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Tools for the Producer On The Go

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Ask anyone, anywhere and they will tell you about their "secret" arsenal of tools they use daily to make their working lives easier.

For instance, a dog walker uses various lengths of carefully calculated leads to have a consistent distance for all the dogs, which makes it more comfortable on the wrist and ensures the leads, dogs and walker don't end up in a jumbled mess. Historically, window cleaners would climb up ladders to reach the dizzying heights of top story windows. Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly more common for cleaners to use extended sticks to reach those heights, which in turn keeps them safely terra firma. Today breathalyzers are used readily by police officers to immediately and accurately check drivers for excessive alcohol intake to replace those rather draconian (yet amusing) tests of "walk a straight line and recite your ABC's" of the past.

For producers, there are a number of tools we use everyday to not only make our lives more efficient, but also to ensure we remain fiscally responsible which in turn impacts our bottom line. Also, these apps reflect and further define the modern day producerówe're not stationary people. In fact, producers are nomads. We are always on the go, traveling to shoots and meetings and need to be mobile and contactable. These beautiful tools ensure I can be anywhere in the world and quickly contact, update and revise any plan at any time anywhere in the world.

I want to share a few of my personal favorites that makes my life easier and somewhat stress-free.

Skype

Admittedly I'm a new user. Actually, I'm sort of a "born again" Skype user. I remember using Skype back in 2001 and then dropped it when I became an advocate of MSN messenger. Now I've picked it up again.

There is a lot to gain by using Skype. But the most obvious one: it'll save you money. I've had a few Skype calls now: some for personal reasons and the rest for work. The reception is clear, I can see and speak to the person on the receiving end and if he/she is a Skype account, it's free! We too easily pick up our mobile phones to make calls - even long distance ones rather carelessly because it's a company phone. Not only is that wasteful but it doesn't come as close to the personal contact you can make online via Skype. That personal contact becomes increasingly important especially when dealing with overseas vendors or freelancers with whom you want to build a relationship.

Project Planning Applications like FastTrack


This type of software helps organize, track and report your project goals. I am particularly drawn to how a project plan can be easily communicated in various 'views' depending on the audience with whom you want to share it: creatives who tend to just want to see the high level milestones, clients who need to see all the dependencies (and where they might be a bottleneck) and account managers who want to understand how you came to your production budget.

I've sort of "grown up" using Microsoft Project, but that's when I was a strict PC user. Since turning to Mac, I like using FastTrack. The program is easy to use, with drag-and-drop features and nice-looking icons and buttons. Like all project-planning tools, there are some drawbacks like the Draw Link tool, which links two bars, but is nearly impossible to do. You can export schedules to iCal, publish calendars directly to .Mac, and send a schedule file as an attachment, or as a PNG picture / PDF file via your e-mail software.



Google Docs


It took me a while to detach myself from working off the applications on my hard drive to working online using Google Docs. With Google Docs, you can build documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations, which is nothing particularly spectacular. But there are some notable benefits like NO MORE ATTACHMENTS and VERSION CONTROL. Attachments clog up email storage and can get easily lost. I once had a nightmare job a few years ago where the iterations of the copy deck got out of control. The file naming convention was a mess and the final deck sent was in fact an older version. Version control using Google Docs is a breeze. On top of that, anyone with an internet connection can access information and do work with Google Docs even when they aren't at the office.

Here are some recent add-ons to Google Docs.

Jamie Kim was most recently a producer at Wieden + Kennedy, Amsterdam and is now producing out of Sidlee Amsterdam.

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