Creative Lives — Photography producer Laura Galligan talks working with your heroes and growing ‘encyclopaedic’ knowledge

Posted 10 March 2017 Interview by Laura Snoad

As a freelance creative producer for photography, London-based Laura Galligan is the vital link between concept and production for a fashion shoot; scouting locations, casting models, meticulously planning and budgeting. After working at Asos, where she was pivotal in setting up an in-house production team, she went solo in 2016 and founded her own studio, LG Studio. It’s a move that’s paid off – in the last year she’s worked with one of her heroes, Nan Goldin, and produced her first TV campaign in collaboration with model Jourdan Dunn. Finely honed taste, speed and a sense of humour are essential to her job, as well as plenty of pens and highlighters to organise her epic to-do lists.

Laura Galligan

Job Title

Creative Producer and CEO of LG Studio (2016-present)

Based

London

Clients

Topshop, Selfridges, French Connection, Missguided, Burberry, We Folk, i-D, Nike

Previous Employment

Producer, Rosco Production (2015–2016) 
Creative Producer, Asos.com (2010–2015) 

Education

Fashion, Communication & Marketing (IND) with a year in industry, Leeds University (2003–2007)

Website
Social Media

Work for Selfridges, photography by Hazel Gaskin

Day-to-Day

How would you describe what you do?
I produce stills and film campaigns for fashion brands. I pretty much work solo, then hire freelance assistants and coordinators for bigger jobs. I work closely with brands right from the briefing and concept stages, which I love. I help to commission photographers, directors, stylists and set designers that will work well with particular clients and briefs. I organise budgets and teams, and put together location options. When you have been doing this for as long as I have, you become a bit of an encyclopaedia for locations – I always keep I keep an eye out for interesting buildings, venues, warehouses, walls, friends’ houses. Depending on the brand I will cast the models, or if it’s a very specific brief with influencers or talent, I will work with casting directors. Then I will pull decks together to get all of the elements signed off and manage the shoot day itself.

As a freelancer, what kinds of companies and clients do you work for? 
As well as fashion and retail brands, I also work directly with photographers and directors, or their agents or representation – including CLM, Art Partner, D+V, Partizan. I also work on commercial and editorial campaigns and sometimes personal projects. 

What does a typical working day look like? 
My weeks vary massively. On a typical pre-production office day I try to do a 9am to 6pm day, but some projects require long days. It isn’t rare for me to be working until midnight, especially when working with clients in LA and New York. I try to deal with emails and questions straight away – if one slips through the net, it could hold up a production and cost money. I’m on the phone a lot, chasing clients for answers as there are always deadlines to meet. I might break the day up with some model go-sees, scout a location or try to wade my way through a sea of receipts.

If it’s a shoot day I will often be at the location or studio first and be the last to leave – last week I was on-set from 6am to 8am the next day. I have some great production assistants, who work hard to ensure everything is set up. I’m also responsible for scheduling the day. If we are behind, I need to flag this and try to get us back on track. Managing the post-production is also a massively important part of my job. This includes overseeing music licensing for films and retouch deadlines. At the minute I’m working across five different productions.

“You become a bit of an encyclopaedia for locations – I always keep I keep an eye out for interesting buildings, venues, warehouses, walls, friends’ houses.”

Work for A Magazin, photography by Nan Goldin

Work for A Magazin, photography by Nan Goldin

Work for A Magazin, photography by Nan Goldin

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How does your work usually come about? 
I am really lucky in that my projects tend to come in via word of mouth or recommendations from past clients and friends. I’ve met a lot of my closest friends through work, who all happen to be super-talented people. It makes working hard fun.

Where does the majority of your work take place? 
I’d say roughly 40% of my work takes place in a photo studio or on a set. Another 40% will be at my office (at home) and then 20% will be in brands’ offices, location scouting or at meetings. Aside from my boxes of production kit, all I generally need to do my job is a laptop and good wifi. I spend a lot of time in front of my laptop – some days it can be 10 hours, or when I’m on set more like two or three.

How collaborative is your work? 
My work is all about collaborating. I work closely with photographers, to bring their ideas to life, and also with brand directors and art directors. I also work with the agents for models and artists to negotiate rates and dates.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job? 
I love that I get to work with my best friends, and when a production runs smoothly with a fun vibe it leaves you on a real high. However, there are a lot of mundane tasks in production: booking cabs and couriers and expenses, collating receipts is my absolute pet hate. It can be very stressful and quite thankless, so it’s important not to get too emotionally involved. You become very good at not getting attached to one idea, as it will often change a hundred times before a production is signed off.

“I love that I get to work with my best friends, and when a production runs smoothly with a fun vibe it leaves you on a real high.”

Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance? 
I think having your own company or being freelance makes it harder to switch off. I’m definitely getting better at saying no to work. You need to be able to focus on each project thoroughly and I’ve learnt the hard way that when you take on too much, you lose the ability to get anything done. 

