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Podcast – Naomi Cleaver on producing NBCUniversal’s La Brea in Victoria

Producer Naomi Cleaver reveals what it was like producing a huge studio sci-fi drama series in Australia and breaks down the production roles.

Production still from La Brea, birds fly overhead as people look up to the sky.

La Brea

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Naomi Cleaver Naomi Cleaver
Producer Naomi Cleaver says the call to work on sci-fi drama series La Brea for NBCUniversal was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity – and not just for her.

Filmed in Victoria during the pandemic, the series – about a huge sinkhole that opens up in Los Angeles and creates a portal to a primeval land – also gave Cleaver a chance to bring on board Australian crew.

“I was able to just say, look I've got these amazing creatives that I work with: Carrie Kennedy and Ben Morieson, who are just the most beautiful [production] designers… and they had also not done a job of this size. But then amazing DOPs Mark Wareham, and Damian Wyvill who I worked with on Oddball; editor Angie Higgins; [costume designer] Erin Roche; our locations department,” Cleaver says on the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast.

“A lot of the crew, some of them I had worked with since 1999 and they were people where I really went ‘actually, if I could choose my A-Team that I think could get through any job, it'd be this A-Team.”

Cleaver says she pitched her ‘A-Team’ to the production after meeting with the series showrunners - David Appelbaum, Bryan Wynbrandt, and Steven Lilien – who she immediately felt an affinity with.

“[I thought] ‘we're pretty similar in our in our morals and our ethics’, which is a weird thing to gauge a job on, but it is one of those things whereby if you're going to be working 80-90 hours a week, which is sort of what it is when you're doing a show of this size during a pandemic, you better make sure that you're liking the people that you're working with. It's like a family, in the best of times. And they were just great guys.”

It came down to having a huge amount of shared trust and open dialogue between everyone on set, between the studio and on-the-ground production, but because of that, Cleaver says, it worked.

“It was a very large show. I mean, I think there's only one other series in Victoria that was bigger and that was Steven Spielberg's Pacific so large-scale in terms of budget,” Cleaver says, adding that it was more than AUD$100 million for the 10-episode series. Matchbox Pictures provided the production services on the series.

It’s also been a huge success, with reportedly 47 million viewers watching the series in the US and a second – even more expensive – season commissioned by NBCUniversal.

In addition to her experience working on La Brea, Cleaver also talks to her career working in the production department and the different roles she has held – from production assistant, to production manager or ‘PM’, line producing and then producing – as well as the various types of producers you can get.

“There are lots of different producers,” Cleaver says, describing herself as the kind of producer who is a ‘gun for hire’ and on the ground with the day-to-day running of the production. “The reality is that to make anything, really, you want to collaborate with producers that have got a different skillset to you… that when you do collaborate makes for a much, much stronger team.”

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Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast. I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publications Screen News. To start with, I'd like to acknowledge the various countries we meet on, the unceded lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Screen Australia podcast has been produced on the lands of the Gadigal people of the larger Eora Nation. For context, in the past six years I've worked at Screen Australia on these lands and for more than seventy thousand years they have been cared for by First Nations Australians. I'm grateful to be a visitor on the lands of the Gadigal and pay my respects to elders past and present. Always was, always will be. For this episode of the Screen Australia podcast, we are joined by Naomi Cleaver, who most recently produced NBCUniversal's sci-fi drama television series La Brea, which you can watch on 9Now. This was the biggest television series to film in Victoria in more than a decade and has attracted huge audiences. Reportedly, more than forty-seven million viewers have watched it in the US on NBC and Peacock, and a second season also to film in Victoria has been commissioned. In La Brea, a huge sinkhole opens up in Los Angeles, creating a portal to a dangerous primeval land, and the series follows a family's survival after being separated in the disaster. Throughout the podcast, Naomi talks about producing a studio project of this size and being able to do so while remaining in Australia, as well as talking about the production department more generally, including how she worked across different roles and the responsibilities of each. For example, starting out as a production coordinator in a series like Farscape, moving to production manager on projects like Charlotte's Web and The Secret Life of Us, and then line producing on the likes of Hawke, Oddball, and the Mystery Road TV series. To stay up to date with the Screen Australia podcast, remember to click that subscribe button on places like Spotify or iTunes. Questions or feedback can be sent to [email protected] and for all the latest articles, funding announcements, videos and more, you can subscribe to Screen Australia's fortnightly newsletter. Now here's La Brea producer, Naomi Cleaver.

