Creative Lives — Another Space producer Alex Clunie on solving problems and navigating a male-dominated industry

Posted 20 June 2017 Interview by Laura Snoad

Whether working on tour visuals for electronic musician James Blake or AV installations for Dazed and Calvin Klein, Another Space producer Alex Clunie has to be on the ball every second of the day. She’s the linchpin between clients and Another Space’s creative and technical teams, and her organisational superpowers also stretch to scheduling and budgeting – something she discovered a knack for when putting together catwalk shows as a fashion student. Negotiating the male-dominated music industry can sometimes be a challenge, but her mantra ‘Don’t ask, don’t get’ has fast-tracked her to exciting opportunities and big responsibility.

Alex Clunie

Job Title

Producer at Another Space (2016–present) 

Location

London

Previous Employment

Producer and Studio Manager at Holition (2013–2016)
Studio Manager and Costumer Maker at Nicola Killeen (2010–2013) 

Education

BA Fashion, Arts Institute of Bournemouth (2003–2006)

Social Media

Inside Another Space and UVA’s shared studio

Day-to-Day

How would you describe your job?
I’m the main client liaison for for Another Space and take conversations from enquiries through to installation and execution. I work with the creative and technical teams and also bring in external, specialist freelance resources when we need and co-ordinate everyone. My role also covers looking after budgets and schedules, trying to keep track and keep everything logged. 

What does a typical working day look like?
My hours are about 9.30am until 6pm but I usually arrive a bit earlier, get settled, have a cup of tea and check emails and make calls before it gets too busy. A typical day will start with checking in with clients to make sure they’re happy, chasing up contacts regarding new or potential projects. Then we have internal meetings and I go through projects with the team, to see if there are any problems and help iron these out. Then it’s a case of updating budgets, schedules and doing progress updates and collating information. Sometimes there are client meetings and site surveys and generally making sure all the documents are up to date. It sounds a bit procedural but often days and activities are much messier than that!

How did you land your current job?
A bit of serendipity. I’d always loved what Another Space did so I approached the studio manager via LinkedIn and it turned out that the timing was great as there was a producer role going. I then applied and kept harassing them for an interview! The third interview was drinks at the pub next door to the studio. My immediate background and previous work was also in a similar realm and relevant to certain digital aspects of my current role. 

“You have to be really flexible in this industry and adapt to all kinds of different scenarios. There are many, many different people and skill sets and you have to know how to describe these to clients.”

Unlimited You for Nike, 2016. Photography by Owen Richards

Unlimited You for Nike, 2016. Photography by Owen Richards

Where does the majority of your work take place? 
A lot of the time I’m either in front of my laptop or hooking it up to the big screen in the workshop to go through stuff with the team. The environment here is really friendly and you can approach anyone any time for a catch-up. There’s always a wide range of music on which always influences the mood as well!

How collaborative is your role? 
Hugely so. Everyone’s role influences each other and the whole team has to work together to get things done to spec. I’m in the middle, working with everyone: clients, suppliers, contractors and freelancers.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
I really enjoy being on site during pre-event build-up and when we’re installing or launching something. There’s lots of pressure and lots of people around and you have to be really on it. You can really see all the hard work materialising as the physical elements come together. The least enjoyable part is the post-project filing; going through invoices, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. By that point I’m generally ready to move on to the next thing. 

The work-life balance is good generally. Around install time there are often late nights but you get days in lieu to make up for it. The work intrudes on your life but only for short periods, and those times are all well worth it.

“The job will intrude on your life but only for short periods and those times are all well worth it.”

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months? 
Working on the James Blake tour was great. I really enjoyed the final stages getting the band together– the band manager, tour manager, our team (creative director, art director, designers, Notch operators, technical designer), lighting designers and ops. Then seeing how the crowd responded to the show after months of work, was completely amazing, they went crazy!  Coordinating and producing all that, from logistical elements, making sure presentations were sent on time, getting concepts signed-off, constant liaising with the tour team regarding the different stage requirements (whether festivals or otherwise), was a really steep learning curve. 

