Lucas Tanaka, Producer and Editor for NBC Universal Skycastle, shares with Tanya the nuts and bolts of working in the commercial world including the story telling process, working with different clients, and the future of the industry after COVID.
Lucas emphasizes on the importance of project management skills and networking when freelancing. Listen to him share with Tanya about his journey, his current career and his future projects in film and media.
Key Points: 00:51 — Lucas’ background
05:00 — Freelancing vs a full time job
08:00 — Telling stories through commercials
10:30 — How covid impacted his current job
13:40 — Finding joy in the process
14:47 — What his day-to-day looks like
15:06 — Getting creative Working From Home
16:28 — COVID Compliance on set
17:41 — Producing & editing projects
18:43 —Working with Da Vinci Resolve
22:00 — Working with different softwares & cameras
25:15 — The future for NBCUniversal Skycastle
26:18 — How to position yourself
27:45 — Shifting of roles
29:17 — Working with different clients
30:44 — Balance between accommodating clients and remaining firm on what’s agreed
32:40 — Crafting contracts
34:20 — Uniqueness of NBCUniversal Skycastle
36:30 — How to choose your crew
38:30 — What he does outside of his job
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Lucas Tanaka (00:00):
He's like, "Show me some of the stuff you've made," and so I showed him some of my most recent work at that time and he was like, "Oh, that's cool. I'll let you know if we have anything." And maybe like a week later, he called me to say he needed some editing, I showed up and basically never left again.
Tanya Musgrave (00:15):
Welcome to There to Here, an educational podcast where industry professionals talk nuts and bolts on how they got from there to here. On today's show, Lucas Tanaka takes us inside the commercial world of NBC's Skycastle and how the workflow has carried on in the midst of change. As this is a new podcast, we're really wanting feedback, so go to media.colabinc.org, fill out the feedback survey and you'll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Tanya Musgrave (00:36):
From CoLab Inc., I'm Tanya Musgrave and today, we have Lucas Tanaka, producer and editor for NBC Universal Skycastle. Welcome to the show.
Lucas Tanaka (00:45):
Oh, thank you. That was a really nice intro. I like that.
Tanya Musgrave (00:49):
Let's start with your background. How did you get from there to here?
Lucas Tanaka (00:52):
I guess the journey starts as a kid with my parent's Handycam and just running around shooting stuff and falling in love with film and I think over time, I always thought that film, television, anything with a camera was really just a hobby and not a really job. But actually, I think the moment that the beginning of this whole journey is actually with Tanya here, funny enough. We were working at Nosoca Pines Summer Camp and we woke up early to do ... I guess I was shooting video for like people were wakeboarding while the water was still glassy and smooth. That actually was the day that someone, might have been you, shot the video of Brad Walls jumping over me on the wake boards.
Tanya Musgrave (01:37):
I remember that.
Lucas Tanaka (01:38):
After the whole thing, we still had some time before breakfast and we were sitting there talking and you were like, "You should check out film at Southern." And I was like, "That's not a real job," because I had ... I was going there but I was a business major and a theology major. You planted that seed in my head and I went to Smart Start and I was going through classes and I met Sir David George, who I believe has been on this podcast before.
Tanya Musgrave (01:58):
Yes, he has.
Lucas Tanaka (02:00):
And I was like, "Hi, I want to do film." And he's like, "Oh, this is what you have to do." And I guess, as my mom tells me, I don't remember this, she says I called her and I was like, "I switched my major to film and I'm not switching anymore." And that was it. Before school even started, it was during like the summer class before your official start of the freshman year.
Tanya Musgrave (02:17):
Yeah, dang. So how was the progression from there to where you are now?
Lucas Tanaka (02:23):
It's crazy because the school you go to has a huge impact because you develop an alumni network. You develop friends that hopefully you'll work with for at least the beginning of your career and maybe the rest of your life. I mean my internship, every job I've gotten actually, I've never really done a proper interview process. I've never properly applied to a job. It has basically always been through I know this person, we talked and it happened. So, my first job, I called Ryan Moore, who was working at One Degree Organic Foods at the time, making documentaries and I was like, "Hey, man, do you guys got any internships?" He was kind of just talking to me for a bit and my neighbor happened to drive by and I speak Portuguese, so we started speaking in Portuguese. He's like, "Hey, do you speak Spanish?" And I was like, "I mean, I can." He was like, "We've got a ton of stuff that we shot in Mexico and it's in Spanish and we could use an editor that can speak Spanish." And so I started interning there because of that.
Lucas Tanaka (03:13):
Eventually, started working there and worked there for about three and half years before I packed up and said it was time to go to L.A. I packed up my big old diesel truck from Washington State, drove all the way down here with no job and, again, the alumni network, I was planning on staying with some of my alumni friends but they're in the middle of shooting a feature and a bunch of people were over and it was too crowded but yet another alumni, who I was friends with but honestly hadn't spent that much time hanging out with him before this, took me in to sleep on his couch. Alumni network is huge. I slept on his couch. I worked on that feature with those guys for a few days as a PA for the first day, which I feel like everybody deserves at least one day as a PA.
