What does a Post Production Executive do? #FILMJOBS

What does a Post Production Executive do? #FILMJOBS

(gears clicking) (majestic music) – [Announcer] This episode of Film Jobs is made possible by the generous support of our patrons at Patreon.com. (light music) – Hello, John Hess from Filmmaker IQ. In the Film Jobs series,
I wanted to present to you profiles of different positions in the Hollywood filmmaking industry. Now so much attention gets
poured on actors and directors, but there’s a long list
of other people and jobs that actually make films
and television shows happen. Today I’m talking to my friend Wes Irwin. Wes works as a post production executive for Fox 21 Television Studios
and found us years ago and has since invited me to launch on the Fox slot many times. Now executives might get a
bad rap in popular press, but I think, as you’ll see,
executives have a very important and significant role in
creating the television shows that we all love. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s jump right into that interview. Wes, what is your title at Fox? – I’m at Fox 21, Fox
21 Television Studios. So, my title is executive
director of post production. We work in association with
the production executives. We do the streaming, premium
cable, and cable shows for Fox. And then there’s 20th
Century Fox Television. We’re arm’s length from them. They do the network shows. So, that’s the difference between 20th Century
Fox Television and us. – Let’s talk about the word executive because that’s something that’s so easy to get confused about
’cause everybody thinks that if you’re not creative,
you’re just an executive. Can you describe for me
what an executive does? – Interestingly enough, all
the executives that I work with for the most part were producers or actually physically on shows at some time in their career. We’ve eventually moved
over to the executive level for one reason or another. Maybe our creative executives moved over because they were prolific producers and now the studio saw value in them bringing in projects and their
relationships with writers, et cetera to make them valuable to be in the creative team for the studio. For the production folk,
they were either accountants and/or line producers
that were very successful at doing what they do and were also asked to become executives from the studio level to essentially protect the
studio’s money and the workflow, vet the workflow of all the productions that we are currently doing. – Can you maybe distinguish the difference between a producer and an executive. What is the difference? – The studio executive
gets paid by the studio. We’re the ones in charge of the money. We’re responsible for making
sure the money is spent in a responsible way. We will hire the producer
to bring in a show on budget and on time and basically
be the eyes and ears of that particular show on a daily basis. Now keep in mind we might have 14 shows going on at one time. As a post production executive, I cannot watch all the
dailies for that one show, especially as much
footage as being nowadays. We rely on that producer, my
post producer for example, to watch the dailies
to be my eyes and ears on that particular production. If they have any issues
or problems, they call me. At that point, I prioritize my day to help whatever show
needs my help at that time. – You started making
decision in post executives. Can you describe the
different kinds of executives that work in Fox 21? – For Fox 21, we have the creative team. They’re the ones who have the
relationships with the writers and the hierarchy of the studio, the top management of the studio. And then we have the
production executives, which I work under. We have the legal team and
we have the accounting team. – A project, a new show,
how does it become, how’s it go through the greenlit process? – From my perspective,
I’m just handed a script. It’s a script that the studio
is interested in making. And if we could make it
at a particular number, then in all likelihood,
we’ll make the show or we’ll make the pilot. – At this point, somebody in
the studio likes the script? – Yeah. Typically the creative exec and some of the heads of the studio, yes. – Okay. So, they’ll say okay,
Wes, can we make this show for this price. That’s what you’re– – Yeah. Our production people,
my head of production will assign a production
executive and myself to break the script down and I’ll look at all the
post production elements of that script as the production manager or the production executive
will look at areas of location and all the things that they look at and actors and all that. We will come up with a
number as to how much we feel that this particular pilot and
series pattern it will run. We’ll submit that number
to our accountants. Our accountants will package all that up, submit it back to creative and creative will send
it back to the studio to say hey, this is what it would be. Then they go out. They’ve already typically
have shot that show to a network, whether
it be a premium cable, cable, or streamer. They’ll be interest there. If the network likes that number, then they’ll greenlight it. And then from that point on, then it’s all about the casting of it. A lot of times, people will be attached. – Now at that point, what’s
your relationship to the project at that point once it’s greenlit? – Okay. Then once the show is greenlit, my responsibility then is
to hire the post producer, the whole post team to make
deals with the editors, their assistant editors, the
composer, music supervisor, music editor, visual effects house, post production facilities,
editing facilities, and make sure that from the
post production workflow, we’re all buttoned up. Now a lot of people assume post production is the backend of production. We’re involved in all
three stages in production. We’re involved in pre-production,
production, and post. We’re reading the script at the same time production’s
reading the script because there are elements of that script that are gonna be needed in production and in pre-production. Now for example if you have
a song that’s scripted, we’re gonna need to know how much that song is gonna be to license. We’re gonna need to know
what those visual effects are gonna cost for episodic series. All that information
needs to be figured out prior to shooting. And then prior to shooting, we also have to do camera
tests, workflow tests. And the day when we are shooting film, this is the negative
that we’re gonna shoot, then this is the process
that we’re gonna use. And then as we graduated into tape, what kind of camera are we gonna shoot, what kind of tape are we gonna shoot, use. Nowadays in digital files,
it’s the same thing. What kind of camera are we gonna use? You have to test everything. Is it gonna be the red camera, is it gonna be the Arri Alexa, why are we gonna use the Alexa as opposed to capturing
