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Meet Your Makers: Danika Casas

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Danika is a producer at The Mayda Creative Co. with a passion for transforming creative visions into reality. She attributes her success to her mentors, but those who have worked with her know that her innate problem-solving abilities and love for the production process are what set her apart. With a diverse portfolio spanning commercials, music videos, short films, social content, cinematics, real-time animation, and VR, Danika's ability to anticipate team needs is invaluable to every project she tackles.

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? 

I’ve always considered media as my hobby - going to movies, watching new shows, going to concerts. I knew I wanted to work in the creative industry but wasn't sure in what capacity. One of my first internships was for a content department at a commercial production company and I’ve been here ever since. 

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? 

As an intern, I started out shadowing different types of roles from camera operator to design to CG artists but I quickly realized that I had the most interest in live action and specifically producing. From there I became a runner, then a coordinator and then Associate Producer. Eventually, I made my way up to Producer. I love commercials and short form content as they are relatively quick turnarounds so you get a chance to work on a ton of different types of projects. I learn and grow from each project I am involved in, which I find really special. I learned everything from my mentors. 

LBB> How did you learn to be a producer?

I started out by coordinating on commercial shoots. With that role you really get to see the in’s and out’s of production; you are involved in all logistical aspects. As I grew, I became a production manager and would shadow the producer more closely. At that level, you’re able to be closer to the creative and see the relationship between director, client and production company. Being involved in the treatment/bidding, pre-production and on set for the projects, I learned what makes a successful team. As a producer, you really learn by doing, so I am extremely grateful for my two mentors (the head of content and a producer) for pushing me and giving me the opportunities to try new things. 

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? Why/why not?

I think producers intrinsically all have the same sort of brain. We keep the train running no matter what, but we are all experts in our fields for a reason. Each medium has its own set of challenges that don’t necessarily cross over to the other. If you are a producer at heart, you can do anything with a bit of experience/exposure to any field. 

LBB> What’s your favourite thing about production and why?
I love the team effort, the fast paced nature and the endless possibilities (within budget lol). The creative is the forefront but it takes a large team of people to make those ideas a reality. It’s amazing to watch a team problem solve to help the greater vision come to life! I love when you get on set and you see that everyone is passionate about what they do and are all working towards the goal – it’s magic! 

LBB> From your experience what are the ingredients for a successful production?

Enough time, good communication and a solid crew. When you are crunched on time, the end product suffers as well as morale for your team! Keeping positivity and having fun even in the most stressful times gets everyone through it. 

LBB> What’s the key to a successful production-client relationship?

Complete transparency! We are all working together to create something extraordinary no matter how big or small, so if you aren’t transparent with each other the end product will suffer. So being fully transparent about practicalities with your client is always so important. Teamworks makes the dream work! 

"I want to keep creating and pushing boundaries, working with new technology and creatives is really exciting. The traditional live action projects are fun but it’s exciting to venture out to uncharted territories with real time motion capture or virtual production."

Danika Casas | Producer | The Mayda Creative Co.

LBB> How has production changed since you started your career?

There are so many ways to make content now and so many different platforms. Keeping up with relevancy is a skill! It forces everyone to break the box of what they know and think of new ways of creating! 

LBB> And what has stayed the same? 

A clear concise creative vision no matter what platform and the need for an organized production! Without the two things can go off the rails pretty quickly! 

LBB> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer - and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned? 

I think communication, organization and compassion make a good producer. Communication is key for all relationships: with your director, crew and clients. I believe this is learned through experience and exposure. On the other hand, organization and compassion are at the root of who we are. And finally, it’s important to remember that we are all humans doing a job and need to respect each other. Mutual respect is huge! 

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

I worked on a PSA for March For Our Lives directed by Mayda ECD Ben Smith. The creative concept was built on The Vicious Cycle of mass shootings in schools and a Rube Goldberg machine to show the never ending cycle of no change. We built a large scale Rube Goldberg and filmed in a school in LA. Since it was a PSA, the project didn’t have a commercial-level budget, but it did have an important message to share and great people involved. We brought together a full LA crew who showed up because of the work we were trying to make. Everyone was there because we wanted to be and because we had something important to say. The hardest projects are usually the most rewarding, I felt honored to be a part of it.

March For Our Lives PSA 'The Most Vicious Cycle'

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

I worked on a live real-time virtual concert with audience interactions that seemed completely un-doable when we first got the brief. We had seven individual performers in mocap while the environments around them changed throughout the set alongside an array of audience interactive games. It was my first time working on a live event  and it also had huge creative ambition with some aspects of that project that hadn't been done before. It was all about getting the right key players involved who were experts in their area and all of us coming together to make it happen! It was exciting to watch challenges get solved and have a successful outcome in the end. 

LBB> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer? 

I want to keep creating and pushing boundaries, working with new technology and creatives is really exciting. The traditional live action projects are fun but it’s exciting to venture out to uncharted territories with real time motion capture or virtual production.  That’s why working at Mayda is so refreshing - we are a creative company that works across a range of mediums. We sort of “yes and” the interesting briefs, even if it’s something we haven’t done before. 

LBB> As a producer your brain must have a neverending "to do" list. How do you switch off? What do you do to relax?

I take time to go to yoga which fully helps me detach from the day and I also love going to movies/concerts. I think it's extremely important to have time to yourself now that we are in a world where we are always connected to our work. That being said, my phone is always with me and my brain is always running so I am not immune to thinking about work when maybe I shouldn’t.

LBB> Producers are problem solvers. What personally fuels your curiosity and drive?

Learning about new technologies or pushing boundaries within mediums we are already familiar with. Within the last year at Mayda, I have been involved in a number of projects that are a stretch from my classic live action background including: podcasts, video games and real time animation/mocap. It’s exciting to be at a creative studio that encourages learning and growing alongside an ever-changing industry and society. 

LBB> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?

Stay Curious. Get involved. A lot of the best producers start from the ground up. Understand how the crew is run, get involved with the creative, learn how to build and cultivate client relationships. It is really important to have consideration for everyone on the team, no matter how small their part is. Oh, and of course organization. You have to be extremely organized and able to compartmentalize different aspects of production on a daily basis. Big picture thinking!