Lucas Tanaka (03:54):
One of the main actors, I don't know how to properly progress the story, but I feel like this is really important because whenever we gather around with other film people, everybody's like the one time I was a PA or back when I was a PA, everybody tells their story. I guess, I don't know if it was the lead actor but it was one the actors, he was maybe like 18, 19, it was a younger kid and it was a cheap film shoot. Like it was a small shoot and so there's one bathroom in the crafty room and I guess he clogged the toilet and me as like the PA there was just like, let me help this guy out, I don't want him to be embarrassed. And it became this whole ordeal.
Lucas Tanaka (04:25):
It was super hot. It was terrible. I basically tried to chop up his poop to help it go down and couldn't get it to go down, brought in David [Toestrup 00:04:35], who was also working on the film and he couldn't figure it out. Finally, one of the other producers came in and took care of it somehow but it was a terrible ordeal but that's, I think, an important part of character building and working in film is your days as a PA. Some of them are more glamorous than others. Some of them involved that.
Tanya Musgrave (04:54):
And so out of that experience came ...
Lucas Tanaka (04:58):
Out of that experience came me definitely not wanting to do that. I [inaudible 00:05:02] for a couple days and then finally, our good friend, Dawson, who was freelancing at the time at Skycastle, the place I currently work at, was like, "Hey, man, you want to grab lunch?" So, I had just gotten town, we grabbed lunch. There I met Senior Thomas Wentworth, who I also believe was here and he was like, "Oh, hey, nice to meet you." I was like, "Oh, we met in class one time." He's like, "Cool, I don't remember you. You're not cool." Nah, I'm just kidding. He was like, "Oh, cool."
Lucas Tanaka (05:25):
He came and spoke at my class at one point. He was like, "Show me some of the stuff you've made." And so I showed him some of my most recent work at that time and he was like, "Ah, that's cool. I'll let you know if we have anything." And maybe like a week later or less, he called me to say he needed some editing. I showed up and basically never left again. So, I freelanced for like three days. I think I didn't work for maybe like a couple days and then he's like, "Hey, can you come in Friday and for the rest of October?" And from there, I actually never left again. It went from freelancing to what they called ... It was basically like I was a full-time production staff but not a full-time NBC staff, and you could only do it for two years.
Lucas Tanaka (06:09):
And so I did that and then more recently, I finally committed to actually being here for the extended term, which I guess now I've been here for almost three years.
Tanya Musgrave (06:20):
Oh, wow. So, all right, so you've been on both sides of the whole freelance and then full-time gig. I mean I'm guessing that the full-time gig is where it's at where you want to kind of settle in?
Lucas Tanaka (06:35):
Tanya Musgrave (06:36):
Lucas Tanaka (06:37):
I guess this is like a dangerous place to talk about what's in your heart.
Tanya Musgrave (06:41):
I don't want to put you in any place that's going to make you feel uncomfortable. I was just basically wanting you to compare and contrast the freelance/full-time and kind of like where you're wanting to head.
Lucas Tanaka (06:56):
The full-time has its benefits. Working at NBC-
Tanya Musgrave (07:00):
Lucas Tanaka (07:01):
Yeah, literally. You get your health benefits. You get a 401k matching, which when you're thinking about your longterm future, as a freelancer, you can only do so much to put into your retirement account but if they're matching 6-7%, that's a lot of money-
Tanya Musgrave (07:19):
That's really good.
Lucas Tanaka (07:20):
Yeah, that's a good bit of money.
Tanya Musgrave (07:20):
Lucas Tanaka (07:21):
It starts helping you build that nest egg or that like retirement nest egg and beyond that, there're things like the Comcast stock buying option. You can buy stock at a lower rate and so over time, there's a lot of opportunities to build longterm wealth or security in a structured way. However, I do think that freelancing, while a lot less structured, has a bigger potential overall but also has a bigger potential for times like these during COVID where there's almost no work for freelancers or it's very complicated to get work for freelancers.
Tanya Musgrave (07:58):
I remember at one point you were wanting to kind of get involved in the sports world. Is that kind of something along the lines of what you're wanting to still aim for or ...
Lucas Tanaka (08:08):
I mean I would if the right opportunity arose. I think, for me, at our group we make commercials and ... Or Skycastle specifically makes commercials but we're also part of a bigger group that includes LX TV which does lifestyle TV shows and now another group called LX News that does news aimed at a younger audience and I would like to switch from working on the stuff people fast forward through to working on the content that people come to watch and I think that while you can create really exciting commercials and I do enjoy it, I think there is an art and a joy to creating commercials, I want to tell narrative stories or documentary stories. I want to tell stories that people come for. I don't want to tell the stories that people really don't want to watch but if you do it really good, maybe they will pay attention kind of deal and it's still fun. You're telling 30-second stories that someone is paying you to and you have to include their product.