[00:02:22] Caris Bizzaca Could you tell me a little bit about your background in the industry and some of the projects that you've worked across?

[00:02:28] Naomi Cleaver I can indeed. So I was fortunate enough to go to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Western Australia. It wasn't the first place I went to university - first place I went to university was Curtin University, where my mum very much encouraged me to do a Bachelor of Science. That lasted for ooft, a good three months. I was doing environmental science and hit the subjects whereby we had to cut up cadavers, and that was sorting the wheat out from the chaff, so decided to pull out of that degree very rapidly and was living out of home. I was only seventeen, I was living out of home and knew that my mother would royally kill me if if I told her that I had left university without a plan and sat there and went, actually do you what, 'I've always really wanted to be a film producer.' Never really knowing what it was, never seeing that around me or anything like that, but just having this intense joy of sitting in a movie theatre, usually, unfortunately, when I wagged school and it had a massive, great big impression on me. So I [thought] right, at seventeen, this is what I'm going to do. How am I going to do this? I looked all over Australia and there was a course called Arts Management at the WA of Performing Arts, so I thought I might give that a crack. And they, at that stage, were only taking mature age students, around [the ages of] twenty, twenty-one. I thought okay, I'll have a grand master plan. I'll go in and I'll interview every year and just work doing odd jobs and all that stuff, and hopefully by the time I'm twenty, I get to go and then that'll be it. So I went in and interviewed  with the head of arts management (at that point, Bruce Finlayson, who's a wonderful man) and I wasn't nervous at all. It was almost like there was nothing for me to lose at that point because I didn't think there was anything to gain. And so I got in to do that course that year. It took me four years when it was only a three year course because I stuffed around a little bit, but that really set me up. I moved to the States very, very briefly between [19]95 and [19]96 and didn't work in the industry whatsoever, was really stuffing around and then moved back to Perth in [19]97 for family reasons, and thought I'd better get a job. And you know, pre-Google, I can vaguely remember getting out the Yellow Pages and got myself an agent who then proceeded to get me my first job. My first job was as a production coordinator on a kids TV series called The Gift, which had the wonderful Peter Rowsthorn and Kate Beahan and just a raft of incredibly talented kids. I was offered a job as a production coordinator like I said, but I did not know what that job was. At all. But as you do, if you get offered your first job in the industry, you take it and hope like hell that you can actually learn. So that's what I did. I started in this role. I didn't know the basics. I didn't know what a call-sheet was or anything like that, and also proceeded to, every single night read what was then the AFTRS production manual from cover to cover - wouldn't recommend this really as an entree into the industry. But that shepherded me in, so I was then lucky enough to get the next job in Perth and then the next job in Perth and all with Barron [Entertainment] television doing kids stuff, and then as what can happen at times, I thought that I would just continue then to work for years and it would just work perfectly. But on the horizon was not a script to be seen, so I packed up and moved to Melbourne in 1999, and within a couple of weeks was production coordinating here, so I was very fortunate to work with the likes of Simpson Le Mesurier on Stingers, and with John Edwards and Ross Allsop on The Secret Life of Us, and those jobs as a coordinator led me into production managing so coordinating big American jobs out of Sydney. I had one particular job [on a series] called Farscape. I was there for 12 months in 2001. It led to the producers looking at me and asking if I would be prepared to jump up and learn how to be a production manager. I actually thought that I was going to be fired, to be honest with you. It was really bizarre. I thought, 'oh my gosh, they're literally leaving it to the last week to fire me.' I was so terrified. And I did not think that I had the relevant experience to take on a job of that size. [It] really was the first big American TV series that I'd worked on. So [I] moved back to Melbourne and continue to co-ord[inate], and did such films as Visitors and Japanese Story, which was a great experience and then was offered my second PM (production managing) job. I thought at some stage I do have to say yes, so started production managing aroundabout by the end of 2001, beginning of 2002. And that has just naturally led to the steps of then going through and becoming a line producer. I first started line producing in 2010 on shows like Hawke and continued to line produce and co-produce with Richard Keddie over ten years. I went off and had children in between, but we then did Oddball together and we then did Ride Like a Girl, and then from that other opportunities come through to you. So I was fortunate enough to produce an Australian Chinese co-production originally called Dogfight and then renamed The Longest Shot, which was a fabulous experience, and did Mystery Road in Kimberleys with Greer Simpkin and David Jowsey with Bunya [Productions], which was just extraordinary, and then the beginning of 2021, I get a call about a tiny little job called La Brea.

