In Praise of Producers

Posted: May 19, 2011 in Titleholding

I’ve spent a lot of time this year with Leather contest producers.  I’ve had quite a few producers myself given that I’ve held a regional and international concurrently, each with a set of producers.  Then there are the contest producers I’ve met in my travels, often staying in their homes and working closely with them as I’ve traveled from region to region.  Even after that, you have the contest producers I’ve rubbed shoulders with or worked for when I’ve ventured to events for the M/s, IMsL, and IML title tracks.  There are a lot of contest producers, but until I actually held a title, I couldn’t have said exactly what any of them really did.  In particular, I had no idea exactly how much work begins after the contest is over and the winners are announced and the pictures are all taken, with flushed faces and big smiles.  I didn’t know that this is when the real work begins.

The relationship between contest producers and titleholders is a challenging one by nature.  Once the titleholder is given a sash, they essentially work for the producer, but they are a volunteer.  There is so much good a titleholder can do to enhance a title, but they can also do an equal amount to harm.  In essence, these relationships, to me, seem a lot like an extension of the D/s relationships most of us are more familiar with.  After the crowds leave and the hugs finish, there is a contract which is signed.  Expectations are given.  Each side begins to get to know the other, to learn how they will work together.  For producers, the stakes are high.  For most producers, they have invested their reputation, blood, sweat, tears, and their own hard earned money in the contest.  Often they are former titleholders themselves that didn’t want to see that contest die, so they stepped up to do the work of putting it on.  That work starts the moment the contest ends and continues until it all starts over again with the next contest.  It involves an incredible balancing act between handling the sometimes huge egos of titleholders, the expectations of producers of other events their titleholders attend, the business work of balance sheets and travel funds and event budgets, the PR of schmoozing and promoting the contests and titles, and mountains of communication in the forms of emails, phone calls, and more.  I’m betting if you asked most contest producers how many hours they put in, they would have no clue.  I’m betting if you asked most of their partners, they would say far too many.  While title widows only give up their partners for the length of the title, a producer’s widow carries on year after year, with even less recognition for their sacrifice.

Even with all this work and investment, producers are often painted as the villain.  After all, they are the ones who have to rein in titleholders, telling them when they’ve gone astray or when what they’re doing isn’t working.  No one likes being called on the carpet.  They also have to tell titleholders, “no.”  Travel funds aren’t bottomless and often the priorities of the producers and those of the titleholder clash.  They also have to push their titleholders, even when it means pushing them to make personal sacrifices themselves.  In the Community, there are always questions about finances or their motivations, no matter what the region or contest.  They constantly have to defend their integrity…even while working late nights and paying out of their own pockets.  Are there bad producers who do take advantage of the Community?  I’m sure there are.  I would say, though, that from what I’ve seen in my travels, they would have to be in the vast minority, yet all contest producers pay the price for their villainy.

Yet, producers are also often the greatest source of support a titleholder has.  They are in a unique position to understand what a titleholder is going through.  While they may be open with criticism in private, they are also often just as open with praise both in public and in private.  They stand, often behind the scenes, and work to lift others up for their time in the spotlight and their cheers are deafening when they see their titleholders work hard and reach for the high standards they set.  Like any good Dominant, they are often strict and exacting, but only to push those in their care to be the very best they can be and like any good Dominant, they are overwhelmingly proud when those in their care step up to the challenge they have given and they see the growth that has been made.

In my own experience, I’ve had some incredible producers.  I have had producers that make my heart beat faster every time I opened an email from them, anxious about what it might contain and already feeling a knot in my stomach, but yet that only pushed me to hold myself to a higher standard and made their praise all the more sweet…because I knew it was not easily earned.  I’ve had producers I could call at any hour to talk about a flight canceled or to help me figure out how to handle a sticky situation, who would always listen to me and offer the best advice…even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  I’ve had producers who worked tirelessly to raise money for my travel funds before they had even met me or knew who I was.  I’ve had producers who frustrated me, made me laugh, made me cry, but above all else, none of them ever gave up on me and all of them were committed to my success, even if we disagreed on what path would lead to it.  When I competed at ICBB, it was my regional directors, chris and Triskelan along with my Master, who were there to support me, forcing me to drink, calming my nerves, grabbing me food and working as hard as I was.  When I returned home with the title, I was embraced by both groups of producers, all of them supporting me, even if it was to tell me to stay home from an event when I had a fever and helping me not feel guilty about taking care of myself or worrying over me when my schedule became insane.  Every step of the way, they pushed and supported and cared for me.

Looking back, a simple thank you during a step down speech just isn’t enough thanks for people like this.  We often may begrudge them their moments on stage, but without them, there would be no contests and no titles.  Each one of my producers stood with me through this year, taking whatever those around them dished out, often sheltering me from the arrows.  Each one of them has given of their time, their energy, their finances, and their hearts just so that I could do what I have done.  I wouldn’t be here without all of them and it’s unlikely you would be reading this blog if it wasn’t for them.  Part of the great anxiety of producing a title contest is that you don’t get to choose who gets the title, the judges do that, but afterward, that person and all they are and do reflects back on your reputation, the same as a submissive or slave’s actions reflect back on their Owner.  In that light, it’s pretty clear why producers sometimes have to be tough on titleholders.

For my part, I hope that I have been a good reflection on all those who have done so much behind the scenes.  There is no way to adequately thank them for all that they do and all that they put up with, but a simple thank you, I guess, is a start.

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