Written by Annie McCulloch and brought to you by Portfolio Recruitment
Now and Then is a series where we catch up with people who have been recently placed, via Portfolio Recruitment, to get their thoughts and feedback about their roles and their work. Our latest Now & Then Q&A is with Robyn Gough Palmer who joined the team at Alt Group in May 2021 in a senior producer role.
Me during the first lockdown, donning some spectacular call-centre headphones to stay in touch with
my team (the only ones available for 24hr delivery at the time).
Thank you for being involved Robyn. Born and bred in South Africa where you spent the majority of your career before heading to Aotearoa, what prompted the move in 2018?
It sort of snuck up on us. My partner and I are avid explorers, and in 2016 we happened to tack on a sneaky NZ leg to a family-bound visit to Australia. We spent 2 weeks road tripping through the North Island, and, breathtaking beauty aside, found ourselves seduced by the spirit of this place. The gentle optimism, friendliness, and openness of the people, mostly. And so the memory bubbled away in the background until one day we became possessed into action, and started the intricate journey back to the place that captured our hearts. It’s probably the most rewarding producing job of my life so far.
Having had a stellar career in South Africa, what were your expectations of the market here? What are the major differences you’ve noticed, in the creative industries, between SA and NZ?
I’ve never really thought of my career as stellar. Interesting is probably more like it 😉 And I guess that’s always been the thing that’s propelled me. Seeking out people and projects that don’t always fit a mould. And wearing many hats to get them done. So when it came time for me to write up a CV for the NZ market, I decided to just charge on with that quest, instead of trying to find a box to fit in, or an equal playing field to step onto.
SA & NZ’s creative industries are remarkably similar. They are both small, both serve multicultural audiences, and both have proven themselves successful on the creative world stage with much smaller opportunities and budgets.
In my experience so far, I’d say the biggest difference is in approach. While both share a strong philosophy of self-reliance and resourcefulness, I find the Kiwi way is much more collaborative. Kiwis have an almost effortless authentic voice in their work – a kind of light-hearted confidence that is very difficult to replicate. As someone who tends to take myself and my work quite seriously, it’s the one thing I’m trying to take out of the Kiwi playbook: be yourself, and enjoy what you do.
As a Producer and Studio Manager, how do you feel those roles have evolved over the past few years, as social media, and digital content become a much bigger focus?
I think the first eye opener for me when I started getting briefs for digital content was that somehow a smaller screen meant a smaller production budget. And for a while it felt like the death of craft and production value. But that kind of death always spurs new opportunities, and new ways of doing things.
People devour social content quicker than it can be produced these days. There is constant pressure to make teams more efficient and productive. And while the explosion of handy production management apps help us to manage more projects at once, work remotely, and streamline, you can very quickly start to feel like you’re drowning in task cards, and managing a tool rather than a project. And that it’s people who do the work, not tools. These days ‘digital’ means sooo many things. Almost every digital project and team I’ve worked with is unique. Sometimes it requires ways of working to be custom designed – putting the right people on the right tasks, giving them the right support, and building processes around a desired culture and shared values. And sometimes all it takes is a phone call instead of a Trello notification 🙂
We were so pleased to introduce you to the team at Alt. What aspect of the producer position are you finding different from other studios and teams you’ve worked in?
To be honest I’ve found that almost everywhere I’ve worked interprets the role of a producer differently. But Alt is a truly unique ecosystem, and probably the least silo’d place I’ve worked. This has its challenges as roles can intertwine at times, but it’s very rare (for me) to be involved in and be able to contribute to such deep, strategic work, and to chase the best solution over a deadline. It’s a wonderfully refreshing ‘maker’ culture too – lots of people tinkering with power tools and art supplies and getting their hands dirty, not just pushing pixels. It’s been inspiring.
Outside of the studio, what/who are your creative drivers and interests and inspirations?
I have worked with so many incredibly talented humans over the years, and I love discovering and working with new people. It’s the thing that keeps me going in this crazy business. Outside of work, travel used to be at the top of the list of feeding my curiosity. But since immigrating, and a global pandemic, there hasn’t been opportunity for that. So, mostly, I just sink my teeth into the abundance of nature and culture here. I have yet to run out of things to explore!