these huge red files, and the reverse of that. All these decisions that
need to be made in test prior to actual shooting
because the day of shoot, you better have gone
through all these tests to make sure your workflow is 100% vetted by the time you get to the backend because a lot of times,
you don’t have the luxury of figuring out in post
when you have an air date. – Do you also cover archives when you do your process of planning? – Indeed we do. Just for the nature of my
career and starting in film in days of preserving negative and then old negative cut, et cetera. Now we’re archiving that in LTO tape. That in itself to me is a scary process because it doesn’t have the confirmed shelf life as film does, but that’s gonna be somebody
else’s job to figure out (John laughs) after I’m long gone because I think it has at least a 15-year shelf life and then they have to migrate it over to the next hardware
reader of these LTO tapes. – What is a day in your career look like? – Okay. It’s very fast-paced. You hit the ground running. As soon as you wake up,
you’re checking your emails. For the most part, a typical day, let’s say you’re starting a show or you’re starting to look at scripts, you look at a script, you’ll
break that script down, you’ll budget that script, and you’ll do a schedule for that script. That’s part of your day while you have other
shows continually work and you’re getting dailies
in on Homeland, on Versace, or Fosse or one of those
shows, the Americans. We have shows going on all over the world. You’re constantly refreshing your mail to make sure that you’re
on top of anything that could be going wrong and then at the same time,
you have to keep the train moving on shows that are
getting ready to be greenlit, shows that are greenlit,
ready to start crewing up and producing, and then the shows that are actively delivering
to network and air. You have to manage that
throughout your whole day and prioritize what you
really need to spend the majority of your time on. Every day, you don’t
know what’s gonna happen. Sometimes you’ll get a
call from an executive that require 100% of your day to be spent on this particular project. Other times, you have the
ability to pick and choose what you feel is important. But it’s all juggling a number of balls and knowing what ball to
continually keep in the air. If there’s one that’s gonna be drop, hopefully it’s the lowest priority ball that’s dropped.
(John laughs) We’re all human. Everybody makes mistakes from your crew to myself to our bosses. My bosses make very little mistakes. (John laughs) – Let’s get that clear. – It’s a trickle-down theory, right? It’s bigger as you go down. But also, the people who
are in the line of fire for the most part, the guys
who are working on the set, they’re the ones who probably get challenged the most because they see what’s going on. Your actor calls in sick,
what do you do then? And then you have to scramble. Or if it’s rains and you’re
expecting a sunny day, what do you do then? For our editorial purposes, it’s like hey, we have a problem, a technical
problem that we have to fix. Or there’s something
that we never thought of like a visual effect that’s
coming out of the editing room, which occurs a lot, like our
show runner would say hey, wouldn’t it be great to put
the Eiffel Tower back there and then we never saw that coming before and then now we have to
build that visual effect and we only have X
amount of day to do that. It’s stuff like that that I
really look at my post team down on the trenches who have
significantly more challenges at times than I do. – Let’s transition. We were talking about your first job. How’d you land that first job of yours? – That’s funny because. (laughs) How did I land that first job? My roommate’s father was
an executive producer for MGM at the time. I did a college project with his dad. His dad said, “One day, kid,
you’re gonna work with me.” He executive produced a show
called George Washington: The Forging of a Nation. The original was George Washington, I believe a 10 or 12-hour
mini series for CBS. When he did the presidential years, we got a four-hour pickup from GM. I think GM was a sponsor. He hired me to be the production assistant back in Philadelphia for that. That’s how I got the job. – How did you roll that into now a career? How do you go from production
assistant to executive? – Then immediately you
think your first job that you’re gonna be
working in the business. So, I flew back out to Los
Angeles, got an interview at MGM. I actually met with Mel Brooks and I met Michael Landon at the time. Neither one of them
really had a lot of time to spend with me. I kinda serendipitously
walked into Mel’s office and struck up a conversation with him but didn’t get the job. I said, “Mister Brooks, here’s my resume.” He looked at it. They were 90% all college projects. And then he goes, “Oh George
Washington, great show.” And then he looked at my, “Oh
Pandora’s Box, great show.” I go wait a second, he
doesn’t know Pandora’s Box. But you know, he’s being
nice ’cause we were in front of a number of people. And he said, “Wesley, I tell you what, “we’ll call you if we need you.” And I said, “You’ll call me?” He said, “We’ll call you if we need you.” And I said, “Oh okay,”
thinking he was gonna call me. And then he said, “Wesley, the door.” (John laughs) And I said, “Excuse me?” He said, “The door.” And I realized he was asking me to leave. I thought oh okay, how many
people have an opportunity to meet with Mel Brooks. So, I immediately left his office with a big chuckle from
the rest of his office, took a left and then took another left into Michael Landon’s office. He was doing Highway
to Heaven at the time. I walked into Michael’s office. Michael was there. “Hi Mister Landon, Wes Irwin. “Here’s my resume.” Michael was quite honest with me. He looked at my resume. And I said, “I’m here to be your “at the time production assistant.” He said, “Well, honestly we’re on hiatus.” I said, “What’s hiatus?” He goes, “Ah we’re taking a break. “It’s kinda like a little vacation.” “Okay. “Well, when you’re back in production, “I’d like to be your
production assistant.” And he looked at my resume. He goes, “Well, it says
here you live in San Diego.” I said, “I sure do.” He goes, “Well, you have to live up in LA “to get a job up here.” I go, “Well, I can’t move
up here until I get a job.” And he said, “Well, that’s the hard part. “We can’t hire you till you get up here.” Fortunately, I found out the hardest job is not your first job, it’s the second job because it’s your reputation
that’s gonna get you work. About six months later, I got a call from my old unit production manager. He said, “Hey, we’re doing a show up here. “If you’re interested, if
you want to move up here, “we’d like you to be our
production assistant.” And it was a TV show called