[00:09:13] Caris Bizzaca Just a small thing from one of those small companies like NBCU.

[00:09:23] Naomi Cleaver Yeah, easy, little job.

[00:09:28] Caris Bizzaca Well we'll get to La Brea in just a minute, but I wanted to ask because you have gone through those different production roles and you said when you started out that you didn't really know what the production team was or what it involved. Could you go through those roles of coordinator, production manager, line producer, producer and explain what they are and what their kind of differences are?

[00:09:58] Naomi Cleaver I think there are fifty million ways to become a producer in reality, and there are as many types of producers. My whole inkling and ethos just for myself, which can be totally different for other people is I really wanted to learn the real physical aspects of filming from the inside out. I know that there's lots of people that come from commissioning editors and distribution and all that sort of stuff, which is amazing, but that that was always my thing. So starting out as a production coordinator - so a production coordinator really is the key hub person in the office. They are the conduit for the crew and what the crew requires, and they're also the person that is informing the cast as to what's going on, making sure that everyone's getting there on time. They are responsible for generating the call sheet every single day, so it is an incredibly pivotal role that really gets to deal with most of the departments, and I think that's the thing that I really liked. These days the production coordinator role a lot of times can be almost entirely office-based. But when I started out with Barron Entertainment, we would basically always have a backlot. Like the first show that we ever did, The Gift, was in a disused railway station, so that really did become our backlot, and the office was like an old railway building there. So it meant that I, as the coordinator, had lots and lots of face to face contact with all the crew with the requirements that we needed for filming. So that is a part that I've always really loved, I really love that interpersonal connection, and then when it comes to stepping into the hot seat of production manager, that's when you really do, that's when you are responsible for managing the budgets and making sure that everything is staying on track for schedules when everyone wants everything, as people will always want to do in the film industry. Every department fights  for the best, and you have to be that person that then decides what we can give and what you can't give because there's really no use in coming to the end of a production and realising you actually have no money whatsoever. It does become a position whereby you need to work out what the resources are, both human resources and equipment, that are required to make a certain show, for the for the vision of the producers and the writers and directors and the EPs and the distributor and commissioning editors. And then as a line producer, you are above the line for a start, so that's when that's when you really do start going into that producorial role. Depending on the show - Australian shows are vastly different from American studio shows. But that's really when you will be one of the first people on the show, and that that's where you really start taking it through til delivery for the most part. So you get to go through the development of the project, pre-production, shoot, all the way to post, all the way to delivery. And sometimes in Australia, it's when you're submitting to Screen Australia and your state bodies and all that sort of stuff. And if you're dealing with a studio there's a lot of contact with the studio executives, which we had fabulous studio executives with Universal Television on La Brea, your showrunners, your executive producers and you then are really the conduit between above the line as well. So above the line being your writers, directors, producers, EPs, key actors and your below the line, so that everyone is really working towards the same vision. And then stepping into it, producing the way I've done it wasn't that great a leap from line producing to producing. But I tend to do two different things. I've got my own company with my partner and a couple of other partners, so, we're constantly developing things. But because I do like to eat and feed my children, developing is although incredibly satisfying creatively, financially it's not quite the winner. That's why I'm very grateful to be able to also be the producer for hire/the gun for hire, which is where I do get to do these weird and wonderful projects like Dog Fight and La Brea, because I am a physical producer, I suppose. I don't have any IP in it whatsoever. It doesn't become my baby for the rest of my life - it stays in the hands of either the studio or other producers. I'm the one that then becomes the physical producer and making sure that--

