Meet Your Makers: Matt D'Arcy
Matt D’Arcy is an award winning producer and partner at Dublins Banjoman. As head of production, Matt represents seven directors to produce advertising, film, TV and other media. A former professional rugby player with Munster Rugby, Matts MO is to create a warm, collaborative, team like atmosphere across all parts of the process, from pitch to delivery.
LBB> 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?
Matt> I worked in an advertising agency before making the switch to Banjoman years ago so I wasn’t a million miles away from production. I am a people person and relationships are at the heart of producing so that attracted me to it - I also enjoy the satisfaction of a well laid plan coming to life.
LBB> 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?
Matt> I have worked with Banjoman from day one, in the early days I would do everything on a production from making coffees to all of the EP / managerial stuff. I learned to appreciate every role on a production and the importance of creating the right atmosphere on set - we are all about having a good time while making the best work possible.
LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?
Matt> It was very much a sink or swim situation, learn on every job and get better with each production. I surrounded myself with experienced HODs and wasn’t afraid to ask for advice, I probably took “there are no silly questions” to the extreme! Researching and building relationships also helped me to learn the ropes.
LBB> 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?
Matt> I produced a Nissan commercial with In the Company of Huskies creative agency which was really challenging and a little daunting at the time, it was a bigger scale production than we had done before and a huge brand so the pressure was on. Thankfully it went really well and the commercial ended up winning a few awards including a Grand Prix so we must have done a few things right! That production gave me the little lift in confidence and belief I needed to step up for bigger jobs to come.
LBB> 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?
Matt> I would tend to agree, I think the skillset for producing applies to most productions/events. Although each can be very different, I think the basics of producing remain the same. A good producer would play to their strengths for any event, film or commercial and also surround themselves with the right people most suited to the type of project.
LBB> What’s your favourite thing about production and why?
Matt> I love being on set (especially after a couple of hours when a shoot is up and running smoothly). It is great to see everything come together, to have everyone together enjoying themselves and creating something great. The sense of anticipation and excitement trying something new or different on set is brilliant.
LBB> How has production changed since you started your career?
Matt> From a personal perspective the productions have gotten a lot bigger, more interesting and challenging. I’m not sure the industry has changed too much since I’ve started apart from the recent Covid implications with remote working/shooting.
LBB> And what has stayed the same?
Matt> The early starts and long days!
LBB> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer - and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?
Matt> Relationship management is key, it’s so important to meet new people in the industry and to continue building on existing relationships. Making sure you create the best atmosphere for everyone to work to the best of their ability. I think the best producers are a certain type of person, having said that there are lots of different styles of producing so certain aspects of producing can be learned. Maybe the most important parts are innate though?
LBB> Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?
Matt> ‘Belong Together’ for Brown Thomas always stands out in my mind. The production was so enjoyable and challenging throughout. We had a great team from client, to cast and crew, it really felt like one big collaboration. The shoot itself was really enjoyable, we shot in some amazing locations around Ireland, including in an underwater tank. Doing our post over in New York with Blacksmith was the cherry on top.
LBB> And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?
Matt> This is tricky to narrow down because we have had a lot of interesting projects recently, Brown Thomas, RTE Toy Show and Three mobile were all great to work on. Our project with renowned Irish jewellers Weir and Sons presented a unique challenge, the script had an A and B plot - one was set in the 1860’s and the other in present day. Recreating the 1860’s was a fun challenge.
LBB> 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?
Matt> What goes on tour stays on tour!
LBB> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?
Matt> My ambition is to continue creating enjoyable and inclusive film sets - the better the atmosphere on set the better the work will be. I definitely want to keep challenging myself to produce the best work possible while also helping our directors with whatever film goals they may have be they commercial or drama.
LBB> As a producer your brain must have a never ending "to do" list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?
Matt> Yes it certainly does - I have a weirdly OCD notebook with endless completed ‘to do’ lists to prove it!! Sport is definitely my go to, I play a lot of rugby and golf. Training for rugby is pretty intense which is great because I can take my mind off work for a couple of nights a week. I also love to travel and socialise, I find having those little breaks are key to not burning out.
LBB> Producers are problem solvers. What personally fuels your curiosity and drive?
Matt> I think its the challenge of something that drives me along, a different technique or trying something new keeps things fresh and enjoyable. Getting good feedback from people both within the industry and those outside of it who notice the work is always a nice fuel to keep getting better.
LBB> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?
Matt> Just get started! If you are passionate about something there is usually a way to make it happen - focus on making great work above all else and use that work to keep getting bigger and better scripts. Get to know people in different departments and surround yourself with the most talented people possible.
LBB> From your experience what are the ingredients for a successful production?
Matt> It goes without saying that having a great script is a key starting point, after that having the right people involved who are passionate about making memorable work is next in line. If you can team the right people up with a great script then you are onto a winner in my eyes. Good food and coffee on set to keep everyone happy :)
LBB> What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship?
Matt> I think being yourself and not treating it like a ‘production-client’ relationship is hugely important, obviously the work has to done to a high standard to create trust and confidence but making it a friendly and fun relationship is key - don’t be afraid to have a bit of craic. It should be a collaboration with everyone pulling in the same direction.
LBB> Producers are naturally hands on - they have to be. How do you balance that in the more managerial role of an EP?
Matt> Naturally the busier you get the less ‘hands on’ you become, having trust in your production team and HODs is very important to finding a balance. I am a bit of a control freak but spreading the workload around often leads to better work so I have learned to let other people do their thing - having a well organised workflow and defined roles really helps this.