Thirtysomething at the time. It was a pilot. I said, “Sure, I’ll come up.” I worked on that. And then I rolled over to
another show, another pilot. And then people who had worked
with me on George Washington started calling me and saying, “Hey, we hear you’re working in LA. “Can you work on this show here?” And then eventually I got
a few shows under my belt. And then when Thirtysomething
got picked up, they asked me to come back. – You came back as a production assistant? – As a production assistant. And then I did leave the show I think it was the last
episode to work as a grip at 20th Century Fox slot because it paid a lot
more money at the time. I was looking to move up somehow. At that time in 1988 when
I was working as a grip, which was one of the hardest
physical jobs I ever did, and I’m telling you, I’m glad I did it but I wouldn’t recommend
a person of my stature to do that again. But what happened was the
writers’ strike happened in ’88. So then I had to go back to San Diego thinking my movie career
or TV career was over. Shortly after that, when the
writers’ strike was over, I got a call from the
Thirtysomething people. They said, “Hey, we
want you to come back.” I said, “I can’t come back
as a production assistant.” They said, “We don’t want you to come back “as a production assistant. “We’d like you to come back
and work in the Writers’ Room “and also learn post production.” I said, “Well, okay.” And then they said, “On top of that, “we’re gonna give you a raise. “And to make this even a sweeter deal, “we’d like to invite
you to the Emmy Awards “because we’re nominated
for Best New Series.” All that together, I said,
“Okay, I’m coming back.” From there, I learned post production and the rest I guess is my story. – Wow, okay. You’ve kind of illustrated
this as like it is networking. It is the people that
know you, your reputation because of your jobs. – It’s timing and opportunity,
but it’s also enthusiasm. Everybody says they’re gonna work hard, they’re gonna put the hours in. And then when it comes to
hey, Dodger game on at four, I got to go, or it’s
like can I get off now because Dodger game is going on, or something that people,
sometimes they lose sight as what their ultimate goal is. I think being out of the business from the time I was on George Washington to the time I got my
job on Thirtysomething, I realized I’m out of the candy store. I’m looking back into the candy store and I wanted to be back in
the candy store looking out. And I prayed oh God, if
you ever give me back in this business, I am gonna
dedicate myself to just, my whole life is pretty
much gonna be doing things about learning about the
business because I realized I knew so little about the
business on my first job and I had so much more to learn. This was not gonna be a difficult task and something I so enjoyed learning. – Okay. Now let’s talk about to a
person that’s interested in getting into this world. I mean there’s a lot of
people that are out there that want to be directors, that
want to be cinematographers. If someone wants to get in on
more of the management side as far as executives, what
would be a pathway to go? What would you advise them to do? – Come out of college with
good grades obviously. – Yeah, college. Is film school something
that a studio would look at if you’re looking for executive? Is it film school or
would you rather it be more like a business major? – I don’t think that really matters. I think just having a
solid education nowadays. But from a management point of view, from an executive point of view, we typically find directors or executives that have been in the field, in the production field,
post production field. So, they’re post producers and they’re very good post producers. You start from I would say
post associate or post PA, then you go to post coordinator. From a coordinator to a post supervisor, post supervisor to post producer, associate producer, co-producer. That’s the titles that they’re given. Once you find out if you have a liking to the technical
side of post production and if you have that,
then you open yourself up to a world of possibilities. You could go into directing. We know many post producers
who have gone on to direct as we have editors who have
gone on to directing producers, the executive producer
who’s the guy directing. That’s where you see a lot
of post producers move into. – Is there anything that you would, advice you would give to
somebody that’s just coming up that wants to work as a post executive? Any kind of words you can give ’em? – You have to put in the hours. You have to have the enthusiasm. You have to have your own inner drive. You have to not have an ego because in this business,
there’s plenty of egos out there. And you don’t need to compete, especially as you’re moving up. As you move up the ladder,
you don’t want your ego interfering with the
success of your career. Given that, take in as much
information as you possibly can because this business changes
as you guys have all seen. In the last five years alone,
we went from shooting HD to 2K to 4K. There’s talk of six and 8K right now. We used to have a
four-by-three television set moved into a 16-by-nine TV set that was, if you were
lucky, a 32-inch TV set, which was big in the day. (John laughs) Now you’ve got an 80-inch TV set, which is gonna be standard now. You used to rush home to watch television. Now you don’t need to rush
home because it’s on demand. All the images with exception
of maybe a baseball game or an actual sporting event. Technology changes so rapidly
that you now have to stay on top of the curve and you can’t not continually educate
yourself in technology. For post executive, you have
to know how we did the old way and you have to see what’s
coming in the future. If you can stay ahead of that curve, that, to me, is where you’re gonna be the most successful executive. You have to always keep
in mind the money aspect because it’s so easy as a technical person to shy away from the money
aspect, but it’s a business. It’s all about the money. There’s a number of entities that are trying to produce shows nowadays. They’re all doing it
on some sort of budget. It’s all about making sure
that you maintain your budget at the end of the day and
that this is a business. A business that in order
to stay in business, you have to make a profit. (light music) – My thanks to Wes Irwin
for sharing his time with us in this look at what a post
production executive does. If you like this exploration,
hit us with a thumbs up, subscribe, and consider
patronizing us on Patreon. Special thanks to our A-Team sponsors. Get your name on that list. But anything you can give, every little bit helps us
bring you more content. Thank you for watching and go
out and make something great. I’m John Hess. I’ll see you at FilmmakerIQ.com. (upbeat music) (machine whirring)