[00:15:46] Caris Bizzaca --like on the ground, the day-to-day?

[00:15:48] Naomi Cleaver Yeah on the ground, exactly, that's the part that I really enjoy.

[00:15:55] Caris Bizzaca And like you said, there are different kinds of producers depending on what people enjoy. Some people might prefer being more of a creative producer and focusing more on that purely creative side. Some people might be more financial. Some people might really like being in the day-to-day. It kind of has different options, even though it's one label of producer.

[00:16:17] Naomi Cleaver Yeah, that's right, so it's always really fascinating when anyone says to me, 'oh, producer, what do you do?' Because I do generally preface it with, there are lots of different producers, and the reality is that to make something - to make anything, really - you want to collaborate with producers that have got a different skill set to you. I think gone are the days that there is one producer that does absolutely everything. We are specialising a little bit more and playing to our strengths. And so you end up collaborating with other producers that have got different strengths to you, that when you do collaborate makes for a much, much stronger team.

[00:17:08] Caris Bizzaca You did mention that little project, La Brea. Could you tell me a little bit about what La Brea is and how you got involved?

[00:17:21] Naomi Cleaver La Brea is a tiny, tiny little show (laughs) that was that we made during 2021.

[00:17:31] Caris Bizzaca We should also acknowledge to anyone that's listening that La Brea is huge, this is just pure sarcasm. It's massive.