Lucas Tanaka (09:08):
That has a varying range of how crazy or how fun it can be and as a producer, I guess the joy or the art or the fun in it is solving all the problems that come with that and if you enjoy problem solving, which I do, I do enjoy producing our bigger scale commercials, it's still really fun, I think I would like to see a little bit more satisfaction with the final product whether it's in sports, in news or wherever where I feel like I created something that people want to share and people want to watch.
Lucas Tanaka (09:38):
I am a huge believer that there is a way to create beautiful stuff and things that you're proud of in the commercial world and I don't want to be like a downer about it but in the world where we are, which is broadcast commercials, basically, people buy airtime. We only work with people who buy airtime on our network. We're not just a creative agency for anybody. If you don't buy airtime on one of our networks or something of that nature, we're not producing commercials for you. In that sense, it comes with a very specific clientele and even then, it's rare where you get the opportunity to do something really, really exciting. It's maybe a few a year and sadly, this year, speaking of sports, we were supposed to be doing something around this time with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green at the New Chase Center, a little Mercedes Warriors commercial. I'm not supposed to ... Maybe I'm not supposed to say that but I'm still going to say it anyways, like nobody's coming after me for telling people what we were supposed to do.
Lucas Tanaka (10:35):
But with the whole COVID thing, it's shut down a lot of our exciting commercials and one thing about working ... We're in a big company but we're really a small group and one of the things that this group has allowed me to do is to continue to develop other aspects of my work. So while I can't produce more commercials at once, I can start diving more into being a DP. With smaller budgets, sometimes it works. As a producer, you have a bunch of puzzle pieces and you can figure out what's the best place to put the money and if I'm able to DP something, we're able to make something at a higher level because I'm part of the company, I'm not an additional outside hire.
Lucas Tanaka (11:13):
And so I've DP'd a couple commercials over the past year and this was supposed to be my exciting, super duper exciting joy commercial where it's like the possibilities are endless. You've got like star talent. You've got an awesome location. You've got cool stuff with cars that they're like you can drive it around the Chase Center and it was like what? We're going to do all kinds of crazy stuff. I just realized the other day that that was supposed to be happening right now and I got really sad.
Tanya Musgrave (11:39):
Lucas Tanaka (11:41):
That was going to be an opportunity where we were getting really creative, starting really ahead of time and talking about fun and exciting ideas and I mean the opportunities will come back again. It's not like COVID happened and we'll never get another version of that but I think there's also a blend of enjoying what you have because I guess we've been in this for like five/six months, so it's been a while since ...
Tanya Musgrave (12:04):
Lucas Tanaka (12:05):
We've shot any major production or anything big but I think one of the last productions that I was super excited about was maybe September/October last year and it wasn't even like the craziest thing once you watch it. It's literally just for a food company. It's a host and someone from the company and they're making little recipes and talking to each other. But for me, I was DPing it and I was like, hmm, I'm the DP, I also choose where the money goes and so I rented a telescoping arm with a remote head and you get like a tech guy and it ended up being a lot more expensive than I meant it to be but it was okay and so we had two cameras.
Lucas Tanaka (12:42):
We had like a camera on the dolly up front just like going back and forth on a track to keep the motion exciting and then we had my camera, which was super fun because it was basically ... It was me, just like in a little headset, which for me, was new. It's me, the AC who's got these rolling wheels and we're whispering through the headsets and you've got the guy pulling focus, you've got the AC pulling focus and then you've got the telescoping arm operator and it just became like ... It's like a fun little thing. You're like talking to each other and you're looking at ... There's like a million monitors and you're just like okay, yeah, go over there. And I like to make my kinds of jokes and it was just ...
Lucas Tanaka (13:20):
It was a fun time and it was making the best of a commercial that I don't think people would be like, wow, that's really exciting, you're shooting people make food. But I found a really awesome space that had a built-in kitchen, everything you needed to shoot an amazing food spot and we had a great time with the cameras and everything and I think it was an example of finding the joy in the work and the things that you have and it's finding the joy in the process and enjoying actually just shooting it and not just like wow, that video was so cool but remembering what it took to make it because really, you're going to watch something for 30 seconds or a minute maybe depending on what you're making in the commercial world but the process of actually making it is ...
Lucas Tanaka (14:03):
At least a shooting day is a long day with millions of problems that you're always dealing with. No matter how much you prepare, there's always something that goes wrong and to me, that's the entertaining part. I think I come most alive on days that we're actually shooting and doing things.
Tanya Musgrave (14:18):
So, my question is what does your day-to-day look like now? What has your job shifted into?
Lucas Tanaka (14:27):
Day-to-day basically we have like a morning meeting every day with our little group and then we have like bigger meetings scheduled throughout the day. There's always like little meetings here and there, so like NBC Universal things or like our division and people are always like, "We're going to make through this. This is going to be okay," or "You know what? We're going to be in this for another six months," or whatever it is. There's always updates but my actual day-to-day really just ... It's sitting in front of a computer and finding ways to be creative without having to shoot much.
