Emily Wiedemann, Senior Executive Producer Greencard Pictures - NYC

Inspiring Women Series

Emily Weidemann of Greencard Pictures during an indoor filming shoot.
Greencard Pictures filming an indoor shoot. Greencard Pictures

Greencard Pictures is a film production company helping to shape our culture from its base in lower Manhattan. The company produces both short and feature-length films but also enjoys a growing list of commercial clients from tech and retail clothiers to food and cars. This creative cohort is led by founder and executive producer, Emily Wiedemann.

I spoke with Emily about her company, the community of brilliant people she works with and about what it takes to transform an idea into a viable product.

So what is Greencard? "We represent directors for their commercial work, but we also make films, and we've had a couple of television shows and web series." A big piece of the business is commercials, but what's been most interesting is, we've been a community of filmmakers. A lot of the people in this community have known each other a long time; some of us went to school together, so although I wouldn't call it a small community, many of us do know each other."

What exactly does an executive producer do? "As an executive producer I do a lot, for instance, on the commercial side, of speaking to clients in the beginning and bringing in new business. Then when we're doing a creative venture, it's figuring out which creative person is right for which project. A lot of it is about putting a project together from its inception."

Greencard is continually expanding its bench. They are dedicated to working with new and emerging talent—directors, producers, cinematographers and writers, says Emily, "so a lot of what I've done has been building portfolios for people or building out director's reels.

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How is revenue sourced at Greencard? "An agency comes to us because they want to make a piece of content, they want to make a commercial and sometimes when it comes from an ad agency, they'll have written a script or a brief and they are looking for a director who will create the live content from the script.

The agency is working with the brand, so they're doing creative for that, then the agency comes to us with a script they want executed. We then bring what is on the page to life."

Some projects are directly to brand, for example, Greencard New York did a project for Cohen's Fashion Optical. "They knew they wanted to make a piece of content and were not with an ad agency, so we conceived the idea, wrote the script and executed it."

You can check out samplings of Greencard's extensive commercial work here:  http://www.greencardnewyork.com/projects/

So what's the first step in the process; what's the mindset? "It's our job to help people figure out what it is that they want to make and how to best bring that to life and get that up on the screen. They come to us in different stages. On the film side you might get an interesting script in and sometimes someone pitches you an idea and if it's interesting you work on helping them write that script. There are all sorts of areas of development from which a project comes to us."

Is it different for television commercials? "On the commercial side you're usually getting a script from an ad agency and the director will write a treatment to explain visually how they're going to bring what's on the page into existence."

Technology and content delivery vehicles are always evolving and expanding, creating new challenges for production companies as they develop content to fit how people might view it. The mission is to find the right people to fulfill the vision. "There are so many different formats these days, so things that go to web don't have to be the standard thirty seconds or things that go to mobile and other forms of delivery have different requirements." Here's an example of a clever commercial piece Greencard made for Puma:  http://www.greencardnewyork.com/projects/2015/2/5/puma-bone-in-bag

Has technology changed your business model because of mobile? "I wouldn't say change but there's definitely an adaptability to how technology is affecting what we're doing and how people are looking at things. I think it does change how we think about what's being made and what size screen it's likely to be viewed on.

So a big piece of it is knowing where the client intends to use the content and for whom. That becomes a big part of the story-telling and in what amount of time you have to tell it."

Emily developed her skill sets in the business making music videos. I asked her the sort of career path one might take to get where she is. Emily studied art history in college but fell into producing through relationships and serendipity. Emily had a friend in college with a directing collective and she helped them with some of their early shoots and found she liked the challenging aspects of production work.

"It's like a puzzle. It's never exactly the same even as you get more accustomed to putting a production together. It's incredible to see something come to life from an idea. When I watch directors work it almost reminds me of what kids create working with Legos only on a much bigger scale."

Producers and directors share the capacity for vision or seeing the grand idea, but they aren't always thinking alike. Someone has to worry about the money; that's the executive producer's job. People in this business don't work in silos. "I think the incredible thing about film-making is the collaboration. It's one of the biggest things we try to nurture and reinforce at Greencard. From a business model standpoint, as a commercial production company, we represent a roster of directors for the commercial work so it's almost like being agents for them. Everything we do requires a lot of collaboration.

