Q&A With Nick Yellen, Producing Dept., New York Film Academy

May 27, 2014

Nick Yellen Co-Chair of NYFA's Producing DepartmentQ: What are some lessons to learn in order to become a successful producer?

NY: Realizing that this isn’t a 9 to 5 job: it is not a hobby, but an actual lifestyle. You are a producer 24/7. Learning to produce is learning how to effectively manage your time and your talents, networking with others, and seeking out and finding great material, along with having an unyielding passion to see it through to a final production. Oh, and not taking no for an answer. You cannot personalize rejection. No just means that you have to find another route towards accomplishing your goals as a producer. The yesses are out there too.

Q: How do I get the most out of my program at NYFA?

NY: NYFA’s producing program offers one of the finest educations for future producers, agents, managers, and execs, providing skills for any career requiring strong project management and leadership ability. We offer a very intense program where one can develop an abundance of career building abilities in order to start working immediately in the field. An uncommonly high percentage of our graduates are employed at production companies, agencies, or producing their own features shortly after graduation. Students who show up, put in the hard work, make the effort and apply the necessary discipline come out with a proficiency that enables them to work in this industry soon after graduation.

Q: Can I really make a living in this field?

NY: Without a doubt you can. Recent graduates are working in production capacities all over the globe. With the right work ethic and attitude our education introduces and hones the skill sets needed for a lengthy career in production.

Q: Will my faculty be comprised of people who only teach or will I be able to study with working professional producers?

NY: The entire producing faculty is comprised of teachers made up of working entertainment professionals, active in the business and practicing what they preach.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?

NY: Respect. Be good to everyone you encounter on the job. This is an industry where hard work is rewarded often—and very quickly. The P.A being bossed around on the set to get coffee is tomorrow’s producer. That assistant taking notes in a meeting is tomorrow’s studio executive. In fact, one friend went from an assistant at a production company to Chairwoman of a major studio in less than five years. This is an industry filled with so many immeasurably talented, hard working, and bright people that the talented and disciplined ones often advance at unheard of speeds.

Obviously talent is imperative and knowledge is essential, but there will always be that human/social component of whom you’ve met and whom you know that factors greatly into success. It always boils down to basic fundamental human dynamics: people want to work with people they like and trust. It would be a crime to squander a great film or TV business opportunity due to dismissive or poor treatment of another person. The “industry” is like an elephant—a memory that never forgets.

You just don’t have the luxury to treat people poorly in this business if you want to succeed in it. It really does come back to that axiom your mother instilled in you about treating others the way you yourself would like to be treated. Work hard, learn everything you can, meet everyone you can, treat them with respect, and opportunities for success are yours to make.

Q: How do I get the most out of my program at NYFA?

NY: They say that half of success is just showing up. Now I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Showing up and paying close attention go hand in hand. Here at NYFA, you are rewarded by what you put into the program. If you attend classes and pay attention, apply what you learn and treat your career with the respect it deserves, you are one step ahead of your competition on the road to your success in this business.

Q: What are some of the lessons one needs to learn in becoming a successful producer?

NY: There are so many lessons—life lessons and industry lessons. But keep in mind that people don’t often realize how much punctuality along with their professionalism are make-it-or-break-it qualities for young producers. Being on time in this business is crucial. In fact, the definition of on time in this field is showing up 15 minutes early. Being on time shows respect for your employers, your coworkers, and demonstrates your own work ethic. It shows that you respect yourself. This is a field compromised of very talented people vying for opportunities. If you show that you are not taking your opportunity seriously you will find yourself coming into work to meet your replacement. Listen carefully to those who are engaged in doing what you plan to do. Ask questions. Get it right. Be responsible, dependable, and give 110% and your responsibilities will grow as others learn to delegate more and more important work to you.

Q: Which pieces of equipment do you find most effective in your field?

NY: Lol. Your cell phone. Truthfully. A producer seems to live on the phone. A smart phone is the most valuable tool a producer has—it’s the office in his pocket and his trusted assistant who provides information and takes messages. It will allow the producer to be in constant contact with talent, crew, staff, negotiators, execs, agents, managers, buyers, etc. We’re always out and about, we need to be in contact and easily reachable to those with whom we work.

Q: What are the essential first steps to breaking into this field after completing a program at NYFA?

NY: Putting yourself into an environment where everyone you deal with all day is part of this business while rapidly expanding your network of contacts. No matter if it’s a P.A job on a film set, or an assistant position at a new or an established company, your first job is your launching pad to future success. Keep your eyes and ears open, do your job well and meet people—treating high and low with courtesy—and the next step up in your career is right around the corner.