Lucas Tanaka (14:54):
We've done a lot of stuff with stock footage. There are people who produce First Look, Open House and George to the Rescue which are lifestyle shows that air on NBC throughout the day but recently, one way we've gotten creative with working from home is one of the other producers was doing a project for Avocados for Peru and the people were like hey, we don't really want to do a cellphone thing. There's been a lot of Zoom call type commercials or like shoot on your cellphone type commercials because you've got to hire talent. So they came up with a way that us and our extended family from these other shows all got a bunch of avocados and different things and shot a couple scenes themselves on ... Because we each have our own camera kit, so we can shoot things at a high quality and they took that and pieced it together to make a high quality commercial without actually going anywhere and shooting.
Lucas Tanaka (15:44):
People shot their kids if they wanted to. They shot their significant others or their pets or whatever and pieced together a nice 30-second piece that ... I mean I think they were very happy with.
Tanya Musgrave (15:56):
Wait, so have you guys gone back to production at all in any kind of capacity?
Lucas Tanaka (16:02):
In small ways. I guess on Monday, I went to the L.A. Chargers training camp and shot some B-roll of what was going on. I think recently someone went and did kind of like a one-on-one shoot. There was just one person and them. I think on the East Coast, they've been a little more active when there was for the LX News group, I forgot, yeah, we had that too but during the LX News group, they've been more active capturing news, things that are happening live.
Tanya Musgrave (16:26):
How's the COVID compliance on that?
Lucas Tanaka (16:28):
If you're working with people, you've got to wear masks. You've got to be consistently sanitizing equipment if you're passing it around. In general, with our group, we all have our own kits and we try not to share gear basically. So that way, in case anything happens, you're not ... It lowers the potential for spread. We also received our own COVID kits in a sense where we got hand sanitizer. We got a variety of disposable masks but also the KN95 mask or whatever that thing's called, gloves and thermometers and all the kinds of things to check your temperature before you go out and to make sure that you're not a potential hazard. I personally have not been on a shoot with anyone else at this point. The one shoot I was supposed to go with someone, nobody was ... Or the person wasn't able to make it but in general, we would just be in different places, stay as far apart as you would with any other person and minimize the sharing of gear. And if you do, you just plan ahead. I think it's basically just plan better.
Tanya Musgrave (17:27):
So, do you end up editing the shoots that you helped shoot or that they shoot? Because you're a producer/editor, so have you ... Do you see one project all the way through of is it like I'm helping get this project up and running and I'm editing a different project?
Lucas Tanaka (17:41):
The way it works is my manager would assign a project to a producer. So basically, the producer aspect of our job is that we're project managers. For example, my other producer coworker was doing the Avocados for Peru while maybe I'm doing something for BMW or for Mazda or something of that nature and while we help each other on our projects, we each own a specific project. For example, the shoot I did that was for the food company, I saw that all the way through from the beginning, all the way through the final edit, the final color and sending it out to the stations to air but for other projects like the L.A. Chargers shoot, I just shoot it, I packaged the footage and sent it off to whoever needs it. So it's a little bit of a mix. Everybody takes ownership of specific projects but we all support each other on our own projects. So, some days you're editing everything, some days you're not. If something happens and they need something really quickly, I might step in and help edit someone else's project or vice versa.
Tanya Musgrave (18:39):
I heard you were working Resolve these days. How's that going?
Lucas Tanaka (18:43):
Resolve is life. Adobe is literally the worst thing that has ever happened to mankind. Resolve is literally the greatest place on the planet. It does everything you want plus you can do beautiful, beautiful color without having to roundtrip it, "Let me export this. Do you have the right files? Did you give me enough handles? Is this okay?" You can just do everything in one. I've had three people editing while I colored all their projects at once because it was like a shoot that needed to go out really quickly. It was multiple segments shot in the same place and so everybody was editing a segment while I was developing color for each of them and then applying it across the board at the same exact time, in the same project file.
Tanya Musgrave (19:20):
Lucas Tanaka (19:20):
So, Resolve has phenomenal possibilities, things that Adobe tried to implement but never worked correctly and we were working on getting it to work from New York to L.A. and it worked with a little bit of a lag for whoever wasn't the host city. And Blackmagic is so open, like they talked to us. They worked with us to try to develop this thing and in addition, the Blackmagic cameras, while I think for a while there had a stigma, it's kind of unbeatable for the price. Sure, we'll use our ARRI cameras for anything we're really excited about but at the same time, I mean look, if I show you some Blackmagic footage next to ARRI footage, most people, almost nobody would be able to tell the difference.
Tanya Musgrave (20:04):
Of course, of course.
Lucas Tanaka (20:05):
Especially the people who are meant to actually watch it. They'll be like uh-huh, nice, this all looks great.
