Millie is head of production at Move Studio. Her main focus is to provide all aspects of production in-house, enabling the agency to be agile and create eye-catching, award-winning and profitable content.
Millie has years of experience producing everything from TVCs and global toolkits to social campaigns and animations. Whether it’s a solo group or a team to produce a larger shoot, Millie’s team has the right experience to make it happen.
LBB> What lasting impact has the experience of the pandemic had on the way you and your agency think about and approach production?
Millie > At Move Studio, our philosophy is always to find the perfect solution for every project and challenge, no matter what is thrown at us. The pandemic was certainly one of our biggest challenges, but our main role is to bring creation to life – so we continued to do so. Having the spirit of adaptability and problem solving, we were able to adapt to our new reality. Move Studio is UNLIMITED’s in-house production studio.
We have continuously adjusted our approach to projects and incorporated remote working into our plans in a way that benefits our projects. We are no longer tied to the office, our offices and office servers, nor do we need the whole team to be together. Technological advances have been accelerated and have transformed remote work.
Each production requires a unique solution and apart from briefings and a few key meetings, everyone undertakes their tasks alone. Dare I say it, for some projects it may be best for the team to complete their tasks from home. Most people have now created a comfortable work environment, often with fewer distractions and better Wi-Fi than offices. Besides the main face-to-face meetings, we are very happy that our team chooses the place where they would prefer to work.
Our in-house studio has doubled in size since the pandemic, so we have to do something right!
LBB> Aside from Covid-19, what have been the most disruptive forces to hit agency production in recent years?
Millie> It’s now harder to see who your competitors are. We are up against independent studios and larger traditional studios; clients now have in-house teams, other production companies, or media companies bidding for their work, so clients need maximum return on investment.
Fortunately, at Move Studio, we have never been a “one hero and that’s it” agency. Approaching projects with the full list of deliverables in mind is in our DNA, so the need to deliver multiple formats and cuts doesn’t cause disruption. We have always ensured that our deliverables are specifically designed to work on all platforms.
LBB> A good producer must be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why why not?
Millie> For me, a good producer has to have a high level understanding of how to produce for all mediums. It is essential to know the overall process, timelines and potential pitfalls so that they can provide good support and advice.
We work on many different projects for our clients, so we need to be able to respond quickly to any request. Obviously having a producer who can pick up anything gives us more flexibility, but when it comes to more specialized projects – like having to put together a crew for a TVC shoot or produce an integrated 3D project or organize an event, it is likely that you will need a specialist.
LBB> What is your own path to production? When you started, what kind of work were you producing and what lessons stuck with you from that point on?
Millie> I first worked for a producer as a production assistant on television commercials but then quickly moved on to the agency side. That was many years ago and my work ranged from three-week stills for British Airways, to large stills and retouching projects for Diageo.
The lesson is that every day and every project is different. You can never sit back and assume you know what’s coming next. We have amazing creatives and adventurous clients who keep us on our toes. As well as lots of social content and new TVCs, we’ve created an iTunes single and music video for Westminster City Council, taken over the Piccadilly Lights for Diet Coke and created some animated 3D crabs for Freesat.
LBB> There are so many models of organizing production in the advertising industry – which setups have been most successful for you and why?
Millie > At TMW Unlimited, we’ve built a film and animation studio, Move Studio, and create the majority of our content in-house, allowing for true collaboration throughout a project. We onboard our teams to ensure we can help guide creative from the start and to enable true partnership between production and creative teams, as well as insights from strategy and our human insight lab.
Creative teams can easily get advice on techniques and understand what’s doable from a shooting/post-production perspective (and more importantly get help on what we can do in the time and budget available !).
LBB> When working with a new partner or collaborator, how do you build trust?
Millie> It’s all about communication and honesty.
Working with new people now comes with different challenges. As always, it’s about continuing to navigate new ways of working. It has to be constant communication. It’s so important not to leave people alone – so stay in touch and be very clear about how the project will go, when reviews will take place and what the expectations are.
LBB> How important is the diversity of all the partners in a production to you? Do you have measures to promote diversity in production?
Millie> As an agency, we are open, welcoming and inclusive, and we support each other on our journey to reach our true potential. We are actively working to ensure that as an agency we more fully reflect the society around us. This filters into production – we challenge the briefs we receive and always work with our clients to join us on our journey. This goes beyond the people we work with live (on both sides of the camera), but also our illustration and animation projects.
LBB> Speaking of casting, what is your approach to this side of a production? How do you work with directors to ensure a fair and successful process?
Millie > When working with third-party production companies, we have a three-pronged bidding process, ensuring that underrepresented directors are included. And we make sure our casting briefs describe the feel of the person, rather than specifically calling out their gender, age, appearance. Leave it open and see what comes back.
LBB> Sustainable production is understandably also a big topic of discussion and will continue to move forward. How do you handle that as an agency?
Millie > As an agency, we have an ESG team actively working to ensure we measure and reduce our emissions. They are also launching new initiatives to engage the agency and ensure everyone is on board to make a difference.
We work with AdGreen on our productions and constantly seek to reduce our impact and work smarter. We commissioned one of our producers to take ownership of this space and constantly question our way of working. So far, every decision we’ve made as a result of our AdGreen training has been supported by creative teams and clients.
LBB> Has the pandemic accelerated this conversation, in your opinion?
Millie> The pandemic has certainly opened up some of our customers to the idea of using animation. In the past, there were definitely briefs that called for live action, but when that wasn’t possible, we were able to prove just how effective animation could be.
The pandemic has certainly made us do things we never considered. Although we have always used local crews when filming overseas to minimize travel, we would always have insisted on a client being on a set. When this became impossible and we had to use remote links, our clients and our team were so impressed with how easy it was. We’re still fine with having clients on set, but we’re certainly still managing PPMs remotely now. And it’s good to know that other people can “assist” without having to be there.