For this month’s Judge Spotlight we sat down with Sydney Ferleger, President and Executive Producer at The Music Playground, The Diner, and The Station. Sydney is a strong stakeholder in the advertising and entertainment industries. Starting her career at animatic shop, Animated Storyboards, she learned about commercial testing, previz, animation, marketing, production and sales. She quickly became the Sales and Marketing Manager there. In 2017 Sydney switched gears and took on a role at post house Crew Cuts, gaining knowledge on everything post-production has to offer.
Shortly after, Sydney was offered a role to help run three companies at the same time as Executive Producer of The Station, The Music Playground and The Diner. At The Station, she produces projects from creative ideation all the way through post. At The Music Playground and The Diner she has found a place to explore her love for music at a more extensive length, expanding her skillset further. Being able to combine her knowledge and experience of the full scope of a production with her enthusiasm for music has made her one of the most well-rounded players in the game.
At the end of 2020, Sydney became the President of The Music playground and The Diner, while still maintaining her role as Executive Producer for The Station. In 2021 The Music Playground took home 3 Clio awards, 2 Telly awards, and the shots award of The Americas: Ad of The Year – Use of Music.
Read our Q&A below to learn more about Sydney and her wealth of production experience!
How do you define creative success?
First and foremost, I believe that creative success comes from within. How do you feel after you’ve pitched a new creative idea to a client or a colleague (or even a friend, etc.)? Did you give it everything you’ve got? Are you proud of the work? Feeling accomplished?… and all that jazz. If you’ve checked all those boxes then I think you’re off to a great start for creative success. I also think the quality of the content matters. There are so many pieces to a creative puzzle when it comes to content. How it’s written, shot, edited, colored, mixed, etc. – all of this matters! But in order to do this you have to have the right team and the right tools to do so! Find people you love to work with and people that you trust with your creative ideas. They will help to make sure your creative is successful because they believe in you and what you are doing. Those nourished relationships go a long way and only make your creative and production teams that much stronger. They will amplify & strengthen everything! This takes time, of course, to build those types of relationships. You learn as you go what works for you and what doesn’t. But, a visually stunning video paired with the perfect audio can be extremely effective and make for a fantastic campaign. I work in commercial advertising and when I know that a commercial I worked on had direct and positive effects on the brand sales, I am thrilled! Every. Damn. Time. It feels good.
What is most exciting for you at the moment within your industry?
I think our industry is more connected and fluid now than it ever was before. I know that sounds crazy because we are slowly creeping towards the endemic and most people are still working from home, but it’s astonishing to me that we just now discovered the power of Zoom! Yes, nothing, literally nothing, beats an in-person meeting, and I strongly believe that, however, I am getting face time with clients in different states, cities, and even countries now more than I ever was before! And it really does make the in-person experience that much more special, when you do finally get that moment to be together. The bad part of it, in my opinion, is that our perception and appreciation for time has been warped. Expectations seem to assume that you don’t do anything else but work for 16 hours a day, which is just unfair when it comes down to it. However, there’s freedom in the way that we work now. Our understanding of work-life balance, time, appreciation for the in-person moments, etc. is all changing. And hopefully for the better.
What project are you most proud to have worked on in the past year?
I think on a very personal level, I am most proud of a commercial I worked on for DoorDash in the fourth quarter of 2021. The reason this project sticks out to me is because I found a way to really bear fruit for all three of the companies I help run. Combining all of my resources for the greater good. Not to mention I was able to work with a very close colleague and I can’t stress enough how important it is to find people that you really know, trust, and want to work with! It makes all the difference.
What are you working on currently?
Bunch of projects in the mix currently! Everything from graphics for a Mercedes F1 101 Campaign, to the original music score and sound design for an Amazon Prime Video project. Here’s an article about it! I have also involved in post production of the feature film “He Went That Way,” featuring co-stars Jacob Elordi and Zachary Quinto. Article here for full movie synopsis!
What advice would you give someone beginning a career in post-production or music supervision?
I’m going to separate my advice because I think these are two very different spaces.
