What I want to get at today is an idea – that producers should, in fact, produce, but they should also design. Program. Write. Touch things that aren’t just schedules, budgets, and contracts. Engage with the stuff that projects are built out of.
This kind of work – and I do think it should be work – helps keep us grounded in the reality of craft. Production is a lot about managing the pieces – ensuring who gets what done when and for how much? It’s also about managing the big picture – where will the product go, when will it get there and why is it even worth doing? But it’s almost never about the act of engaging in the craft.
And that’s okay. Designers are always going to be the best people to do design. Programmers are always going to be the ones to write the code. Artists are going to make the assets. Audio engineers will record the sounds. And producers will produce the project.
However, it is my opinion that producers should work to remain connected to these crafts in some ways. Design a system. Record some audio. Code a web page. Work to understand what it means to engage with these distinct disciplines. As the point person for groups of people that have all these skills, it is paramount that the producer be able to empathize with each and every one of them.
How much easier is it to request a bit more design time when you worked for hours to tweak a simple logo for personal blog?
And how much easier is it to stick by your team through thick and thin, nights and weekends, rain or shine, if you’ve been down those paths, felt those struggles, and worked in that craft?
As a young producer from a games background, I certainly won’t claim to be an expert in this discipline. I have worked with only a few teams, over a few years, in a few places. But through each of my experiences, I was able to increase our abilities as a team because I had technical know-how and an interest in design. Conversations became less about explanations, and more about solving problems. Design and code reviews became collaborative endeavors instead of one sided debates. And the things we built became increasingly more interesting and of a higher quality.
I’m certainly not advocating that producers should be doing the work of their teams – these talented individuals should be given the freedom to excel at what they do. But I do feel that having an understanding of the work that one is producing increases productivity, empathy, and awareness, which will likely improve the quality of the entire project.
So get out there, and make something. Anything. A web page for your cat; a poster about the moon; a game about cheese. Anything at all. Because you never know how helpful it might be – to you, and your team too.