Danny Owens takes joy in creating structure around a creative vision, bringing crews (& people) together to reverse engineer briefs and bring ideas to life.
Danny Owens is a Creative Producer & Photographer in Los Angeles. After 3.5 years as a producer at Squarespace, Danny is moving to advertising agency @The Many in October; and is open for select freelance projects.
Mon: What’s up man? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Danny: Hey Hi Hello! I’m Danny, a Creative Producer by way of being a Photographer, and someone who’s just trying to spend the hours we have to work in a way that is an experience in itself!
Mon: How did you get into production? If I recall right you’ve always been a creative person and maybe drifted that way from photography?
Danny: Ya you’re right! I’d say from an early age I felt creativity come naturally in some way or the other, I was constantly enrolled in art classes or music classes as a kid, and thankfully that drive for creativity led to a creative career.
My early 20’s were entirely focused on becoming a photographer, and I found some success, but started realizing that I was a very small fish in a very big pond and photography wouldn’t necessarily pay my bills. I’d always been interested in the larger picture, and was fascinated by how larger productions (including films) were made. I had a stint as a project manager at Shutterstock Custom which I think constitutes my first open door into the advertising world.
Danny: Coming from being a photographer, I wanted to keep being a part of storytelling, and in turn, content creation. I slowly started making the transition from being primarily a photographer while I was living in Portland, to something else... I jumped on a few PA gigs, started looking for new opportunities, and eventually found one at Urban Outfitters HQ. It was at UO that my eyes really started being opened to how larger companies execute creative at scale. In a stroke of luck I landed a role working on the in-house creative production team at Squarespace where I can truly say I’ve done some of my favorite work. Starting out as a production coordinator; picking up coffee for the crew, painting studio flats, and doing everything in-between. Over the past 3.5 years I was given some amazing opportunities; including being charged with installing 40 feet of confetti on their NYC headquarters, leading the refresh of social media content, producing the campaign launch for a new market in Germany, and many others! All of which led up to the ladder to where I am now as an integrated producer.
Mon: What excites you about doing creative production at the moment? And where do you see the industry as a whole going in the future?
Danny: At Least with where I’ve been working, I’ve loved the ability to produce social first content. Storytelling is what started me on the creative path, and I’m really excited that it’s still something I get to do.
I truly think more and more brand dollars will keep being redirected to social media content, and even larger & more innovative campaigns focused on social media will start taking center stage.
Mon: Covid seems like it would be a living hell for all things filming, how did you guys manage in the pandemic?
Danny: Ya covid really changed the entire game when it comes to producing at any scale. Moving forward safety has to be a producer's focus, for the safety of everyone involved it can’t be left to the last minute.
But with that, covid safety makes EVERYTHING harder. Whether it's PPE, testing, distancing..it all costs more money and makes everything more time consuming. We all had to adjust how we approached shoots, which changed the overall flow of a shoot. However at this point what was once shocking and new, has essentially become the normalized approach.
I’ve also had to find creative ways on a few occasions to keep productions moving even if physically being on set wasn't possible. We sent cameras + gear to talent or simply opted for recording a zoom call and putting more effort into making it shine in post.
End of the day, we’re all in this together and that's really apparent when you’re on set with a crew that's all choosing to respect each other's safety so they can keep on creating through this.
Mon: You’ve lived in a bunch of places on the East and West coast, do you find big distinctions between the creative industries there? Or are they essentially the same?
Danny: I think I really saw the difference when going from NYC back to the west coast in LA. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though! The west coast injects such a different creative approach, and new ideas, which has been really cool to see!
Of course I think I got bit by the New York hustle bug while I lived there, so I’m having to learn to work at a chiller pace...and I might or might not have surfed during a couple lunch breaks now.
Mon: I think the talent of ‘vision’ is something creative producers always seem to have, would you agree? Or do you prefer to let the process reveal the end result?
Danny: I don’t know if you’d get any Producer to tell you they like to let the process reveal the result...we’re all pretty type A and are control freaks..
I do think one of the most important skills in a producer tool chest is structural vision, or another way to describe it, is the ability to reverse engineer what the creatives are asking for.