[00:17:40] Naomi Cleaver It is pure sarcasm. It was a really large scale show, not only in the making and the producing and everything that went into it, but also actually in its success. It's had something like forty-three million views, in the States. All ten episodes have been shown. We finished filming the 21st of September and by the 28th of September the pilot went to air. It was and is a very successful show that is coming back for season two, which is fantastic. It was a very large show. I think there's only one other series in Victoria that was bigger and that was Steven Spielberg's Pacific. So large scale in terms of budget: this is all very common knowledge, but it was over one hundred million dollars Australian, which was for the full budget. It was ten episodes. It is the brainchild of a showrunner, a wonderful man called David Appelbaum, and it is a sci fi show that is about a massive sinkhole that opens up in the middle of Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard out the front of the La Brea tar pits, and it separates the family between these two worlds. So mother and son fall down the sinkhole, daughter and father are above ground, as we call it in Los Angeles, and then we work out very rapidly that they have fallen into this primeval land alongside a whole other group of strangers, and they spend their whole journey trying to figure out how to get back home. So it's one of those shows that it's a once in a lifetime. You randomly get a call about doing this show and you just go 'what?!', and then all of a sudden, you go 'sure not a problem.' And that's really what happened, I mean, 2020 was such a disastrous year for, I think, pretty much all of us in entertainment, and then 2021 comes around. And I have previously worked with a gentleman called Brendan Campbell. We first worked together, probably in about 2007/2008. He was line producing the Australian part of a job called The Bank Job, and I was production manager with him and then when I was line producing, he was first AD - very, very experienced, knowledgeable first AD, and then after that, he became an executive at Matchbox. And so we're friends and we have endeavoured to work with each other since that point in time, since 2010. But the timing just didn't work for various reasons for us to work together, and then all of a sudden, it would have been around about 12th/13th of January, I just get a call saying, ' Naomsie, do I have the job for you?' And when he told me the premise of it, I literally went, 'you have got to be kidding me, really? A hundred million dollar TV series during a pandemic? You know I've got two kids?' Anyway he's very, very supportive, he said 'come on, you can do it.' So I had meetings with a studio and meetings with the showrunners, and it was when I was meeting with the showrunners: David [Appelbaum], Steven [Lilien] and Bryan [Wynbrandt] that I sort of went, 'oh, you know what? I think we're pretty similar in our morals and our ethics', which is a weird thing to gauge a job on. But it is one of those things whereby if you're going to be working eighty to ninety hours a week, which is sort of what it is when you're doing a show of this size during a pandemic, you better make sure that you're liking the people that you're working with. It's like a family, in the best of times, it's like a family. And like any family there's robust discussions around the dinner table, and they were just great guys, they're really great guys, so I was able to then say, 'look, I've got these amazing creatives that I work with Carrie Kennedy and Ben Morieson, who were just the most beautiful designers that I've worked with, since 2010, and they had also not done a job of this size, but then amazing DoP's: Mark Wareham, Damian Wyvill (Damian and I worked with on Oddball); Angie Higgins, editor; Erin Roche, our locations department - a lot of the crew I had worked with since 1999, and they were people that I really went, 'actually, do you know what? If I could pick and choose the people like my A-Team that I think could actually get through any job? It'd be this A-Team, and I reckon we'll be able to do it.' Because a job of this sort of size would usually be closer to the North Americas, so that the executive producers can be there, the showrunners can be there and all that stuff. But at that point, our borders were shut, so they needed to really trust me, which they did, and I needed to have a huge amount of open dialogue, respect and trust for them, and because of that, it actually really worked. And like I said, the creatives that we had, in particular, our designers, they just got to have a whole lot of toys at their disposal and just create and build the most beautiful sets on a scale that they had never worked on before. So the reality is, it was a lot of hard work getting me to there, and an incredible amount of luck. And you can never discredit the luck part of it, either, just the timing of things.

[00:24:03] Caris Bizzaca But also the connections.You said that this is someone that you wanted to work with since 2010.

[00:24:12] Naomi Cleaver Do you know what? This is it. And film and television is, at its core, a dense human resource industry. It is all about the people. And it's not just connections for connections sake. It is, who are the people that you can envisage doing things with into the future? And it's not necessarily in the next couple of years, but over the years you work out the teams that you want, the companies that you want to work with, the people that you want to continue to work with, and if you are really fortunate you do have this real longevity or legacy of people that you work with that does become a bit of a family, and you know that it doesn't really matter what's thrown at you. And like I say, doing a job of that size during this time has a whole lot of things that are totally outside your norms of filming. But you have the right teams of people who are amazing problem solvers, incredibly creative, collaborative, kind - and you really can do anything. I'm very, very grateful. I'm incredibly fortunate for that experience. 

[00:25:36] Caris Bizzaca You've said that there were some big differences in terms of stepping on to a studio production. Some of those would be around the pandemic, but just in terms of like actual differences between a studio project and, say, a local Australian one, what are some of the big ones from a producer point of view?

