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Nov 06 2012

SHOOTonline - A Look at Women in Production: Numbers, Personal Observances


Shannon Barnes, director of production, SapientNitro

Primary Business: Broadcast and integrated production

1. How did you get your start in the business?

My first job in this industry was working in front of the office at Charlex. A tremendous amount of patience and tolerance. Ears open for opportunity, head down when it came to the task at hand. They run a tight ship there.

2. What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you faced as you made your ascent in the industry?

I would say I have been the ever evolving object here. And on this journey I have had my share of scraped elbows. Producers are a rare breed. We are the first to show up, last to leave and no complaints in between. Each one is uniquely different. Like writers, we find our own personal voice. We capitalize on our strengths and if we are good the very best producers hire those who can fill in for their weaknesses. This is a delicate balance between self-confidence and humility. And I am constantly adjusting my footing.

3. What do you think would be the biggest challenge or obstacle if you were just starting out today? Would it be easier or more difficult (and why?) to establish yourself professionally and to attain your current role as an executive or leading creative or artist?

That depends on who my teacher is. I stand on the shoulder of giants. Executive producers who took me under their wing and taught me how to evaluate, elevate and escalate a production. I now share with my producers my experiences and guide them towards solutions. Ways that were taught to me and I now pass on to them. Honestly, it is all about having the right mentor who is going to take the time to educate you.

Is there shortage of women in the advertising and entertainment production community? If so, do you perceive this as a problem and why?

It is my opinion that there is a shortage of women on every level, everywhere, especially the executive level. It’s important that we make our personal and professional decisions on where our future careers may reside based on the culture of opportunity that company provides. Not to quite the Beastie Boys but I’m gonna, essentially you have to fight for your right to party.

And if so, how can the industry improve that situation? What steps can be taken to rectify such a shortage?

I cannot speak for the entire industry, that would be silly, but I can speak from the I. This Woman, This Producer, knows that change comes from unity. Every great thing that has ever been accomplished in history is a result of people with a unified vision coming together to achieve a common purpose. And every epic failure has been the byproduct of division. I think unity is the key. And it may start with a community, a group, a call to action or just an article…and I quote my grandfather who used to say “you cannot grab hold of opportunity if you are holding on to your past.

6. In what roles is the shortage most profound? Directors? Producers? Executives? Creatives? DPs? Editors? Post artisans? Music/sound?

All of the above.

7. Are you married?

Not anymore!

8. Do you have kids – how many, how old?

No, none that are mine. Do puppies count?

Can you share a poignant or funny “being a woman in man’s world” story with us?

This should be an audio file. I was on a liquor shoot and every night at dinner our client would ask me “Why are you not married? A girl like you should get married.” This would not have been a problem if he did not have a few too many every night, forget he badgered me about my marital decisions the night before at dinner and go at it again the next night. It was like a drunken marital groundhog day inquisition. But hey he was the client.

10. What’s the biggest challenge in balancing your professional and personal life?

Not bringing home the boss.

11. If you could have a do-over, what career would you pick for yourself?

I would own a comic book store.

12. We all hope to retire some day. What do you want to do in retirement/where would you live?

I want to live in somewhere in South America or Mexico. Because my money will go longer in the form of a peso and lord knows there will be no SS when I’m ready to retire. And I want to slow down, do something less controversial, maybe go into politics.

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