How NOT To Run A Successful Production Business

thebigjay From The EP's Desk Leave a Comment

J.T. Johnson (EP; THEBiGJAY) discuss the lessons learned from employers who, through mismanagement taught him how NOT to run a successful production business.

Another studio that I worked at, their biggest issue was they didn’t know how to utilize their people and execute productions, properly. First problem was everybody had a title that either they didn’t deserve or didn’t mean what it was supposed to mean. So everybody was either, you’re a producer, you’re a vice president of something, you’re marketing, whatever. Everybody was something, but it always felt like the title just missed the mark. The one thing I realized was that the place was always running lean. You always were looking for camera people. You were hoping for this and that. We would make budgets and have conversations about the budgets.

Around this time I began learning how to be a line producer at the time, and we were working on developing a late night talk show. I’ll give you an example, we had a project that we did where I had purposely budgeted knowing that we needed to update some camera equipment and so I budgeted something like $30,000 for the entire production, it was close to that, I can’t quite recall the actual number. The production would’ve ended up being itself, the core production, about 18 and change and then I budgeted for some new equipment and it was earmarked in the budget in order to buy some cameras and get a couple of decent, Kino Flo lights and whatnot. Ultimately, we had the budget for it. It was going to be 12 of it was going to go to this equipment, and what was great was, the equipment would end up helping us be able to do productions in the future.

Well, right after we got the deposit, I found myself being brought into budgeting meetings and was told, “Hey, you’re not going to be able to do what you had planned.” I said, “Well, wait a minute…that’s what the money was for.” Come to find out, the decision had been made to use it to help cover general payroll, which obviously is important, but at the same time, I was suddenly aware we were now at a detriment. We couldn’t buy the new equipment, we didn’t have the money that was supposed to be there for that very purpose. The lesson I took away from that experience was that, there’s a right and a wrong way to run a production company. I realized that if I was going to be able to be in this business past these people, I needed to, one, respect and honor my client’s time, but two, respect and honor the time of the people I’ve brought on board to the project and essentially be able to make good on the things that I’ve promised. Which is something you can’t do if you’re always flying by the seat of your pants versus actually going by the line item. This is precisely one of the major reasons why I’ve now gone from doing, $18,000 infomercials to actually doing full on pilots of a more substantial budget. I hope this lesson is one I keep very close to heart while I continue to evolve as a storyteller.

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