LGBTQ+ and Safety in the Workplace: Ira Giorgetti

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In honour of Pride Month, Ira Giorgetti, one of NERD’s passionate Creative Producers, discusses the key factors that make a workplace safe and inclusive for people who identify as LGBTQIA+.

We explore the significance of inclusive policies, diverse leadership, and an open and accepting culture in order to foster a sense of security, trust, and belonging for all.

As a queer person of colour, what makes a workplace feel safe or unsafe for you?

When it comes to feeling safe and supported in the workplace, there are a few key topline factors that play a significant role:

  1. Inclusive Policies and Practices: A safe and inclusive workplace has well-defined policies that explicitly protect LGBTQIA+ individuals from discrimination and harassment. Leadership has to ensure that policies are communicated effectively and upheld consistently, creating a sense of security and trust among employees.
  2. diverse and Representational Leadership: A workplace needs diverse leadership, including individuals from LGBTQIA+ and racial/ethnic minority backgrounds. Representation at the top sends a powerful message that everyone’s voices are valued, and it helps foster an environment where different perspectives are respected and celebrated. At NERD Productions, we are lucky to have an open-minded female founder from an ethnic-minority background, so we’re a head above the rest right from the starting line!
  3. Open and Accepting Culture: A safe workplace is one where people can be open about their identities without fear of judgment or negative repercussions. Creating a culture of acceptance, where colleagues and superiors actively listen, learn, and support each other, is crucial. This includes embracing differences, challenging biases, and fostering a sense of belonging for all employees.
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Pride Inside National Campaign DOOH (2020)


In contrast, an unsafe workplace for me would be one where discrimination, microaggressions, or biases go unaddressed, creating a hostile and unwelcoming environment. A lack of diversity in leadership positions and a culture that ignores or dismisses the unique experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals and people of colour can make it challenging to feel safe and thrive professionally.

At NERD Productions, our core values revolve around crafting excellent creative work and championing diversity and inclusion. We strive to create an environment where colleagues and partners feel safe, respected, and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work. By fostering a culture of acceptance, celebrating differences, and providing a platform for diverse voices, we ensure that our workplace is a haven for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or ethnicity.

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Raven Mandella (Great Exposure UK 2022)

Can you compare your experiences as a queer person who has worked and lived in two countries with differing views on rights and protections for the LGBTQIA+ community?

In the Philippines, where comprehensive anti-discrimination laws are lacking, marginalised groups, including the LGBTQIA+ community, often face underrepresentation and are susceptible to abuse. The absence of legal protections and societal acceptance creates an environment where expressing one’s authentic self can be challenging and sometimes risky.

On the other hand, moving to London in 2016 offered a transformative experience for me and my partner, with whom I’d been in a long-distance relationship for over five years. The city is known around the globe for its progressive stance on diversity and inclusion, which shows in its comprehensive legal protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Such laws provide a profound sense of safety and allow people to openly express their identities without fear of legal repercussions or social exclusion.

The contrast between these places highlights the significance of safe and inclusive workplaces. Working in a company like NERD, which prioritises diversity and inclusion, becomes particularly meaningful. Our team and culture provide a supportive environment where individuals from marginalised backgrounds, including myself, can thrive and contribute their unique perspectives to the creative process.

Having personally encountered the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community in a country without robust legal protections, I am deeply aware of the urgency and importance of advocating for greater rights and equality. My experiences in the Philippines and London fuel my passion for promoting diversity, amplifying underrepresented voices, and working towards a more inclusive future for all.

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Pride Inside National Campaign DOOH (2020)

How does feeling safe in your working environment impact your personal life?

Feeling safe at work as a queer photographer and producer positively impacts my personal life. It allows me to authentically capture the beauty of men’s fashion and the intricacies of the male form without holding back and fearing judgment from my professional peers. It allows me to create art that resonates with my identity, build meaningful relationships, and maintain a life with my loved ones by my side.

Whether I’m shooting in Soho, a vibrant queer hub in London, or working with friends from home who also identify as part of the community, a safe working environment strengthens connections. It allows us to embrace our identities fully.

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Munroe Bergdorf (Trans Activist, Contributing Editor At British Vogue)


Working with clients and freelance talent in the LGBTQIA+ community is a joy. We share a common understanding and appreciation for each other’s journeys. Feeling safe at work fosters an atmosphere where everyone can bring their authentic selves to the table, resulting in collaborative projects celebrating diversity.

Feeling safe also spills into my personal life with my partner and our chihuahua, Momo. When a workplace is genuinely secure and inclusive, it allows one to strike a healthy work-life balance, allowing for the time and energy to nurture relationships and create a loving environment at home.

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Portrait of Abigail Thorn (PhilosophyTube)

The VFX Factor: Peter S.

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From stumbling upon a hidden door into the filmmaking world to working on some of the biggest feature films and winning awards, NERD’s director Peter S uncovers the secrets behind his remarkable journey. Join us for an enlightening Q&A as Peter shares intriguing insights about his craft, granting us a glimpse into the enchanting realm of VFX.

VFX is a true craft in the classic sense of the word. Where and why did you learn your craft?

Similar to cinematography, VFX is one of those disciplines that requires the encyclopaedic accumulation of knowledge and techniques. You never stop learning, but working at big shops like Weta, with the best in the business, really inspired me to dream big. Initially, I went into VFX because it was a sort of secret door into the filmmaking world. I just happen to have the right skill set, at the right time, and in no time at all, I was sitting beside the world’s biggest directors, studying their approach to storytelling. 

There are two ends to the VFX spectrum – the invisible post and the big, glossy ‘VFX heavy’ shots. What are the challenges that come with each of those as a director?

The invisible shots require a good deal of humility and restraint. Every artist wants to be noticed for their work, but there are better ways to approach those shots. Instead, you have to just stick with the reference, and keep the overall purpose of the shot in mind. It’s a thankless job. The flashy stuff is really fun, but now ALL EYES are on your work so you better not drop the ball!  Those are the shots that give you stomach ulcers in dailies. The potential to fail spectacularly is very real.

