We live in a golden age of TV and video content, with increasing jobs and opportunities in the world of production. But how do you prepare yourself to climb the video ladder?
Meet Miriam Naggar, who did just that.
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Armed with a BA in Communication and Media Studies from American University, she started out working in the New York City theater scene. Later, she made the switch to the ad agency world, and now she’s the Executive Producer of her own video production company, NORTHBOUND.
We spoke with Miriam about breaking into the industry, the traits of a good video producer, and advice she’d give her younger self.
Name: Miriam Naggar
Title: Executive Producer
Twitter & Instagram: @northboundfilm
Hometown: Westport, CT
Current location: New York, NY
Education: American University
What do you do as a video producer? What even IS that job?!
Essentially, the video producer oversees the budget, the process and the logistics of a video project.
On a typical day, you’ll find me casting for a short film or commercial, meeting with clients to describe shot-lists and treatments, checking out potential filming locations, hiring crew or doing an interview on set for a behind the scenes look at a new television show.
It’s always unpredictable, challenging and fun. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
How did you end up in the world of video? Was it a conscious decision?
This has been an organic journey. I’ve always loved film, so when working at advertising agencies, I think I naturally gravitated towards the television and content projects.
At my last agency, I helped to start a video production department so that I could work on more video projects. Once I started, there was no looking back.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a producer like you?
One of my early bosses and mentors, Lynnea Brinkerhoff, asked me once: “When you go to the grocery store, are you the type of person who searches for what you need? Or do you ask for help before looking?”
I started life as someone who spent a lot of time looking on my own. Over the years, I’ve learned that there is no shame in asking for help.
Part of being a producer is learning what talents people have to offer the world. It’s creating a network of artists and craftspeople that have various skills. Finding your network and reaching out to them for help on projects is a huge part of finding success in my job.
I think a good producer is curious about people and how things come together.
How did you decide to leave behind the stability of a full-time job and start your own business?
I had worked a full time job consistently since I graduated college. Even between jobs, I never took more than a 1 or 2 days off. So, the idea of leaving the stability of a full time job is constantly nerve-wracking and terrifying.
I don’t think I would have made this decision if the possibilities didn’t excite and exhilarate me so much. It’s a big risk! But well worth it.
Tell me about the company you founded, NORTHBOUND.
NORTHBOUND is a creative production company based in New York City. We’re smart, nimble and collaborative, and deeply invested in the power of cinematic storytelling. We love the hustle and hard work. It’s also important to us that the people we work for (and with) enjoy the process every step of the way.
You founded NORTHBOUND together with a film director. How did the two of you become creative partners?
I helped create a video production department at my last agency with my current business partner, director Christopher Hawthorne. I have always been drawn to talented people. Chris is endlessly talented—annoyingly so; I’m always jealous.
His clear and consistent vision always delivers exemplary work, and his leadership inspires everyone. He’s a good friend and collaborator. I think we work well together because we yell and laugh when we need to.
What’s the best part of your job? What makes you excited to start each day?
Storytelling and crafting videos are endlessly exciting because I love the end result. Any part I can play in a successful and beautiful piece of content makes it all worth it.
What’s a piece of work you’re most proud of, and why?
I’m very fortunate. I’ve worked on hundreds of videos and it’s really hard to pick one. I’ve produced live multi-camera shoots for clients like NBCUniversal and Calvin Klein. The moving pieces are staggering, so conquering a myriad of logistical challenges is always satisfying.
I recently produced an unofficial music video for Chance the Rapper’s All We Got. We partnered with the talented Lindsey Croop & Dylan Ondine who both perform with Dance Theater of Harlem.
Showcasing their talent was very important to me. Creatively, this piece was incredibly satisfying. Everyone involved did this as a passion project and the sense of collaboration was beautiful. There was real joy on set. One scene was shot in a classroom in the Bronx where my brother had taught the year before—it made it all the more special to have that sibling connection.
It was also liberating to create something just for the art’s sake—no agenda, no clients to answer to. I think it was a great reminder to always keep your creativity sparked.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you face in your job?
My job is all problem solving challenges, big and small, and navigating logistics and personalities. I’ve learned that I have to treat the big challenges the same as the small challenges, otherwise, nothing would get done.
Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self?
I have no regrets and I am tremendously thankful for all the experiences that I’ve had in my life, so I wouldn’t change too much. I’d tell my younger self to be bolder sooner. I got there after I entered my 30s, and I think that’s natural, but I’d say get there faster.
I’d also advise my younger self to be more mindful and learn about that work/life balance thing sooner. At the same time, I’m proud that I worked as hard as possible in my 20s, so maybe there just is a time and a place for everything.
Any tips or tricks for staying motivated, positive and focused on the job?
Keep learning, keep watching. I am self-taught, and always learning, so Google is my best friend. There are tons of articles, videos, etc about video production—everything from how to set up a shot list, to how to scout locations, to breaking down scripts.
Intern or PA for people. Get on sets if you can. Another aspect of this golden age—there is so much fantastic content out there. I think it is important for people creating content to watch and experience as much as possible.
I’ve been a movie and TV junkie since birth—and more recently a podcast junkie—and I have a very long list of podcasts, shows and films that I’m constantly trying to chip away at. It keeps me motivated and engaged to create content of my own.
What kinds of clients do you like to work with? What makes a good client?
My favorite clients are always those who love to collaborate and take chances. I have found that those clients that trust us and allow creativity to flourish are always happy they did so.
For pop culture junkies like me, living in a time of such extraordinary content creation is fantastic. I’m always looking to support new television and film releases by providing brand content that entices and engages viewers. At NORTHBOUND, we believe in crafting beautiful films for beautiful brands. I want to work with brands that have an eye for telling their story with a dose of simplicity and a dose of creativity.
I love meeting and talking to people. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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