Meet your makers: Neil Carter on why solving problems is his superpower

Freedman International’s Head of Production, Neil Carter, talks about his love for tackling challenges, working to tight deadlines and the importance of always learning. 

Neil started his career as a studio junior, where he learnt everything from the ground up, which he believes is the only way to really learn the craft. After 38 years in the industry, he’s never looked back. He shares with us how he got started and what makes a successful career in production. 


What first attracted you to production – and has it been an industry you’ve always worked in, or did you come to it from another area? 

I fell into Production at the tender age of 16, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Originally, I wanted to be a photographer, but sadly or happily, depends on where you’re looking from, that never happened. At that time (1983) everything was done on a drawing board, I’ve been involved in some iconic advertising over the years, but I’ve swung from production, through the entire remit of creative, and back to production, basically I love to solve problems. 


What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career? 

My first role in production was as a studio junior, where I learnt everything from the ground up, it still is the only way to get a real understanding of our business. It teaches you every aspect, and when you’ve learnt how to do this manually on a drawing board with pen, pencil and scalpel, and then how to understand, mix and apply colour for different situations and lights, it’s an easy jump to the computer, at least that’s how I found it. On the computer side, I was in bed with Apple at an early stage and learnt all the relevant industry standard software on the job on my own. I’ve learnt over the years that there is more than one way to complete any task but only one process that really works, yes even for creatives.  


Looking back to the beginning of your career, can you tell us about a production you were involved in where you really had to dig deep and that really helped you to grow in your role? 

I think one of my biggest hurdles and results was not with a big flashy blue-chip client but for a mundane but high volume fast turnaround client. We had a minimum of 80 ads to work up over a 24-hour period every week, The copy and media plan would come in on a Thursday and be delivered to the newspapers on a Friday afternoon. This was the early days of automation and the use of Applescripts and email hot watched folders, and strictly adhered to artwork templates and client-side word templates. We had one month’s notice to build this process which caused some sleepless nights writing the correct script. The weird thing was, it wasn’t until I was completely exhausted that I woke up in the middle of the night with the correct line of code that was missing! We had one week to trial the new scripts and process with the client before the contract started and smashed it. That gave me my new nickname in the agency, my name from that day was MacFreak. 


What’s your favourite thing about production and why? 

Solving problems is my favourite thing, everyone wants to be a superhero! 


How has production changed since you started your career? And what has stayed the same? 

Production has changed completely since I first started, literally a different game these days, although the process is basically still the same, except that the timelines allowed these days are ridiculously compressed. 


Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why? 

I worked on the last Ghostbusters film release and premier, everything from cutting new trailers, through to digital and print advertising, OOH and DOOH and a Waterloo station experiential takeover. This could only work with close comms with the client and media agency. 


What are your personal ambitions or aspirations? 

Brands are increasingly ambitious and consumers (quite rightly) hold brands to a high standard. Global (and local) marketers need to know they have a safe pair of hands helping them deliver exceptional campaigns across multiple, unique markets. My ambition is to continue learning and developing my awesome team to make sure we continue to be that safe pair of hands.


As a producer, your brain must have a never-ending “to-do” list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax? 

Yep, never off, I’ll probably answer any time of the day, except when I’m on holiday, and I mean a proper holiday, then I might only answer at one or two times of the day if it’s urgent. Otherwise, I have amazing people who report to me and can handle all situations, they’re who make me relax. Surround yourself with great people, make your work life easier. 


From your experience, what are the ingredients for success in production? 

Learn your craft, and then learn your craft more, then keep learning, never stop learning, I’m still learning, and I’ve been at it for 38 years. Every day is a school day. 


What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship? 

Deliver when you say you’re going to deliver and make it the best it can be.


This article was originally published on LBBO