Tanya Musgrave (20:10):
Nobody computes that kind of ... Like to that depth when they're watching really anything. I mean like except for filmmakers obviously but for the intended audience-
Lucas Tanaka (20:19):
Cue the filmmakers. I've bet I put a bunch of ARRI and Blackmagic footage side-by-side and people who claim that Blackmagic is awful would not have known that it was Blackmagic footage. It is excellent. It's very good. Sure, there're certain issues with the camera eventually but at this point, they're pretty reliable. It's not like when they first came out. I cannot imagine if I had $20,000 to spend on a camera package that I would buy anything other than a Blackmagic camera.
Tanya Musgrave (20:46):
Interesting, interesting. I think ... Okay, so the documentary that I was a part of, it was, I don't know, let's say six years ago now, so I remember us running into issues with the Blackmagic camera being a little bit too much ... Like the codec would fall apart a little bit more easily on the lower end.
Lucas Tanaka (21:09):
That's one of the great developments of Blackmagic is Blackmagic RAW which actually plays back smoother than pretty much anything else. I would dare to say it plays back smoother than ProRes and gives you all of the RAW functionalities that you're looking for. If you're getting techy, technically, it's not a true, true RAW but you can change ISO, you can change white balance and everything like you would a regular RAW file. The dynamic range is phenomenal. It is infinitely times better than everything I was doing on my Canon C300 Mark II, which I paid substantially more for than Blackmagic camera which I have since sold because I only need Blackmagic at this point. The codec works great now. It's excellent. If you want to, shoot ProRes. You can also shoot ProRes natively, so no problem and they just launched a 12k URSA, which if you're looking to do special effects or whatever, like if you wanted to buy a RED cam, I don't know why you're buying a RED cam, you can just get a 12k URSA. It's pretty impressive.
Lucas Tanaka (22:10):
I understand why you would buy an ARRI camera but at that point, you have such unlimited budget that you're picking your camera based on "I want a very specific look. I want it to feel like this." But if you're just shooting stuff for high quality to look good and you're shooting stuff for commercials, in general, it's going to be pretty hard to beat a Blackmagic camera for budget.
Tanya Musgrave (22:29):
I do remember being extremely more impressed with it in like the last few years when we actually had dealings with it as opposed to when we had to shoot a project the six years ago on like the big old square box that they had.
Lucas Tanaka (22:47):
Oh yeah, those were terrible but they were a part of the development. You needed to have that-
Tanya Musgrave (22:51):
Lucas Tanaka (22:52):
Yeah, I would not shoot anything on those things. Those things are low key trash. They got you a beautiful image but it wasn't a real production camera at that point. The issues that you had were just it's not worth it.
Tanya Musgrave (23:05):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Lucas Tanaka (23:06):
But now they work.
Tanya Musgrave (23:07):
But yeah, I mean and the same the with working with Resolve too and I only dipped into it just briefly but I remember editing a project on it, like actually editing a project, I was just like whoa. Like they have a whole timeline and everything and I was just like why would you use something else other than ... I actually don't know but I know that I was very impressed with the editing capabilities and I didn't find myself needing to go to the other program except for out of pure familiarity.
Lucas Tanaka (23:37):
Yeah, because that's just how it always is. You're used to a program, it's weird to jump into something else at first but as you get used to it, it's like whoa, what was I doing before? Why? I mean it has Fusion, which is a very powerful effects or graphics I guess tab you would call it but it's an entire software which you can do 3D things, you can do ... It's a little bit to get used to it, especially if you're coming from After Effects but it can do basically everything that most people are looking for and if you're a new filmmaker and you're just looking, "What's the best, cheap software?" DaVinci is free. It's impossible to beat and I believe in the future of Blackmagic because if you're a young filmmaker right now, buy yourself a Pocket, get the full suite with it, the full DaVinci suite and you'll get to practice everything that professional filmmakers use 24/7.
Lucas Tanaka (24:29):
In fact, professional filmmakers are using Pockets all the time as part of their workflow. Maybe not as their A cam but as crash cams, as B cams, as cameras for awkward placements or car cameras. It has all the same functionalities. You'll be ready to shoot with any camera at that point. Anybody can learn menus. I hate when people are like, "But do you know how to operate a Sony?" Dude, it's a camera. Like if I ... We know how to use cameras. It's going to take me 10 more seconds to find it on the menu. I can google. I have a phone, I can google these things. "I'm sorry, but do you know how to use a RED Epic," or whatever the REDs are, "The RED Dragon?" Yes, I can turn it on.
Lucas Tanaka (25:09):
Anyways, Blackmagic for life.
Tanya Musgrave (25:12):
So, okay, when you're talking about the future of things in the actual landscape of your industry, what are you seeing on the horizon?
