A Producer's Perspective

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Author: William McFarlain, Programming Manager

A producer may wear many hats during a shoot. In this article, I focus strictly on the role of a producer in an interview setting. Specifically, communication with the talent on the set such as tracking time-code, line of questioning, making detailed notes, and pulling quotes. Yet, the most important element is communicating live with the interviewer in the moment.

All of these tasks can be accomplished with just a few tools and some pre-production. If you are on a shoestring budget and have a crew that’s small, ever nursed a project from inception to completion; struggled to find distance between direction and production, then this article is for you!

In a typical interview segment the set is pre-built and will not change from interview to interview. Within this traditional environment, there can be up to a dozen crew members working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly. For now, let’s zoom in on the producer’s viewpoint.

The producer is responsible for the entire segment. Like the subject matter on camera, producers have to improvise by shaping the conversation and make sure it wraps up in a timely manner.

Customarily, the producer sends notes, questions and time stamps to the interviewer to help them stay on point. These notes are used by editors later to string together the narrative, to mark when certain things were discussed, or to simply mark the pull quotes for social media.

This can be accomplished with simple tools; e.g. google docs, a timer app, and a secondary monitor, or expensive, specialized tools that a simple google search will help you discover. Regardless of the mechanisms you use to get the job done, your job as a producer is multi-tiered.

It’s your responsibility to make sure that you select good content that can be used for promotional purposes. In doing so, remember that the interview itself remains on time, on topic, and that relevant questions are posed in an order that flows systematically with the narrative.  

All of these points are the responsibility of the producer during filming:

  • Note time code (T/C)

  • Suggest questions / direction of interview

  • Personal notes for editing

  • Keep interviewer on time

  • Mark (T/C) of pull-quotes

  • Pull (T/C) for use in social media

These steps will ensure that you get the best moments displayed when putting the piece together and safeguards you to create a strong, compelling narrative in post-production.

The responsibilities of said same producer, before and after filming, are similarly expansive. That’s another subject matter for another time. For leads on production software, spreadsheets for producers, or any questions about this topic please contact wmcfarlain@aocinc.org with subject line “producer tools”.