I absolutely get a thrill when I’m able to take a concept or a brief and figure out every miniscule part that will need to be put in place to bring whatever it is to life! Maybe it’s nerdy, but sending out a call sheet the day before the shoot after months of prep is one of the best feelings I get to experience in my job.
It’s super fulfilling to be the person who builds the blueprint and crafts the structure around the creative vision, and then help it play out.
Mon: Production often brings together a bunch of creative individuals onto one project, is this a part of the job you enjoy?
Danny: Bringing crews (& people) together is actually my favorite part of the job. I see it as a privilege that people will let me lead them on a project, or join a crew that I put together for a project they usually have no background on.
I also get to lean on so many people that are experts in areas that I wouldn’t even know where to start. I might have reviewed dozens of gear lists at this point, but if anyone asked me to set it all up, I’d be useless..
As I keep moving forward in my career, i’m at a really awesome point where I’ve started working with the same people on various projects. I get to see them grow in their careers, and I also get to help them along with work that makes their growth possible. So ya, it’s definitely a part of the job I enjoy. :)
Mon: Is finding the right freelancer or contractor for each project something you find difficult? Or does it come with ease once you have a few contacts?
Danny: I was lucky enough to start in production under the tutelage of awesome seasoned producers that helped me grow my rolodex from the start, and now it’s become a game of dominos. Whenever someone is already booked out, they’re usually more than happy to reco someone else.
I’ve always said it's who you know who counts, so it’s super important to leave a good impression on them. That's true with both sides of the coin in my case. I’m the one picking who to hire so I’m going to remember if someone let me down during a shoot. Or in reverse, I have to be a fair and gracious producer or no one will refer their friends my way if they didn’t like working with me.
Mon: The idea of organizing so many moving parts in a project honestly terrifies me… Are there any key tools or methods you use to keep on top of everything?
Danny: Ya, i think you have to be kinda crazy to take pleasure in it, so I guess I’m crazy because I find it thrilling.
At the very minimum, I’d say you just have to be comfortable living in spreadsheets, docs, calendars, budgets, etc…
It’s also a muscle like anything else, the more you do it and the more you’re under pressure and find solutions, the better at keeping multiple balls in the air you’ll be.
Mon: Any cool places you’ve travelled to lately for shoots or any cool projects coming up?
Danny: I just produced a campaign in Berlin which was rad! We didn’t have a ton of time to take it all in, but I got my fill of post-war bunkers and sausages with the time we did have! We got absolutely poured on during one of our shoot days, but ended up pulling it off!
After months on this project I still can’t pronounce the copy lines in our spot tho.. As for future projects, after 3.5 years at Squarespace I just accepted a Producer role on the agency side at The Many that I’m really stoked to begin!
Mon: Any other producers or artists you’ve been digging recently that we should check out?
Danny: I’ve never found a lot of producers that share BTS content from their production POV...though I wish there were some out there! I admire so many of the creatives I’ve been working with lately. I recently worked with some amazing folks that I highly recommend: Wardrobe: Amiee Byrne Set Designer: Dureen Truong Prop Stylist: Samantha Margherita Photographer: Tracy Nguyen DP: Olivia Aquilina
Mon: Has the West coast seduced you yet? Or is it still New York forever baby? (haha)
Danny: I LOVE NYC! But I think my heart always belonged on the west coast, I was born out here in Palm Springs so this side of the country is in my blood. I have really felt a different type of satisfaction and joy from living in LA, and I don’t think I could give that up any time soon.
Mon: Plans for the fall?
Danny: Honestly I’m really hoping I’m able to slow down this fall and really soak up the holiday season..also I have so much wedding planning to finish that I need all the down time possible! That being said, I’m sure I’ll cram in some flea markets, movies at Hollywood Forever, and try out some of the new Michelin restaurants in LA!
Mon: New York Katz deli sandwich or In-N-Out?
Danny: This is where California decides to kick me back out to New York….but I gotta go with Katz! I grew up on In-N-Out and it’s got a special place in my heart, but not gonna lie I hardly go because the lines are always too gnarly. There’s also such a nostalgic vibe to late nights at Katz after drinking too much at bars in LES that I can’t get over.
Mon: Congrats on getting hitched mate
Danny: Appreciate you, love ya dude!
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