This post was written by Jessica Pearce.

I still remember Luke Goodall and Marc Gallagher (creators of The Followers) standing in front of me excitedly explaining the final climax from their current draft script. The Followers is a comedy mockumentary series involving a cult, a murder, changing timelines, filming regionally, burning a life-size effigy, a police raid, gunshots, and the biggest risk of all; a group of comedians with free rein to improvise.

I loved it! All of it but all I could think was … we don’t have the money or time.

Producers get a namesake for being the one who always says, "No!" I am here to tell you that we don’t like it any more than you. I know, I know … ”poor producers.”

Historically, the roles of producer and director (who is also normally the writer these days) have been standing across a divide. This divide can appear in one of two ways:

The producer holds the money and dictates what can be done and how, while the director tears their hair out crying themselves to sleep over the lost vision.

Alternatively, the director has complete freedom and the producer finishes the project looking 20 years older through lack of sleep and now has a parade of cast and crew whom they owe a myriad of favors.

Essentially, neither of these models works for anyone.

The FollowersOne Curious Cat Pty Ltd

I definitely have had those dynamics on some of my past projects. The good news is it does not need to be that way. Over my 10 years of producing, I have learned some pretty hard lessons. One of the biggest is defining the relationship between the Producer and the Director from the outset.

Why am I talking about this now? Because when it does work—It works well. That is exactly what Luke, Marc, and I found on The Followers. Our approach to the producer/director relationship allowed our individual work and the project as a whole to be as creative and fun as it could be for everyone involved.

There is a term I like to use for improvised content—"sandboxing." This is where we create a space with clearly defined parameters for people to play, experiment, and improvise. As long as the ideas team are within this sandbox—go nuts. This is how I created and produced Dee-Brief and this is what I recreated with The Followers.

In my opinion, the success of sandboxing all comes down to three things: collaboration, curiosity, and trust.

The FollowersOne Curious Cat Pty Ltd


As producer and story producer, I was fortunate enough to be involved in The Followers from a very early stage. So this meant that we were able to create a working relationship based on some pretty clear understandings;

  • We were all incredibly good at what we did in our respective fields
  • We all had something to teach each other
  • We all wanted to make the best web series possible.

Now back to the big pitch; the goat, the fire … as I said, I loved it. But animal wranglers, safety supervisors, stunt performers, extras … how could we pull it off within our budget?

The fact is we just didn’t have the budget or time. So the collaboration began. I explained my concerns and asked as many questions as I could about what these elements brought to the story. We were then able to workshop different ways we could achieve the narrative and visual beats that Goodall & Gallagher had hoped for their big scene.

I am incredibly proud that everyone who worked on The Followers has said it was one of their most relaxed and joyful sets. Problems definitely popped up along the way with … well … everything and anything that can go wrong on a shoot. However, problem-solving was never an issue because Luke, Marc, and I were a team, and any time something unexpected arose, whether it was creative- or production-related, it was a team effort to collaborate on the solution.

The FollowersOne Curious Cat Pty Ltd


No, this isn’t a shameless plug for my company One Curious Cat (ok maybe it is) but curiosity is so important when we collaborate. That big divide I mentioned is so often because the communication between the Producer and the Director has broken down and assumptions are being made. When we are curious it completely changes how we behave and think. Either about why decisions are being made or different points of view on how we can address them.

Let's say a director enters the room and asks for a costly and seemingly extravagant item. As a producer, your initial thought might be that you don't have the budget or time to accommodate such a request. It's easiest to simply say no and move on, isn't it?

Instead, let them know you don’t think we have the budget and try to understand why they need it. If you try and understand the outcome you can discuss alternate ways of getting there. This can be easier said than done when we are all tired but if you can make the time to slow down and understand … the producer and director relationship and, subsequently the project, will be for the better.

The FollowersOne Curious Cat Pty Ltd


This is the big one. Among all that collaboration and curiosity, you have to trust. Sometimes you may not understand or know if something will work but you have to trust in your choice of creative partner.

For me? I had never done this level of improvisation combined with such a high-concept production along with mixed format and "run and gun." Goodall and Gallagher are pros at making high-concept lowbrow viral content for online. There were many times when I would look at the schedule and say “I don’t see how." When we could, Luke and Marc would take the time to explain—however, there were always points where I would have to simply trust.

Trust their experience, their judgment, and their respect for me and the project. Because we were a team—I always knew that any issues would be solved together.

So just that easy, right? Build a working relationship founded on trust, communication, and curiosity.

I have always followed the adage that the producer and director relationship can be like dating. You need to find someone who speaks your language. Someone you can be clear with about how you want the relationship to work. Someone who listens and communicates.

So when you need to produce a project (and especially a low-budget series with fire, gunshots, raids, and improvised comedy) … you know you are on the same team.

Now I am happy to say that we made that happen alongside a whole lot of improvisation. Unfortunately, the goat had to be sacrificed.

Watch the full series here.

Goodall and Gallagher on social media: