Answering the #FridayFive today is Arianna Perretta, Senior Producer & LatAm Lead at Collective Media Group.
Tell us a bit about your job?
In short; my job is to tell engaging stories with integrity and creativity. It all starts with an idea – a book, an online article or a concept I’d like to attach specific talent to. You then start questioning your idea to see if it’s feasible. Will the people involved talk? Why would people care to hear about this story? What does this story tell you about society or a particular historical era? Does the format work? Once you’re sure that your idea has legs, you start securing all the relevant access, which is the trickiest part, to then take the project to broadcasters. If the project goes into production, then I supervise creatively it in its entirety: pre-production, production and post-production.
What are the key ingredients for success?
After 13 years in this industry, I’d say that the key attributes to be a good documentary producer are emotional intelligence, a keen interest in people and persistence. As a Producer or a Director, your main job is to get the best out of the people who work with you on a shoot – not only the interviewees on camera, but also the crew. To give you some perspective, a project might take 6-9 months to make, including pre- and post-production, but you may only get 5 shoot days with your key talent. That’s why having them on board and making sure they feel comfortable on camera is key. Persistence is crucial – if you don’t believe in your idea and aren’t determined to get it over the line, there’s a good chance someone else will. It’s an extremely competitive industry, so you need to be very persuasive and get to the best stories as fast as you can.
Could you describe a normal day?
If I’m on location, my whole day will be dedicated to the shoot – from the logistics to the creative side of things, to the interview content. While in the office, my days can change. I have lots of daily meetings and conversations with talent agents, and I spend a good chunk of time researching stories or tracking down the people who are the main protagonists of these stories to discuss their involvement in documentaries. Brainstorming and discussing ideas with my colleagues is crucial – more brains are always better than one – and it’s very good to have input and constructive criticism from those you respect creatively. I also write lots of proposals to send to broadcasters and try to think of what the next big format could be.
For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?
I think there is no ‘right’ way to make it in this industry, as often there isn’t a clear professional trajectory, and most people are freelancers for their whole career. I was lucky enough to start many years pre-Covid, where we could spend lots more time in the office and network with executive producers and the directors we wanted to work with to secure our upcoming gigs.
My advice is to try and work on shows that you love, even if sometimes being a freelancer means you just have to take a job. Because when you like doing something, you give it your best. I would say that being strategic about who you reach out to for work and capitalising on your assets is key. I speak five languages, and this allowed me to do lots of travel and location jobs – although, you also don’t want to be pigeon holed into just doing ‘location’ jobs, which can happen in TV.
What are you watching and listening to right now?
At the moment I am listening to an amazing podcast called Praia dos Ossos, which tells the story of a Brazilian socialite who was murdered in the late 70s. It’s not just a true crime story, but it gives insight as to how women were perceived, how they lived and died in Brazil at the time. I am watching The Traitors. It’s such a brilliant concept for a competition show.