For those going into post production, I would advise that there are no dumb questions. In fact, I think your colleagues and clients would appreciate you doing your due diligence in asking any question you may have to make sure you are prepared and doing what needs to be done to get to the next step in the process properly. Post production is complicated! Especially when you get into the world of visual effects and compositing, etc. It can be a very technical practice and there is a lot to learn. Take your time, listen to your senior advisors, and trust the process. Trust your internal teams and appreciate the teamwork and communication from within! The second best thing I can say is to manage expectations, specifically client expectations. Exporting graphics can take 4 hours sometimes, you just have to be realistic about when you can post the next batch of revisions for your clients, etc. The more you communicate, the better!!
For those going into music supervision, I would advise to not give up!! Music supervision is an exceedingly tough field and role to break into. You really have to climb the ladder and take faith in the opportunities you have to break into the biz. You gotta start somewhere! Roll with the punches, take a music business role that will help guide you to where you want to be, etc. And network like crazy. This industry is all about “who you know.” So get to know people! Go to events, try to get meetings with other music supervisors or creatives at sync music shops, etc. Learn who the players are and build your rolodex. Open those doors for yourself. All of us started at the front desk, I promise.
What is a creative challenge you faced recently and how did you overcome it?
I’m not sure if this fits the question, but creatively having to make a crappy production budget work while still maintaining the highest of quality to meet client expectations seems to be a recurring theme in this biz, haha. Who’s with me!? (Pretty sure that all producers will raise their hands here). So yes, on a recent shoot, we had less money than we needed (realistically) and we still kicked out some INCREDIBLE content, if I do say so myself. It’s a fun, and sometimes very stressful, puzzle to figure out how to creatively build production sets with limited dollars. It’s very rewarding when you get the job done, are proud of the outcome, and handle the budget well.
What are some of your creative and/or business goals for the upcoming year? How do you plan on achieving them?
This year we are seeing production come alive again like it was in the before times, meaning before COVID. It’s so wonderful to chat with colleagues who are busy and to see all of my friends and clients working full time again. The entertainment world was hit so hard throughout all of this so it really does warm my heart to see people thriving again. My goal this year is to touch all of it! I want to reconnect with old colleagues and introduce myself to new people. I want to introduce our newest team members to our network and really ramp up our business. There’s so much opportunity out there.
There are a couple of key goals I have: take as many meetings as possible to get our name out and to continually refresh the sonic palette of our music companies. We’re constantly writing new music and signing new artists. We stay on top of market trends. We pride ourselves on creating or finding what is new, trending, or just the perfect soundtrack for any media project need. Partnering with high caliber talent from the inside out. For example, we recently promoted a new Creative Director at The Diner, Christian Celaya, and he is killing the game. Under his lead we have well-established and sought-after creative talent collaborators writing for The Diner such as Cru the Dynamic, William Ryan Key of Yellowcard, and Benny Trokan of Spoon. Furthermore we are creating strong partnerships both for The Diner and The Music Playground. The Diner is working on a collaboration with a company called Muxic, the Music Tourism Office for the government of Mexico. This will open us up to the Latinx music community in ways that we have not been exposed to before or been able to expose our clients to. At The Music Playground we are signing deals with major labels all over the world to represent their catalogs for sync and we started our own label last year, Sessions, where we collaborate on songwriting, production and sculpting amazing tracks with artists on our roster for release.
As a Telly Judge, what do you look for in a piece of work that makes it stand out as a winner?
I look for quality. The quality of the writing/creative, production quality and effective content messaging; was the message clear, was it well shot, edited and finished. Did it make me feel something? Did it look and sound good?
What is one thing the Telly Awards community should know about you?
I help run three different companies. I am the Executive Producer for The Station, which is an all-in content studio that can handle everything from creative ideation to finishing. I am the President for The Music Playground and The Diner. At The Music Playground we handle original music creation, band and artist licensing, and music supervision. The Diner is a customizable production music library. At the music companies we can also handle audio-post. Collectively, we are an all encompassing solution for any music and/or audio need for your media. I want people to know how deeply embedded I am in the production process and community! I feel honored that I was selected to be a judge this year and I feel very strongly that my capabilities and successes in this field helped me to be a qualified and seasoned judge! Thank you to the Telly team for this opportunity!