[00:25:55] Naomi Cleaver There's a few. And I won't say that any more positive or negative than the other. It's just different. So if you're doing an Australian job, you do have a lot more autonomy to make decisions. But that that can be both positive and negative because there is a lot of pressure on you to make the right decisions, but you can move very swiftly and nimbly. The benefit of working with the studio, just the difference is you really do have this big monolithic weight behind you who have got this incredible experience and this incredible knowledge, so you can really grow as a producer. The growth spurt for me, really, that trajectory during that time was was huge. It's probably to be honest with you, probably as big as when I first started and didn't know anything whatsoever. You just have these times sometimes if you're really fortunate. And so you know going into a studio production that they have got, gosh, they have got hundreds, thousands of jobs under their belts all over the world, so you've got a weight of responsibility in terms of communication, reporting things, and knowing that the audience potentially is going to be a lot greater. And there's also just a, with studio jobs, I think, well, what I found certainly working with Universal TV is that there is this real professional rigour. There's a real rigour around the scripts, there's a real rigour around even just the meetings you have and different sorts of meetings that you have. They have what's called a tone meeting where you literally go through every single scene and you hear the tone, the intention that the showrunners want for that scene with those characters, and you realise that that medium of TV in particular these days is very much, it's a strong producer's/writer's medium because they're the ones in effect that will see the show out from episode one through to however many episodes there are. And so learning that sort of stuff was incredible, actually. There's always like the growing pains were massive. That was a really big thing. It's like on any job, there's always new things. That's the thing I love about it the most. It's like you're never getting two jobs that are the same. You're really learning a whole lot of stuff. But with this one, because of the scale, getting a few of us actually, to be honest, into a realm where we physically and intellectually and creatively felt comfortable with this scale of a hundred million show took a bit. Like it took some tears and it took some consulting, both with myself and other people. And then you look back at the end after one hundred and eleven shoot days, which we did and go, 'Oh my gosh' and just like childbirth, you go 'let's do it again'. So there are look, there are-

[00:29:18] Caris Bizzaca You're like 'season two, come on, bring it on!'

[00:29:20] Naomi Cleaver I know, it's terrible. But there are differences. There's huge differences between producing in Australia and producing with the studio. And I like to be able to do them both, really. I've always thought that the most important thing to have longevity in this industry is to have many a string to your bow. It's the thing that I say to my teams all the time. Someone gives you the opportunity to do something different, do it, because big overseas productions are not going to be here forever. They're cyclical, and you want to be able to still continue in this industry that can be very fluid. But I must admit, producing a show of that size gives you this little fire to be doing bigger and bigger stuff, which I didn't necessarily predict would happen. But now I'm a little bit like, 'ooo yeah' and my children go 'we'll travel overseas for a Marvel film!' and I'm like 'okay!'

[00:30:28] Caris Bizzaca You know what your capabilities are, like you've stretched yourself and you're like, 'oh, I got through that, let's see if I can push it further.'

[00:30:40] Naomi Cleaver That's exactly right. It's like I got a couple of stretch marks, but it didn't fully break me, and now I feel stronger for it. It does - it gives you that that real sense that there's a whole new world out there that you didn't even think that, you know, you weren't even getting the invitation to be able to RSVP before. So to actually get that invitation and go, 'wow, I RSVP'd, I showed up and we did it.' That does give you just this extra little boost of confidence, because most of us in the film industry have got imposter syndrome, let's be honest. So it is. It's one of those things where I go 'oh yeah I think I could work it out again, once I have a sleep.' (laughter)

[00:31:32] Caris Bizzaca Yeah have a nap first. But a lot of people have needed, to make that jump, they have moved overseas,. They moved to the States to kind of get into that studio system. But you were able to do that while being in Australia and and there's probably a few people that have been able to do that with some of these big studio projects, like being in production here. And I was just wondering, what is that experience like for you, having been able to make that jump, but while still being in Australia?

