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Meet Your Makers: Andrew Stokes on Leading with Curiosity and Empathy


Makers producer on learning from great producers, why everyday is a new challenge and his love of reality TV

Meet Your Makers: Andrew Stokes on Leading with Curiosity and Empathy

Andrew joined Makers in 2021 and leads productions for clients including PepsiCo and Canada Goose, among others. As a producer, he has extensive experience in a variety of industries and disciplines including commercial production, experiential, branded social content, OOH, large format print, digital advertising, story producing, post production, reality TV, and both live and virtual events. 

LBB> What first attracted you to production - and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?

Andrew> I always knew I wanted to be in production. Even in high school, I knew I wanted to be in film or any type of production in general. After graduating from high school, I attended a college program in Radio & Television Arts. There were only 30 of us and I was the youngest in my class. I graduated from college at age 20 and then started my production career right away. 

I’ve loved TV - especially reality TV - from as far back as I can remember. Instead of thinking I wanted to be on a show, I wanted to learn how the show comes to life and what goes on behind the scenes. I’m generally a curious person, always learning about new technology and trends within the industry. It’s that innate curiosity that ultimately led me to production and to Makers. 

LBB> What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career?

Andrew> I started out as a production assistant in reality TV. I got an internship with 'So You Think You Can Dance Canada' when the show was at its peak. Starting at that level has shaped me into the producer I am today. I pride myself on leading with empathy, caring about the crew, and everyone who touches the project. PAs are so important and I know that from being one and then working my way up from PA to coordinator to casting assistant, then associate producer, and now producer. I feel fortunate to have that experience; that understanding and empathy allows me to coach other producers and help them grow in their careers so they can get where they want to go. 

LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?

Andrew> By watching and learning from other great producers. That’s what makes a good producer - getting exposure to people you look up to. There are people I look up to you who I’ve worked with earlier in my career and now work with at Makers, like Roma Ahi. She saw something in me, took me under her wing and pushed me forward. I learned a lot by taking every job I could possibly get at every level. Working on as many types of projects as I possibly could taught me how to be a producer in different mediums. 

I’ve always sought advice and took accountability when I was wrong so that I can learn from mistakes and take them into consideration on my next challenge. Everyone makes mistakes, and owning up to them, learning from them and taking accountability makes you that much stronger. 

LBB> Looking back to the beginning of your career, can you tell us about a production you were involved in where you really had to dig deep and that really helped you to grow as a producer?

Andrew> My time in experiential advertising and events taught me how to deal with unpredictable situations and how to pivot on the spot. One project was a Pride campaign that involved me going to every Pride festival across the country. You meet many types of people and work in many different environments. That experience really helped me grow as a producer. The skills I learned in experiential and events were instrumental and transferable as I made my way into content and broadcast. 

LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital experience. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?

Andrew> It makes you a strong producer, but there are a lot of great producers out there who focus on one medium. Personally I strive to be able to produce in any medium. But I totally understand, respect and value producers who choose to specialise in one medium. Working across different media gives you more experience, and the more experience you can get as a producer, the more value you can add to any given job. Some producers want to be a generalist and others want to be a specialist, and either one can be a good option.


LBB> What’s your favourite thing about production and why?

Andrew> It’s never the same twice. Every job I do is completely different and I love that about it. There’s no repetition. There’s a new challenge every single day. You wake up and have no idea what you’re in for. It’s amazing being able to collaborate and work with such creative, talented people. I get so much excitement and joy about bringing a concept on a page to a full blown physical end product. 

LBB> How has production changed since you started your career?

Andrew> It has changed significantly. Technology even in the last 10 years has catapulted production drastically. The culture in general has also changed recently. When I first started it was very much all about hustle culture. People are starting to care about the wellbeing of production personnel. That’s huge. It’s something I carry with me through every job and something that Makers has made a priority for its people at all levels. 

LBB> And what has stayed the same?

Andrew> The passion that people put into production. That’s what I love about production, there are so many people that work on every production. Everybody is working toward the same goal and has the same amount of heart. That hasn’t changed. People still have that drive. 

You still need those people to pull off production even with advances in technology. There are way too many variables that you need to understand as a human in order to pull off a production. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to automate production fully. 

LBB> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer - and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?

Andrew> Being curious. Asking the right questions. 

There are so many different ways to be an effective producer. For me I strive to understand the people I’m working with as people and the brand that I’m working with – what their goals are and what they’re really looking to achieve. I always try to ask the right questions and form collaborative, open, and empathetic relationships with production partners. 

LBB> Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?

Andrew> One I’m most proud of is story producing for TD Bank 'TD Thanks You.' It’s a yearly campaign that highlights local heroes that are doing positive things and making a positive impact on their communities. This project allowed me to travel in 2020 in the pandemic and really celebrate local heroes and surprise them with life-changing gifts from TD Bank. It was one of those projects that makes you feel really good about what you do. The reaction from these people who made such a big, positive difference in the community, when they got recognition, it was so special. In that time when the world was so dark, I felt so privileged to be working on a project that had so much light. 

LBB> And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?

Andrew> We recently produced Pepsi’s holiday TV spot, 'Melt For You' with The Studio at PepsiCo, two time Academy Award winning director Robert Stromberg, and The Mill. It tells the story of an adventurous snowman who risks everything to get his hands on a variety of tasty PepsiCo brands. It was such an incredible and collaborative process to bring these characters to life with such an insanely talented team. 

LBB> Producers always have the best stories. What’s the hairiest / most insane situation you’ve found yourself in and how did you work your way out of it?

Andrew> How much time do you have? I probably shouldn't put it in writing…

LBB> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?

Andrew> My ambition is endless. I want exposure to every type of new technology and ways to produce things as they evolve. I’m always looking towards the future and am not afraid of any challenge. 

LBB> As a producer your brain must have a neverending "to do" list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

Andrew> Finding balance is super important and looks different for everybody. For me I like to go all in on projects for months and then go all in on my time off. It’s non-traditional and I like to do it in time blocks throughout the year instead of the traditional 9 to 5. 

At the end of the day when I sign off from work, I meditate and get out of that head space. It’s important to take breaks and find a tool that helps you separate your work day from life, because we do work from home a lot. Mediation works for me. It’s almost like a mind reset. 

LBB> Producers are problem solvers. What personally fuels your curiosity and drive?

Andrew> Problems. I love problems. If there’s a fire, put me in it, I want to fight it. There’s always a solution, and that knowledge keeps me calm and collected. I always remind myself that we aren’t heart surgeons. At the end of the day, we have the luxury of producing art so there’s always a solution. 

LBB> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?

Andrew> Get exposure right away. Find a producer that inspires you and lean on them. A lot of producers I know want to help other people get to the producer level. Never be afraid to ask for help or advice. Producers by nature are the most helpful people you’ll ever know. Helping other people is in our blood. We want to lift each other up. 

LBB> From your experience what are the ingredients for a successful production?

Andrew> Collaboration and strong relationships. Once you have your team formed, moving as one cohesive unit from beginning to end will always result in landing on the same end goal that you’re all working towards. 

LBB> What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship?

Andrew> Strong communication, collaboration, and transparency. Sometimes having tough conversations is intimidating, but it’s important to have them early on in order to get ahead and solve problems together. 


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Makers, Fri, 09 Dec 2022 09:27:22 GMT