Jason S Blanchard is a freelance producer, independent business and marketing consultant, and motivational speaker. He spent the last 8 years teaching Final Projects at Full Sail University before moving to Los Angeles in February. Jessica Northey had the opportunity to interview Blanchard over Spring Break: JN: What type of work do you enjoy most: producing, business and marketing consulting, or motivational speaking? JB: All of the above because they go hand-‐in-‐hand. Producing is marketing and business. Consulting is what a producer does by sitting down with a variety of people to make recommendations. The motivational speaking comes into play by being able to keep your team motivated. Producing is all of those things combined into one person. There are two kinds of producers: 1) the deal making producers and 2) the nuts and bolts producers. The deal-‐making producer is also known as the Creative Producer and knows people and can bring them together for a single project. This type of producer knows about a great script and then connects that script with the crew to rally the cause of bringing the story into a movie. They seek out investors, they’re the champions of the project, and they’ll go out and market the movie on television. The nuts and bolts producer will figure out the budget: what it will cost to make the script into a movie. They’ll price it down to the cost of the nails to build the set along with what, who, and how it costs. To become a Creative Producer, you start out as an Assistant Producer. You learn from the CP, the 5-‐7 year track starts from Associate Producer, Co-‐Producer, and then a Producer. For the nuts and bolts producer, you start out as an office PA, Production Secretary, Assistant Officer Coordinator, Production Coordinator, Line Producer, and then Producer. That is about a 15-‐year track. An Executive Producer is anyone with money and/or influence. They know people who will create a movie based on paying them well or if they
owe the EP any favors. JN: What are the core responsibilities of your position? JB: The producer is the Alpha and Omega of a project. They are there to see the project from the beginning to the end. Some projects can be a 5 to 7 year process. Every project can be different and a producer can start working from a story in a book before the script is created or not become involved until after a script has been produced. An example of motivational speaking in producing was how I had been on a 14-‐hour shoot on a set with extras. They realized they had 6 more hours to go before the end of their shift for a 20-‐hour day. The only way for me to finish the day was to motivate 50 extras to stay for the entire shift. I got out a ladder and stood at the top and yelled out and asked everyone to gather around. I also gave them compliments of how great they were doing and thanked them for being there. Then, I asked them to stay the additional hours. The only way to motivate a group of extras to stay longer is to inspire them. Another trick is to never give a large group of people an option. If you do give them option, the group will not be able to quickly come to a common agreement. Instead, direct the group with what you want them to do, and they will follow your leadership. JN: What entry-‐level positions would I hold before I would be qualified to hold your position? JB: My advice is that you stay as long as you think you need to be there. As soon as you feel comfortable with the work, set out for your next goal. For instance, if co-‐workers invite you out after work, then say yes. That can lead into conversations about other places to visit and end up turning into an opportunity you would have never been able to plan out. If you’re new to a city and to an industry, it’s a great idea to start out as an intern. It’s smart to have 2-‐3 months of savings to live off of before moving to a new city. Some new graduates have been able to work part-‐time at 2 or 3 different internships at the same time
because they had a buffer to pay the essential bills. JN: When evaluating a team member’s performance, what factors are most important to you? JB: There are two important characteristics to have in this business. First, being able to do what you’re say you’re going to do and having follow through is essential. The second characteristic is personality; no one wants to work with a jerk. If you’re a jerk, I don’t care how good you are; you’re still a jerk. No one wants to work with someone with a negative personality. As a producer, in building a team, I look for their strengths and weaknesses and then match people up that will match each other to create a stronger team. My advice is to work on improving your strengths because it is better to be an expert at one thing versus being mediocre at many things. A person with a particular weakness can be matched with a different person who has strength in that area. JN: What do you consider to be the most challenging aspect about being in this position today? JB: The most challenging part about being a producer is finding the motivation to continue to do this work every day. There is so much rejection. It’s easier if you know that you will fail 99 times out of 100. You have to go into it expecting the failure, and when failure happens, accept it and keep going. I wake up every day with an optimistic attitude. I don’t see L.A. having 10% unemployment rate. Instead, 9 out of 10 people have a job, and this is pretty good! I also learn from the mistakes and move on to the next step. JN: What qualities are important when evaluating an employee for hire? JB: There are two parts to the decision. First, I’d focus on their personality to see if they’re a good fit with the team. The other side is to look at their quantitative worth to the project.
I will ask myself if this person earns more than what they are paid, specifically four times more than their paycheck. The more details you can include on your resume about your monetary successes, the better chance you have at being hired. For example, let’s say you create a graphic that took you one day and earned $400 once. If the graphic is really good, the company will continue to use the graphic for many years, which has a potential to generate thousands of dollars in revenue. The longer the work is used, the larger your quantitative worth becomes. Another example is paying a gaffer $950 for one day of work can seem like a lot of money to pay in one day. However, what the producer is creating is a film that will last forever and continue to earn revenue for the company for many years beyond the one-‐day worth of income paid to the gaffer. The gaffer can include this information to show how their skills will bring to a company that choose to hire them. JN: Tell me about your first job. JB: My first job was being in the military. I was in the Army and worked as a photojournalist. This experience taught me many skills I use today for my career. My first job in the entertainment industry was working as an Office PA on The Punisher movie. I turned in my resume and cover letter in July. I created a passionate cover letter. I recommend starting the first paragraph about yourself and what you want to do. Include a brief background of your work experience relating to the industry. The second paragraph should talk about why you want to work for that particular company. Here, you can include how much of a fan you are and how you will be talking about this experience until the day you die. The third paragraph should state why the company should care about you. Explain how you will give a 100% and that you are full of passion. Also, include a closing paragraph with your contact information and how you’d be happy to just see the office. In the film industry, it’s more about passion instead of a professional cover letter because they want to know you can work 14-‐hour days.
