Let's face it, we're in a field that is and will continue to change tremendously.
I'm not sure what my days will look like in a few years nor can I guess how the project requirements, technologies and teams will evolve. Will we be leading teams of AIs and creatives or smaller teams of creatives using AI? Will we still be using WebGL for web, AR and VR? Are NeRFs going to take over? Or will everything exist within Fortnite and Unreal? Over the next decade, how can we be involved and stay relevant, adaptable and effective?
My opinion is that range is more important than ever for producers. In a world that often advocates the necessity of hyperspecialization, we need to swim against the tide and find breadth of experience.
The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyperspecialization.
– David Epstein, Range.
Start narrow, then expand
I lean towards starting with depth in a core skill that we can rely on to build credibility. This gives us a solid foundation before jumping into the intricacies of production, which requires the kind of confidence gained from a few years of experience relying on oneself in a given skill.
Beyond that however, maintaining or furthering a specialization won't help us grow as producers - in fact it might be counterproductive. Studies that shown how inventors and artists increase their creative impact by accumulating experience in different domains, compared to peers who drill more deeply into one. Sacrificing depth for breadth as their careers progress benefits them in the long-run.
The producer with both breadth and depth is more effective and adaptable than the producer equipped with only one or the other. What do we stand to gain?
- Perspective: a deeper understanding of the different components gives us more data to anticipate potential challenges, recognize opportunities and make informed decisions.
- Leadership: equipped with an understanding of the disciplines at play, the producer with breadth can communicate more effectively with team members from different backgrounds.
- Adaptability: hyperspecialization operates in a tunnel, breadth gives us the opportunity to adapt to new trends, technologies, and requirements.
- Versatility: the ability to see problems from multiple angles, tapping into diverse skills to find solutions that a producer (or doctor) with depth might not consider.
Range vs specialization
I used to struggle with a learning paradox: on the one hand investing deeply in one skill, one industry, one team denies us the breadth of experience we need, on the other relentlessly pursuing range denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth. How do we find a balance?
My conclusion (or escape from the paradox) has been that the producer's craft demands breadth, which means that in pursuing range relevant to our work I was in fact continuing to specialize as a producer. Today it feels like it was the right way to go, the more I learn about the various disciplines at play the deeper the understanding of my own role.
To those struggling with the same paradox, or who have been influenced by the market's constant demand for specialization, I say; seek range. Once you've put in a few years to establish a foundational skill, go far and wide. Learn to code, to design in 3D, to produce audio or AR.
It's more than likely we’ll be using all of those skills in the years to come.
If you’re looking for a community to continue learning and sharing, I recommend the Art of Production!