Creative Social talked to Emily Wiedemann and Nick Kadner from NYC based production agency Greencard. They discuss navigating the production landscape, fostering growth and what it takes to grab the attention of brands and agencies.
How would you describe your job to an alien?
(NK) To put it into terms that might help to illustrate the concept of what i do I’d suggest a conversational analogy… I imagine the monologue would go something like this:
“So, you know how you built a spaceship to explore other worlds, and find out about life across the universe? What made you excited to explore all that vastness and meet new civilizations? My guess is that you heard about it somewhere, so your interest piqued in your formative years… and that piqued interest compelled you to research and collected as much information as you could about spaceships and vastness…. Some of that information was dry and some got you really pumped up!
My job is to make the things that get aliens like you interested in what you end up doing. I tell stories by explanation, entertainment, visual metaphor, and simple communication. I’m not an explorer (and i’m jealous of anyone who is), but I help explorers (or in your case an alien) tell people about their journeys and get the next generation excited about being a part of the next adventure.
How did it all start, and how have you got to where you are today?
(NK) I produced a number of NYU student shorts while I was in school. I got known as a production guy, and did a lot of set work. I liked the long hours and the excitement of making things, and ended up working as a PA/2nd 2nd/various other production jobs on a big VFX feature for some big time movie producer, a TV quiz show for some big time TV producer and then a couple of seasons of sketch comedy for MTV.
During that time, I was doing production department work with a good friend Mark De Pace at Ghost Robot, day-playing on some TV shows they were producing. Long story short, Mark asked if he could recommend me for a short film shooting in New York that he was unable to produce. I said that I’d love to, then promptly had emergency gallbladder surgery in Los Angeles and – because the show must go on – boarded a plane that ended up being stuck in the air for about 9 hours.
Tired and harried, and about 6 hours late to meet the writer/co-producer for the short – I showed up to be greeted by Emily Wiedemann – who despite having must have been extremely frustrated at a ‘responsible producer’ who was 9 hours late (this is pre smartphone & pre-plane WIFI by the way) still had prepared a snack of cocktail weenies and fresh baked bread.
Emily and I, from her living room, ended up producing her short, and since entering her apartment didn’t stop working together for 5 years. From that living room, we produced music videos, commercials, films, and all manner of tests. We started our representation business, and have made some of the closest and most talented friends and colleagues that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
Emily has always been the positive forward thinker, and – after multiple complaints from the co-op, we rented a space within a year on Bond Street and set up shop, where we’ve been producing with what is in our mind work that adheres to our code to live by which is all about working with good people, talented artists, and keeping the lights on (in what we hope will be our penthouse apartments one day)
(EW) I fell into film production completely by accident. It was one of those post graduate odd jobs that I did to help out a few friends who were just beginning their careers as directors. But I really fell in love with all aspects of production and being around all those creative people was one of the big inspirations for the environment that we have ultimately tried to create. Ultimately it inspired me to write my first film, a short that I wrote and produced called “Flushed”.
As with anyone’s first creative project there were many hiccups. The restaurant we were going to shoot in sprang a leak and we had to push the production back by a week, which in turn caused my line producer to have to bow out of the project due to a family hiking trip she had scheduled. I pretty much thought the project was doomed at that point but my line producer didn’t leave me high and dry; she found a replacement, a guy named Nick, and told me he came highly recommended.
We spoke on the phone and he was flying in from LA on a redeye and we planned to meet at the office (my apartment) at 9AM the next morning. Well, 9AM rolled around, then 10, 11 and just when I was back to thinking the whole project was going to go up in flames Nick showed up, 6 hours late with suitcase in hand.
He explained that he’d been delayed and that they wouldn’t let him get off the plane and that’s why he hadn’t called and that by the time he’d landed he figured it would be faster to just come straight over (he was slightly disheveled and talking really fast through this). I decided that he was either telling the truth or a very good liar, crafty enough to bring props to sell his story. I let him in. In one seemingly continuous and fluid motion he dropped his suitcase in the foyer, sat down at my dining room table, took out his computer and began to work.
Watching Nick work was like watching a man walk a high wire while juggling knives. He was and is incredibly good at organising chaos.
After successfully completing the short film, Nick and I began freelancing together on commercials and music videos and began pooling our money to work on personal projects. Almost every day for the following year we worked at my dining room table putting one production after the next together.
By summer we were running three projects simultaneously and the dining room table was overflowing with paper and people, and even my living room was now filled with interns sitting cross-legged at my coffee table with their computers. We needed more space. So in October we moved into our first office on Bond Street and made it official. Greencard was born.
Which projects that you’ve been involved with, are you most proud of?
(NK) Most proud of full throttle, 10 cane rum, The Apocalypse, Creative Control, Food Party, Porsche, Cohens, The Fuzz, Ida
(EW) I’m most proud of The Apocalypse, EAS, The Unstoppable Tour, Creative Control, Twitter, Cohens, Ida, The Fuzz
What are the biggest challenges you’re faced with in your work at the moment and how do you overcome them?
