Jannis Birsner on his journey to becoming a Producer

(Featured image MYKKI BLANCO – “HIGH SCHOOL NEVER ENDS” FEAT. WOODKID DIRECTED BY MATT LAMBERT)

We caught up with Jannis Birsner, a Berlin-based Producer working at Iconoclast, specialising in music videos, content, art and fashion. Jannis has worked with some of industry’s most established brands and collaborators including Nike, Kendrick Lamar, Mykki Blanco, Givenchy, MCM, 032c, Stefano Pilati, Vogue, Arte and Rimowa.

How did you become a Producer?

I literally had no idea what that job tittle entailed when I was asked to work the first time on a film production.

Vincent Haycock was in Berlin filming a chapter for his Calvin Harris Music Video “Let’s Go”. I was working as barkeeper back then and knew the city’s bar and club landscape by heart. The guy I was dating back then (who is my husband now) was a friend of Vincent. I was asked to share my knowledge as he wanted someone who had a real relationship to the city. Because it was a music video I became the location manager too, of course, I broke loads of laws, not knowing what I was doing yet. But it was fun, despite all the nervous breakdown I’ve caused and had myself. I also don’t have a drivers license and scouted everything by bike with the help of google maps, which didn’t ease the stress but I’ve learnt what a location scout does along the way.

Vince was happy with what we’ve got and came back a while again for another music video, for the band Spiritualised and their track “Hey Little Girl”, I scouted again finding a whole derelict city as backdrop and we shot there.

After that I’ve continued working on low budget music videos with my then-boyfriend (now husband) who was a director at Stink Berlin.

How would you define your role as a Producer and what does “production” mean to you?

As I just was thrown into that role and kinda just did it learning by doing, or more like learning by failing I have my very own definition of what my role as producer is. I did get mentored in production skills by two amazing managing directors I’ve worked for, Christiane Dressler at Radical Media (now at Anorak) and Nils Schwemer at Iconoclast. I usually was the most inexperienced producer at the company’s I was at, which became an advantage as I’ve got the smaller projects with more creative freedom and less risk for the company as not much money was to be made, but these gave me the chance to experience freely and find my own way to work rather to being taught how things need to run and go the normal way of becoming a Producer, like working as a PA, PM etc. Which I did for like a hot second.

And I recognised the way most commercial productions worked wasn’t a way I felt comfortable with and didn’t allow for the pieces of work I wanted to make in the way I thought they are supposed to be done. A Production entails everything related to a project, but I don’t like to make it feel too much like a typical production or a film set.

I work with a lot of non-actors, street cast and artists, often they are allowing for being filmed in very vulnerable moments giving a lot to the pieces we make, therefore I don’t need to intimidate them with unnecessary stress of an army camp. As to my role as Producer I need to make sure the creative is the best it can be, everyone feels respected and comfortable throughout the production, because I do think the process of making something must be as good as the Product and for god sakes have flowers on set.

EVVOL – “RELEASE ME” – DIRECTED BY JULIE CHANCE & MATT LAMBERT 

In your opinion, what is the difference between a “Producer” and a “Creative Producer”?

In my opinion, there isn’t any. But every project demands a different kind of producer, some directors want someone who is merely facilitating and some want a partner in creativity. I’ve also produced events, still shoots and art projects and with each my role was re-defined. Every part of the team should be valued, for example: I had runners on set becoming a hugely valuable asset to the production just because of they great energy they put out. It doesn’t matter which role a crew member has in production, put your best energy out and the project will become better. Of course not every set allows that, but with more experience you can anticipate better which project will be a positive memory and which one just a drag. Every project I’m really proud of had good energy on set, I think you can see that in the final product.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to become a Producer?

“And lastly, the work we made and the people you make it with should reflect the world you want to live in. Whilst inclusivity in front of the camera is important, it’s equally important behind the camera.”

There are as many ways of producing as there are producers, there are no dogmas. As with everything in life, honesty, modesty and love make everything better and try to avoid plastic on set, it’s harmful and ugly. And lastly, the work we make and the people you make it with should reflect the world you want to live in. Whilst inclusivity in front of the camera is important, it’s equally important behind the camera.

To learn more about Jannis Birsner you can visit his website here.

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