What do people misunderstand about producers? The misconception that a producer is a frustrated director. You can almost hear the ADs echoing her, saying, “Us too, we don’t want to be directors!”
Filmmakers, hoping for empathy from the NZFC when they front up with their own visions, should take heart as they learn about the person behind the producer. There is a sense of narrative in conversation with Leanne that definitely brings to mind the idea of a creative producer. She has her own gift for story telling and, alongside established business acumen, this must surely enhance her value to the creative community in her role as head of Production and Development with the NZFC.
Her well-developed sense of humour is evident. She also values the idea of dreaming: “Dreaming about holidays. Dreaming generally. Watching films falls into this category often. I experience some films like dreams. Dark warm spaces watching someone’s else’s story unfold… OK! I’m obviously too tired to answer this one.”
You get the feeling that being tired is not likely to end any time soon. Though the image of Leanne trying to hide in bushes in the end of the garden to take important calls when her kids were small. “It never worked.”
Over time she has become ‘less agony aunt, more strategist’ in her role. So many protective and adaptive elements seem to be inferred by that one shift, one that might be summarised as a powerful shift in perspective.
“This is just another job and if we stopped working just because we had kids nothing would happen. Technology has helped. I was a cell phone and laptop producer when my kids were small and did a lot of work at night… If I hear kids on the other end of a call now I don’t care if people hang up on me. I get it.”
More explicitly she describes Kiwis as valuing life work balance and believes it is increasingly important for figuring out how this industry will look in the future.
What are good lessons for producers to learn early? “The script is the blueprint. It’s the least expensive place to get it right. Don’t assume you can fix it later in the edit. Keep your eye on the goal. The vision for the project needs to be shared by all the team. Stick to that unless there is a compelling reason not to. Your responsibility for health and safety is from the start.”
Fritha works with the NZ Writers Guild, and has a checkered past including being EO at the Techos Guild, a biologist in Rarotonga and spending random bits of her childhood on film & TV sets where NZ’s independent film & TV pioneers were making it up as they went along. This grab-bag adds up to knowing a little about a lot.