Bottle Rocket Media’s own Siobhan Summers’ love of producing dates back to a fateful experience at 12-years-old at the Oprah Winfrey Show (where she would later work). From coordinating massive shoots in mere hours to hunting for a ‘missing’ Stevie Wonder, there is nothing this multi-talented producer/editor/writer has ever shied away from.
Here’s what Siobhan had to say about her 20-year, professional journey:
What first got you into producing?
When I was in seventh grade, I attended a live taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show. I loved watching the women work behind the scenes. They had headsets, they seemed super busy and important—buzzing around the studio and backstage. I was very drawn to what was happening during the commercial breaks. Producers would come out with blue cards and talk to Oprah and her guests. I was in awe! These people pulled this show together. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a producer.
When I was a senior in college, I opened the yellow pages (remember those?) and called Harpo Studios to ask about their internship program, they didn’t have one at the time but said “can you come in tomorrow for a meeting?” And I was there for the next 13 years.
Why do you love producing?
Collaboration. It is one of my favorite words—it is one of my favorite things. While I love the logistics and the organizational side of my job, the best part is when we all come together on set. We combine our individual roles, responsibilities and perspectives to produce something great. And, If I’ve done my job well, I don’t have much to do on set, the shoot should be running smoothly. I’m there to troubleshoot and graze craft services.
How do you approach each of your projects?
Always look ahead and work the process backward. When producing any project, it’s important to think of the end-game first. As Oprah taught me, it’s important to ask the question: “What is the intention?” So I think about – what does the client want to see/feel/communicate? Once the end is clear, you map out the road to get there. That’s what a producer does—we coordinate all aspects of the production from start to finish.
What are some of the challenges you face as a producer creating short form material?
I love short form—it’s small and packs a punch. Considering that today’s consumers eat up a massive amount of content on their devices, bitesize is the way to go. The challenge is getting the message across in a brief, succinct and impactful video. This is a challenge I embrace. The editing process, for example, is an opportunity to deep dive into the material we’ve shot and be super selective and picky about what ends up on screen. This is when my Type A personality shines!
Talk to the creative side of producing.
While budgets, logistics and deadlines are a huge part of a producer’s job, a really good producer has to be a storyteller with a creative eye. It’s essential when doing quality control of the messaging and offering constructive direction during pre and post processes.
What is your proudest accomplishment in the field/why?
There are so many! I really love my job because every project is different.
I was part of the team who booked, produced and arranged for 176 olympians from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games to come to Chicago’s Millennium Park – and we had 12 days to do this. I’ve taken a seeing eye-horse for a walk in the west loop while his handler was in hair and makeup. The horse was named Cuddles. I’ve run around United Center with Patti LaBelle to get her to rehearsal on time when my colleague, Amy, says over the headset “We’ve lost Stevie Wonder!” it was a rough twenty or so minutes until she came back on radio to say “Mr. Wonder has been located. He is at the Radio Shack on Michigan Avenue.” So great.
But my honest to goodness favorite moments in producing is connecting with regular people who have the courage to open up to me in an interview. It may not always be glamorous or super exciting, but it is always humbling when someone trusts me to tell their story.
Favorite movie of all time and why:
Say Anything. Originally, I loved it for the obvious reasons: John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler, the unapologetic hopeless romantic, and of course, the iconic In Your Eyes boombox scene. However, my favorite moment is when Lloyd is in a phone booth, in the rain, talking to his sister and he says: “I gave her my heart. She gave me a…pen.” For your viewing pleasure, click here. You’re welcome.
Years later though, watching it for the millionth time, I came to appreciate the shy brainiac, Diane Court (Ione Skye), realizing that she is just as complex and interesting as Lloyd. She is a strong and resilient female lead, and I don’t think that was celebrated when the movie came out.
Cheers to Diane Court!