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We imagine that one of the trickiest things with VFX is, time issues aside, deciding when a project is finished! How do you navigate that?

With commercials, usually, it’s done when the clock runs out, but on some projects, you are given a lot of time to nail it. And yes, sometimes you can be your own worst enemy, tinkering well past the apex of its potential. I just think that walking away from your work for a little while is the best way to get perspective. Go snowboarding, race go-karts, hike with your kids, anything works. As long as you earnestly disconnect for a little while, and then can return with a fresh pair of eyes.

Is there a piece of technology or software that’s particularly exciting to you in VFX? Why?

At first, I was a little spooked by the AI software that was coming out, but then I leaned into it on a few projects and realised that it can be a useful tool. Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time with AI knows you still need an operator guiding the creative process. It brings a few types of tasks, that have only really been available to the top-tier VFX studios, to everyone else. I’m excited because it levels the playing field a bit, and I can go toe-to-toe with the Titans of VFX! 

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How did you first get into the industry? What was your very first job in the industry and what were the biggest lessons that you learned at that time?

I had a terrifically lucky break when I applied to a little-known studio, called JAK Films, in Northern California. It turned out to be the secret art department that George Lucas was running out of Skywalker Ranch during the making of his Star Wars prequels. It wasn’t until years later that I fully appreciated what a mythic cathedral of storytelling that place was. George had a team of the top concepts in each field – Costume Design, Industrial Design, Creature Design, etc. I got to sit in a room with them every day and see first-hand how much magic you can create when you put egos aside and work to inspire the people around you.

What was your most recent exciting milestone in the industry,  you were super proud of?

While I have won a few awards for some of my commercial work in the past, the award I received last year from the British Animation Awards for AirWick was a really special one. The film was such a simple, clever script that called for a poetic, zen-like approach. Everyone involved respected that calm approach to the crafting of it, and I believe it really shows in the final product. I think that little film will stand the test of time.  

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Watch a process clip here.

What is your favourite commercial/film of all time?

The work that blows me away year after year, is the stuff that I truly have no idea how they pulled off. Apocalypse Now, (based on one of my favourite books) still makes my head explode. It’s spellbinding in its ability to be a huge spectacle, and deep meditation, at the same time. A film like that will never be made again. Like all great art, it demanded the creator’s journey into madness in order to bring back something so special. 

The Art of Production: Maria, Head of Business and Talent in Europe

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Introducing Maria, our Head of Business and Talent (Europe), who offers a glimpse into her life in the production industry. From navigating the challenges of getting started to managing difficult relationships and being the calming force,  Maria has seen it all. Having discovered her love for production in London 14 years ago, she never looked back and knew this was the path for her.

We recently caught up with Maria to gain valuable insights into relationship building in production. Her answers to some of the most pressing questions are sure to provide the invaluable knowledge & truths you’ve been seeking!

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How did you first get involved in the production and what appealed to you about it?

It first started 14 years ago, when I was an office manager in a post-production company while I lived in London. Later on, when I moved to Madrid it became very natural to start as a talent rep as I already knew the industry and its peculiar jargon.

What about your personality, skills and experience make this position such a great fit?

Besides the general knowledge that this industry needs, I believe it’s crucial to possess an empathetic personality to grasp the needs of clients/brands. Luckily, I naturally possess this trait 🙂

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their career in production?

To avoid getting overly caught up in the tumultuous nature of this industry, I would recommend not spending all of your energy on it. Instead, prioritise engaging in enjoyable and creative endeavours while also selectively choosing meaningful projects to take part in, as they will help make your journey more manageable.

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Thinking back to some of the most challenging experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to lie at the heart of the more tense or difficult client? 

Well,  there’s been a few, the worst one involved a poor relationship between the agency and the client, making the entire process much more excruciating than it should have been. I think taking the time to get to know each other, and building trust and respect would help hugely!

And what are the keys to building a productive and good relationship?

Being sympathetic to other people’s situations. Never take things personally, when someone does something wrong, even if you feel it was directed at you, they usually have their own struggles.

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What’s your view on disagreement and emotion – is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why – and what does productive disagreement look like?

There’s always a place for disagreement, otherwise, there wouldn’t be a place for productive conversation. It is important to put everyone’s needs and limits on the table to have a better process and better end result. 

These days, agencies and production companies do so much beyond traditional campaigns. As a producer or account manager/sales manager you do so much to put all the pieces together – and that complexity can often be mirrored on the client stakeholder side too.
What’s the key to navigating (and helping the client navigate) that complexity?

As an account/business development manager, the key is to truly listen to everyone’s needs. Paying attention to all creative and practical opinions will help find a balance within all of them and integrate them into a funnel to materialise the best out of it.

What recent projects are you proudest of and why? What was challenging about these projects from a sales/production perspective and how did you address those challenges? What was so satisfying about working on these projects?  

It was a huge campaign for Facebook and the production process was complex. The process was painful but in the end, the campaign was a huge success 😉  It was incredibly rewarding to see all of our efforts come to fruition and to know that we had played a significant role in achieving our client’s goals.

NERD Productions: Promoting a Sustainable Future for Advertising

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At NERD Productions, we firmly believe in the harmonious relationship between creativity and sustainability. We strive to minimise our environmental footprint and advocate for sustainable practices at every stage of the production process, ensuring a better and greener future.

Here are some of our top ideas on how the production industry can actively contribute to a more sustainable world:

1. As a production company, we often influence viewers’ lifestyle choices, so how can we encourage our global audiences to adopt more sustainable consumption habits?

  • Create content that showcases the importance and benefits of sustainable living. This content can inspire viewers to adopt similar practices in their daily lives.
  • Collaborate with sustainable brands and organizations to create content that promotes sustainable products and services. This can create a positive association with sustainability in the minds of your audience.
  • Lead by example and ensure that your own production processes are sustainable, minimising your impact on the environment.
  • Engage with your audience and encourage them to share their own sustainable practices and experiences. This can create a sense of community and inspire others to adopt similar practices.
  • Support sustainable initiatives by sponsoring events, donating funds, or volunteering your time. This can create a positive association with sustainability in the minds of your audience and encourage them to do the same.

