10 Things I Learned in the Military that I Use in Production (Pt 1)
When I decided to become a producer, I didn’t know what skills I could apply from one career to another. I went from the military to event production, and now I work in television and film production. I was mentored about it, but I wasn’t completely convinced I’d be any good at it. No shade to my mentors for all their wisdom. I needed to understand how the things I learned in my other two careers would help me be a good producer.
Then I was hired to work on a few different productions. I felt like a rockstar.
All the producers I’ve worked with up to this point, and there have been a LOT, have treated me like I was a godsend to their productions. Every once in awhile I’m a bit daft, so I didn’t understand why at first. Then I took the time to make a couple lists. Here’s one that helped me see the light.
10 Things I learned in the military that I use in production.
1 - Hurry Up and Wait
In the military, there’s a whoooole bunch of rushing to get places and then… we sit there. Or stand there. Or, depending on the situation, we lay there. Wash, rinse, repeat until The Thing happens. This makes most military members able to sit for extremely long periods of time during pretty much any situation. We all know there’s something coming and we’ve honed the skill of being supernaturally patient during the wait.
This is not an all-the-time thing. I definitely have my impatient moments, just ask my husband and children. When it’s necessary, though, I can park it in one spot and pass the time doing a number of different things. I always travel with at least one book (usually a Kindle version on my phone), a snack of some kind, my water bottle, and a list of things I can do from any one of the portable devices I usually have on me. I’ll make the time.
During one production, we waited several hours for a signed contract. I got to the office at 9am. The contract came at 3pm. I filled the hours between with lots of prep work and research to be ready for The Thing. The line producer kept apologizing for the wait. I was genuinely, truly okay with waiting. She didn’t understand how I was so calm during all that. She praised me for it before I left for the day. Thanks, Drill Sergeants!
2 - The ability to speak to anyone, regardless of position or status, without feeling intimidated.
As a Soldier and later as an Airman, I was trained to interact daily with people whose combined knowledge, expertise, and age FAR exceeded my own. Now that I get to work with celebrities and VIPs, it’s not a big deal at all to talk to them. I am able to present myself as an authority while respecting their status. It’s a skill that many military folks share.
I mean, I might struggle with words when I finally meet Beyonce or My Boyfriend the Celebrity Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Otherwise, I’m hard to intimidate.
3 - The ability to quickly control an out of control situation.
Sometimes, no matter how well planned the production, there are stressful times. I’ve experienced several and it’s crazy how eerily calm I get when everyone else is losing their sh…uh… minds. That eery calm allows me to very quickly assess what’s happening and take complete control.
In one extremely stressful situation, one of the people on the production was ready to punch another person in the face. If she had, it would’ve resulted in an all out brawl. In her defense, the guy she wanted to hit was EASILY one of the most annoying people I’ve ever met in my life. I interjected, controlled the situation with that crazy, eery calm of mine and prevented an assault charge. That’s just one, vanilla example. I could write a whole post about the others. Maybe I will one of these days.
4 - Real Security vs the Illusion of Security
This is one of my faves. It’s shocking to me how many productions had no real idea of security. For example, there’d be long conversations about what wristband colors we should use, but no real conversations about how the wristbands should be effective. Or the time another producer tried to hire a security “person” at the door with no training, just because he was a larger gentleman and looked “intimidating”. Nah, son. We gotta do better.
The military taught me how to identify ACTUAL security risks and implement plans to eliminate those risks. It’s called a Risk Assessment (revolutionary, I know) and it was required with every training event, unit-sponsored family gathering, and travel-related situation I was tasked to lead as a non-commissioned officer. I could probably do it in my sleep, but I won’t because that’s definitely not safe.
5 - Working backward from a desired result to figure out the steps needed to achieve the result
Basically, Executive Producer A will say “we need this thing done” and sometimes not give any additional information. Luckily for EP-A, some of my supervisors and commanders did the same thing. It’d be something like “Here’s the GOAL of the mission, here are your left and right limits, and THAT’S ALL YOU GET. Do it right or I’ll make you do push ups until you puke.”
That kind of motivation makes you extremely good at being resourceful. Oh, did I mention that we often didn’t HAVE the resources needed to accomplish that task and had to find them on our own? Because that’s a thing. Now, as a producer, I am able to quickly assess a situation to see how quickly and inexpensively we can get specific things done with only the knowledge of where we need to end up.
Next week I’ll share the remaining 5 things, along with more stories and a bonus lesson. Thanks for reading! Blessings & besos.