Meet Your Makers: Beth Fitzpatrick and Jason Farber
Beth Fitzpatrick and Jason Farber each hold the title of head of production at creative studio Nice Shoes. Normally, 'Meet Your Makers' features one producer, but Beth and Jason, in their own words, consider themselves the “Two-Headed Monster from Sesame Street” of advertising. Jason has worked at Nice Shoes for nearly his entire career, and for a good chunk of the studio’s 25-year history. Beth worked with Nice Shoes for the past 25 years as a client at Homestead, Cut and Run, Final Cut, Prodigious and Harbor Picture Company before joining the studio in early 2021. The two complement each other well, making sure Nice Shoes clients have a smooth experience on every project, and making this an entertaining read...
What first attracted you to production - and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?
Jason> I started off moving up in the Flame/VFX world. I transitioned to production because I loved being part of the big picture and bringing it all together versus previously having been part of one component. I get a lot of satisfaction in working with clients to ensure the full scope of their project is going smooth and everyone’s happy.
Beth> I was going to be a history teacher. I fell into advertising accidentally. I love getting all the stuff and making something out of it. All of that being said, when I was a kid I always told people I wanted to make commercials, so there’s always been a part of me that’s been attracted to this business.
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?
Jason> Starting in Flame really helped me transition into producing. Most producers I’ve worked with that have hands-on experience in the area they’re producing are some of the best. I feel like that experience helped me significantly, having that background to draw on.
Beth> My first job was at Homestead Editorial as an assistant producer and I didn’t know a thing. That experience was amazing. The owners knew they hired someone with no experience, but they were super kind, along with everyone else on the team. It was like family. They created an environment where I wanted to stick around, and made it easy for me to learn what I needed to learn. I ended up being there for 10 years.
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 as a producer?
Beth> Tropicana. It was the first job I ever worked on with green screen, blue screen, liquid. It had a little bit of everything and it was like taking a master level course. Another was a Mastercard “Priceless” commercial centred around the World Cup, and I love soccer, so that was one of the first spots where I felt a personal connection and pride in what I had done.
Jason> There’s a few projects throughout my career that stand out. Way back in the day, we were doing versioning on Dairy Queen. Not any heavy VFX, but it was the type of job where there were 200 different deliverables that needed to be created in a short amount of time. They’re the first ones I remember where you have to make sure you’re getting everything right, working efficiently, and make sure that you’re keeping the clients happy and entertained, because it’s a little bit of a monotonous process. It really taught me the value of providing a great client experience, no matter what you’re working on.
A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital experience. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?
Beth> I disagree. I’ve worked on independent films. Music videos. The skillset is way different from commercials. Overall, you can, but the process and schedules are way different.
Jason> Over time, I think you can learn and produce for anything, but each medium is like a different planet. You need to learn different skills. The good producers CAN learn them, but it's never going to be a seamless transition.
Beth> Yeah, you can’t take it all on at once. You need to have a focus on the particular area you’re producing for in order to be effective.
How has production changed since you started your career?
Beth> No one’s carrying flats of neg to SMA.
Jason> When I started at Nice Shoes, the world of the producer was you were booking time and the rest runs itself. Now, if you don’t have dedicated and good producers on the job, it’s not going to happen. It’s so much more hands on. The breadth of projects is so much more expansive. The position has grown enormously.
Beth> Technology has gone crazy. Client expectations have only grown as technology has evolved.
Jason> When I was starting out, you might spend a week on a :30 Now you need to create 20 versions of that spot, different sizes, different languages, all within the same scope.
Beth> Attention spans have shortened. 30 second commercials are WAY too long. Gotta get that 6 seconds now.
Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?
Beth> I worked on the NFL’s 60 second Super Bowl spot. THE SUPER BOWL’s SUPER BOWL. When I knew it was coming on, I gathered my neighbours around and said “guys this is MY Super Bowl.” They weren’t as excited as I was.
Jason> We’ve had a growing, amazing relationship with Merkley+Partners and Mercedes. We started with straight up versioning and it’s evolved to doing colour, CG, and cleanup. It’s rewarding to see that relationship bloom.
Another is the Pink 'Just Like Fire' music video. It was the first project I worked on that was full scope, going 24 hours a day - colour, beauty, VFX compositing, CG, working with other vendors. It was the biggest 'it takes a village' project I had worked on up to that point, and it was exhausting but cool to see everything come together.
And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?
Beth> We did a really impressive project with Grey for Gillette. It was a VFX ask we hadn’t tackled before, but we got the right team together and successfully pulled off the illusion of bringing Deion Sanders back to his 1989 draft look.
Jason> Our immersive team has been experimenting with so many different technologies and we got to put them to work in a great spot for Nike. It was challenging and rewarding for me as a producer, because like with Beth and Gillette, it wasn’t something we had exactly done before, but we figured out the right solution and delivered a great looking spot.
Producers always have the best stories. What’s the hairiest / most insane situation you’ve found yourself in and how did you work your way out of it?
Beth> I plead the fifth. My most insane situation involves (REDACTED) doing (REDACTED) and I had to (REDACTED).
Jason> Yeah. Needless to say there’s plenty of them. All I’ll say is 36 hours and no sleep.
As a producer your brain must have a neverending "to do" list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?
Jason> I’m looking back on my commute fondly lately. Pre-Covid, I used to hate the time spent going in/out of the city but now I appreciate the time where I could unwind and let my mind transition from work to being home. Now there’s some days where it feels like we’re going 24/7 and it actually makes me miss the LIRR. But I have gotten into disc golf. That’s fun.
Beth> What’s unwind? You’re losing me. I don’t understand what the word is. I get an anxiety attack if I’m not wound as tight as I am. I’m so used to having to think of a million things at all times. It helps to reach out to Jason, or to Tara (Holmes, Nice Shoes EP), and say “off the record” and then get it all out. It helps to know someone else understands.
One specifically for Heads of Production: Producers are naturally hands on - they have to be. How do you balance that in the more managerial role of a HoP?
Beth> I’m still very hands on. That’s hard to let go of.
Jason> You have to be a really good multi-tasker. You’re getting questions from every angle.
Beth> Yeah - you’re in touch with sales, accounting, the producers under you, the artists, your clients. It’s like a human chess game. You’re moving around all the pieces and you do your best to answer it all in a timely fashion.