Josh Butt is the founder and executive producer at Ampel, a comedy-focused production house specialising in producing branded entertainment for TV, commercials and podcasts.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
As a kid with insomnia, or maybe just boredom, I spent a lot of time up between 1-5am watching movies and TV shows. Obsessed with media, I started on community radio in the mid 90’s as a producer and host.
That led me to stand up and sketch comedy, while studying business and accounting at Monash University. I started producing commercials and short films and from there developed a number of TV comedies and films as a producer/writer.
I went to the VCA, and worked in commercials and as a TV story producer. Eventually I became Head of Production at MediaCom Beyond Advertising which I absolutely loved – was a dream job for me with an incredible team and the right environment.
A couple of years ago I set up my own company – Ampel, which is a production consultancy that specialises in producing branded entertainment for TV, commercials and podcasts. Since COVID-19 hit, we pivoted to producing comedy TV shows and that has landed me in my happy place.
It’s the perfect role for my comedy and production background, which, with my business partner, is to find funny projects, put the team together, get the funding, make it happen, sell it and do it again.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Usually up between 5-6am when my daughter Emilie gets up. I work 3 days from home because of Covid19, two days in my office / studio in the city.
The past few weeks things have really started heating up. We have a few jobs with clients — we just had a 2 day shoot making 16 videos. Wednesdays is generally my biggest day of work for the week, but last week, it was Tuesday and Wednesday.
My Tuesday went a bit like this:
530 up when the alarm (Emilie) woke us. I love hearing her call for Dad, but after 6. We played for an hour when I left for work.
645 – on the bus. Mask on felt weird, but it’s gotta be done. Listened to a podcast – this was a new one called The Syndicate.
715 – at the studio – the team were already there setting up.
815 – clients arrive for 2 days of filming. We had a coffee and chatted about how the days would go, my producer / director took over from there.
830 – new intern arrives. We’re building a website at the moment for a podcast and today is day 2 for her so we had to go over what we’re building. I am uncomfortable building websites at the best of times.
900 – TV show development. We’re creating a few different shows at the moment and I spent an hour reviewing the new trailer and writing feedback.
1000 – popped into the shoot. Going well. Getting involved would ruin things. Back to the desk.
1030 – course work – am teaching a course on Wednesday nights at the moment and doing these courses via Zoom takes way more prep than I am used to. Really struggling.
1145 – lunch run for the crew and clients – I might be the boss, but there is definitely no job too small.
1215 – lunch break. Wanted to go for a run but that’s not happening today.
1300 – back to work. More time on the website. Start doing all the podcast analytics and things you forget about at the last minute. We have 2 weeks so this is way ahead of schedule for me. I like the feeling of being early.
1400 – Meeting with an audio producer – we are always looking to do more podcasts, and at the moment one of our clients has just let us know they want a show that’s in development to be delivered in 3-4 weeks.
1500 – AFTRS again. Get back into prepping for the course.
1630 – Back to the TV shows – I am always more creative when I am tired so make a few calls to the team to get their thoughts on our new trailer.
1800 – meet with a few mates for a drink before going to a birthday meal for one of them.
1830 – dinner – at a pub. Socially distanced and a bit strange, but amazing to be out.
2300 – arrive at home. Feeling like tomorrow is going to be a much longer day. Curse myself for staying for one more drink. Twice. Need to run tomorrow. Not going to happen. Looks like it will be a run a day from Thur to Sunday if my body holds up.
(Note – if this was a normal day, I would be asleep by 2155).
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes – I am working from home 3 days per week. It fits in great because I can spend more time with my wife and daughter, can go for lunchtime runs, and generally I am more efficient.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I think it should mean that our work shouldn’t be our life. I go hard on two days a week, Friday is supposed to be a half day but that’s unusual at the moment. Weekends I do a few hours of work.
My balance is not where I want it to be yet, but my business is new and this is the time I need to keep my head down.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes a few. I’ve stopped running as much as I used to, which is bad. Work has just been way more demanding. Running is actually the best thing to keep me balanced and productive and I am committing to getting back into it 4 days a week. Soon.
I’ve been commuting via bike, which is awesome. I have started habit stacking so I do more good habits together. Every time I hit the kettle for a morning coffee I do 30 pushups.
I am listening to more self improvement books and these have been making me a better listener and communicator, sometimes.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Too many podcasts. James Clear’s Atomic Habits and weekly email is a must. Andrew Ross Sorkin daily updates for news and Corey’s Quick Boost is another .
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Well I am addicted to my iPhone. I should learn to live without that. And my laptop.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
James Clear. Although I am always looking for others.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work life balance is HARD. We’re all working way too hard and living less. I want to work to live, not live to work and spend more time with my family, friends and watching TV, movies and going running and to the beach.
But that’s a bit hard when you’re starting your business. Let’s check in in 2025 to see how I’m doing.
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