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Here’s what we learned during our APA Masterclass 2019

Earlier this year, our Production Distillers Jade and Rika attended the APA Masterclass 2019 course, which is the industry standard training course for people on their way to becoming producers. Better yet, both passed with flying colours! Here’s what they had to say about their experience:

What makes a good piece of content? How can you deliver kick-ass creative with budget constraints? What elements outside of the box do you need to consider? These are all questions that a producer is faced with at the start of every project. We stepped up to the challenge on a producers’ course run by the Advertising Producers Association (APA).

During our week of learning, we were joined by more than a hundred other students from different backgrounds and roles within the commercial production industry. This included production assistants, production managers, post-production producers and agency producers from companies all over London. As aspiring young producers, it was a fantastic networking opportunity for us to meet others that we’ll be growing alongside, and maybe even working with during our careers. We were led by producers from some of London’s most renowned production companies, who provided a wealth of industry and personal knowledge and experience for us to learn from.

The 5-day course was a mix of lectures led by industry professionals on subjects such as production insurance, health and safety regulations, scheduling for production, shooting abroad and non-traditional media. We were also assigned some practical group tasks to get us to think outside the box as producers and look at other elements involved in production as a whole. For a real-world glimpse into the industry, we visited some of London's great post facilities in groups — an edit house, a sound studio and a visual effects studio. All the students were all split into groups, with each group visiting a different set of companies. Between the two of us, we visited Speade, Clearcut Sound, Moving Picture Company, Big Buoy, The Quarry, and Lip Sync Post. It was a great chance to learn more about the inner workings of these post houses and how many people are involved in their processes — a factor that can get overlooked during the pitch, budgeting, and production stages. On top of this, the APA arranged for all of us to visit ARRI Rental in Uxbridge. This was another eye-opener — a reminder of just how much equipment is out there for productions of all needs and sizes. We saw everything from standard digital cameras to analogue film cameras, an array of lenses, dollies and tracks, as well as small to large jibs and cranes, used for high angle or aerial shots. And while there were some pieces of equipment that we deal with on a weekly basis, there were also some that we haven't had a chance to use yet... (hello feature film biggies!)

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Later, we sat down for some thought-provoking and inspiring sessions. First we heard from AdGreen, which provides expertise for those in the advertising industry who want to use more environmentally friendly and sustainable production methods. We were reminded of how small changes can help the planet and are easy to introduce the office, such as using a refillable water bottle instead of single-use plastic bottles, reducing printed paperwork on set and considering alternative ways to reduce food waste, again both on set and in the office. Later, The Met Police Film Unit gave a seminar on how the police are involved in production across the entire industry. They assist when public locations need to be closed for shoots, for the safety of both the production crew and the public. Reenactments of crimes, for instance, can cause unintended distress if visible to the public, sometimes leading to real emergency resources needing to be called out to the scene. When the police are informed about plans for such scenes, they can log details about what you’re doing and at what times, and prevent a real emergency happening — a scene we agreed that every producer would prefer to avoid ‘shooting’. Any scene that involves a replica firearm, an actor dressed as a police officer, or stunt emergency vehicles needs to be reported. It’s a perfect example of just how carefully producers need to think about the wider picture.

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But the APA Masterclass wasn’t all day trips and listening to others talk. It wouldn’t be a course without some kind of exam or final assignment — and we weren’t let off easy! As a follow-up to our week of producing, we were asked to complete an online exam in two weeks, a project that replicated the bid process every producer is familiar with. For this, we were each given a creative, quotes from kit houses for our equipment and post production, and part one of the Production Insurance Brief Specification (PIBS). The PIBS outlines who, between client, agency and production company, is responsible for each aspect across a production — from paying artists to covering insurance, delivery and everything in between. Using the information given, we had to create a budget for the creative, come up with a production schedule and write a bid letter explaining our reasons for approaching the creative and budget the way we did. The project really helped reinforce what we’d learned about how meticulously a producer needs to plan for any production. And the good news — we both did extremely well!

We’d like to thank the APA for organising such an enjoyable and educational week. Overall, it was a fantastic learning experience, and an unmissable chance to meet other up-and-coming producers, post producers and agency producers. A career in production is sounding more exciting and fulfilling than ever — we’ve already started applying some of our newfound insights to our work!

steve wheen