Cheryl Childers

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Cheryl Childers wasn't aware of the hurdles that lay ahead when she set out to gather an all-star lineup of musicians to appear in an iMac commercial that illustrates the possibilities of Apple's new iTunes software. "A lot of people in the record industry told us we were all nuts, trying to get all the artists on stage together at the same time, in the time allotted," recalls the TBWA/Chiat/Day/Los Angeles producer. "I was kind of naive, in that I've never had to try to get a bunch of rock stars together in the same room. I didn't know that was an issue. For me it was like, 'OK, we'll just convince them.' "

Childers finally swayed a slew of stars including Barry White, Liz Phair, Chuck Berry, Ziggy Marley, George Clinton, Iggy Pop and Lil' Kim to appear in "Concert," but it took some relentless ringing. With the help of outside music supervisor Tina Rodriguez "we basically talked on the phone to rock stars from 9 in the morning to 11 at night non-stop," she recounts. Finally on shoot day, rounding up the musicians presented some interesting glitches. "Chuck Berry doesn't like to be driven, and he got to the airport and wanted his own rental car," she remembers. "It was kind of the moment when we were shooting in like five minutes, so we had to send over an account guy to Hertz to rescue him.

"I've always liked really big challenges," she says of the project. "I shouldn't say that, because everyone's going to start throwing them at me, but it was fun for that reason." Nevertheless, it's not like the 36-year-old producer is one to shy away from the challenge. In fact, Childers had rock star aspirations of her own when she first moved to L.A. more than a decade ago. The North Carolina native grew up playing classical piano and studied voice and composition at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. After graduation, she moved west to line up some record deals, but the grind of the music business eventually got to her. "I got kind of sick of it and then got into advertising by accident." Childers started freelancing at Chiat answering phones and then quickly discovered a new passion, moving up from broadcast assistant to A/V specialist. After working with the agency's Richard O'Neill and Jennifer Golub, she became a full-time producer. In her 11 years at TBWA, Childers has been on "just about everything," including some of the talking Chihuahua spots for Taco Bell, directed by Chuck & Clay. "That was always a little nerve-wracking because we were afraid that something was going to happen to the dog," she snickers. Childers also produced the hilarious weather-face showdown for the Weather Channel, and also worked on the award-winning Nissan "Toys," from 1996. Last year, she began producing the agency's Apple commercials.

Kinka Usher, who directed the Apple ads and first met Childers on "Toys," says having her on board is a godsend for everyone involved on a project. "On 'iTunes,' we had everybody on stage and that was the real testament to her greatness as a producer," Usher notes. "Most producers can't even get the band to show up. She not only got the band to show up, she got 30 bands to all show up on time, and they all left the shoot really happy." Her overall approach leaves the rest of the team smiling, as well. "She understands the relationship of the production company's problems to the agency's problems to the client's problems," adds Usher. "With those three entities revolving at high speed, they can bounce off each other very quickly. Cheryl has a way of getting everybody very focused on what we're doing as a team. That's the crucial element to me of an agency producer, keeping all those people lined up so that we're all a team. She never looks at a production company as the enemy. The production company people are her friends. Some producers don't do that. They want to square off and create these lines of responsibility. Cheryl's very much about keeping everybody together." In addition to "Concert," Childers also produced the Usher-directed "Beat" for the iPod, "Elope" for the PowerMac G4 and most recently, "Birth" for iPhoto software, which debuted at Macworld in January.

As for Childers the rock star, that career has been progressing steadily as well. Under the stage name Sherby, ("It's a nickname I had in high school from a guy I had a crush on, but he wouldn't give me the time of day") she performs her "alternative pop" music at L.A. clubs after hours. Last year, she released an album that was listed on the Gavin Up and Coming radio chart, and she's currently laying down tracks for her second record (see TBWA has given her musical career its full blessing. "The agency is very supportive of it," she says happily. "It's great, because they have this theory that whatever you do outside of work makes you more well rounded and contributes to producing, instead of taking away from it." Keeping her beautiful voice in shape is really all part of relaxing anxiety-riddled creatives, clients and crew, anyway. "Our job as producers is to be the voice of calm, the voice of reason," she says soothingly.

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