By implementing these ideas, we can encourage sustainable consumption habits and make a positive impact on the environment.

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NERD Sustainability Advocate & Director: Lucas Borras ‘Arrow’

2. How can we best collaborate with communities and organisations in advertising to promote sustainable initiatives beyond internal production processes?

  1. Offer resources: Provide resources and support to help the community/organisation implement sustainable practices. 
  2. Co-create campaigns: Collaborate with the community/organisation to co-create campaigns that promote sustainability. This ensures that the message resonates with the community and is more likely to be effective.
  3. Look for sustainable opportunities: Look for parts of the story or processes that can be made more sustainable. Highlighting these aspects can inspire others to take action towards sustainability.
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NERD Sustainability Advocate & Director Rachael-Olga Lloyd ‘Everything InBetween”

3. How can we entice clients and agencies to invest in making production more sustainable, as this usually comes at a higher cost?

Investing in sustainable production is not only essential for a better future, but it can also bring numerous benefits to clients and agencies. However, it’s crucial to entice them to make the initial investment. Here are some ways to make sustainability more engaging:

Firstly, highlight the long-term benefits of sustainable production. While it may require higher costs initially, sustainable practices can result in significant long-term cost savings. For instance, by reducing energy consumption, waste, and improving efficiency, businesses can ultimately increase profitability and create a positive brand image.

Secondly, showcase the business case for sustainability. Presenting research and case studies that demonstrate the financial benefits of sustainable production can help clients and agencies realise the value of such practices. This can include increased market share, customer loyalty, and an improved reputation.

Thirdly, offer incentives to encourage sustainable production. These can be in the form of reduced rates, additional services, or other perks. By offering tangible benefits, clients and agencies can be motivated to invest in sustainable production.

Lastly, encourage collaboration to identify areas where sustainable practices can be implemented without compromising production quality. Working collaboratively with clients and agencies can also help reduce costs and increase buy-in from stakeholders.

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NERD Sustainability Advocate & Director: Brett De Vos ‘World Diabetes Day”

4. How to reduce digital pollution? Our starter’s top tips for everyone:

We believe in constantly reevaluating practices to ensure they are effective and sustainable. Simple solutions like eliminating email signature images and avoiding sending unnecessary emails can significantly reduce data usage and your carbon footprint.

Sustainable web design practices such as image optimisation and file compression can further reduce the energy required to load web pages. Using video conferencing and allowing for remote work can save time, money, and emissions from unnecessary travel.

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NERD Sustainability Advocate & Director: Hayley Morris “Charlie Banana”

NERD’s Hayley Morris on sustainability in animation

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In a world of computer-generated everything, there are still a few of us who are holding on tight to the traditional and truly handcrafted ways of bringing stop-motion and mixed-media films to life. It’s a bit like being part of a secret society, except our secret handshake involves a glue gun and some felt.

Hayley: ‘For me, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of creating something truly unique with my own two hands. I love experimenting with all kinds of physical materials – from paper and fabric to fibres, found objects, and even the occasional pinecone (yes, you read that right!).

But, as with most good things, there’s a downside. When you’re working with real stuff, you’re also generating real waste. After years of working on commercial productions, seeing all those non-biodegradable materials being tossed in the bin at the end of the day was a real bummer.

That’s why I’ve made it my mission to think about the materials I choose to use and encourage others to do the same. By making sustainability a key part of my creative process, I’m always looking for ways to repurpose and reuse materials wherever I can. It’s a bit like a game of “How many different things can I make out of this one roll of paper towels?” (Spoiler alert: the answer is usually a lot.)

But here’s the thing: being environmentally conscious doesn’t have to be a drag. In fact, it’s made my work even more fun and challenging. I’m constantly pushing myself to develop creative solutions for every project, and I’ve discovered all kinds of new techniques and approaches along the way.’

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So, how do I do this in stop-motion animation?

I have a stash of reusable materials for every project. My advice to the animation industry is to integrate sustainability into each project from the start. We should recycle, conserve energy, and repurpose waste. Every project is a puzzle that requires its own sustainable solutions. As artists, it’s our responsibility to be environmentally conscious. Here are some ways I apply this mindset: I use my collection of recycled materials, and when I buy new items, I choose eco-friendly options.

Repurpose

Repurposing objects is not a new concept in animation or human experience. As children, we often use everyday items to create our own imaginative worlds, such as a pile of leaves becoming a castle and a stick becoming Excalibur. As animators, we have the opportunity to continue this sustainable projection of imagination and build worlds that inspire creativity.

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Renowned animators such as the Brothers Quay and Jan Svankmajer also repurpose everyday objects, imbuing them with emotional resonance. They transform the contents of our kitchen drawers into a cacophonous consumer or coat old doll heads with a chilling patina of menace. By using familiar objects, viewers can transition in and out of the illusion, recognizing and reinterpreting them. Animators direct an intimate dance with the object, creating a powerful alchemy that can make audiences fall in love with a puppet made from forks.

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In the music video “Bounce Bounce” for Hilary Hahn and Hauschka, I repurposed forgotten objects found in Brooklyn flea markets and antique stores. A vintage scarf became a fleet of crabs, a doily transformed into a starfish-like creature, sink strainers were used for sea anemones, and even a discarded toy piano became a reef for sea snails and ocean plants. By giving new life to these objects, I created a whimsical and unforgettable display of creativity.

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Bounce Bounce by Hayley Morris

Waste Not Want Not

Too often we dismiss it as a problem that’s out of sight, out of mind. We toss our trash into bins and watch as it’s whisked away by garbage trucks, never stopping to consider the bigger picture. But what if we approached waste in a different way?

When I was working with Explosions in the Sky on their music video for “The Ecstatics,” we wanted to explore the concept of mental clarity and the layering of thoughts. To achieve this, we used transparent materials like plastic, glass, thin paper, and light projections. But where did we find these materials? In rubbish bins, of course!

