Heather Elder Represents
Reps Journal

Freelance Art Producer Feature: Melissa Cronin

The advertising world is always changing. Clients always want their next campaign to be ahead of trends and stand out amongst a sea of creative content. The art producer role is pivotal in the success of projects, and behind every campaign is an art producer meticulously crafting the perfect atmosphere, sourcing talent, and ensuring every detail falls seamlessly into place. They are the invisible hands that turn imaginative concepts into tangible works of art, serving as the vital bridge between advertisers and photographers.

Oftentimes, agencies will work with freelance art producers who have the challenging task to not only jumping into a new campaign, but a new agency, often working with creatives and producers for the first time. They must be nimble and adaptable in order to actualize the vision of a client. We created the site FreelanceArtProducer.com years ago, in an effort to make finding a freelancer easier, and also to help freelancers get their name out there to more agencies. As the end of the year approaches and agencies are looking for freelance work to complete quick end-of-year projects, we wanted to highlight some of the freelancers on our site and share their answers to questions about their work, trends in the industry and some of their favorite past projects. 

Our current feature is Melissa Cronin. Melissa carries with her more than 20 years of expertise in content marketing, project management and brand building with a proven ability to plan, budget, negotiate and deliver integrated marketing materials for clients on time and as promised. Her extensive background in art direction, graphic design, copywriting, social media, print management and asset production allow for seamless communication from client to creative team to vendor partners. 

What inspired your transition to freelance? What factors influenced your decision to branch out independently?

I was working for a small traditional creative agency and quickly hit the ceiling for upward mobility within the company. I also wanted more decision making power or maybe more control over the decisions being made and ensuring they were aligned with my personal values, not someone else’s. Additionally, I wanted to have time to build stability without the pressure of supporting a family so I made the leap at an age younger than most which fortunately worked out!

What is your favorite part of the job?

Weaving together a team that is just right for the project at hand and watching everyone play well together is the best feeling. Unexpected magic happens when you have the right cohesion.

What are your top strategies for forging fruitful collaborations with other creatives when you're freelancing?

I’ve always been a “listen first” type of person. I tend to observe, ask questions, and show curiosity in the work of others. From there I get a better understanding of who they are, their ethics, their work style and can better assess how they might fit into a production. Portfolio work is a great introduction but its only paper thick or pixel deep… there is more to be brought to a collaboration than talent and technical proficiency!

How do you nurture relationships and stay connected with fellow art producers, especially in the freelance world?

I rarely get to travel in circles with other producers but I have made efforts to join networking groups such as Focus on Women which brings together photographers, reps, producers and all sorts of crew talent from the US and abroad. They have been a great resource when you need recommendations on local crew in a new city or business advice etc.

How would your team describe you?

I don’t like to put words in the mouth of my crew or assume I know what they would say. I will tell you what one of my photographer’s once said on set… “Look we should probably do this Mel’s way because in the end, she’s going to be right.” So I suppose they would say they trust my instincts.

How do you find new talent?

To be honest, I often find them holding a scrim or keeping a wardrobe rack organized. I always keep an eye on what the assistants are doing. How they conduct themselves on set, what their work ethic is, are they curious learners, and what passion work do they do in their spare time. All creatives start out learning on the job and just need a first break. I love identifying the ones who have what this industry needs and being a part of their journey.

When you’re on a creative call, what do you look and listen for when selecting talent?

Curiosity, energy, and engagement. I want talent that is onboard and excited about the project the client has brought to the table. What I don’t want to see is ego or arrogance.

What are some emerging trends you've observed in the creative visions of recent projects? And, how do these align with the industry's broader trends?

Less about specific creative trends and more about an industry trend, increasingly clients are looking to mine more deliverables from productions. Video often needs to be captured alongside stills (or vice versa) and variations on themes need to be captured to adapt to a range of social media platforms to optimize performance. This creates long shot lists that need to be managed against client expectations for both time and costs. Teams that can work nimbly and collaboratively while maintaining quality brand messaging will be in demand more and more.

How do you stay creative when you’re not working?

My kids joke that I need a project at all times and if I don’t have one I will create one. Sometimes I explore a creative challenge of my own making and pull together artists to test something fun… sometimes I dive headfirst into a DIY home renovation. Either way there will be a clear goal and a due date!

As freelancing often requires constant upskilling, are there any courses, books, or resources you'd recommend to budding art producers?

Since this job is mostly about team interactions, I tend to lean into books that focus on team strategy and building relationships. My recommendation list includes:

The Art of War --Sun Tzu

How to Win Friends and Influence People –Dale Carnegie

The Four Agreements –Don Miguel Ruiz

The Talent Code –Daniel Coyle