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months? 
I got to work with one of my icons, Nan Goldin, on an editorial for A Magazine, which was definitely an experience. I have also just produced my first-ever TV campaign for a collaboration between Missguided and Jourdan Dunn. I worked closely with both the brand and Jourdan to pick the right director (Dexter Navy) and choose the locations and supporting cast.

What skills are essential to your job? 
Good taste, a sense of urgency, a head for numbers, a sense of humour, common sense, and the ability to problem-solve and multitask.

What tools do you use most for your work?
I use a Macbook Air with a 13” screen – it’s basically an extension of my arm; an iPhone 6S for documenting casting and for a recce, and to upload my work to Instagram, which is basically my portfolio. My Lacie 4GB Hard drive is always on me, as I always need to refer to previous jobs. Digitally speaking I'll use Instagram, Photoshop, Keynote, Excel, Word, Dropbox, Pages, Small PDFmaker, Google Maps, Addison Lee App, Uber, Deliveroo (I cater my shoots if we’re on a budget), XE Currency Exchanger, online banking (to pay suppliers), weather apps (on location days), my stopwatch (to time shots), Spotify (playlists) and iCal. I use Stickies on my desktop for online lists. I've also got a wall calendar, and have a notebook, a fineliner pen and highlighters on hand, as I often need to write a LOT of lists.

Work for WOOYOUNGMI, Spring/Summer Campaign, 2017

Work for WOOYOUNGMI, Spring/Summer Campaign, 2017

Work for WOOYOUNGMI, Spring/Summer Campaign, 2017

Work for WOOYOUNGMI, Spring/Summer Campaign, 2017

Work for WOOYOUNGMI, Spring/Summer Campaign, 2017

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How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up? 
It was a toss-up between being fashion designer, an actress or a make-up artist. My parents were always really supportive in letting me pursue less academic subjects and focus on the creative ones: textiles, fine art, english literature and performing arts. Even though I would say maths is a huge part of my job. 

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role? 
It was relevant in the way it made me think about how to brand and market an idea. My course leader helped me get a placement for my year in industry as a womenswear design assistant at Monsoon and Accesorize. If I had my time again, I don’t think I would have gone to university. I feel like hands-on experience is way more beneficial to my job. 

What were your first jobs? 
I worked as an assistant designer for a fashion brand and as a PR executive for a few smaller labels before getting my job at Asos in 2010.

What helped you the most at the start of your career? 
When I started working at Asos I realised that shoot production was something I was naturally good at. I worked my way from creative assistant to senior producer in six years. Six months in, one of my (now) best friends started as the head of art. I wanted to work with him on more exciting projects, so I made sure I was on his radar. Once we started working together, we would come in early and work late to try and build on ideas. I think he saw something in me, and helped to push me.

At Asos I helped to create an in-house production studio that enabled all campaign and marketing content. The team started as just two of us and is now eight-people strong. I got to commission and work with amazing people that I really respect in the industry, such as Gosha Rubchinskiy, Tyrone Lebon and Jamie Hawkesworth. I also helped to introduce street casting to the company, which is now the norm for most brands. 

“I’m still involved in the creative part of my job, but it’s a very physical role, and very unglamorous!”

Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development? 
The very first new-season campaign I worked on. We made an AW11 lookbook shoot and a video about youth culture. Sharmadean Reid (Wah Nails) styled and helped to cast it, and Scott Trindle shot it. It’s still something I’m super-proud of.

What skills have you learnt along the way?
I learn so much from every production – it’s your mistakes that make you better at your job, so you know how to stop a problem in its tracks. I have also learnt that you need to allow yourself recharge time. When you’re running on empty it’s easy to make bad decisions. Another thing is to trust your gut instinct, it’s always right.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
Taking on too much work as one person, as that pressure can be a lot to deal with. The solution – I’m still in the process of learning – is to forecast the busy times and make sure I have support.

Is your job what you thought it would be? 
I’m still involved in the creative part of my job, but it’s a very physical role, and very unglamorous! I also spend a lot of my time on excel spreadsheets, but that’s the business side of the role.

Work for Misguided

Work for Misguided

Work for Misguided

Work for Misguided

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Thinking Ahead

What would you like to do next? 
I’m in the process of thinking about hiring a full-time assistant, so lots of trials will be happening over the next couple of months. I know getting the right person might not be easy.

Could you do this job forever? 
I think I could do elements of it, but I would need to have a great team otherwise I think it would collapse.

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position? 
To either set up a production company or to head up a department in-house for a brand or agency.

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a producer? 
Assist as many good people as you can. You will learn processes and find one that works for you. Production is all about being a good all-rounder, you need to be confident in making decisions and be good at mediating personalities – that will be your money-maker.

Posted 10 March 2017 Interview by Laura Snoad
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Fashion, Set Design
Mentions: LG Studio, Laura Galligan

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