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The Ecstatics – Explosions

By collecting plastic bottles and other waste materials, we were able to repurpose them into breathing lungs and organic forms. We even used reused glass shards to create custom glass-blown shapes. And to top it off, we used antiquated plastic overhead projector sheets to create an etched 2D animation for the finale. By giving new life to materials that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill, we were able to create a thought-provoking and visually stunning music video.

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Making of – Explosions in the sky

While imaginative repurposing and recycling offer endless possibilities, sometimes embracing material constraint can lead to even more creative solutions.

Imagine creating an entire universe from a single sheet of paper. It may seem daunting, but with the right approach, it’s possible. By embracing the limitations of a single material, we can push the boundaries of our creativity and explore its full potential.

Instead of overwhelming ourselves with endless possibilities, let’s focus on the beauty of simplicity. Let’s take a single sheet of paper and see how far we can stretch its life. Can we create intricate origami designs? Can we use it as a canvas for stunning artwork? Can we fold it into beautiful paper airplanes that soar through the sky?

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Netlfix: The Half of It

Working with Sustainable Brands

If we want to create a more sustainable future for animation, we need to start by collaborating with conscious brands and inspiring others to make eco-friendly choices. One example of this is a commercial for Charlie Banana that was particularly special to me, especially as I was pregnant at the time. Even if I wasn’t working on this project, I would have chosen cloth diapers for my baby because of my commitment to sustainability and my understanding of the impact of products on the environment.

In bringing this film to life, we wanted to showcase the beauty of paper and how it can be seamlessly combined with digital compositing and hand-drawn elements. I made sure to source recycled paper to reduce the project’s environmental impact. But the sustainability efforts didn’t stop there! I saved all the paper scraps from the cutout puppets and props and plan to turn them into new paper, using my skills in papermaking that I learned in a class a few years ago. I love how this process can transform discarded scraps into beautiful, usable paper, even using fibers like old denim jeans!

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Charlie Banana TVC

These inspiring sustainable films demonstrate the incredible versatility of stop-motion animation when done mindfully. As a proud member of NERD team, who shares a passion for sustainability, I am thrilled to see more organisations like AdGreen leading the way in sustainable production practices. It is essential that we take responsibility for the environmental impact of our creative endeavours and strive to make positive changes for future generations.

I believe that as creators, we have a unique opportunity to inspire change through our work. By rethinking our processes and the materials we use, we can create compelling, environmentally-friendly films that make a positive impact. Though it can be a challenge at times, there are countless ways to craft sustainably and make a difference. Let’s all do our part to build a more sustainable future for our planet!

The Essential List by NERD’s Ian Clarke

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Get to know Ian Clarke, NERD’s award-winning Animation Director whose work spans the boundaries of 2D and 3D animation, motion design, branding, and typography. With a unique approach that puts ideas at the forefront, Ian’s creations are a reflection of his boundless creativity and technical expertise.

When thinking about an Essential List full of creativity and flavour, we knew Ian would have loads to share. If you are in London, this will come in handy for some local suggestions too! We hope you enjoy getting to know Ian more as much as we did.

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Lifestyle

  • Place of birth: Limerick, Ireland.
  • Hometown: London, UK.
  • Staycation: London parks during the summer or if in Ireland anywhere on the Co. Clare coast.
  • Vacation: European city breaks, France in summer, Greek Islands, Thailand, Mexico.
  • Pet: Would love a dog but in London, it is like having a baby. One day.
  • Place of work: I have an office at the wonderful Switchboard Studios, home to designers, architects, editors, independent record labels, audio engineers, artists and more. Great bunch of lads.
  • Place of workout: The Underdog Gym, Walthamstow.
  • Side project: Restoring old family photos using AI and many many hours in Photoshop. Discovering the only known photo that exists of my Grandmother, and sharing it with my mother for the first time, has sent me down a rabbit hole of the family tree and DNA discoveries. 
  • Mode of transport: Legs, legs, legs. With a bit of bike. And a cheeky taxi.
  • Bonus travel essential: Bose noise-cancelling headphones – a banisher for crying babies.
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Culture

  • Artist: I just saw a massive Maurizio Cattelan show at the Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, and it was great. The locals documenting every moment of the exhibition with their phones were just as interesting.
  • Musician: Eeek could be so many… will say maybe Ross From Friends, as was just listening to him earlier today.
  • Commercials/music video director: Spike Jonze & Michel Gondry’s 90’s music vids. Inspired me like nothing else.
  • Film director: See above, but also anything that Cartoon Saloon make. The Secret of Kells and Song of The Sea are animated gems.
  • Photographer: Martin Parr’s snapshots of British life are someone else. Saw a Vivian Maier exhibition at Photo London a few years back, what a fascinating lady.
  • Film: Victoria (Germany – 2015) – no it’s not about that queen.
  • Series: I wanna be current and say The Last of Us, Succession and The English, all of which I loved recently, but Star Trek 4eva!
  • Commercial: The Guinness Surfers has to be one of the best, right? Also, it features Leftfield so yeah it remains one of the best ads ever made.
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  • Music video: Apex Twin ‘Windowlicker’ – when this came out it blew my mind, Chris Cunningham is a genius.
  • Video game: Last of Us Part 2/Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Book: Currently reading The West Clare Railway by Patrick Taylor. It documents the dangerous world of Victorian-era steam trains (!), and it mentions my Great Great Grandfather Paddy who as a train driver dodged death a few times. Glad he did, and glad I am here.
  • Graphic novel: Building Stories by Chris Ware
  • Podcast: Dan Snow’s History Hit, The Blindly Podcast, Dekmantel Podcast Series, Treks & The City, Bad Gays
  • Newspaper (off or online): Lefty cliche but probs The Guardian.
  • Magazine: That’s so 20th-century man. Jokes.
  • Bonus culture essential: Covid gave me a rediscovered appreciation for live gigs and the theatre.

