Part Two: Q&A with Senior Art Producer Chrissy Borgata Liuzzi

by guest writer Brooke Hodess

Our conversation with Innocean’s Senior Art Producer Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi continues this week with the SoCal-based 15-year agency veteran talking about the highs and lows of the job and proves you can do a photo shoot in minus 6-degree weather.

VC: Where does someone begin if interested in art buying?

CBL: Be aware of the agencies around you, who their clients are and the work the agencies produce. Find out about internships and see if you can get your foot in the door. I’ve always had a passion for photography, and my passion has brought me to where I am today. I feel that when you follow your passion a career evolves.

VC: How much does networking play a role?

CBL: It is always good to stay connected with your peers and the community you are involved in. I try to go to as many events as possible throughout the year, including LEBOOK Connections, Paris Photo LA, and portfolio reviews with APA-LA and Art Center Los Angeles. Creative consultant Debra Weiss holds a wonderful show and tell event a couple of times a year. Also, photographers’ agents occasionally host dinners or cocktail parties with all of their photographers on their roster. Always a great time.

VC: How important is it to have knowledge of photography?

CBL: I think it’s important to have an understanding of the photographer’s process, to have an eye for the craft as well as knowledge of important photographers as reference.  It may not be the lifeline to becoming a solid art producer, but it is important to understand how images are captured.

VC: What do you like best about your job?

CBL: I love kicking off a project and sitting in a room with the entire team of account executives, print managers, product specialists and creatives and working together to get the job going. I love meeting with photographers to discuss their processes. I love going on location and seeing how everything and everyone, from the stylist, talent to car prep to riggers and the crew, come together to make the shot happen. I love knowing I helped make it happen. And, of course, I love the final result. To see your work in print, on a billboard, or online, it’s very rewarding.

VC: What do you like least? 

CBL: Telling a photographer he or she did not get the job. So much time and effort goes into an estimating process, and I’m always honest throughout the process, but when I have to make the calls and give the bad news it’s always difficult.

VC: Talk more about the estimating process.

CBL: Triple bidding is an important part of the estimating process, it helps gauge if your bids are fair, realistic and can assist as a comparison for negotiations. Before the estimate is created we hold a series of creative calls that include the art director, photographer and photographer’s producer. We discuss the approved concepts, listen to the photographer’s approach, location ideas and vision. Estimates are then sent to me and our cost control consultant for review. It is always my goal to negotiate so that the creative team gets to work with the photographer of choice. Sometimes the photographer with a higher bid may be a better bid because it is more thoughtful and precise. I need to be able to evaluate the estimate and speak to why a more expensive bid is a safer bid. I am given budget guidelines at the beginning of a project and it is my job to make sure that photography, retouching, talent, car prep, travel costs, etc. are all covered within the budget given.

VC: For a client or an agency that’s never used an art producer, what’s the argument for having one?

CBL: Art producers are negotiators, which benefits both the agency and client. I am a protector and recognize the risks involved in shoots and usage agreements, and I handle the paperwork, oversee the production, and am fiscally responsible. I feel that is a big job, and putting that in the hands of an art director is a risk. Many of them do it well, but art directors should be able to focus on the creative aspect of the job. Many agencies have print production managers work two roles and do both jobs. Selfishly, I’d like to see those roles separate.

VC: What’s been one of your most memorable shoots?

CBL: Rarely do I come back from a shoot without a story. One that comes to mind was a shoot in January of 2013 for the Hyundai Santa Fe launch. We wanted to shoot in the snow, so we headed to Mammoth Mountain. The night before our shoot day a huge storm rolled in. I recall walking to dinner with snow blowing horizontally at me and wishfully thinking, ‘It’s going to be gorgeous tomorrow, it is, it is, it is!’

VC: And if it isn’t?

CBL: Then I have to ask, how much is this going to cost in overages to wait it out? Should we go for it or wait? The photographer, his producer and I went back and forth on how cold was too cold. The discussion went on, and I finally said let’s go for it. Fast forward through a sleepless night. I walk out of the hotel at 5 a.m. into minus 6 degrees. The sky was a majestic purplish blue. As I am walking to the end of the parking lot I see a Sno-Cat towing our camera car up the mountain. I am freezing and giggling to myself, ‘We ARE going to do this!’ I don’t think anyone will forget that shoot day. The images turned out spectacular and my favorite of the entire shoot.

VC: It sounds like your tenacity paid off.

CBL: Most of the time I have a tendency to say let’s keep going; if the weather gets too bad at least an effort was made to stay on schedule, and sometimes the result is something unexpected and beautiful.

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