Production Essays: Time to chart a new course

After navigating recessionary waters, production companies look forward to building direct relationships with advertisers.

It's a joyful thing that, as Steve Davies says in this book, every production company of note managed to stay upright during the economic maelstrom that was 2009.

In a year in which budgets were stretched taut, timescales were crunched and campaigns were expected to work harder than ever, the oversupplied production industry somehow managed to pull through.

Nimble ships, they trimmed the sails where necessary and occasionally altered their bearings to chart a slightly new course through the choppy recessionary waters.

So it was with a realistic outlook about the challenges ahead but, still, a positive approach that our group of roundtable lunchers met to discuss the pains and pleasures of working in the production industry today.

It was an eclectic grouping. From one end of the room to the other, the diverse elements that make up the production industry found their voice.

From advertising agency (Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R), through film production (Spank Films), audio post-production (750), production services (Mercedes Crescenti TV), casting (Mark Summers Production) and choreography (La Velle Smith Jr), our lunchers brought a wide breadth of perspective to the table.

If you had to pick out the most common theme - and one that underpinned many others without always getting a namecheck - it was the importance of relationships.

Relationships that helped win business, that brought great service, that forged creative bravery based on trust, and relationships that made that business stick.

In a world in which everyone is in mere survival mode, relationships are often the life rafts to which the anxious cling. And when (as we sincerely hope) economic pressures are relieved somewhat, so those same relationships will provide the strong foundation of trust upon which great work will be built.

Nothing that new or surprising in that. But for production houses, the new decade will add an interesting fresh ingredient to the mix.

Some of the world's biggest advertisers, such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever, have begun to make their own direct relationships with them, shaping production rosters of their own.

So, not only must production companies work hard to keep sweet the ad agencies on whom they still heavily depend for most of their assignments. Now they must also reach out beyond, to their agency's clients - and all without souring agency goodwill.

It's a fine line of diplomacy that they must tread. Those relationship-building and maintaining skills will be more important than ever.