Food and Drink

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  • Breakfast: Weetabix, what’s the point in anything if you aren’t regular right!?
  • Restaurant: Heard great things about Cafe Cecilia In Hackney, so next on my list.
  • Cheap bite: Auld Hag at Exhale Brewery. Great Scottish bites.
  • Working lunch: Soup and sandwich. So boring. I miss working in Central London with its street markets.
  • Favourite dish: My death row dinner would be a Sunday roast with all the trimmings, as it reminds me of my childhood. But maybe I murdered someone to end up on Death Row, so I might not deserve it?
  • Signature dish: Pork tenderloin with apricots and almonds (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/aug/07/angela-hartnett-pork-apricots-almonds-recipe)
  • Snack: Hummus with a cracker, and repeat.
  • Guilty pleasure: A big dirty bag of Onion Rings crisps.
  • Bar: Exale Brewery on the Blackhorse Beer Mile in Walthamstow, it helps that it is exactly 2 mins from my house.
  • Booze: When we moved to this part of London the closest pub was a 15 min walk away, now we have 7 breweries and one urban winery (!) mere minutes away. So brewery IPA, with a wine chaser. And repeat.
  • Not booze: Water. It’s underrated.
  • Bonus food: Gyoza
  • Bonus beverage: Gin & Tonic or Mezcal Margarita

Kit

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  • Phone: iPhone – cameras are great on them. Also locked in the Apple product cycle. Send help.
  • Computer: Mac Studio
  • TV: Samsung
  • Headphones: Bose Comfort II
  • Camera: Old Canon Digital SLR
  • Soundsystem: Ruark MR1 MkII Bluetooth Speaker System… in sexy ‘Rich Walnut’
  • Pen/pencil: Wacom Pen
  • Where you document an idea: My annual moleskin purchase
  • Casual clothing: See Smart Clothing
  • Smart clothing: See Casual Clothing
  • Footwear: Trainers/Tackies/Runners/Sneakers
  • Watch: Nah
  • Collection: Trainers/Trackies/Runners/Sneakers
  • App: Overcast
  • Website: https://www.positive.news/
  • Favourite social media feed: Sainthoax on Instagram. She is the mother.
  • Work program: After Effects. 
  • Analogue work tool: Pencil and paper.
  • Morning grooming/makeup essential: La Roche-Posay Rosaliac UV Legere – Damn you Rosacea AKA “The Curse of the Celts”
  • Bonus kit essential: Second Mac Studio Display at home, so can carry my Mac Studio easily between the office and home.
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The Art of Production: Lydia Glanville, NERD’s Head of Business and Talent

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Step into the world of Lydia, Head of Business and Talent at NERD Productions, and get a glimpse of the thrill and excitement of the production industry. Getting briefs, catching up with producers & creatives on a daily, nurturing talent and much more. Lydia’s passion for the industry started at the age of 19 and it never stopped!

We managed to steal some time from her busy schedule to pick her brain on how she navigates the industry where personal connections are paramount. We also snatched a few bits of advice for those who are perhaps looking to embark on a similar career journey.

How did you first get involved in the production and what appealed to you about it?

It all started when I was 19 years old and worked as a receptionist at a production company in London. From then on I knew it was an industry I wanted to get involved in.

What about your personality, skills and experience make this position such a great fit?

People say I have always had “ the gift of the gob” and connecting people has always been something I felt I was good at and still enjoy doing immensely. I don’t like giving up, so pursuing the right brief for the right director as well as finding that perfect match for the client is crucial. 

I like to laugh and always say that I can hopefully make people laugh too, it always breaks the tension. Listening to clients’ wants and needs is another quality that I use in my professional life. 

Being spontaneous and picking up that phone to absolutely anyone has always been something that has never phased me and that has led to making great connections over the years.

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What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their career in production?

Go with it, go slow and carefully, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. More than that, don’t give up at the first or last hurdle, push on through and do it with a smile on your face. Patience and persistence go a long way.

Thinking back to some of the most challenging experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to lie at the heart of the more tense or difficult client? 

Leaving the ego at the door can be extremely beneficial for all involved. Working as a team can gain much better results than thinking only about your own creative needs and without collaboration. Working together can definitely be much more productive and powerful!

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And what are the keys to building a productive and good relationship?

Honesty, communication, collaboration trust and ambition.

What’s your view on disagreement and emotion – is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why – and what does productive disagreement look like?

Having disagreements is ok. We encourage talent at NERD to always come forward and tell us their real thoughts. It can be healthy and can lead to more brainstorming and result in an even better thought/idea. However, being polite and communicative in a calm & mature manner will always have better results.

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These days, agencies and production companies do so much beyond traditional campaigns. As a producer or account manager/sales manager you do so much to put all the pieces together – and that complexity can often be mirrored on the client stakeholder side too.
What’s the key to navigating (and helping the client navigate) that complexity?

Communicating in the right way. If there is an issue –  discuss it! Don’t leave it or that can make things worse, reassurance is always important but at the same time be honest and not exceed expectations.

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What recent projects are you proudest of and why? What was challenging about these projects from a sales/production perspective and how did you address those challenges? And finally, what was so satisfying about working on these projects?  

To be honest, I am proud of them all! Pain is gain and sometimes you have to push on through the hurdles to get to the other side. Sometimes production, agency or clients can be on different pages but working together, and finding that balance can be really rewarding and have a brilliant result. When you work on something that doesn’t necessarily start off super creatively but by the end, with everyone involved, the end piece will inevitably bring a smile to everyone’s face!

“You Can’t Call the Same Five Friends”: Addressing Gender Bias in Production

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LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to NERD’s Founder Milana Karaica and experts across the industry on International Women’s Day about how production companies can champion female talent, how to break gender bias and why trust is paramount.

Another International Women’s Day comes around, which means another March 8th spent pondering how the world has become better, or how it can do better going forward. A day or month of patting ourselves on the back for giving women space to speak, breathe and exist. The communications industry, as hundreds of other industries, has in recent years realised the painful irony of a day-long (or even month-long if we’re talking International Women’s Month) celebration of women, with the backdrop of the blatantly misogynist practices that still take place on the inside. They could be as small and negligible as office-based sexism, and go through to ruining somebody’s career, or wholly excluding women from work at certain stages of their lives.

