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Meet Your Makers: The Importance of Real Life Connections with Guin Frehling


One Thousand Birds’ executive producer on being thrown into the deep end, meeting fascinating personalities and how to develop your own point of view

Meet Your Makers: The Importance of Real Life Connections with Guin Frehling

Guin Frehling has been executive producer at One Thousand Birds’ LA studio since 2020. Raised in the mountains of Sun Valley, Idaho, Guin has long been fascinated with sound and the power it has to elevate storytelling and to make our world more interesting and meaningful. With over 12 years of experience spanning between NYC/LA, Guin has creatively produced sound and music for a wide array of mediums, including award-winning commercials, feature films, episodic series, music videos, interactive, and experiential events. (Oh, and it’s pronounced \ˈgwi-n\ - just in case you were wondering).

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

Guin> I fell into it somewhat hap-hazardously. In college when I became more aware of my working style and the type of environment I’m drawn to, I had a strong inclination towards music or a music adjacent field. I didn’t know at the time exactly what shape that would take, but I liked the idea of working at the intersection of creativity and project management.

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?

Guin> I had been trying to figure out where that intersection existed, and I found an internship with a pretty prominent commercial music and sound design company in New York City. Right away, something about the internship clicked; I came in without ego or expectations and was game for anything. Pretty quickly after it ended, I was hired as an assistant producer at the same company. I went in full force and had to grow and evolve, and the rest is history.

LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?

Guin> By being thrown into the deep end, asking truly all of the questions, making mistakes and being resilient, and leaning on the people around me as sounding boards. In the early years, it was not only learning the practical skills of people and project management, but also honing my taste and developing confidence in my conviction. I still feel like I'm learning every day.

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?

Guin> We were working on a campaign for a large global beverage company as a really small team, and at the time I had never led creative to the degree that I eventually ended up doing. It just so happened that during this project, our creative director was on vacation; then our EP had a family emergency and had to dip out while the project was heading into murky territory. I was basically left alone to navigate the outward-facing clients, as well as coordinate an entire internal creative team with very hazy direction. I had to call in a lot of favours; it was a lot of pressure but super rewarding, and then in the end the job was killed.

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?

Guin> Being a good producer versus being good at producing is having an in-depth understanding of the project as well as the processes behind how it’s made, so that on an internal level you know what’s reasonable and what isn’t, and how to say no or offer out of the box creative suggestions. A good producer can and should bring their creative perspective to the project, which inherently requires a holistic understanding of what it is they're producing and why.

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

Guin> One of my favourite things about producing is that it's a platform to continue learning and meeting many people. Personalities are really fascinating to me — it’s interesting to be exposed to a lot of different ones, and they make every project unique.

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

Guin> On a practical level, Slack has changed so much about my day-to-day. I honestly don't know how we functioned without it for so long. On a more existential level, I’ve seen a departure from the old “always available” mentality; earlier in my career, it was kind of a faux pas to show any sort of fragility in terms of bandwidth, particularly being on the vendor side, and it’s only recently that I’ve felt a transition away from environments where there was an undercurrent of ego. In various phases of my career, I was made to feel either like the token woman in the room, or “den mother”, or like part of a “guys’ club.” It was really rare that I had opportunities to work with women creatives on the audio side. At this point, my career path has bent away from environments that feel gendered and hierarchical.

LBB> And what has stayed the same?

Guin> There's still the importance of making real life connections, growing your interpersonal and professional community, and putting faces to names. As technology and the shape of modern work evolves, there will always be value in getting out from behind the computer screen and remembering that you work with actual people.

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

Guin> A few projects that I've been deeply involved in on both the producing and creative sides have taken home top advertising awards, and I know it's not always about that sort of validation, but there is something nice about an ad getting traction instead of becoming another piece of disposable media. It’s rewarding when something you work on is recognised as a powerhouse collaboration.


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

Guin> We worked on a feature called Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe that premiered this past year. It was a big undertaking in a short timeline, and it was my first union production. We had to be laser focused; there was no room for air, and we ultimately pulled off a super impressive feat given the resources and time that we had. I was extremely proud of our team for rolling with the punches and being efficient, stellar collaborators. It really was producer and creative hand-in-hand to see the film through to the finish line, and the end product is something that we were really proud of. After a chaotic month and a half.

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

Guin> I want to continue seeking out projects I love and being intentional about who I work with. I want my working environment to be a place where we empower everyone to be the best, unique versions of themselves. Operating with an all-hands-on-deck framework, you understand that we're all humans and within this ecosystem, hearing others and supporting them is the best way forward.

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

Guin> It’s important for me to have physical separation between work mode and off mode. One Thousand Birds really encourages a good work-life balance so I feel empowered to disconnect during off time. I appreciate that push against maintaining the illusion of being “on,” and replacing that with clear boundaries. I recognise that there will always be more on the to-do list (as soon as you check one thing off, five more things are added), but the best service I can give myself is prioritising breaks to refresh. I like to veg out and watch a good movie (or reality TV, no shame), eat good food, and listen to music. Sometimes just truly turning your brain off is extremely rewarding.

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

Guin> I remember early on in my career, I was getting frustrated with someone not communicating well on the other side of the project, and one of my colleagues said, “When you're working with a not-great producer, that's when you have to be the best producer.” They were right, because your job becomes harder as you navigate and preempt all the possible variables that someone else might miss. That really resonated with me. I’m interested in how people operate and all the different personalities we encounter, and this is a good industry to be in if you are fascinated by people.

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

Guin> Take time to figure out what you are interested in. Develop your own point of view and inject it into your producing process, wherever the opportunity. You don't just have to be a person copy-pasting, forwarding, relaying information between parties. You're just as much a part of the team as anybody else involved.

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

Guin> So much of sound in particular is establishing a world that you can't necessarily articulate before you hear it, so my favourite producer-client relationships occur when we’re being picked for our unique point of view, and there’s real trust on the client side. Instead of making us write a five paragraph essay on how we think the sound should be in this commercial — just let us take a pass at it.

LBB> One specifically for EPs: Producers are naturally hands on - they have to be. How do you balance that in the more managerial role of an EP?

Guin> I like the combination of the two. It works for me because I am naturally hands on, but I think that switching gears and knowing when to go into the more hands off role is still a challenge just given the nature of my current position. It’s a small operation where I wear many hats.


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One Thousand Birds, Thu, 26 Jan 2023 17:04:29 GMT