Lucas Tanaka (25:21):
One thing that's on the horizon, I guess, for us is adapting to the new world. Being part of a big, older company like Comcast or NBC Universal, who's been around for, I think, 100 years or something of that nature, it's got an old school mindset and right before COVID, working from home was like there's no way that's possible but we've adapted and I think, for us, the future is finding ways to work more efficiently for less money because it costs money to have people in an office. It costs money to do all kinds of things that people don't think about that come with commuting to an office, having an office space, having safety and different things for employees and the less people you have in the office, the cheaper things are and I think the future, really as sad to say, is that people are going to find creative ways to cut costs and I think because of COVID, we found creative ways that I think employees will be happy with, hopefully. Don't quote me on that but hopefully.
Tanya Musgrave (26:15):
So, here's a question for all the newbies who are coming up, what's the best place for them to position themselves in order to be able to have one of those jobs? Where should they aim?
Lucas Tanaka (26:27):
It depends what you want. If you want to be a director of photography, just be a director of photography. Focus on camera, don't do ... I mean do other things but if you need to because you need to feed yourself but focus on that. If you want to be in this specific position, I'm having a hard time saying anything because I've never actually ... I don't know what it actually took besides being really versatile, knowing how to do a lot of different things and really just making quality connections. I think, as a young filmmaker, I think the best thing you can do right now is continuously create, work with your friends, make new friends who are creatives. It's building the network and practice your craft. I think that is the most important thing to do and I say that basically completely hypocritical because at this point, I am not practicing my craft outside of my actual job, even though I'm trying to and my networking has slowed down a little bit although I do have a call right after this that is specifically, I guess, re-networking in a sense of like reconnecting with people.
Tanya Musgrave (27:29):
Have you seen specific roles kind of floating to the top as in oh yeah, we need you and you and you but even though we had a use for you and you and you, we don't really anymore? Who is the you and you and you that we don't really have a use for anymore?
Lucas Tanaka (27:45):
The thing that people are looking for often for these jobs are someone who can do everything. It's basically a project manager who can edit. The unpopular term for it that I think we've stopped saying was predator, which is the producer/editor. There's a lot of those jobs and I think anybody that's like we want to do video stuff, they hire those kinds of people but that also kind of pigeonholes you or makes you stuck because if you want to reach a high level, the path to ... I think to bigger opportunities and to growth doesn't come from being a jack of all trades. It doesn't come from being a producer/editor.
Lucas Tanaka (28:18):
You might. There's a chance that you're going to grow into more of that but that's going to be really circumstantial. I think that if you're looking to find a good job that you can live a good life with and be happy, I think yeah, sure, producer/editor will work, make sure you're a good project manager, make sure you can edit and that's probably you're top two things and just be really ... Just don't be weird to be honest. Like a lot of it comes to it's a very personality based thing. You've got to know how to talk to people, work with people, listen to people, know how people operate, know how people respond because you're going to be doing a lot of negotiating, a lot of working with clients who are awful or clients who are awesome. It's a mix of everything, clients who try to sabotage their own projects, so a lot of it is just knowing how to work with people.
Tanya Musgrave (29:01):
That's actually a really good segue into some of our listener questions. So, we have some questions from our Insta, Facebook Story and Twitter. If you want to ask your questions to future guests, our handle on Insta and Twitter is collabincpodcast. How do you work with your different clients?
Lucas Tanaka (29:15):
So, working with different clients, it can be all kinds of things. So the way we first greet clients basically, before I even talk to them, there's a salesperson that's been buttering them up for a while. There's a marketing person that's trying to balance the buttering them up with realities and then there's, I guess, my boss, who is in meetings and trying to figure out who should I assign this project to. And so before that, there's already three people who are ... Or more than that, who are talking to them and then you start talking to them. They're like, "Hi, guys, welcome. Meet Lucas. He's your new point of contact for everything." And so you're like, cool.
Lucas Tanaka (29:49):
Now, sometimes, it's really smooth and it's just you and that person. You guys send emails. You're seeing everybody, so everybody's up-to-date on what's happening and it's great. Sometimes, they ... Not to knock on my salespeople because I love them all but sometimes they ... You get self-sabotaged by your own people because they'll start promising things that you can't do and then it's like whoa and it's this whole balance of we're all working together but everybody's got a job to do and it might ... The way they do their job or the way that's best for their job might not be the best for my job and in the end, my thought process is we want to make the customer or the client as happy as possible, which I think part of it is providing them with a really high quality piece of material that they're proud to share and that they're proud that they did and a good experience so that they come back and spend more money with us so I can have a job.
Tanya Musgrave (30:37):
I'm going to flip it on its head with this other question that we have. It says what series of checkpoints do you use to get a project through the gauntlet to final approval? I'm just wrapping up a series of videos that was challenging and that the client brought in their millionaire big boss halfway through a project and change the goals of the project midstream. Does this kind of thing ever happen to you and how do you strike a balance between being accommodating and holding the line on what was agreed?