[00:32:07] Naomi Cleaver Yeah, you know what, I will continue to say this, but I am incredibly grateful. I never really had desires to work in the States, and I don't know why. I think it's because I don't really like being that far away from my family and even at a young age, when I was 23, when I first started full time in the industry, I knew intrinsically that I really wanted to be a producer. But I also, at some point in time, wanted to have a partner and potentially wanted to have kids. And although I couldn't really - there weren't too many people around at that point in time, in fact, I don't recall any who were producers who had those things, that is something that was incredibly important to me. So I didn't want to put, I didn't want to, for my career, I didn't want to put an extra layer of it. I didn't want to root myself into a place and an industry where I didn't think I could come back. And that was just my personal experience. But also, I was very fortunate in that I was just getting a lot of work. And if I wasn't and if I probably had more drive at that point in time, I might have gone to the States, but I just had this career that kicked over and I got to work on some really fabulous projects with some really fantastic people. And I got to, every show for me, whether it was a TV series or a feature film or branded content in New Caledonia, I was being offered new and different stuff. So I was in that exciting realm anyway, on shows like, gosh having the privilege of living in Broome for six months and travelling through the Kimberley into remote Indigenous communities, they're the sort of experiences that fill you with joy. So I just didn't feel like there was anything for me that going over to L.A. was really going to give me. But then like we said, it was just a weird universal kismet, where the studio came to us and like I said, I had been fortunate, I had done an American show called Farscape in 2001. I was then a production manager for second unit for Charlotte's Web. I had done some American shows, so I was just on the cusp of having enough experience, considering it was very difficult to get people in because of the border closures. And it came to us. Now I'm potentially in a different position whereby I've got, I've got an Australian agent, but I've also now got an American agent who we're talking about, 'okay, well, would you travel here for a job and would you travel there for a job?' which is fantastic. It means the world is more open now, but I don't actually have to be based in L.A. to access that. It would be much easier. But I get to be based in a tiny little regional town in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, with my husband, my kids and my dog. And go and sort of play fairy tales every now and again. And that, to me, is the best of both worlds.

[00:35:58] Caris Bizzaca And then looking back on on the experience of making La Brea, of being in that fairy tale world, what were some of the big takeaways as a producer, particularly around managing a project of that size and and what it takes to keep the crew kind of happy and healthy and motivated to slog through, did you say it was one hundred and eleven-

[00:36:28] Naomi Cleaver One hundred and eleven main unit days. Yes. Well, look, firstly, I remember one of HODs, who's incredibly experienced and I have worked with him really since I was very young. He was very generous with me. And I remember him saying it was both the hardest and most rewarding job that they had ever done and he's been in the industry now for probably more than forty years. And I think, look, my biggest takeaway from that, was that it was more galvanised than anything else, it wasn't something new. But that is we are an incredibly loyal, hard working, almost military-like group of people who we will literally go to the ends of the Earth to get a job done. And so for that, every single crew member deserves my absolute ultimate respect. And that's the way I like to treat people, and that's the way I like to lead. I like to lead effectively, like I am the mother of eight hundred people. And sometimes it's really important to praise and give treats and 'isn't this wonderful?' And sometimes you have to go 'pull your head in. We need to get something done or you can't have everything that you want.' All that sort of stuff. But if you surround yourself with the most experienced people, like I said before, who are creative and collaborate, that you can joke with because let's be honest, ultimately, we're working really, really, really long hours, sometimes in incredible situations, and it can be very stressful. You want to have a producer who lightens the load to some degree for you as well. Anyone who's new in my team, certainly in the production office, I'll always warn them that I don't yell, but I do interpretive dance. So they don't think that I have literally lost my mind in the middle of the shoot. And I do. I just go, 'You know what? You get people and you get people together and you listen to them and you listen to what they need and then you talk about what it is that's going to take to make this job. What are all those things that are required to get this done?' And you will always get it done. And there's not one project that I've ever worked on in the beginning where I've gone, 'oh my gosh, it's going to be so easy, it's a walk in the park.' Every single project is, 'oh my gosh, how are we going to get this done?' And then I consistently get the best people possible who know way more than me, obviously, in their departments and stuff like that. And we sit and we collaborate, and those people also become my great friends. So it's a privilege to work in this industry, certainly a privilege to be working during this time, and it's a privilege to be able to lead such amazing human beings. And it doesn't matter whether that's a ten thousand dollar clip or a hunded million dollar TV series, the foundational things are still the same. I don't think that will ever change.

