So often people want to know the story behind the photographer or the creative on a project, but what about the art producer? Art production is such an interesting job to say the least. The people I know in this position come from such rich and diverse backgrounds and rarely do they follow the same path to become one. Understanding this, I thought it would be fun to host a series of interviews with art producers that doesn’t just address how to get their attention, but instead celebrate the art producer for who they are, where they came from and what is important in their life.
Thank you Erica Mellow for agreeing to be part of this series. Erica is one of the happiest art producers I know. And why wouldn’t she be? She loves her job and has the cutest baby ever!
Here is what she had to say:
I’ve been drawn to art from a young age. Art class was always my favorite. My love for art grew in high school and college when I learned that art is not just paintings and drawings, but sculpture and photography and so much more. In college I double majored in Art History and Visual Arts. This is when I was able to take my first photography class and fell in love. As I neared graduation I know I wanted to find a career that offered me the ability to surround myself with art and specifically photography. I looked into grad school programs and came across NYU’s Visual Arts Administration program. The program was geared toward the for-profit world of the arts, such as Galleries, Auction houses, private collections, etc and I really thought I was working toward a career specializing in photography at an auction house. Little did I know that the world had another plan for me. Part of the program required exploring different internships. I took an internship I found on NYFA.org with a photography’s rep. I knew nothing of the world of advertising and this was an eye opener. I loved helping to curate the portfolios and design mailers. I interned for 6 months there and the owner always spoke about the “Art Producers” and I asked her what is an art producer and what do they do? She told me all about the role of the art producer and helped set me up with an internship at McCann-Erickson. I was hooked. I loved the fast, exciting pace of the advertising world and the diversity of the projects. After my internship they hired me as their stock art producer, that was in 2008 and I haven’t looked back since.
Did you always know you wanted to work in advertising?
I had no clue the world of advertising even existed until my internship at McCann Erickson. I had never even thought about how ads got there and why. Finding out the world of advertising existed and there was a job role like an art producer was like finding my calling.
Did you ever consider becoming a photographer yourself?
Yes, at times I have considered really taking some time off and brushing up on my technical skills and diving back into photography, especially when I see some photographer’s personal projects that I find inspirational. I’ve been taking a lot of photos these days since I’ve had my daughter and it feels like it’s slowly coming back to me. Right now though my photos are for me and my family.
We all grow up with influences that make us who we are today. Can you share one or two experiences that have influenced your art producer style?
I’ve had some really amazing mentors that have greatly shaped the producer I am today in terms of confidence, organization and past experiences. One thing I learned along the way is to ask a lot of questions. If your sensing frustration from a peer, ask them why and have an honest conversation. A lot of times you’ll get to the root of it quickly and be able to resolve it. Don’t ignore it or get frustrated back because then you’re really only making your job harder. Work together, not against each other.
Do you have a personal aesthetic that comes through in the photographers whose work you are drawn to?
I love bright pops of color and imagery that captures the soul. I find I’m recommending photographers in this vein a lot, but they aren’t always applicable to the project I’m working on. But being forced to look at different styles and subject matter outside my favorite (and comfort zone) is what makes me a good producer. It’s important to have a diverse knowledge of what (or should I said who) is out there is what makes a good producer.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
It really depends on the project. Sometimes it’s the research of the photographers and/or directors. Sometimes it’s the account team. Sometimes it’s the clients. But like I said earlier, when you’re facing a challenge, it’s best to get on the phone or have a sit down with that person or team. See where they are coming from. More often than not it sheds light on the situation and you understand where your teammates are coming from which helps me to be more understanding and often I feel encouraged to go the extra mile to be part of the solutions and not stay complacent.
What are you known for on your team?
I’d like to hope that I’m known for being a strong and fair producer. My goal is always to have a fun and successful production. Personally, my goal is to make my agency teammates happy and shine to our clients, but also to foster the photographer/director/artist that we’ve partnered with.
I also like to mentor junior producers. I want to help provide guidance and support the way I was shown.
What do you love about your job?
I love the award phone call. I find it so exciting. A fun, fabulous production lies ahead. I’ll likely face some challenges that will keep me on my toes, but that I’ll ultimately use as a growing opportunity. Growing and learning from each and every production is so important. No two shoots are every the same, maybe that’s actually what I love most. That nothing is ever the same and therefore I never stop growing and learning and refining my craft.
What one word describes your style as an art buyer?
Balanced (well this is what I hope describes my style….hahha!!). I’d like to think I’m sticking the perfect balance between organization and creativity. I like to create schedules and have deadlines, but I also want to ensure I don’t hinder the creative process too much with meetings and calls and requests. I try and give my creatives time to explore and think and evolve the project as needed but while finding that balance that keeps us on track and budget.
What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday?
My favorite thing to do on Sunday spend time with my family. On the weekends I try and just relax and play with my daughter and spoil her rotten and spend time with my husband talking about anything other then work or errands. It’s important to have family time and be present in the moment. As producers, we’re the planners in our personal and professional lives, but we need to take a break from all the planning and remember to live in the moment. (it’s not easy when planning is such an intricate part of your nature)