Monday Prescription – What Does A Producer Do?

Hello Film Doctor friends,

Once again we’re lifting the curtain on a new working week with another Monday Prescription.  

This one might sound a little “back to basics”, but it sometimes seems that the essence of things gets lost along the way – “What does a Producer do?” is the question the Film Doctor team poses today and you’d be surprised how many filmmakers don’t actually know the full answer.

 

Film Doctor - Producers

 

In A Nutshell

A Producer does not just help out with script development and auditions.  S/he is not just the one with the money (more often than not, the Producer her/himself doesn’t have the money). S/he is not the one just takes care of production paperwork, submits the film to festivals and secures distribution.  A Producer is (or can be) all of these things.

There’s a lot of both creative and procedural work involved in being a Film Producer.

 

The Different Types

There is a rough distinction in different kinds of producers and, depending on the type of project – studio, independent, etc. – you will encounter all or just one of them. More often than not, the lines between each specific producing role are quite blurred and/or overlapping.

 

Executive Producer is the one who brings money to the table – either, from his/her own pocket or knows how to raise finance for a film. This is not to say that s/he might not contribute in other departments, including script development and cast decisions, but that the Executive Producer’s main domain is finance.

In the case of an independent production, you might end up with scores of Exec Producer credits – all because each “Exec” will stand for “a person who sponsored the film.”

 

Associate Producer could refer to either an individual who have played a particularly significant role in the development of the script or screenplay, in the packaging process or during production – e.g. a senior Script Editor who helps to shape the direction of the final drafts of the screenplay, and without whom the film may not be financed; or the Producer’s Assistant who supervises development or post production for the Producer in their absence – or a Producer from a smaller production company which is co-producing the film, who has typically raised a small amount of funding for the project, but not enough to warrant an Executive Producer or Co-Producer credit.

 

Film Doctor - Books on producing

 

Co-producer is rather self-explanatory, standing for an individual or a company producing the film with you.  As aptly summed up on the Creative Skillset web page:

“Co-producers’ responsibilities vary enormously depending on which type of Co-producer they are. However, they always have less responsibility than the Producer for the completion of the film. 

  • Where the Co-producer is a partner or corporate officer of the production entity producing the film, he or she plays a key role in the development of the film project, assists with the physical production, or supervises post-production to enable the Producer to move on to another production. 
  • Where the Co-producer is the lead Producer from another production entity that is producing the film as part of an international co-production, he or she will usually raise a significant portion of the budget for the film, but have less creative input than the lead Producer. 

In some cases Co-producers choose to be credited as Co-producer rather than as Executive Producer, in order to indicate that they played an important part in the physical production of the film.”

 

Line Producer is a role more common on studio productions and would, in fact, is very similar to a Production Manager.  A Line Producer takes care of the logistics of film production – looking after the production budget, schedules and physical needs of the shoot. For example, a key objective of a Line Producer would be to respect the “locked” budget and to deliver it on time.

A Line Producer is there to ensure physical execution of all the agreed creative plans and the well-being of the production team, below and above the line – be it locking down the desired location/set, hiring the right cinematographer, or delivering the requested vegan dishes.

Starting out in the indie field, with a low-to-no budget project, you might find yourself doing all of the below:

– developing screenplay

– scouting for locations

– casting actors

– taking care of catering

– arranging screenings and promoting the film, developing marketing strategy for the film to reach the audience

– self-distributing the end project to the said audience

Moving on, working for a production house or a studio, you’d still be overseeing all of the above, but through a team of script readers, script supervisors, location managers, production assistants, runners, accountants, etc.

 
 Film Doctor - Producer

Producer’s Checklist

Can you make a good producer? The answer is likely to be yes, if you can tick more than 3 of the following:

  • you’re a good script reader and can not only find flaws but suggest improvements – a good Producer is involved in the development stage of the project and can turn an average story into a memorable experience;
  • you can spot a bargain and have excellent negotiation skills – a Producer has to negotiate with everything all the time, from getting best studio hire rates to convincing actor’s agents or director’s out of expensive needless shots; an important part of this is the ability to say “No”;
  • you’re not afraid to take responsibility and charge forward – a lot of the decisions made by a Producer will have a direct impact on the way a film turns out. A good Producer is a good decision-maker, not afraid to put his/her foot down but also take full responsibility for any commitment made. Furthermore, a good Producer also needs to convince and motivate the rest of the team to be in favour of those decisions;
  • you can be a “people’s person” and a diplomat – a Producer will have to endure requests, complaints and questions from all sides of the project’s team (investors included), and it is her/his responsibility to listen, consider and decide what is a real priority or a nuance. A film set can be akin to a school playground, with cliques and groups, and it is a Producer’s job to keep an eye on everyone, making sure they’re in unison rather than at war.
  • you’re extremely organised and can keep your cool under pressure, thinking on your feet – a good Producer is the glue of a project, holding departments together, so being organised is a must. At the same time, despite best possible planning, film production is a rather unpredictable process, so a good Producer needs to be able to make correct decisions on the spot;
  • you’re a born multi-tasker, with plenty of energy
 

Can you make a great producer? Yes, if you can add “love film”, “great at business”, “a gambler” and “have an eye for potential”  to the above.

 

‘Monday Prescription’ No. 80 – A producer’s role might change, shift and expand, and remain a little vague both inside and outside of the film industry. However, a good Producer is essentially one that starts/collects projects that s/he believes in, nurtures them into living things, and shares them as best as s/he can with the audience, for profit.

 
 
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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
 
Have a great week!
 
The Film Doctor Team
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