Interview with Vanessa Amante - Asia Lead Producer at Storytailors

by Valeria Tcacenco

Interview with Vanessa Amante - Asia Lead Producer at Storytailors

Vanessa Amante is Asia's Lead Producer at Storytailors - a global video production agency providing production support to media & film professionals around the world. Vanessa transitioned from college passions in theatre and activism to a career in film and TV. She took on various roles, such as acting, writing, and directing, to get started. Despite her initial love for acting and writing, she ultimately became a producer.

In this exclusive interview for TechBehemoths, we invite you to discover more about Vanessa's journey in the video production sector, and the entire story behind Storytailors.

Please tell us about yourself. Your childhood, education, up to professional development and how did you come to the current stage?

Hello! Thanks for having me.

I’m Vanessa and I moved a lot as a kid – which turns out to be the perfect resilience training I did not know I need as a producer!

Growing up, I spent my summers traveling for two days-stretches to get to my mother’s island. Low-cost flying wasn’t a thing in the 90s so provincial buses and overnight boat rides were the only ways to get out of Manila and almost always, seated next to me in these long bus trips, were chickens traveling in carton coops.

It wasn’t the most comfortable, but I remember always feeling excited to go on these trips to see the “Longest Bridge in Asia” or “the Mt. Fuji of the Philippines.” I look back to these moments fondly as core memories that deeply shaped my sense of adventure and storytelling.

My family settled in a suburb just outside Metro Manila and I attended the same science high school for four years. I then majored in philosophy and minored in film at the Philippines’ premiere state university. I’ve been living on my own since I was 16.

I was so deep into theatre and activism in college, but despite my rose-tinted passions, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a living from them when I graduated. So, I started my pivot to film and TV and luckily, I had the right network to get a leg up.

I grabbed any jobs I could get my hands on in the beginning – on cam acting work, writing, producing, PM-ing, directing, anything to get my foot in the door. My first loves were acting and writing and somehow, I ended up becoming a producer.

Prior to joining Storytailors, I’ve been a freelance multi-format producer for over a decade. I simultaneously work on my indie passion projects and get hired as a producer for international unscripted formats. Local producing foreign shoots in the Philippines is also my main grind and it’s where most of the soft skills I need for the current role as Asia Lead Producer is pulled from.

As a recently promoted Asia Lead Producer at Storytailors, please share a few insights about the company story, team, business, and work process. Also, add a bit of detail on how did you reach this professional peak you are currently at.

Storytailors is part of a network of production companies providing curated services for film, TV, and everything media production. We’re the production support arm that delivers the local logistical needs of any shoot – be it news, reality TV, full feature doc or fiction films, shorts, ad campaigns, social media content, scripted and unscripted formats, and anything in between.

We’re an agile global team and we’re strategically located to service major production territories across APAC including China and Russia, MENA, France-Benelux, Scandinavia including Antarctica and Greenland, the Americas – both North and South, the Mediterranean, the Africas, the Baltics, the Balkans and all of Europe and the UK. 

team storytailors

Unless we must be on set and on location, we work remotely for the most part. It’s a great, flexible setup that allows for a life-work balance for those who know how to do it. (Sadly, I don’t. But I’m learning from my team.)

Nippon is our sister company that provides production services for Japanese clients. We have a dedicated Japanese-speaking team who are also located across strategic territories: in Bucharest, Cairo, Bulgaria, Tbilisi, and South America.

Meanwhile, our full-service creative production house was launched at the beginning of the year. It’s THE thing to watch out for.

Avantgarde X answers the demands of our clients who need help from the beginning – from the conception of their stories and video ideas. Because of our local footprint in 145 countries, we’re best fit with companies, brands and platforms with multi-country presence and would benefit from the competitive cost of our solid local infrastructure.

A few months prior to joining Storytailors, I was hustling my way around the mean streets of New York saving up for a Canadian Film Program that I was qualified for just before the pandemic put the world to a halt and completely changed all our lives. I was gearing up for a totally different career move, and I’m worlds apart from where that life could have gone now, but somehow, I feel exactly where I should be.

On the Storytailor website, it states that your company provides “Local video production services at international standards” - Please explain this in your own words in several sentences. What are the International Standards and how do you provide video production services locally?

When we get a brief for a shoot, say in, Bhutan – we first understand, the basic three: story, timeline, and budget.

Then I, as the international managing producer, after figuring out the full needs of the shoot, will match the project with the best fit local producer or team, come up with a shoot plan together with the local team then put together the budget. Once the client is happy with the numbers, I facilitate the preps of the shoot and oversee it until it’s completed.

We provide local production crews across all budget ranges and experiences. We also source gear locally, book accommodation and transportation, do casting work; get location permits, insurance, and clearances done, help and advice in any visa requirements if needed, do research, and support in the story development and provide any post-shoot needs, like translations and subtitle check. We’re here to assist until the story is broadcast and screened.

Normally, for international shoots, production companies go directly to local producers and there’s an obvious upside to doing that – not always but mostly, cost. But there is also the very real risk of trusting and paying the wrong local. And this is where our clients find the value of our unique services. They feel reassured when we walk them through how we vet the local crew we work with in every country.  

At its core, the service we provide is trust – and it’s quite scary for that to be too cheap.

Our niche market is multi-country productions. Most of our recurring clients find it helpful that we can provide them with a wealth of local knowledge that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to without engaging us. Having this support gives them the bandwidth to react to any real-time changes (which is practically every second in the production universe).

They find it reassuring that they can run to us for options and solutions across their many country problems.