It takes many people to realize an idea. Having the right people to collaborate with is what makes that work the strongest. It's the amazing thing about what we're building here." Emily collaborated with top industry talent for the production of  "Bluebird" a film that had me enthralled from the opening credits.

Emily's work at Greencard is never dull, even if some of the mechanical/logistical processes of hiring a crew, hiring the people to shoot it or working with a camera technique that's been used before—there's always a new element. "That's the incredible thing about production, no shoot is like any other; there's always something new and different."

What are the different challenges of making a commercial as opposed to a film? "I think time is a definite factor. From beginning to end a commercial may take two months to make, where a film will be much longer."

But at some point the fun has to end, right? "Sure, you just can't keep paying people. There are budgets, always parameters you have to live in, but having such amazing people around me all the time makes the work fun and interesting, even when we are under time constraints."

Have the new content providers saturated the market? "No. Because of Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, Hulu and all the different outlets, there is actually more room for a lot more content. People aren't watching things the same way. It's not just channel-surfing anymore, there are more options."

Technology such as GoPro cameras and cell phones allow people to create original content, exposing more talented directors to producers.

"Yes, there is a larger pool. It's interesting what people are able to do on their own and I think it's great."

What is dealing with the money side like? "It's also a puzzle. When we have limited money we have to look at how to accomplish something differently that could ultimately turn out better in the end, visually. So we're always thinking about how we can realize this vision with the limited amount of money we have. Having unlimited money isn't always the best thing creatively; having parameters can be important for focus."

From a business perspective, what does it take to be good at what you do? "I think you need patience. You need to know you are in it for the marathon and not for the sprint. We hear of overnight successes, but a more sustainable model is to be diligent and grow slowly so you can keep up with the growth.

It's been really important for us to grow at a steady pace."

Do you find it difficult to be creative on the commercial side, without losing sight of what the product or service is? "I think that's part of our job, to figure out how to get the messaging across a client or agency wants us to put forth and then to help do that in the most interesting way possible. From writing it, to shooting it, to editing it, each piece is so important."

Do you look at life through the lens of a producer? "The creative side of me sees good stories. From a business viewpoint I can say definitively I wake up thinking about Greencard and I go to bed at night thinking about Greencard. I think about it on the weekends even when I'm in the kitchen cooking or doing something other than production work—I'm thinking about it."

It almost sounds obsessive, but it isn't. For Emily and other high-output business people, it's about the drive to be better, to find wonderful people to work with, to learn from fresh ideas and to integrate everything around her into her desire to make Greencard a better company, every day, in every way possible. She has a humble, almost shy demeanor, but speaks confidently about Greencard's capacity to produce quality work and meet the challenges of an evolving industry.

The Here and Tomorrow

What is Greencard working on now? "We are working on developing the first feature film for one of our director's, Andrew Zuchero. We're moving forward and gaining traction. One of our short films, "Creative Control," won an award at SXSW for visual excellence, which was such a joy for us."

I might expect a filmmaker to be inspired by any number of well-known producers, yet Emily was strongly influenced by her father, a psychologist and writer who was, Emily says, "...my hero growing up—and still is." He used to take her to movies and then ask her what the plot points were and then explain them as they discussed themes, back stories, and epilogues.

"It informed my love for story-telling that I have now. He took me to films I didn't even understand then, but view differently now."

The day-to-day work of a producer is not glamorous, something her dad warned her about. "People think of producers as walking on red carpets, but the reality is much more down-to-earth. It's much more, making sure things happen, making sure something gets made."

Emily has a quiet intellect, a grace underpinned by faith in her own abilities. She has a vulnerable quality about her that makes you want to look out for her, yet she is patently confidant; clear-eyed about what's necessary to build an effective company.

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    Joe Hefferon is a writer and retired police captain living in Toms River, New Jersey. He has recently completed a novel, The Unlost, due out in 2015. Hefferon is a regular guest writer and has published a series of articles featuring inspiring women.

    He can be reached at hefferon.joe@gmail.com or Twitter: @HefferonJoe