Michelle Nguyen is an associate producer at storied production company Dakota Pictures, the firm behind some the 21st century’s iconic fan favorites (Flight of the Conchords, anyone?). She’s worked on a tremendous amount of high profile productions in a very short time, including the comedy specials of high profile comics like Brian Regan and George Lopez. We caught up with Michelle to discuss what’s it’s like being a producer in today’s rapidly changing entertainment industry, as well as what it’s like to have a hand in some of America’s most notable productions of the past decade.
Tell me a little bit about your day to day at Dakota Pictures. What is it, exactly, that you do?
At Dakota, as a an Associate Producer and company executive, I cover a variety of departments which range from development through delivery. I’m often involved early on in the project, and assist with everything from developing and pitching shows to working with our writers. I’ll be able to bring creative input to the table from the get go all the way through delivery of a project. I’ll also often be a liaison between Networks/Studios and our Executive Producers. In production, I’ll work closely with the Executive Producers, Producers, and department heads to kick off a show and see it through to air.
What was the first project you worked on there? Tell me a little bit about that experience.
One of the first projects I produced was Hidden America With Jonah Ray – a comedy travel show for NBC Digital. The show traveled around the country and ended up in London at the end of season two. One of the reasons the show was such a tremendous experience was the slim and discreet style we achieved to maintain the show’s authenticity. Working with comic Jonah Ray, and Director, Troy Miller was fantastic – they both have a strong vision on how scenes should be made sure we were always making the best show possible. The show provided constant challenges – yet we accomplished so much on a relatively low budget.
How does that experience compare to the experience of working on a recent or current project?
At Dakota Pictures, the experience is relatively similar across all shows – particularly if you’re producing. That’s where low budget and alternative comedy go hand in hand. You have to be prepared to think on your feet, and always be careful with what strategies you choose. The staff crosses over into many departments, especially in pre-production, whereas on other projects (and at other companies) I’ve found it to be more regimented. The flip side is that it’s often not as challenging or rewarding!
What are the three biggest things that you’ve learned working at Dakota Pictures?
The biggest things I’ve learned working for Dakota Pictures are learning to use my instincts, and knowing that my voice matters. The biggest lesson is knowing when to push forward and how to do it in the most effective manner. These skills are more than learning how to break down a script or follow directions. The ability to craft each project to its specific needs and audience are truly what can make a difference when you produce content.
What projects are you most excited for in the near future? What will you be doing on these projects?
In the near future, I’ll be an Associate Producer on our new Netflix series The Brian Regan Show. Executive Produced by Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Regan and Troy Miller, the show will see some of Regan’s strongest stand up material combined with short films. Brian’s strong comedic point of view is certainly why he’s developed such a wide diversity in his audience over the years. I’m excited to see the show come to life. We also have a Christmas movie that will likely go into production in early 2019 that will be challenging — and hilarious I’m sure!
Be sure to check out The Brian Regan Show coming later this year!