Lucas Tanaka (31:03):
It happens all the time. People change their minds halfway through. It's a huge pain and that's kind of the joy of working on these things. It's like wow, we agreed on these things and today, you want to change everything, that's cool. Thanks for wasting three years of my life. No, I mean it's a fine balance of trying to steer the clients into something that makes sense for the project. If you have the time, I think it's different when you're a freelancer because if you spent three extra weeks working on this, this is your time and if they're not paying any extra, then you're just losing money. In my scenario, while we all still try ... We have an air date or things like that, at that point, it doesn't become my problem. It's my job is to make sure that they get what they need and what they want.
Lucas Tanaka (31:46):
If they need to change the air dates, the salespeople, the marketing people, everybody starts negotiating with everything that's going on with that. So if it has to go later, it has to go later. You'll know what's best for the project but you also need to listen to the customers and know what they're ultimately looking for even if they don't know it themselves and you have to find a way to balance the two to make them feel like they're getting what they want but also trying your best not to start from square one and if you are a freelancer that's getting paid by the hour basically, you have to make sure that you let them know that this is going to cost more. If you guys want to change the thing, this is ... In a nice way, be like it's your fault that we spent two weeks of my work time doing something that you didn't want. You should have brought your big boss from the beginning but of course, find a nice way to say that.
Tanya Musgrave (32:30):
Yeah, of course, of course. Now, is there something that can be put into a contract that will assure that that is-
Lucas Tanaka (32:37):
So, I don't do contracts per se because we have a legal team, we have other people who do these types of scenarios but to an extent, yes, you try to cover your bases as much as possible from the beginning and for me, that means checking in with like the VP of our group and/or legal and different people. So, for someone in my position, I check with the people who I report to or the people that I report to report to so then they can make that decision and if something goes wrong, it's not on me, it's on them. And that's, in a sense, the beauty of not being the top person at a place is that you say hey, this is what's come up, this is my suggestion, what do you guys think and you let them make a decision, which sounds like pass it off to somebody else but I mean it kind of is.
Tanya Musgrave (33:22):
Well, I mean essentially too, a lot of those people aren't the ones that are emotionally invested in a project and so it's easier for them. I mean I was talking to an agent who loved being that person because like for actors or for crew who really needed a buck but didn't want to submit themselves to awful terms, they didn't want to waiver and lose face, they just sent them to their agent and then their agent was saying these are the terms, take it or leave it and my client is not going to waiver on this kind of thing. So, it was dealing with the agent, so essentially, it's along the same lines of what you're doing, yeah?
Lucas Tanaka (34:01):
Passing it to somebody who is not emotionally involved who can coldly or straightforwardly say this is it or if you want something else, this is what it's going to cost.
Tanya Musgrave (34:10):
Exactly, exactly. Next question is what is the Skycastle commercial workflow versus what another company might do? So how does your company work uniquely?
Lucas Tanaka (34:23):
I guess to be perfectly honest, I don't know what a lot of ... I don't know exactly what other people are doing but basically, a salesperson sells airtime. Sometimes, it's kind of a pain that it goes like that because they pitch to a consumer and may promise them certain things that may not be as easy to achieve but that's also the beauty of the work is like they said we can do this for this much? Okay, we'll figure it out. And then basically, marketing, sales and then my boss, they are all setting things up. It eventually gets to me and they're like, "Hi, I've got this client who sells rice and they would love to do a commercial but they also want to do three 3-minute documentaries in Spanish and in English and they want 30s, 1 minutes, 15s and 6s for social." So, we're going to start talking about creative.
Lucas Tanaka (35:08):
And then we work with our full group, with our creative director and things to balance a really cool creative idea with you as the producer being like hmm, I don't think we have money for that or hmm, that might be impossible and it's a collaborative workflow with like the creative people and you and whoever else is together to find the idea that fits within the budget and that we can execute at a high level and I think the producer's job is knowing exactly what we can do and knowing how to make that dream come true and knowing what we have, the talent that we have and the people that we can hire at that price range to put that thing together.
Lucas Tanaka (35:47):
So it comes sales, we go to our creative team, we create something. I create a timeline basically that says we're going to be talking about this, all kinds of pre-production approvals until there's the final day, then we've got our shoot date or dates depending on what it is and then after that, there's a post-production approval timeline that's like you're going to get first cut here, second cut here, this is your final day to approve, especially if they have a traffic date that it goes on air. So, everything is subject to change. That's what we say. There's literally a line on our timelines that we send out that says this is subject to change pending life events, I don't know what the exact words are.
Tanya Musgrave (36:24):
Yeah, nice. Last listener question, how do you choose your crew?
Lucas Tanaka (36:29):
My best friends. No, I mean it's a ... It definitely starts there. It starts with who you know, people that you know have done a good job and to be honest, people have done a bad job and we've never hired them again. They might be like last second desperate but it's who fits within the budget and who you know.
Tanya Musgrave (36:51):
Is there some kind of company shortlist or is it just literally anybody that you know that would fit the bill?
