Alkemy X

With over two decades of industry experience, Jim Huie’s career has been shaped by dynamic roles in commercial production. Currently serving as Managing Director and Executive Producer at Alkemy X, he’s spent nearly twelve years contributing to the company's evolution. Prior to this, Jim developed and implemented production strategies for high-profile clients at a variety of production companies in New York and Philadelphia.

AX: You coordinate with various players during a project from clients and stakeholders to directors and crews. What are the main differences in communication styles or creative approaches you see in these equally important groups?

JH: Well, there’s lots of fun analogies to be made here. Two quickly come to mind. 

EPs, and Producers in general, are kind of like Cruise Directors keeping everything above the waterline looking bright and sunny, all the while fully aware that there are oil leaks, dirty laundry, and arguments happening below deck. You really can’t do the polished client-facing work properly, if you haven’t spent time ‘below the deck’ to fully understand what you’re polishing.

It could also be likened to working in a decent restaurant. An EP on a shoot is like running the front of house and presenting everything to the clients similarly to the way the FOH presents to their guests. When things go smoothly, the whole process should appear effortless to the guests. But, void of effort it is not. There’s a lot of organized chaos in the kitchen. 

Similar to a huddle up before a restaurant opens to guests, I communicate with crew and directors throughout pre-production about process and solutions to the challenges at hand and the organization of the shoot day(s).

AX: A part of your role is also managing our commercial director roster, what’s the process of finding bright new talent or does it often happen organically?

JH: It’s kind of all over the map. I’ve found numerous directors just by seeing their work on industry sites like SourceCreative, and then hitting them up to see what their affiliations are and if they’re interested in representation. Our sales reps have referred directors over the years. And I’ve at times found directors after just randomly seeing a spot on TV or online, researching who did it, and then reaching out. There are also industry initiatives like the Shoot New Directors Showcase held annually that are intended to foster connections between new directors and production companies. 

AX: As you manage and work within the business development team, finding new connections and opportunities is at the core of what you do. What are different approaches you’ve taken to customize your pitches in hopes it’s received and responded to?

JH: Luckily there are a lot of great tools out there today that help with sales outreach. For one, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn checking out what our clients and competitors are doing. It seems like every time anyone in this business does something even remotely worth mentioning, it’s promoted across all social channels, and then commented on and liked by everyone affiliated with the project. Then everyone who sees the posts congratulates everyone who made the post. But I think we see these things, roll our eyes, and say to ourselves, “Y’all…it’s just an apple juice commercial.” But alas, we all do it, and let’s be honest…we can’t wait to be the ones to drop the next big apple juice commercial. Beyond LinkedIn, we subscribe to a variety of databases and trade publications that organize and promote who’s doing what and for whom. In terms of the approaches used in prospecting, I’ve found that almost no one who doesn’t know you will respond to an initial outreach. It takes multiple attempts without being off-putting to get someone to engage. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do.

AX: When sourcing new talent, how do you determine when a director is the right fit for a project?

JH: Most reel requests that come in from clients seeking submissions are really specific. They know what they want and they’re generally good about sharing the current creative they have, referencing similar spots, or describing it quite well. So we focus on those details and select reels and reel orders that speak to the characteristics of the ask.

AX: What’s a memorable collaboration you were a part of from the last year that stands out to you and why?

JH: The Teleflora project was one of the more collaborative projects of the year. Due to the nature of it being a hidden camera concept, there were a lot of opportunities for me as a producer to contribute and problem-solve the potential pitfalls to ensure that no surprises were spoiled and that we got genuine reactions from our real people targets who we surprised with flowers (and a crew of about 10 people with cameras).

AX: What can make or break a pitch to a potential client?

JH: I hate to use the already overused word…but it’s vibe. I can tell immediately on the first briefing call if the decision-making agency clients are vibing with our director and what they’re pitching. But from that point, we still have to put together a killer treatment to formally outline an organized and thoughtful production approach. Our numbers need to be competitive and if we have the opportunity for a 2nd call, we need to nail that one too. 

AX: How often do projects come out of strategic outreach and research versus from personal connections with industry folks?

JH: Most of our awarded projects are from existing relationships. But logically, if we only ever focused on and worked with existing clients, we’d slowly be out of business. New clients almost always come from strategic outreach which comes from research, prospecting, more research, and a lot of outreach.