So you want to be a Producer…. Do you really know the skill set? I was asked by a young budding Film Maker what she needed to do to be a Producer. So here’s what I suggested…
You need the following tool set to be a good producer: FIRST and FOREMOST: You need to be a Project Manager. A Project Manager is someone who is responsible for planning, execution, completing, and delivering a Project… on BUDGET and on TIME. It’s ALL your fault and ALL your responsibility. Along with this you need to be good at Financial Planning and Financial management. You need to be able to work up REAL and DO-ABLE budgets. You need to be able to pull together Cost benefit analysis and ROI (Return on Investment) documents. You need to be an author and Librarian… You need to be able to create business plans, summaries, Producer packages, deal memos, write letters, memos, and generally manage documents. You need to be a Researcher, on just about any topic, from finding out the cost and return of films like your project, to what color was the dress, what years was the car, who batted 3rd in the 1957 world series, what actor was the best box office draw for the part you are trying to fill, who’s the agent for 3 other actors, where can I find a sound stage, what the best camera package for my project, how come the sound didn’t sync in post and what do I do to fix it….. You need to be a GREAT listener. You’ll be listening to Investors, your crew, your actors, other producers, other managers, agents, everyone… AND EVERYONE has some nugget of wisdom or information that will be valuable to you.
You need to be MOM, DAD, the DRILL SERGEANT, the PRIEST, the SHRINK, and just about every other support entity to your cast and crew during your project’s life cycle. You need to be able to think 3 steps ahead and know when something in your project is heading for trouble and steer the ship around it, or be able to triage the problem without losing your cool. You have to be the Captain of the ship..YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE ANSWER, YOU NEVER EVER EVER – DON’T KNOW”…..If you Don’t know, then you have to be able to find out and in the meantime pretend to have the answer. You need to be the ROCK that everyone else hangs on to when things get dicey. You have to have thick skin… because everything that goes wrong is your fault and your problem. You have to be a Pitchman, Salesman, a gospel waving revival preacher…. so you can sell your project to other producers, your crew, your cast, the investors, the produce placement folk, the composers, the editors, the distributors, the networks, the… well… basically everyone…
You need to know every positions and every positions job and how to do it. so you don’t get bullshitted and lied to. You have to be able to know the right size crew for the project size you are pulling together. You have to understand the LAW and be able to deal with lawyers, and contracts.
You have to be a Hostage Negotiator. You’re going to have your film help hostage by a lot of people at some point or another… The Unions, SAG, pissed off next door neighbors of your set, the local cops, the fire department, the pissed off crew, and crazy actor, pay issues, food issues, an extra hour of shooting tonight and you’ve already gone 12 hours… you name it.. there’s always something that needs negotiating. You also need to understand the entire process path and project lifecycle of a film/broadcast project. You have to be able to READ a Script. And reading a script is not “reading” a script, it’s READING a script… you have to be able to completely understand the scenes, break down every aspect in your head instantly… What Kind of location, How big a crew, how many cast, what actor type, how long will it take to set up the location, what pros are needed, how much lighting and how long will it take to setup, where will you find the location, how far away is this location form the next one and what will it cost to move the company in time and money, how will people get there, where will the trucks park, how are you feeding the crew… what’s the cost of the stunts involved, and the insurance issues. What can go wrong with this scene? AND, you have to do that for EVERY scene in the script… envisioning the breakdowns as you read. You have to be able to take all of this and develop a budget, pull a team together, soft-sell the writer into changes, reign in or motivate the Director, and generally keep things moving. You have to understand all the technology so that you are picking the right cameras, lighting package, post production work flow, when something should be shot practical or done in post. How to shoot around that dangerous stunt in roder to stay in budget and make the director happy. You have to be able to make friends and contacts all the time. You’ll need ’em… trust me… You need to be able to sort out what needs to be done, what can be done and what shouldn’t be done to get a project completed on budget and on time and not mess it up. You have to balance ART and BUSINESS and somehow, through all of this, make your project make money.
Obviously, these are some of the things and there are lots of others, the amount and depth of knowledge is based no the type and size of your project and who YOU can trust and rely on to help you.