Lucas Tanaka (36:55):
We started putting together a company shortlist in a way and I think we do reach out to it but there's like ... Okay, we've got a certain set of DPs that we always hit up. There's a certain set of cam ops or ACs. We've got our favorite sound guy and then when our favorite sound guy isn't available, he recommends us a new sound guy and we get that guy and that guy kind of comes into the rotation. It's really very strongly people we've worked with and who are very dependable continue to get the same gigs from us.
Lucas Tanaka (37:22):
If you're a freelancer, be very friendly, do a great job. Don't be late. Don't slack and if there's an issue, like if something happens, it happens but be honest and honestly, just don't be weird because half the time that's like my time to hang out with people I like and we have a great time shooting, even if it's ... We shoot Ashley Home Store which is a furniture commercial and it's not exciting. We like roll around with a dolly but I hire the people I like to hang out with and it makes it a good time.
Tanya Musgrave (37:51):
Last question, what questions should I have asked you?
Lucas Tanaka (37:55):
I think the reality of any creative in this world right now is that there are the things that we do that is how we succeed professionally and the things that we wish we did professionally. I think the thing that would give me hope and hopefully other creators hope is not just the day-to-day. I get that my day-to-day is what actually allows me to have a place to live, to eat, to buy the things I need but the things that we really aspire to do aren't always the things that we do for money specifically at this point or the things we're trying to do. I think maybe the question that I wished we would have asked is more what are you doing outside of your day-to-day job that is still in the same ... In the film world or in the entertainment world that is something that you're working towards to grow and how are you doing that? Because I need to be held accountable for the things I'm not doing.
Tanya Musgrave (38:45):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely and like honestly, I'd be curious to know your answer.
Lucas Tanaka (38:49):
Like right now?
Tanya Musgrave (38:50):
Lucas Tanaka (38:51):
Oh. I think I can say all this stuff, who knows? Probably, probably not going to jail for this or get fired. So, I have a producing partner/good friend who I met in church, I met in Church of Vancouver when I used to work at One Degree. He moved to L.A. a little before me and I moved down to L.A. and he is an actor first but we've been trying to produce things and we've produced a short pilot and it hasn't gone anywhere. We're trying our best to sell it but it's still invisible at this point but we're always working on different projects and trying to find ways to create something new and right now, we're actually working on a podcast.
Tanya Musgrave (39:32):
Lucas Tanaka (39:32):
So this is great practice where I'm actually just a producer, that's all I do, I schedule guests, I do research and try to plan out how this whole project will look like and he is the host using his newfound connections as a successful actor. He is playing Muhammad Ali in the new Regina King film, One Night in Miami, which has given him a lot of "clout" and for the young kids, he is in Riverdale. He was in Ballers for a bit, for one season. He was on a show called Pearson, which was a spinoff for Suits. I guess part of what I keep stressing the whole network thing is we work together to leverage our networks and our different skillsets to be able to try to build something of our own but we're working on a podcast that one, hopefully allows us to continue networking but also creates ... It's just another way to be creative.
Lucas Tanaka (40:28):
I think that as a producer, it's not just about film, it's not just about television. Your skillset goes further than the things that you've been used to doing. You are a project manager. You know how to put groups together. You know how to put teams together and you can apply that skillset all over the place. I mean that's what we're trying to do and of course, just like every single other person on the planet who likes film, always writing something, always trying to create something new and hopefully do something with it and not just be a bunch of files on my desktop and on my Google Drive for safety.
Tanya Musgrave (41:03):
What is your ultimate hope for that project?
Lucas Tanaka (41:03):
I mean we want to inspire people. I guess the general idea of it is we're talking to successful people and how they got there and how they get back with their newfound platform. I want to hopefully inspire people to be like wow, I can work hard. This is how I can be successful and also, when I am successful, I want to give back. It's not just now I'm rich, I move to my island, goodbye everybody. I think the hope is that whatever is close to your heart, whether it's your church family or your group of friends or whatever that mission is close to your heart that you use your new skills, even if your platform is small, it's still a platform. Even if your success is small, you still find a way to use that to help people.
Lucas Tanaka (41:46):
As I was saying earlier, I want to create things that people come for. They come to feel this. They come to listen to this. Just to create something that people are excited to listen to, stories that people want to hear. So, that's a primary goal. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Tanya Musgrave (42:00):
Yeah, when can we expect to kind of see some seeds of that?
Lucas Tanaka (42:05):
It's tough because the people we're trying to interview are tough to schedule. Let's go with October. I'm just making up dates but I'd like to say we'd have a couple recorded by October but who knows? I also said we were going to do a lot of things by now. I also told my parents I'd have a helicopter by now and I do not. My apartment is 800 square feet. So, stepping stones.
Tanya Musgrave (42:33):
Well, either way, we really, really appreciate the time that you've taken to talk to us. Thank you for joining us. If you enjoyed this interview, follow us right here and check out more episodes at media.collabinc.org. If you have comments or know someone who would be a great guest on our show, send in your suggestions to email@example.com.
Tanya Musgrave (42:49):
Lucas, thanks so much again for your time. Be well and god bless. We'll see you next time on There to Here.