The 2009 Agency Producers: Sam Baerwald

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Sam Baerwald
Sam Baerwald
Growing up with two producer parents who worked on everything from TV miniseries to movies of the week, Sam Baerwald knew one thing—he never wanted to do what they did.

But look where he ended up. As executive producer at L.A.-based 72andSunny, he produced two of the year's best ads in Nike's "The Next Level" and Discovery's "I Love the World." Prior to that, he started out as a design assistant at Pittard Sullivan before moving to TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles. Some might argue that commercial production isn't that far removed from his parents' gigs, but Baerwald believes "advertising allows me to make creative, entertaining films without having to fully immerse in all the Hollywood bullshit."

It still takes a lot of skills to be an effective producer, however, even minus the Tinseltown B.S. Baerwald says common sense and a good amount of street smarts rank high on the list. "Two other important things a good producer does are stay calm and provide solutions," he adds. "I've never seen it be beneficial or productive to have a loud, panicked producer. The team you work with on a production should be confident in your creative instincts as well as production knowledge."

Baerwald takes a very "roll-with-the-punches" approach to the job, and he acknowledges that no production is free of headaches, fires and pressures. "The size of the project does not dictate the amount of pleasure or pain a producer will experience during production. Sometimes a small paper cut hurts a lot more than a broken bone! Luckily, I get to have both." Nike "The Next Level"

Combining the world of international football with a director like Guy Ritchie, whose films are known for their frenetic action and wit, already seems like a recipe for another successful Nike spot. But add to that a creative concept that puts the viewer behind the protaganist's eyes as he plays his way up the ranks from local league to Premier League to Euros, and you've got one of the best spots of 2008.

As with many sports-related productions, much of its success depended on the athletes. Baerwald says that having Ritchie on board definitely helped in that regard. "Locking down celebrity athlete schedules is very challenging and I think (Ritchie's) celeb factor helped to attract them to our production," he says. "We were also lucky to have Aris McGarry as our line producer. They make a great team. Working with Guy was no different than working with other directors, except for the occasional paparazzi showing up on set looking for Madonna. He was very collaborative and did not get frazzled."

Unlike other complex jobs, "this was one of those rare projects that I just got more and more stoked on as we worked on it," he says. "We owe a lot to (fellow 72andSunny producer) Angelo Ferrugia, who drove the project on a daily basis. Angelo was driving the train, and I helped navigate."

The successful collaboration continued down the line in post with the Mill and all aspects of sound. "With each round of new sound design, you really started to feel like the point-of-view was real," he says. "We did a remix of the Eagles of Death Metal track with Junkie XL. The amount that he contributed to the track, without any split elements of the song, was phenomenal. We spent countless hours in the mixing studio as well, and our mixers really brought the spot to life."

As for lessons learned, Baerwald says global distribution logistics was a big one. "From clearances, to different audio level standards, there was a lot to do to get the film on air around the globe." And another key lesson— "I now say 'football' instead of soccer."

Read another 2009 Agency Producer profile, Pam Scheideler from Crispin Porter + Bogusky
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