20 thoughts on “What does a Post Production Executive do? #FILMJOBS”

  • Andrew Strobridge says:

    Wes is a good guy. I took a class from him at UCLA. Very informative and he's very kind. Glad you did this interview with him.

  • Great interview. Great question at 12:40. How do you get a job in P/P working for the executive? I think running the details on sci-fi series would be a lot of fun.

  • Does Post-Production make any decisions about what to cut out of the movie? If so I'd really like to hear how they decide what to cut and what to keep. What sort of artistic factors go into that?

  • So, John, WHY are there thirteen (13) "Producers" for shows like NCIS Los Angels"? I really don't understand the need for so many for such a basically cliché' plot-line. Why this show with show many when other shows have far less? Is this a "good old boy" network of getting cash for friends? Please explain with NCIS Los Angles (and its ilk) in mind. Thanks for any thoughts on this.

  • Logan Menchaca says:

    Thank you so much for making this… this helped me out a ton, you have no idea! 😂 I've always wanted to know what lesser known and appreciated film positions did what and the basic film production hierarchy. You see, I run a collaborative YouTube based DC lego animated universe and when we were first starting out we idiotically began to create our hierarchy. Not knowing anything about the positions we assigned to one another. We basically gave them out on based on how cool, professional or important it sounded… lmao! We finally got our s*** together now (at least I think we do…) but it's so funny looking back on it. I really wish I could send this video to my past self. Thanks again man!!!

  • Chuckleberryfinn says:

    Cool! I love learning about the folks behind the scenes. 👍📽 I'd love to see a video on composers. 🎼

  • This is going to sound a bit controversial, but at the end of the day some one had to say it.
    I’ve been watching a few of these videos, especially the ones on effects and process. And I’ve personally noticed that John Hess is very likeable and the videos are perfect.

  • Magnusson Productions says:

    Probably one of the most engaging Youtube interviews I've watched. Very focused, well edited, and helpful via the overlays.
    Again, I'd love to see an interview of someone in the VFX pipeline, e.g. VFX supervisor or artist.

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