What does it take to be a TV news producer? I am often asked this question.
Not much, it is not rocket science, I reply. And then I keep adding to it.
A producer is a jack of all trades and master of none. A producer is a generalist who needs to know just enough to get the best out of specialists. A working knowledge of camera, lighting, video editing, graphic design and styling helps when you are partnering a video journalist, lighting director, video editor, graphics designer or a stylist in a programme or a project.
What is immensely beneficial is to have an innate sense of ownership and good managerial skills. It helps to be a people’s person if you desire this job. Often you will be working against time to deliver a product within a fixed deadline. On many ocassions, you will need your cast or crew to stretch to the limits to get the job done. You should have the ability to inspire, challenge and bring out the best in them. Sometimes, you may hear one of them tell you that he or she did it only for you. Or maybe it is not said but you get the drift.
A producer is always expected to deliver the goods – be it fire, flood or famine. It is important to be self-driven if you wish to be a television producer. A producer is expected to be a fire-fighter and a safai-karamchari depending on the need of the hour. If you easily get stressed, do not venture into this job. This role is not for the faint-hearted.
A producer worth his or her salt would never be heard saying ‘It’s not my job’. There are no set boundaries within which a producer works. Often the goalpost keeps changing. A producer is expected to take it in her or his stride and in many cases, look forward to it.
A producer needs to be enterprising. It is this ability which commands a premium over anything else. It helps to be a nuts-and-bolts kind of professional if you covet this job. You need to be able to look at both the macro and micro picture. You should know how to plan well in advance and at the same time be ready to deal with situations which come unannounced.
Often when I interview candidates for this role, I don’t dwell much on the CV. Or past accomplishments. After all, a producer helps put together, in the best way possible, work done by multiple individual cast and crew. Nothing that he or she creates is executed solely by him or her. What I look for is a temperament suited for a backroom professional. One should be comfortable in consistently making the work of others look good. A producer is always trying to add value to other people’s work – be it a reporter, a video journalist, a presenter etc. In the end, the final product is the outcome of the work put in by everyone, led and managed by the producer.
Often, a producer is not known outside the workplace by the audience. Unlike a television presenter or a reporter who is seen by viewers and recognised outside of the TV newsroom and studio. A producer should not get bothered by this anonymity. It is the love of the craft which should drive her or him, more than anything else. Often, shows may not have production credits scrolling at the end. It should not make a difference in the producer’s effort and involvement in the show. There are some who feel being credited is their birth-right. And there are others whose passion and participation in the product does not diminish if they don’t see their name at the end of the show.
It’s not about how much you do but how much love you put into what you do that countsMother Teresa
I always dig deep to check what I call the candidate’s news Ps & Qs. It is important to gauge if the candidate is passionate about news. If news does not interest her or him, it will be just another job to be done. If you get excited by news and news events, you will always strive to go that extra mile because you love what you do.The applicant’s news quotient will indicate how clued in, she or he is, to news and current affairs. A producer who is more aware is much better placed to contribute on the job.
While a lot of skills can be acquired on the job, it is the personality traits that are usually congenital. Either you have them or not. Which is not difficult to find out in the 20 odd minutes chat during the interview. I have been lucky to spot these attributes which have helped make the right choices, more often than not. Choices which can make or mar a newsroom.