Hello, Film Doctor friends.
Sometime ago, we started talking about a film Producer’s role in projects – questioning, “What does a Producer do?” The discussion expanded to collecting interviews from working producers – established & emerging – and now, we give you part 3.
Furthermore, the Film Doctor team would like to invite you to a whole week of Producing discussions – “Producers Week” will be happening on our Facebook and Twitter page, so join us there and keep your eyes peeled!
In this edition of our “What Does A Producer Do?” Monday Prescriptions we are looking into the day-to-day intricacies of the job and, hopefully, debunking the surrounding myths. Unlike Part 1, which is an introduction to the different types of Producers and the responsibilities that come with each, today’s post is about actually navigating the producing realm once you’ve decided you want to produce for a living.
3 Producing Myths
Outside and within the industry, there are several myths surrounding the essence of film producing, as well what a Producer might do/look like/ought to behave like, etc. Here are the 3 most common ones, to be aware of:
- Producer ≠ Wealth: The image of a high-rolling individual, rocking it in a 6-bed apartment at some prime spot and sporting a Rolex couldn’t be further from the truth. Until at least your third, commercially successful film, you are not likely to see any six-figure sums in your bank account. And, unless you’re an Executive Producer on the project, you might not have access to money yourself, at all.
- Producer ≠ Clerk: Although a significant amount of a Producer’s daily chores is indeed paperwork, it is not all contracts and permits. Don’t expect just a desk job, spending 9 to 5 with spreadsheets and application forms – this is only half of it.
- Producer ≠ Party Animal: Another false image circulating, especially outside of the industry, is that all Producers do is schmooze on yachts, pool parties & hotel receptions. Yes, a Producer has to spend a significant amount of time networking, but this doesn’t mean it’s a party all the time. In fact, often it’s not even a party, but rather a closed networking event, business lunch, conference or film market session that a good Producer goes to, in order to secure the needed financing/talent/distribution, etc. An excellent Producer is a busy Producer – one that simply doesn’t have time to kill at glitzy parties, cocktails in hand. But, they do make time for good networking opportunities. Being sociable really helps, however no one is expecting you to be “the life of a party” or a “party animal”.
Whether on a studio production or independent project, the one relationship you’ll really need to nurture and sustain is with your film’s Director. They are the person you’ll be spending the most time with, the person who’ll be bringing the creative vision to the project, the person that will be responsible for “all of it coming alive”, etc. A Producer-Director relationship can lay the foundations of the project. Ideally, this partnership will last and carry over from film to film – some of the most successful projects are brought to the silver screen by the same team (e.g. James Cameron and Jon Landau or Woody Allen and Letty Aronson). A Producer-Director relationship is often akin to a marriage, where you prepare to spend your life with a certain someone. Once a Producer has met/found the project’s Director, a bond needs to develop – one of mutual interest and understanding that you are both walking the same path, working on the same film. As recently shared by Marc Baschet (Producer of “Shell Shock”, “Heaven” & the Oscar-winning “No Man’s Land”): “a Producer-Director relationship is one of intimacy, having to spend a creative life with one person”.
Do you know who is held responsible for the film’s financial failure or success? Yes, the Producer. Government funding bodies, private investors, co-producing partners are all going to trust you, the Producer, with the task of managing the entrusted finances and providing some sort of return at the end. A Producer might find him/herself in a sort of a paradox of being empowered by the main decision-making factor – the budget, yet limited by it, in terms of creative realisation. Here, a great Producer will be able to find a way to ‘make something out of almost nothing’ and satisfy both, the Director’s “creative vision” and the financiers interest.
Headache number one? Where to find money for your film. You need to be proactive and resourceful, as well as entrepreneurially-geared yourself, in order to find the financing options.
Some of the things you’d need to know, on the finance side:
- Relevant tax credit incentives – in the project’s own country of origin, as well as possible co-producing partners/territories.
- ROI, IRR, NPV – abbreviations like these set your brain on fire? School yourself immediately – these are the basic terms of finance management and you need to be fluent in the ‘jargon’.
- Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) – Note: UK-only.
And make sure to get yourself a really good Production Accountant/Bookkeeper – invest in their service and you’ll save yourself months of hassle.
Making the film is only half the work – getting it seen by an audience is a whole new game. And this is where you need to know the market and how to reach it. A good Producer doesn’t judge the project merely on the script or the story, s/he sees the marketing potential of the overall package – i.e. s/he can picture the audience that might come to the film and the poster artwork for it. A great Producer is able to differentiate the right distribution company for each project, the right festival to enter, the most suitable press publication to aim for coverage from.
In other words, a Producer is also a Marketing & PR specialist.
Ultimately, a Producer is very much an excellent event organiser – s/he can see the project through from planning to realisation, playing multiple roles at once. Very much like if you were throwing a party: you’d need the location, the guest list, negotiating deals with caterers, picking the right invite design, overall theme of the event, coordinating everyone’s transport to the designated place, so on and so forth. YOU make it all happen. You’re always the host, never a guest.