So today, we look at how the production world in particular has changed for the women in it and for those trying to enter it. Do production companies make sure that female talent gets the same shot as their male counterparts, not only in commercials about cosmetics or periods, but also in automotive and sports; not only in scripting, but also in VFX, sound and music? We wanted to find out if the back-patting and echoing inclusivity discussions ever escaped the circles they initially began from, reaching C-suites and clients of the industry and ultimately changing minds and practices. Beyond Women’s Day, or Women’s Month, we wanted to know if brands and agencies actually want to trust female directors and other female production talent with their messaging. 

What does fostering female talent mean to the industry?

Back in 2019, according to Forbes, women drove 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions, yet somehow the communications world favours male creativity when it comes to selling and branding. “It only makes sense to speak to those individuals in a relatable and authentic way,” says NERD’s founder and executive producer Milana Karaica, speaking about this illogical split. “We can’t do that if their stories are told by men. Equality is really easy to achieve if you actually try rather than just tick boxes.”

Executive producer and partner at Merman Siobhan Murphy agrees: “Without female voices we end up recycling the same, somewhat stagnant stories, told in the same way.” To Siobhan, gender balance within production and the wider advertising industry should be spoken in the same breath as the discussions around ethnicity, sexuality, age and socio-economic backgrounds. 

Milana explains that when the team is looking at folios and CVs at NERD, they tend to remove the names, to be able to pick the person based solely on ‘raw talent and creative ability’. “No matter how extensive the reel or folio is, you can always see true potential if you put away any possibility of unconscious bias.”

The team at NERD are also very much aware of the need for a push when it comes to pitching female and underrepresented talent, so are always prepared to do whatever it takes to equalise the chances with those of more established talent. Milana continues, “We make it our mission to empower and support our young talent, so we can make a difference to their career, not just so we can make the industry more diverse and inclusive.”

Tango, which has, despite its origins in the ‘90s, become quite the female-driven force, also valuers harnessing varying points of view in this industry. “Throughout the years we have had a good gender mix at our company with both brilliant men and women. Having a diversified workforce, either at the office or not set, makes for a good balance and better work,” says executive producer at Tango Julia Bidakowska-Andren. 

On the musical side of production, things aren’t much different. Founders of music agency RESISTER, Hollie Hutton and Hannah Charman are categorical that the hunger for diverse talent has grown exponentially and parallel to the need for it. “There are also a lot more diverse voices in creative and senior roles, so the message is trickling down,” says Hannah. Hollie adds that the appetite for female-led stories has increased, whereby working with women composers feels like an important and natural choice. 

Admitting the need for equality and acquiring young female talent, however, is only half the story. It’s no secret that many women face struggles climbing the agency and communication ladders, and are more likely to drop out of their career than their male counterparts. Helping mothers return to work after having a baby, for PRETTYBIRD executive producer Paulette Caletti, is of huge importance for retaining women. “When I had my kids, I didn’t feel I could juggle work and being a parent, so I didn’t work. My confidence was low when I returned, but it takes support from production to get you back up to speed.

Children exist and industry has to support mums especially.” And although Paulette admits things have improved from when she had her eldest child nearly 13 years ago, we need to strive for a moment when this discussion becomes irrelevant. Juliette Larthe, PRETTYBIRD UK co-founder and EP however, isn’t as optimistic as her counterpart when it comes to any improvement from 13 years ago: “The situation has got worse in terms of the industry supporting and nurturing female talent. Everyone needs to do better.”

For Helen Hadfield, owner, managing director and executive producer at Snapper, enough people in the industry are aware that diversity is the lifeblood of creativity, so the conversation itself might be getting a bit old – what is left now, is to commit to making it happen. “The popular rallying cry across our industry is to value creativity, so for the sake of its creative health we need to promote, foster and develop the talent to make that happen.”

The question is, how to do that effectively? Last month, Snapper, alongside Missing Link Films, showcased four short films from four young female filmmakers at Havas for interested advertising folk from multiple agencies. “The filmmakers and their films went down a storm,” says Helen. For her and Snapper, gaining awareness needs to be converted into creating opportunities. “This is where the rubber meets the road. We need people to embrace, not just sympathise with a mission. This can only create a stronger, more interesting industry and advertising we want to own up to.”

Production companies need to pass on the love in terms of crew and specialism

Diversity and equality are the key to adequate creative, and action rather than talk is key. Taking that action, for NERD’s Milana, means that you can’t call your five friends every time you’re on set – this is the surefire formula for getting repetitive, boring and samey work. NERD’s anonymity approach when looking at folios and CVs also helps them ensure equal chances when it comes to crew on set, animation crew or music/sound partners on projects. 

Siobhan stresses that many other actions can be taken when it comes to production companies helping women push through in the industry – mentoring, investing and working hard towards a gender balance across production specialisms. “The most important thing is that production companies work towards subverting conventional gender roles within crews,” she says. “As an industry we tend to conform to certain stereotypes and, in turn, pigeon-hole women into pursuing roles that are perceived to be female-centric, such as production, hair and make-up, wardrobe, art departments. It is imperative that women who aspire to more traditionally male-based roles, such as electrical, camera, grip, first assistant director, sound, VFX, etc., are provided with the right opportunities and training to propel their careers and address the imbalance.”

The same applies when addressing the gender imbalance when it comes to directing within ‘traditionally female’ sectors. Although more is being done industry-wide to challenge the stereotypical usage of female talent in healthcare, beauty and fashion, there is still more work to be done to pave the way for women to take part in automotive and sports-based campaigns. “The rise of misogyny and the crackdown on women’s freedom is based on men’s fear,” says Sara Eolin, partner and EP at Tinygiant.

