The killer EP is a content company’s biggest asset

David Rosen

The rarest commodity in the commercial making business is a superb executive producer. He or she is the critical piece in the creation for sustained success in the content arena. 

Talent may come and go, but if a studio is going to continue to expand and evolve it requires consistent and resourceful leadership at the point.

There’s a severe shortage of the “real deal” executive producer, although I have had the pleasure of working with some real artists since I moved into the directorial arena from EP some years ago.

The killer EPs have their fingerprints on all phases of a studios brand, including culling and retaining talent on the creative and sales side. The true EP has a hand in the entire mix, and defines the brand story to clients. So it’s no surprise that the vast majority of these super stars are also owners or partners.  

Only in the most rarified instances can a company afford to hire such characters.


Best EPs bring in business and talent

To be fair, there are some significant differences in the way EPs are hired and used. In some roles, the EP bids or supervises the bids, closes the sale, supervises production and hosts the all-important client dinner.  As important and useful as they may be, however, these are not the EPs to which I am referring.

I call this flavor of EP “meta producers” as they are quite useful in a busy house, but they are not “the straw that stirs the drink.”

The best EPs bring more business and attract more talent than any rep could even dream of.  The best reps sign companies not only based on talent but more often on the qualities of the EP because they close more business and create more repeat customers.  Reps know.

These rare uber individuals have the most bizarre confluence of skills instincts and experiences not ordinarily found in one individual, including closer, curator, therapist, salesman and brand savant.  

Also required is an ideal balance of left and right brand sensibilities including all the skills necessary to be a damn good director but without the motivation to be one.

Agency producers are “buyers” not “sellers”

I sometimes wonder why many new content companies hire agency producers as EPs without any prodco experience to lead their efforts into the marketplace.  The most opaque motivation is to capitalize on agency relationships, but it might be sobering to consider that agency producers spend entire their careers as “buyers” and not “sellers”.  

Being on the other side of the equation can be a sobering experience. On the other hand, insight into the agency process is helpful and an experienced agency producer will have first- hand knowledge of the qualities that the ideal EP must have to connect to agency producers. 

In the end, I tend to think that this strategy tends to minimize the importance of that rare combination of skills and experiences required to make a studio work robustly in the long term.  

Best to keep your eyes out for the rare and creative executive producer.  Line producers or sales, they are richest resources in my experience.

David Rosen is a commercial director specializing in kids. performance and family.  He is also a consultant on integration and branding, a former EP at Chicago Story, Ben Moon and Vitamin.