible for making successful even though you may only see one face on the shoot.
What are you known for in the production world?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: I think your team would be better at answering that question.
West Coast – Scott Davis: Sharing information and the technology that we’ve developed. We have relationships with Casting Directors on both coasts that use our systems as well as location scouts from many parts of the world that have our apps on their iPhones and iPads. Many TV shows have used our location database software in their location department, Scorpion on NBC is just the latest.
Favorite way to spend a Sunday?
East Coast – Richard Gaul: With my three boy’s.
West Coast – Scott Davis: Taking a drive to discover a new treasure down the road. I think this comes from all the time I’ve spent scouting locations.
East Coast – Richard Gaul: Sleeping in till 5AM
West Coast – Scott Davis: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company