So to combat this trend, we need to “normalise women in all traditional male roles, and men need to embrace stepping into the stereotypical female roles.” And while casting might have come a long way when it comes to portraying the customer, and brands have become better at ‘combatting the haters’, there is still change that needs to be done behind the content. Sara is categorical: “The more you see it, the more you accept it. The numbers of women directors, CEOs, presidents, CCOs has certainly risen, but it is not yet the norm. When it is a norm, we’re more likely to create content that depict our lived reality.”

Agencies and brands giving female talent a fair shot is imperative 

“Even though I strongly feel a director or any other member of crew should be chosen for a project based on their experience, knowledge and expertise and not based on gender, an extra push from big brands or agencies towards choosing a female director is one of the best ways to diversify the industry,” says Tango’s Julia. What she mentions about choosing a director based solely on gender or in some DE&I box ticking exercise touches on the wider topic of tokenism. NERD’s Milana looks forward to the day when production companies no longer see requests for female directors or underrepresented groups or pledges from agencies to have ‘one of those at pitch stage’. These are all the wrong reasons to get women or any underrepresented groups on board and a sure formula to make them feel like a token.

“Let’s just stop worrying about those little boxes and hire the right person for the project without them,” Milana says. “Stay mindful of the fact that not everyone has the endless list of awards under their belt, but you can help them get some and shape their career history if they’re the right person for your project.”

Siobhan from Merman turns to FREE THE WORK (formerly Free the Bid) as a fantastic example of an initiative that provides women with equal bidding opportunities, however is also aware that it is imperative that emerging female directors aren’t just included on the pitch list as the token ‘wildcard’. “It would be great if agencies and brands were to sign-off reels at the shortlisting stage and then base their decision to award the job purely on treatment and budget.” 

She and Milana both understand that it is to be expected that agencies and brands will seek security when picking the right person, or worry that they might be taking a risk, but the reality is, that risk is offset if a new or up-and-coming director is represented by a competent production company. “That production company is adept at developing talent and surrounding the director with highly skilled technicians to guide them through the process,” says Siobhan. For Milana, insisting on diversity is not being painful, but being fair, and means you’re seeking options that could make the project as good as possible. “If you have an up-and-comer on the list, don’t expect to see 20 examples of the same approach. They don’t have it. Hence the ‘up and coming’.”

This is where trust comes in – trusting the production company to put up diverse, exciting talent, regardless of if they have awards under their belt, and then stepping out of your comfort zone as a brand or agency and choosing who is actually right for the project, not who you have seen before. Milana turns to Havas as an example – “They’ve been a great partner to us when it comes to looking for exciting and fresh talent. They trust the process and our EPs, and a little trust goes a long way.” 

The team at Chromista calls out those brands who talk the talk, with zero walk and those whose messaging has very little to do with their practice. When you’re brand messaging is ‘Let’s celebrate the joy of being a woman!‘ maybe don’t award that job to a non-female identifying director this time.” Their advice is simple – hire women and pay them the market rate. In the case that they don’t know what that is – tell them. 

RESISTER believes that transparency and accountability about suppliers of talent is also to be taken into consideration. “All too often, music agencies won’t get a credit, and if they do, they don’t credit the actual composers and producers behind the work.” This leads to a lack of clarity on where more work needs to be done, and blurs the actual size of the gender gap in the space. “The first step is more transparent crediting and this hopefully would lead to more responsible talent choices,” says Hollie.

Of course, this journey doesn’t end with inclusion, it only begins with it. Showcasing how successful projects can be when they do trust new talent, especially female or other underrepresented talent, according to Snapper’s Helen, can make the world of a difference. “Not only should brands and agencies explore the production landscape for female talent, but develop a strategy which can be judged by positive results, not just intentions.” To her, actively using the talent, not just showing it exists, is what matters more, otherwise we risk lip service with no change. “Until more women directors direct more ads we create Groundhog Day.”

Storytellers DeTuco Join NERD Productions’ talent roster

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As the first blooms of 2023 appear, we bring you DeTuco – our new & vibrant animation signing. This bunch, brimming with team spirit, specialises in bringing to life CGI characters and whole new worlds. They are eager to infuse the NERD Productions family with even more colour and craft. Prepare to be wowed as we ask them a few ‘need to know’ questions!

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What are 2 things our readers should know about you?

  • We love projects that involve characters, as we are fascinated by designing and creating new worlds and telling their stories. In every project presented to us, we look for new challenges and we always try to modify the visual style of what we do, diversifying our creativity and pushing the limits. We are constantly on the move, we even develop our own tools to innovate and go off the traditional paths.
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  • Since we like to work with talented artists and recognize their skills, a few years ago we organized an exhibition for fellow creators.

    It was one of the best experiences we´ve had as a team since it was an event without any kind of economic profit, it was made for the pure love of art. Bringing together so much talent, and so much amazing work was unique and it filled us with joy. We always talk about doing it again and we believe it may be possible this year. We choose to be infinitely curious and give the best of ourselves at all times so we can leave our mark.
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Tell us about your favourite project to date and why it has a sweet spot in your heart.

There are many projects that we love, but without a doubt the one that we remember the most is Monstruosos. It was 100% our own idea, which we were able to carry out thanks to the trusting client over at Cartoon Network. We talked a lot about the story itself and put it together little by little as a collaboration. The first script was made and a visual style was developed. CN believed in us from the start and gave us the space and resources to unleash our creativity. The months working on Monstruosos were of pure creativity. The whole team participated and contributed great ideas, it was very inspiring. Even our kids got in on the fun, joining us for lively lunches and playtime in the studio.

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Another project worth mentioning is Body Armor Edge. This project presented a thrilling combination of aesthetics and technical demands.

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We are not talking about 2023 resolutions, but rather what we are looking forward to this year. What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

This year, like every new year, we want to continue challenging ourselves and developing films that allow us to enrich our techniques or tools and explore fresh styles. We’re looking to reach and exceed the standards of what the market demands, making the most of our talent and thus, offering our best quality in each project.

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And to finish off, tell us a NERDY fact about yourself. 

Something that has become a tradition in the studio is playing video games on breaks or in little moments of free time. We discovered that disconnecting for a moment when possible and playing with (or against) each other is something that creates great opportunities for fun, laughter and bonding.

