MPC LA senior producer Nicole on discovering a knack for problem solving, detail to success and unwinding with kick-boxing.

Nicole Saccardi is a senior producer at MPC in Los Angeles, with over a decade of experience producing blockbuster VFX for both film and commercials.

She started her career in visual effects on the multi-award winning film Avatar, before transitioning into the commercial VFX she specialises in today.

Along her creative path, Nicole has produced award-winning work for FX, X-Box, Arm & Hammer and Samsung. As an integral part of MPC’s Production team, Nicole leads some of the studio’s largest scale VFX productions.

LBB – What first attracted you to production – and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?

Nicole – In the early years I thought for sure I wanted to be on the creative side. I loved writing treatments, working in the camera department, and directing. I dabbled in art dept, casting, you name it. I sometimes co-produced music videos that I was directing, which led me to discover a knack for organisation, problem solving, and executing plans into action.

LBB – What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career?

Nicole – My first gig was as a PA on set. A lot of long shifts, and tough manual labour. I think it’s important to start in an entry level position like that and work your way up. Humble beginnings make for a greater understanding of the importance of everyone’s role in a production and that everyone deserves equal respect.

LBB – How did you learn to be a producer?

Nicole – A combo of film school and a mixed bag of work experiences in different departments/formats helped me to have a general understanding of the production process overall. From there, I coordinated for many different senior producers who taught me their ways and guided me through how they would handle difficult situations or decisions. Working closely with more than one person helped me pick and choose tactics and workflows that I felt worked best for me, to create my own personal method of producing.

LBB – A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital experience. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Nicole – I disagree! On one side, yes, a good producer could produce anything because of the general skills they use on a daily basis. However, to be truly successful in the outcome, it’s all about the details, and the producer’s knowledge of the medium at hand. Your skillset is a collection of past experiences and knowledge of the process that you’ve picked up along the way. If you’ve only worked with film, that would be your strong suit, and an event would be better produced by someone that specialises in event production.

LBB – Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?

Nicole – Probably Samsung ‘Do What You Can’t.’ That was a CG ostrich spot where an ostrich learns to fly, set to the soundtrack of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man.’ It was the first commercial (I had produced) to win a VES award. It won several awards, including Best VFX. I had the privilege of going to the VES awards show in person with my team, and was so proud of everyone’s hard work and the beautiful outcome. When tested, no one outside of our team could tell the real ostriches from the cg ones!

LBB – And in terms of recent work, which projects have you found to be particularly exciting or have presented particularly interesting production challenges?

Nicole – We did a spot for Arm & Hammer Absorb X, which was a Western with CG cat cowboys, right at the start of the Covid lockdown last year. Due to all the new restrictions, we brought on a talented production team to shoot in Bulgaria. Our internal Director, the client, and myself were all remote for the shoot days. Covid obviously presented a lot of obstacles and restrictions for shoots last year, but when you work with a team of talented professionals you can get through any challenge!

LBB – As a producer your brain must have a never ending “to do” list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

Nicole – My favourite way to unwind and turn off the producer brain is to exercise, especially kick-boxing. If you get distracted and think about anything except the physical move you’re supposed to be doing, you’ll mess up… it’s especially crucial to focus during partner work when another person is relying on you. Duck at the right time or get clocked.

First Published on LBB Online.