[00:40:10] Caris Bizzaca For anyone that would like to get into production roles, do you have any advice for those people?

[00:40:19] Naomi Cleaver Firstly, if you really do, this is the golden age. In all honesty, it actually is. There is so much production happening now that when I first started and there's only ever one job after the other and my mum thought that I was going to be an usher at the local cinema. It was almost like a joke career, like, 'do you also want to go to the Moon?' But now it's actually, it's a really solid career. There's a lot of opportunity. There's a lot of production happening. So firstly, what I would say is it can be difficult to get your toe in the door. But generally, if you work really hard and you collaborate and you listen twice as much as you talk, then it's actually harder to get out of the industry, certainly out of the production office than it is to get in. And just to look at the companies who are doing the sorts of shows that you like to watch that you admire and gun for those. With the advent of children, I did decide that there's a whole raft of shows that I wouldn't work on because I've always really liked to make TV and film where you actually do feel better about yourself after them than before. So I think to have a clear vision, even when you're first starting out, to have a clear vision of what it is that you ultimately want to do, the sort of projects you ultimately would like to work on and target those, even if it's a case of finding out that, certain production companies that you like their shows are going into production, you can find lots of information. Obviously, Screen Australia has got lots of information as to what's going on and introduce yourself around, even if it's well, I can give you a day a week for this month, so there isn't that barrier to getting someone new in. And if you are a team player, if you're willing to do more than is really ever asked of you because I think that's a bit of a key as well, then you will start in the industry, stay in the industry and grow to where you want to.

[00:42:47] Caris Bizzaca I was wondering before you mentioned how you started out your career in Perth and then you needed to move to Melbourne to follow the work. Do you feel like that has changed somewhat since then in that WA has more productions happening? If there's someone that is in those other states, do you still feel like there is this push to have to move or that people can have a sustainable career in other states outside of Victoria and New South Wales?

[00:43:23] Naomi Cleaver Good question. No, I think that has totally changed. I think with the proliferation at the moment of shows happening in Western Australia, happening in Alice [Springs], Northern Territory, South Australia, you no longer have to move because there really is a much steadier stream of jobs that are happening. I certainly know some incredible crew, who we moved over to Melbourne and they moved back and they've got a flourishing career. So I think it is really quite different, and that's just because there's so much more production happening everywhere in every state. And if the amount of production that's happening at the moment in Western Australia was happening when I was there in 1997-98, to be honest with you, I probably would never have left. So there are incredible opportunities to really have the career you want in any of those cities. The big American stuff tends to stay mainly in New South Wales and Victoria, but also obviously Queensland. And that's just got to do with the availability of studio space. I know that Western Australia has got a massive, great big push for a studio, which I think will be incredibly positive for them long term, because then you can attract a bigger scale of job. But in the meantime, not everyone wants to do that massive, great big scale anyway, and you get to do really good, solid, beautiful creative work out of all of the capital cities. Tasmania is going through a boom as well, so I think there's a lot more longevity now, which is great. It's really good for everyone.

[00:45:20] Caris Bizzaca Well, thank you so much, we'll leave it there. But thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today, and talking to us about producing, it was really fascinating and just amazing to have you on the pod.

[00:45:32] Naomi Cleaver Caris, it was my absolute pleasure and like I say, hopefully I have not lulled everyone to sleep. (laughter)

[00:45:44] Caris Bizzaca Not at all! Not at all.

[00:45:45] Caris Bizzaca That was producer Naomi Cleaver, and remember, you can catch episodes of La Brea on 9Now. For the latest episodes of the Screen Australia podcast, subscribe through places like Spotify and iTunes, where you can leave a rating and review and subscribe to the Screen Australia fortnightly newsletter for the latest news from the local industry. Thanks for listening.