36 hours in the life of a Producer

Hi there! I’m Olivia Johansson, a former Motion Creative Student at Hyper Island, Stockholm. I’m sure you now think of me as an animator, 3D artist or a graphic designer - or something else in the creative field. Truth is I took a completely different path when graduating from Hyper Island - I became a producer and my most creative work day to day is formatting spreadsheets. And I love it.

Originally from Uppsala I thought you should go the academic route so I studied law and business for a year before I realized that wasn’t for me. Hyper Island caught my interest and as so many have said before me – It changed my life. I moved to New York after graduating the Motion Creative Program in 2016 and started my career to become a producer. During my time at Hyper Island I had realized that I wanted to be in a creative environment but my skill set was more designed to lead the creative and be the organizer of the deadlines, budgets and the team. Truth is I didn’t know this was what a producer did until my dear alumni friend Joakim Ekstrom said “Olivia you should be a producer”. I looked into it and this was a true aha-experience. I had found my job.

My Favourite Tools

Google Calendar, if it’s not on the calendar it doesn’t exist. My friends here knows that and have started to send calendar invites for dinners, doggy play dates and brunches. Don’t tell my boyfriend but I do put our date nights on there too – otherwise I will truly forget.

iScanner, this is a level of geek-yness I never thought I’d reach. However, as a producer there are numerous important documents you need to keep track of and I’d prefer having scanned copies as well as the original ones. After trying (too) many of the scanner apps out there, iScanner is number one. You are welcome.

Folders, both on your email but also on your physical desk. I have one folder for each client/project and believe me, it’s the best way to keep track of everything.

Sunday 9:00pm

Open up the calendar, checking the mail. Preparing for the week. What meetings are happening, what deadlines are coming up, do we have a shoot?

To many people this might sound crazy to start the week on Sunday evening but to me it’s just a way to get a head start. To know what’s coming and to be prepared.

Monday 8:00am

I start every morning in the dog park. It’s truly better than therapy. Not only is my pup having the time of her life – you get so much love from all these dogs!

Monday 9:30am

Arriving at the office. Coffee before anything. Opening the emails, hopefully feeling prepared after the Sunday evening check in. Grab a pen and paper and start a list for MONDAY. What needs to be done, get all duties down on paper makes it easier to grasp. A little tip is to add something you’ve already done – it feels nice starting with a scratch.

Monday 3:00pm

Hopefully I’m getting closer to finish the list by now. With a shoot happening tomorrow there are a lot of final preparations that needs to be done. Send out call sheet, make sure pickups are happening, do we have all the equipment we need for tomorrow, are all the paperwork finalized, do we have signs for permit, how is the director getting to the shoot, is the talents nails in the right colour? The list is endless and yes, it’s the producers role to think about all of this. And everything else.

Monday 6:00pm

The shoot for tomorrow is prepped as much as it can be and the day is wrapping up. However as always, a request for a bid is coming in late afternoon. When working in New York you’re used to LA hitting you up around EOD for emergencies.

Tuesday 9:00am

I’ve already been at the shoot location for 3 hours and camera should be rolling any minute!

Being the producer on set means you are the first and the last one to leave. You’re working closely with the director and the 1st AD (1st Assistant Director) to capture everything you’ve promised the client and to do it on time. You’re in charge of the team on set, grips, gaffers, art department, production assistants – you name it. You’ll be in constant communication with all departments and clients to have them sign off on framings, shots and products. A producer on set needs to be quick, flexible and creative. Problems are popping up everywhere and you’re the one everyone is going to turn to to get help to solve them. It’s a tough job but the best one in the world.

Tips For Aspiring Producers

Find a mentor, someone who’s a few years ahead of you in the industry. Help them out, be there right hand. I’ve had an amazing mentor during my time in New York and I wouldn’t know half of what I do if she didn’t pass on her knowledge. It’s karma and I’m sure I’ll be mentoring someone in my coming years.
My mentor Eli Ash is my production idol @eliashwashere on instagram. She’s the one who taught me this world!

Turn off, this is an industry that never sleeps. To me it’s been valuable to over the weekend sometime turn all notifications off and check out for the day. You will need it in this crazy industry when the phone keeps on buzzing.

If you are interested in learning more about producing and how it works, then buy the book Producer to Producer by Maureen Ryan to wrap your head around it.

Look for the beauty, it might not be your dream job, it might not be exactly where you saw yourself but try to, in everything you do, see the beauty in that and take learnings with you. I sometimes felt misplaced at the Motion Creative program since I realized animation and designing wasn’t for me – with that said, there were so many other learnings that I brought with me from here. There’s a learning in everything.

More with Olivia

Instagram: @olinneli
Website: www.oliviajohansson.com
Reading list: I read adage, adweek and Little Black Book everyday for industry news.