The following is an interview with television and film producer Lena Bahrs (Head of Studio and Executive Producer – OPSIS) regarding her already growing body of work in both the US and Germany. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Bahrs about how she got her start in the industry, her various roles across media formats, the approach to each new project, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: What can you share with us about your initial interest in working within TV and film, specifically in producing?
Lena Bahrs: I worked my way up from humble beginnings working the stage door at a musical theatre in Hamburg, Germany, to a 2nd Assistant Director working on a movie set, to eventually producing movies myself. Along the way, I learned the entire movie-making process from developing a script, to financing the project, to managing the production, to marketing and distributing the film. To see and understand the whole picture from script to screen helps me tremendously nowadays, allowing me to view a situation through the eyes of all the different people I work with. In my experience, there is never enough time or money to do what needs to be done, but guess what? In the end, it must get done. I love the daily challenge that producers like myself face, such as finding creative and innovative solutions to bring a director’s vision to life. It is exciting and gratifying when it not only works creatively, but within the budget, as well.
BD: Likewise, for those who may be unfamiliar with the role of a producer, what can you tell us about your involvement with each project – and how that may vary?
LB: I started my career as a film and television producer twelve years ago in Berlin, Germany. Every project is different and that is what makes it so exciting. As a producer, I managed the entire film production. From the idea, to script development, script writing, casting, crew hiring, shooting, editing, music, sound design, visual effects and color grading, marketing, public relations, etc. The post-production process was always my favorite part, because I’d get specifically excited about the endless options VFX provides to a creative filmmaker. Whereas Special Effects (SFX) are done on set — they are things like controlled explosions, fake gunshot, and make-up wounds, etc. Visual Effects (VFX) are everything computer generated (CG). An example of VFX would be the dragons flying through the sky in Game of Thrones. I spent a lot of time working with VFX Supervisors and artists and quickly understood how vital VFX is in filmmaking.
However, I never thought about focusing on it until I met Thilo Kuther, the Founder and CEO of the Oscar and Emmy-winning visual effects company, Pixomondo. Thilo and I met while on a business trip in Los Angeles in 2018. He offered me a job as an Executive Producer at his Los Angeles headquarters. My motto is “You only regret what you haven’t tried,” so I said yes. Two months later, I quit my job in Berlin and moved to Los Angeles to begin a VFX career at Pixomondo. The rest, as they say, is history! Today, I am Head of Studio and Executive Producer at OPSIS. I guess working in VFX was always a dream job – I just didn’t know it!
BD: Across your body of work, you have teamed with such heavy hitting creators as Ridley Scott, Roland Emerich, Seth MacFarlane, and now Michael Bay. How would you describe your creative process in tackling each new project, and are there certain types of projects that most intrigue or challenge you?
LB: The people who choose to work in the film industry are typically driven by a strong creative vision, passion for their art, and their love for making movies. That would describe me. I feel honored to have worked alongside the creative minds responsible for globally recognized movies and TV series. Some of those names listed above couldn’t be more different from one another in style and tone, but their longevity in this business is the common thread and speaks to their passion and ability to have a clear vision, and how to execute it. It’s the love of what we do that makes our work exciting, brings fulfillment, and in the end success.
Every project is different, but I’ve learned that it is important and beneficial for every collaboration to build long-standing business relationships. This business is held together by people, and the longer you work together with someone, the more you cement that trust, and can anticipate each other’s needs. The more you know each other, the less you have to explain things to one another. It becomes implicit. You just know. For example, I was able to build a strong and long-standing relationship with Michael Bay and his teams at his production companies, Bay Films and Platinum Dunes, over the course of two feature films and a commercial.
The first time I worked with Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production company was on the 2021 film, Songbird. Production occurred at the height of the pandemic when most of Hollywood shut down. Paranoia ran wild, and no vaccines were yet in sight. The potential risk for things to go wrong was high. Getting through that project together under those types of circumstances, then coming out on the other side with a successful film, created a special bond between us.
A year later, Bay asked me and my team at OPSIS back a second time to work with him on his next film, Ambulance, for Universal Pictures and Endeavor Content. By the time we wrapped Ambulance, Bay signed onto the Frito-Lay World Cup commercial, “Soccer or Football,” a commercial starring soccer player David Beckham and football legend Peyton Manning. I guess working together again was a no-brainer.
Michael has a strong vision and is very clear about it. Whether it’s a flying soccer ball, or a whirling helicopter, he knows how to get it done. I appreciate that, even if sometimes it can be an exhausting process. Ultimately, I’d rather work with a director with a clear vision, than a director without a vision. If you expect people to work long hours on your project, their belief in your vision motivates them to keep going. That’s why I tend to collaborate with visionaries like Michael Bay and other heavy hitters.
A challenging aspect about my work as a producer is I regularly find myself in the middle. For example, the director wants the goalie to jump left, and the client would prefer him to jump right. As a producer, you find yourself managing two strong opinions and visions and you have to make it work without upsetting either relationship.
While Bay is known in the industry as a visionary force to be reckoned with, it takes a strong producer not to be intimidated. Gaining his trust is essential so tough conversations can be had when compromises are needed.
BD: While there are likely several projects on which you are currently working that are in various stages of development, are there any upcoming projects that you are able to share with our readers?
LB: I unfortunately can’t share anything about most of the projects in “early development” I am currently working on. Content security is very important in our industry and I had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that doesn’t allow me to share any information prior to their release dates.
Just to name a few recent projects I have worked on include Warner Bros./DC Films’ Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Sony’s features Lyle, Lyle Crocodile and Sony’s 65 starring Adam Driver, and Universal’s feature film, Strays.
I also worked on several Emmy-winning TV series such as Netflix’s Stranger Things (Season 4), HBO’s success series Hacks (Season 2), Apple’s Roar and Showtime’s Emmy-winning show The First Ladies, as well as the family action-comedy Secret Headquarters that set a record on Paramount+ as the most-watched original streaming movie in its first seven days of release.
I am currently wrapping up my work on soon-to-be-released films such as Disney’s features Haunted Mansion, Sony’s features Harold and the Purple Crayon, Netflix’s feature Extraction 2 and Leave the World Behind starring Julia Robert, Ethan Hawke, and Kevin Bacon, as well as the upcoming Zack Snyder feature Rebel Moon.
BD: In light of your incredible trajectory within the film and TV industries, is there any advice that would like to offer based on your experiences?
LB: Success comes naturally when you work hard and follow your passion. I love what I do and all the creative people I work with. It’s the love of what we do that makes our work exciting and keeps us going. Believe in yourself and what you do! Don’t give up, even if it’s tough sometimes!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about your work?
LB: You can find my film credits on IMDb.
Reels and projects from OPSIS on our website: opsis-hq.com
OPSIS is a Los Angeles-based Visualization Company, offering services from Pre-Visualization, Tech and Post-Visualization, to final visual effects shot work for its global clientele.