On the day of the interview, I discovered that the guy I was replacing for the Office PA job was a guy who asked too many questions about why he had to do the things he was asked to do. The production team that worked with the prior Office PA felt that with my past military experience, I wouldn’t ask why at all and instead simply take orders. I understand the answer to why is always because they asked me to do it. The second reason I was hired on the spot was because I ended up knowing the person interviewing me. I had previously volunteered to help out a production team during the summer. It was a 1-‐day PA job with no pay in Florida’s 107-‐degree heat. I ended up having the responsibility of keeping everyone hydrated. There was an elderly woman who ended up passing out from heat exhaustion. The 2nd AD asked if she was okay, and I assured her that the woman was okay and that I would take care of her. Because of my military experience, I already knew what to do to help her recover. During my interview, I realized that the lady conducting my interview was the same person as the 2nd AD that I worked for that day in Florida. She remembered me as soon as I reminded her of that day. She offered me the job without any further discussion because I saved her job that day, and she told me how she hadn’t had the chance to thank me properly. I asked her if she wanted to look at the office work I brought in, and she quickly flipped through my book and began to discuss my work schedule. JN: What projects are you currently working on? JB: I recently moved to L.A. from Orlando on a trial basis to see if I could find a great long-‐term gig in order to move the rest of my family over with me. I’ve been helping people develop their projects, and it turned into me becoming a talent manager. I’m working with a writer who has 4-‐5 scripts written. I work with a photographer to help him find more work. I have a website called www.RentReds.com because a lot of Full Sail students who move to L.A. have Red cameras. When someone needs to rent a camera, the request is sent out to everyone in the network, and then whoever can match up the schedule first will be able to rent the camera out.
I’m currently working a temporary job at DC Comics, and I do not know what will come next. Having a “go with the flow” attitude allows me to stand out during interviews. JN: What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What is the most rewarding aspect? JB: The most challenging aspect is coming up with something career-‐related activities to do every day. The most rewarding part of what I do is seeing someone else succeed because of work I put into helping him or her. JN: If you could change anything about the film business, what would it be and why? JB: Sometimes living in a big city can be lonely. There are many people who are motivated by making connections versus building friendships. At the end of the day, people have friends; they don’t have hundreds of connections. It’s about the relationships you build and the life you live while building projects. I have met with over 100 Full Sail grads out in L.A., and the major consensus is they’re lonely. I’m creating monthly get-‐togethers just to hang out and make new friends or spend quality time with old ones without any business talk. Most people are introduced by what they do for their career instead of what kind of person they are. I like to say I’m in between work just to trip up people because it’s not a usual response and instead going with the flow and enjoying life. JN: What advice do you have for Full Sail students who are a few months away from graduation? JB: If you don’t know every single student on campus, then you’ve messed up. The best advice is to get to know each other. If you cannot properly network within the Full Sail campus, then how are you going to survive in the larger cities such as L.A. and New York? Even if the networking is competitive, it is still important to meet new people. The larger
cities have a lot of competition, long work hours, and negative aspects such as crime. A recent graduate can feel like the city is trying to kill them and eat them alive. Instead of becoming another causality of failure in the business, you have a better chance of success by knowing the battle is a fight for your life. This quest is not for the faint of heart. It’s also a great idea to give yourself a deadline after moving to a large city of how long you’ll live there to try it out. If it doesn’t work, you know you have a back up plan. I recommend giving yourself one year, and if you haven’t made it into the entertainment industry by then, it’s time to pack up and go home. Doesn’t sound like an option to you? Then fight for what you’re passionate about. If you become the person who procrastinates, then you can be in L.A. for ten years before you get a break. Once you get the drive to complete your dreams, then nothing will stop you. If you do find yourself in a rut for a long time, reflect on what is standing in your way. You do not need to work for people who string you along for years but never give you a promotion. JN: How do you build an effective team? JB: Build a team of a core group of 4 people with specific roles who all have a common goal or vision. I suggest using the model of having a team made up different purposes and responsibilities. I refer to them in this way: the looks, the brains, the muscle, and the wild card. The figurehead is the showman, known as the looks. The brains is the person who holds everyone together and gets things accomplished as a project manager. The wild card will create some chaos, and without chaos, no creativity or spontaneity can happen. The muscle is also needed to do things like loading and unloading equipment. However, when all 4 of these personalities come together, great things can happen. It works best when everyone has the same goal and shares the same level of satisfaction when achieving projects. When the project grows larger than the 4 people can handle, it is
fine to bring in new people on a per-‐project basis. However, when the project is over, the core group should continue to stick together on all future projects as partners.