What challenges did Storytailors face over time and now? And how do you overcome them? Explain from your own experience, as much as you know.

Like in most industries, how to get clients to understand that we have the solutions for their needs is a perennial quest. Building more meaningful relationships beyond the one-off jobs is proving to be key to closing this gap.

Pricing is also a constant problem. After all, no client ever comes and says, “I have a big budget, let’s go wild.” However, I recently had a client tell me that budget is not a problem, and it was honestly, disorienting. At first, I thought it was a trick just to get quotes, but it was by far the smoothest multi-country shoot I’ve done across 3 continents – in the US, Asia and the UK.

Overall, I find that pricing problems are the easiest to solve though. It helps that our crew is generally flexible. I suppose that’s the one upside to how Paul, our GM, built the business. Because we’re able to build sort-of sustainable working relationships with our local crew, then we can negotiate competitive prices for each project. We’re a constant stream of projects to them so they’re happy to help us keep the client happy – everybody wins.

You know it’s good business when everybody wins.

What sets apart Storytailors from its competitors in Asia? Why should companies and individuals come to you instead of other competing companies?

Unlike many of our competitors who see the potential of the emerging Asian markets, and maybe find a local to partner with and set up shop in BKK or KL – us, we’re home-grown. We know Asia like we know the lines on our faces.

Just among my teammates handling Asia, we have over 50 years of combined production experience. Minda and Jing, my colleagues with whom I split the work, are seasoned producers who have worked on big US and European formats and have years of real field working experience across Asia.

On top of this, being part of the global Storytailors network means we’re bound to deliver the same high-quality service as we do everywhere else. So, there’s built-in quality assurance simply with just how we’re set up.

What are the goals for 2024? What new opportunities do you think are expected in 2024 in terms of business development?

2024 is a peculiar time because the entire entertainment and media industry is facing an unprecedented crisis that’s never before seen in history. Unemployment among production workers in the US and the UK, the biggest markets, are at an all-time high.

Hollywood is shaken and streamers are cost-cutting from all corners. Margins are getting slimmer, and the future of funding and commissioning is only getting dimmer. And while everything is just much more expensive to produce, the audience’s attention meanwhile is driven towards free social media content. It’s a Sisyphean battle, to say the least.

The current situation is bleak, yet our niche services have proven, despite the instability of the recent pandemic, that there’s a way to turn adversities into opportunities, thanks to our company’s leadership. So, we keep going and we keep shooting. It’s been said many times that the show must go on. 

We’re so excited about the kinds of projects we will deliver for Avantgarde X. At the beginning of the year, I won the pitch for a new reality format – so there’s that in the pipeline too.

So, despite the shaky state-of-affairs, the possibilities are immense and we have an amazing team to play with so that’s half the battle.

What was the most difficult decision you have made in your career?

That is itself a difficult question to answer because there are so many! Being a producer is like being a de facto firefighter and you get burned enough times that your skin literally becomes thick enough you don’t feel pain anymore (unless you stop). But I suppose the most recent difficult one would have to be the post-pandemic moves I had to make to bounce back.  

It was June 2021 – very confusing times but there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel and vaccines started to be available. I got my jabs and as soon as I recovered, I settled my affairs and packed my life in two suitcases. Flew half-way across the world, put on my big girl pants and braved New York City.

For months I hustled in the bad Big Apple and did odd jobs – from dog to babysitting to PA work while the whole time working on my second feature doc.

Doing odd jobs after finally breaking it through just to recover from the job insecurity caused by the pandemic was, to say the least, a deep journey into ego death. It’s not for the faint of heart. When you’re fish out of the water, there’s humility in knowing what you’re made of.

We’re all forever changed by the pandemic for obvious and visceral reasons and as unfortunate as that period was, I’m grateful for the clarity that it paved.

It’s so easy to get lost in our own ambitions and delusions especially in the cut-throat industry of film and TV and for me, that was the biggest gift – realizing that it now means more to me to build with and be part of an exciting team that cares for me, and I care for, more than the credits and the accolades. A total game-changer. 

It sounds woo woo but when I became clear about that, I found Storytailors. Or it found me.

Favorite movie.

Another difficult question to answer! The most recent film I really liked and geeked over is Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things.”

What a cinematic treat for a film! And a fresh take on the entire empowered women discourse. It is – and this is probably a controversial statement to declare – but it is one of those few films directed by a straight man that truly gets it.

It’s so odd and charming that it really forces you to articulate what you like about it or why you hate it. It moves you and disturbs you as art should.

If you had the opportunity to go back in time, what advice (related to your professional life) would you give to Vanessa Amante from 2007/8?

In 2008, I was struggling to finish my degree. Frankly, because I was enjoying college way too much. But I knew that I had to grow up and get that piece of paper diploma so I could move on with my life. But I did not have a single clue where to go after college. I was so scared about a lot of things. That I’ll fail, that I don’t have it takes to reach my dreams or that I didn’t even have the slightest hint of talent to even be anything.

I was so unsure of myself despite the very real potential I was living. No one was around to tell me the things I needed to hear the most – that I’m enough and I have what it takes.

Thank you for the interview, Vanessa! It was a pleasure to learn more about you and Storytailors. I'm sure the community enjoyed getting to know you as well. I'm excited to hear more about your journey in video production in the future! Best of luck with your projects and navigating through the tech industry.

Valeria Tcacenco

Customer Success Manager

I am a creative enthusiast passionate about art. Recently, I found myself in the art of writing, especially in copywriting, where I can inform, inspire, and persuade others. A definite thing is that 1% is talent and the rest is perseverance.