5 Takeaways from Video Producers’ Success & Setbacks
Being a video producer and editor at a digital media company is both challenging and rewarding. From dealing with breaking news to planning out feature stories, producers have to face their successes and setbacks with an open-mind and innovative spirit. We spoke to 3 video producers to get their take: Jesamyn “Sam” Go, the Editorial Director for Video at NBCNews.com; Vivian Tang, the Editorial Manager and Producer at All Def Digital; and Sadie Bass, the Supervising Producer at Great Big Story.
Here are five takeaways from how they handle the hectic life of the newsroom:
1. Take pride in your own and others’ success.
Sam Go: The biggest success to me is finding and discovering talent. In my years as an editor and manager, I’ve positively influenced the company by helping find and hire the right people — some of them while they were still in school — and watched them succeed in the company and beyond. Their talent is their own, but taking a chance and finding a great writer or producer from a pile of resumes is incredibly gratifying.
Sadie Bass: Something I’ve been working on recently is growing as a leader and transitioning into a role that is more about guiding others as they create their stories versus making my own. It’s a different skill set to be able to give helpful and meaningful feedback on a consistent basis and one that I have enjoyed building and focusing on.
Vivian Tang: I feel that my biggest success as a producer is that I get to tell and share stories with people. I get to make a cool piece of content and hope that people can learn from it or get inspired by it somehow. The digital world can have a strong impact on people. It may be a 1 or 2 minute video they’re watching, but in that 1 or 2 minute, you can really make people think. So you have to be careful with what message you’re trying to get out there with your work. You never know how it can impact someone.
2. Take a chance on people.
Sam: Follow your gut. The best candidates don’t necessarily fit in a single mold and we’re always looking for new and creative talent that challenge our current thinking. I think it’s also important to support those candidates and make sure they’re set up for success.
Vivian: I’m currently working with someone on Storyhunter for the first time for a illustrated/animated video. I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to working with new editors because you never know how it’ll turn out, especially if you already have people you’ve been working with. But so far we have been communicating great! The work has been amazing and I’m very glad I took a shot with her.
3. Things won’t always go your way.
Sadie: Something that I have faced, and I’m sure many others have as well, is the issue of whether or not you did everything possible to put the best story together. Did I film enough? Did I ask the right questions? Am I weaving together a strong narrative in the edit? Over time, I have learned to quiet that inner monologue and instead try to channel that energy into creating the story itself. A big part of the storytelling process is dealing with challenges as they arise and problem solving on the spot. I’ve never published a story that was exactly what I thought it would be when I first started working on it, but that’s part of the fun!
Vivian: I think we’ve all faced setbacks, but personally, I’d say it was new for me to learn how to communicate with editors online. As a producer, it’s easy to have a vision — but sometimes it was challenging to get that through via email with your editor who’s on the other side of the country. Another setback is that sometimes the creative juice flow hits a brick wall. It’s important to get re-inspired once in awhile.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Vivian: It’s important to be transparent and let the other people know when you need some help or direction sometimes. When I find myself in a difficult situation, I try to think of the light at the end of the tunnel and remember the bigger picture. I think of how I want viewers to feel when they watch the final piece of that content. Approaching new challenges is always scary but exciting at the same time. You know you’ll be learning something new so it may be hard, but you also know you’ll be learning a new skill. I’ve learned it’s important to be open minded.
Sam: You try to make the best of the situation you have in front of you. It’s also important to make a mental — and physical — checklist of what went wrong to prevent the same problem from happening again in the future. If you learn from experience, the unforeseen situations won’t come up as often. When approaching a new challenge, I make sure to always ask for help and ask the right questions. And of course, pay it forward by helping others when they ask you in the future.
5. Learn from the people around you.
Sadie: Be flexible. Our industry is changing and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Don’t get caught up in finding the “right” job — find the one that’s right for now and learn as much as you possibly can while you’re there.
Sam: Be professional, diligent, and transparent in working with editors. Ask as many questions as you can to your assigning editor, and to everyone else who is involved with you getting your material — whether it’s elements of a story or your source. Know when challenges need a little bit more muscle to maneuver and know when to ask your peers or bosses for help. Finally, always be in the service of the story and news, not of yourself. If you do right by the story, you’ll serve your audience –and yourself — better.
Vivian: My advice would be to be open minded, stay true to yourself, but also don’t close people off. Sometimes you’ll think you have the best idea ever and know exactly how to execute that (and maybe that’s true), but don’t be too quick to brush other people off. You learn a lot more than you think by working with other creatives. And always stay inspired. When you feel that you’ve lost that extra bright light, go make time to find it again.
Have any advice to add for young producers? Tell us in the comments below!
By D. Simone Kovacs, Writer at Storyhunter