(NK) Meeting and exceeding high expectations during the 2005-2008 period where we wanted to make stellar work but we often had to find innovative ways to make budgets work. We learned a lot about making, hacking, and thinking outside the box. Everything we’ve had to overcome has one consistent piece of the puzzle that learning to treat clients or other artists we work with as collaborators and figuring out how to do things together is the most important. Production can sometimes be thought of as a bubble, but we’ve found success in being transparent in our challenges and really just talkin’ it out.
(EW) Competition is fierce among media companies, especially small ones. While many startups disappear after a few years or even months, those that continue to thrive are constantly challenged to remain current, relevant, and up-to-date. The ability to attract new talent without losing focus of the resources and relationships we already have is paramount to our livelihood. There is no single key to overcoming our challenges; it’s challenging work and if we’re doing our jobs right, it always will be.
What’s been your biggest learning throughout your career so far?
(NK) Hold yourself to the highest standards; expect that of the people you work with. You’re not always right, so listen carefully to what everyone has to say. Be humble, because the guy or girl sitting next to you is probably smarter, more creative, or funnier than you. Never lie. Happiness is more important than being right. Integrity is all you have. If a relationship is not working, talk about it openly – and know that sometimes it’s ok to be cool getting dinner with someone but working with that same person doesn’t always work out. Oh. And you’re your own best advocate. In your professional career it’s ok to pat yourself on the back every once in a while.
(EW) I think a little patience goes a long way. Building a successful business is about being in a marathon not a sprint.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen recently?
(NK) Jaunt VR’s work & the Microsoft hololens
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
(NK) You’re going to make 3 mistakes a day. Don’t make the same mistake twice.-nk
(EW) There’s good creative, good people and boatloads of cash. Any project you contemplate doing should have at least 2 of these 3 things present. — EW
Where do you do your best thinking?
(NK) Inside of a Google slides doc
(EW) Honestly I think best in the kitchen while cooking. There’s something about doing a physical activity, like, making bread for example or chopping vegetables that is very meditative for me. It’s like I’m going going going all day making things happen, communicating but when I go home and start to make dinner I can make sense of things and see the big picture in a way that I can’t while I’m in the middle of a busy day.
If you could travel in time, where would you go and what would you do?
(NK) I’d like to go back to when I was 13, and tell myself that ‘you shouldn’t feel obligated to do this’ but really consider following I your father’s footsteps and becoming a physician.
(EW) I think I’d travel back to 1983 to see where I was really born. I’m adopted so it would be cool to see my real origin story.
If you could work with anyone on a project, who would it be and what would you do?
(EK) I’d have very much liked to work on Jurassic Park. I would love to have been in the meetings about practical vs. VFX shooting.
(NW) Woody Allen.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
(NK) My Cousin Vinny is my favourite movie of all time, because i believe that there hasn’t been another film whose theme is articulated by every scene and almost by every character.
I’m also a good juggler.
(EW) I’m also a good juggler though not as good as Nick.
If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?
(NK) I would have invented Facebook. I had a hypercard yearbook that was a very similar early prototype.
(EW) I don’t think I would do anything differently. I think you need all those mistakes earlier on to develop properly and learn and that’s what allows you to make things better later. So, best to keep your view forward.
Who or what have had the biggest influences on your work?
(NK) Google, Sullivan’s travels, Waverly films, director series: Michelle Gondry, Spike Jonze.
(EW) My father. Does that sound cheesy? It’s true though. He was a major inspiration for the company and the best teacher I’ve ever had. Whether it was teaching me about the structure of a movie we saw (he used to make me go over the plot points in the films we would see when I was a kid) or telling me that line producers are the hardest working people on a set, we were always learning something new. I’ve applied a lot of what I learned from him to Greencard.
(NK) Features, TV, cinema presence
(EW) More films, TV shows, VR films
What does it takes for a growing company to get the attention of major agencies?
(NK) Keep doing good work. Only work with good people you want to be around. Know somebody.
(EW) I think doing good work is the most important thing. I feel like if you do good work then you’ll get the attention of people. Building good relationships, but mostly putting yourself out there.
How to foster creative growth within the production and advertising community?
(NK) Support the artistic pursuits of the people you work with outside of the paying jobs. Provide resources, time, interest, and love. Be available to talk and act as a therapist.
(EW) I agree with what Nick said here. I’d add that creating an environment where people can go to collaborate and also see each other’s work is important. That’s a lot of what we’ve tried to do with Greencard.
How do you navigate the rapidly evolving state of filmmaking, stay relevant, and keep your finger on the pulse?
(NK) Read, watch, and stay interested. Filmmaking is easy if you like movies or short content… all you have to do is watch. Supplemental reading is also really nice. Subscribe to some artistic and cultural blogs too.
(EW) And help people.