What skills are essential to your job?
Multitasking and creative problem-solving on the fly. Being good with lots of different types of people. It also helps if you can pick up the technical jargon quickly.

Do you run any self-initiated or side projects alongside your job?
I do some jewellery design work and illustration commissions.

What tools do you use most for your work? 
Microsoft Office, Google Sheets, Docs and email, Harvest, Workflow and occasionally Photoshop.

Alex at work

Inside Another Space and UVA’s shared studio

Alex at work

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
I originally wanted to be a marine biologist. I think mainly because I wanted to swim with dolphins. I liked biology at school but when I got to A-Level stage and realised that becoming a marine biologist also entailed doing physics and chemistry (rather that the arts subjects I was into) I changed tack. 

What influence has your upbringing had on your work?
My dad was a project director for an oil company for 25 years. But he’s always been super-organised. Everything’s always dated, labelled and filed. In our house there’s Post-Its and Dymo tape on everything. Maybe that side of him influenced me as a producer early on?

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
When working with couture and luxury brands it becomes more relevant. I worked in fashion and costume for a few years after graduating and understand that type of crowd, their expectations, the sorts of budgets they have and the kinds of personalties you’re likely to encounter.

What were your first jobs?
I did loads of internships. A six-month stint at Folk in the production department was really useful. It was my first professional introduction to working on a large scale with factories abroad, getting things made, how ideas are accurately communicated and sampled. Ordering pieces, checking they’re made to spec and then seeing them go on sale is all valuable experience now when prototyping at Another Space. 

“My mantra is ‘Don’t ask, don’t get,’ and has on the whole worked out well for me so far.”

Nike Unlimited You, 2016

Thinking Ahead

Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
I got on really well with my boss at Holition and he promoted me quickly from studio manager to working on the production side as well, starting on the smaller press projects building up to the larger scale ones. He pushed me to do public speaking, which I’m still not good at or a fan of, but am very grateful for the initial push to do so. Between him and the very patient team (I had a lot of questions, all the time!) I was given all the chances I needed to develop properly in my first role in digital production.

Was there an early project you worked on that helped your development?
I organised fashion shows at university and we had our own stall at Notting Hill market. Sorting out models, deliveries, logistics and generally getting the wheels turning made me realise I enjoyed that aspect as much as the creative and design side.

What skills have you learnt along the way? 
You have to be really flexible in this industry and adapt to all kinds of different scenarios. There are many, many different people and skill sets and you have to know how to describe these to clients. You have to be confident that you can install a project and that the client understands what’s going on and what the final piece will look like before it goes live.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
Negotiating budgets. I need to make sure we stay on target to make a profit at a cost that the client is willing to pay. It’s about getting a perfect balance for both. We don’t want to undersell what we’re making but often people under-estimate the time that goes into our work and its development.

Is your job what you thought it would be?
I was under no illusions that this would be an easy role. It’s as challenging as I hoped it would be.

Alex at work

What would you like to do next?
I’d like to develop further and become more senior, eventually heading up my own team. I’d also like to see Another Space become as well known as UVA and continue to add to our portfolio. Personally I’d very much like to buy my own house soon and, in the more immediate future, pray that my puppy stops chewing everything in sight…

Could you do this job forever?
I’m not sure, at some point I’d have to stop as there’s a lot of of running around. It’s a high energy role. When I’m older I’ll probably have to do something at a slower pace!

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
By working in production you learn how to negotiate, how to handle clients, how to work across multiple teams and how to run a project. I think this puts a person in good stead to start their own company, pulling together the necessary people and building something completely new.

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a producer?
Start at a smaller company. If you play your cards right, there will be more opportunities to work on a broader spectrum of projects and tasks. You’ll be busier and a lot will be expected of you, but its a great fast-track to learning what’s what in a business. My mantra is ‘Don’t ask, Don’t get,’ and has on the whole, worked out well for me so far.

This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on Another Space

Posted 20 June 2017 Interview by Laura Snoad
Photography: Sophie Stafford
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Design
Mentions: Another Space, Alex Clunie, Holition, Selfridges, James Blake, Nike

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