CD: Emily, many thanks for being a part of the FUSEVISUAL interviews. We first met a few months ago when you produced my aerial shoot in Brazil. Let’s start with – “Who is Emily Miller and how did she become a producer”?
Director: Michael Sugrue
Emily Miller: I’m an independent producer of photography, video, and film shoots for commercial campaigns, editorial stories and cultural projects. Producing your aerial shoot in Brazil was a fantastic example of what I love to do: work with an inspiring photographer, assemble a topnotch crew, and provide budgetary solutions and logistical recommendations for making the shoot a success.
My path to production started with work in journalism and photojournalism for news agencies in Europe, the Middle East and the US. In between writing, editing and shooting, I studied and worked in fine art galleries and auction houses. I’ve always gravitated toward creative business, and the collaboration that enables ideas to grow to fruition.
Pinpointing production was a process of discovery. I started producing in New York, when I took a detour from the art and journalism worlds. I met a talented photographer who was starting to make significant strides shooting editorially and commercially, but had an early-stage business infrastructure. I helped to grow his studio and develop his team in myriad ways, and soon the workflow was a smooth enterprise.
I realized that I could accelerate more out-of-house, where I could choose opportunities to produce diverse projects with mixed teams, and be exposed to a broad spectrum of ideas. To open that door, I decided to be an independent producer, and created the base for what is now my production company.
CD: What is the greatest asset a producer brings to the table?
Emily Miller: I like the metaphor that one of our crew used recently: the producer is the hub on the wheel. As I see it, the producer’s greatest assets are their industry relationships and trusted rapport. And the producer’s greatest contribution is creating cohesion to propel the creative business forward.
CD: For a photographer who has always produced his or her shoots, how would you show them the light on turning over the production of the shoots to a producer?
Emily Miller: From my perspective, the producer is the photographer’s strongest advocate by enabling the photographer to focus on photography. Photographers are awarded jobs based on their talents and skills to shoot, and that’s where their attention and care are ideally directed and best utilized. Producers shoulder the business relationships, the organizational components, and the cohesive communication among the team who will help support the project to completion.
I’ve worked with photographers who are excellent producers, as well as those who lack the interest or skill to produce. It’s not a question of whether the photographer “can” produce, but rather is it smart for the job?
For example, having the photographer discuss budget lines with the agency or client can detract from the creative conversation. Or from an even more operational angle, should the photographer wrangle crew and talent needs, manage the expectations of the agency and client, and coordinate logistics and amenities? All would necessitate redirecting the photographer’s mind and body away from the camera, and that has an impact.
CD: What are some of the most memorable shoots that you’ve worked on?
Director: Michael Sugrue
Emily Miller: My most memorable productions are the ones that offered the greatest adventures. It could be the multi-location campaign that called for unique productions in each city, like when we traversed Singapore, India and China. Or it could be preparations for an aerial/land/water shoot in a remote area without local industry support, like when we were awarded a job in the Arctic Circle.
In tandem, it’s the people that make the path. I’ve produced on six continents for 15 years, and the fondest memories are always the friendships made while collaborating on a production.
CD: What is the biggest challenge that producers run into in pre-production and how do you handle it?
Director: Paul Ross Jones
Emily Miller: A significant requirement for ensuring a solid, smooth production is having a healthy financial advance provided in a timely manner. The larger advance I have, the better I can negotiate with crew and resources, and the more likely I’ll be able to make savings. Reason being, I’ll be armed and can wheel and deal on the spot. In addition, the more quickly our production can pay for services, the more likely our team will want to work with us now and in the future.
I handle this request upfront, by explaining to whomever is facilitating the advance (rep, agency or client) that I pride myself on delivering a shoot on or under budget, and the advance is the key starting point to that end.
CD: What advice would you give a young person about to embark on a career as a producer? How would they go about entering this part of the profession?
Emily Miller: I’m a good example that there are circuitous and colorful routes to becoming a producer. My curiosity about several industries led me to explore different opportunities and travel widely. It took that exposure for me to hone my focus on not only production, but also entrepreneurship.
If you know right now that you want to be a producer, my recommendation for growing into the profession is to seek mentorship from an experienced producer, photographer or director. From there, seek exposure to many others, so you can learn about personalities and processes.
Participate in your production community: build and nurture relationships within the industry. And cultivate resourcefulness, which is your unique concoction of intuition, flexibility and imagination.