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As fans of animation in all its forms and techniques, and passionate about new technologies, we have created channels with the team members to exchange opinions, and discover artists and content. This has become an inspiring pastime for all!

We are passionate, curious, restless and love to be in constant search. We are friends, colleagues, and family – we are DeTuco.

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See more from DeTuco here.

Producing Tomorrow’s Producers: NERD’s EP Milana Karaica – learning on the job, diversity & inclusivity and getting it done!

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Milana began her journey in the production industry at just 17 as a runner and worked her way up to Executive Creative Producer, proving that nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it. But she didn’t stop there. Milana went on to set up her very own production company, one that champions diverse and inclusive talent. Her success story serves as a testament to her unwavering work ethic and her ability to learn and grow from every experience.

And now, Milana is sharing her story and valuable lessons. She wants to inspire and motivate those who are just starting out in the field of production, and help them connect with fellow producers and mentors.

What advice would you give to aspiring producers or content creators hoping to jump into production?

That’s easy! There are two bits of advice that I always share and those are the two things that have never let me down, to this day. Always have a ‘can do’ attitude and do the best you can. Nothing you present or do should be less than your best effort! It is the only way you will truly reach your goals and have a sense of achievement and fulfillment which only comes from doing hard work.

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What skills or emerging areas would you advise aspiring producers to learn about and educate themselves about?

It really depends on what area of our industry you wish to focus on. Production Producers are very different from agencies’ side Producers, for example. There is quite often this misconception that a ‘Producer’ should be able to do it all which is not the case at all!  It’s actually when things go wrong on production most frequently. 

I would say choose a direction and really try to master that before you start another 4 or 5 others. I know it is trendy to try and be a Jack of all trades these days BUT it just means you will eventually be the master of none. Being able to be that person that is absolutely a must-have on a project for a specific quality or skill is invaluable to your hiring success rate.

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What was the biggest lesson you learned when you were starting out in production – and why has that stayed with you?

I started my career at just 17 as a runner in Soho.. Literally making tea & coffee and dropping off parcels to post houses and agencies. We didn’t send anything on a link in those days… it was a DVD or printed out and you physically had to deliver everything. Seems like a strange concept now!

From there I crawled my way through the ranks and became an Office Manager and then a Producer, followed by Executive Producer. It all happened quite fast for me as I was relentless in how hard I worked and I worked hard. I feel it happened to me very young and even though I had the experience of doing the physical work and being in production I was not a seasoned individual. There came a certain point where I accepted the unfair treatment of crew, and staff, and just thought that was a way of life! I guess it was fear that my job would vanish that never allowed me to question that and put a stop to it until I found myself as a person through some amazing clients and friends.

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Don’t get me wrong, going against that grain made me an enemy but it is this that motivated me the most to start NERD and make it a production company like no other! Empowering, nurturing and making D&I our focus to be a  better industry overall.

When it comes to broadening access to production and improving diversity and inclusion what are your team doing to address this? 

As a leading D&I-led production company we advocate diversity and inclusion by championing an innovative and forward-thinking company culture that focuses on constantly seeking, nurturing and empowering young talent, female talent and talent from under-represented backgrounds. We don’t have boxes to tick and quotas to meet. This is not how to achieve true diversity. It is simply by treating everyone as equal and giving them a chance at an equal playing field. 

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And why is it an essential issue for the production community to address? 

Our consumers are literally EVERY single person on this planet! So as an industry, we need to be talking to all those individuals in a relevant way and with an authentic approach. At NERD we are constantly inspired by the people around us that share the same passion for building an environment reflective of the people that we create the work for – the consumers.

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There are young people getting into production who maybe don’t see the line between professional production and the creator economy, and that may well also be the shape of things to come. What are your thoughts about that? Is there a tension between more formalised production and the ‘creator economy’ or do the two feed into each other? 

As a company, we do actually see a mix of asks for both of those approaches!  To us they do feed into each other and why not?! Again, as influencers and shapers of lifestyle trends, we do need to see emerging trends in culture as something to embrace and not fear. I know this is a concept that our industry doesn’t quite accept on so many levels but the sooner we do the sooner we will have less out-of-touch advertising! 

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If you compare your role to the role of the heads of TV/heads of production/ Exec Producers when you first joined the industry, what do you think are the most striking or interesting changes (and what surprising things have stayed the same?) 

When I first started, EPs were mostly at lunch or flying someplace exotic to shoot something super exciting!  It was the dream role for many for this very reason. I kind of feel sorry for the EPs of today. They are often overwhelmed by responsibility, lack of support and this endless expectation that they can and should just do everything alone! Don’t get me wrong, we will still get that afternoon at Soho House but these guys do need a little support. 

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When it comes to educating producers how does your agency like to approach this? (I know we’re always hearing about how much easier it is to educate or train oneself on tech etc, but what areas do you think producers can benefit from more directed or structured training?)

It is really difficult to supply structured training for Producers and we do prefer hands-on training. Working alongside our seasoned senior producers and directors is the best and most efficient way to absorb knowledge and gain hands-on skills. Seeing others at work and crafting together is also great for social skills development and gives a sense of team play you can never have in any other approach. 

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On the other side of the equation, what’s the key to retaining expertise and helping people who have been working in production for decades to develop new skills?

I think this is covered in the question about EPs. Everyone has their value! Those that are very experienced and have the knowledge to share- we still need to help them keep up with the latest equipment, software etc We must all keep learning and helping each other by sharing that newly learned knowledge with our team. There is always something new to gain for all of us no matter the level of experience. 

Clearly, there is so much change, but what personality traits and skills will always be in demand from producers? 

  1. Being nice! It is really not that hard! Those Producers who are very kind will always get more out of their team. 
  1. Keeping a cool head. As a Producer, you can not afford to be the one creating the drama on set. You need to be calm and zen, smoothing everything out and ensuring everyone else is not feeling the stress. You will have a very successful shoot if your whole crew is supported and able to do their part. 
  1. Being organized! Don’t think I need to go into that one hehe!