Producing : How does a producer get started? by Nicolas Scroggins

Nicolas Scroggins

How does a producer get started?

I'm a film student and unfortunately the producing business is a field that isn't covered very much in any of my classes. How hard is it to break into this profession? Where do most aspiring producers start?

Simon © Simon

Money. You can buy your producer credit. Then act like you are.... That title is so vague. A Producer like me... Is someone who takes an idea and produces a project into a final output. Line Producer, is another title. Wiki has many definitions of movie slang or titles. When someone asks you to produce their screen play they are asking you to 'foot the bill' for all costs of their project and to also pay them. Great deal eh? However you will be in the driver's seat when it comes time to sell it.

D Marcus

Many start as film students. Look around at the dozens of student directors and see if there is one (or even several) who you like - then offer to produce their projects. What better way to break in than with five to ten "Produced by" credits?

G. Lewis

I am just starting out too, however what I learned in this process in to know as many actors, directors, writers, and others in the industry because a producer is basically the go to guy/gal for everything. If you have relationships and personal contacts to talent, everything else will fall in line.

Shaun O'Banion

I agree with the last comment. And, ultimately, it's all based on material. He (or she) who has the best material (screenplay, book option, rights to someone's life story) wins. Get yourself some strong material, start to assemble your team and go shoot something.

D Marcus

Sounds like you guys are giving advice to a working professional. I suspect few film students can afford to option a screenplay or a book or someone's life story. Or that they have relationships and personal contacts to talent. I kind of thought film students were still in school, learning.

G. Lewis

@DMarcus True, however, you can work and have contacts with aspiring talent and option screenplays from aspiring writers, not just from famous people. In many ways being a student is an advantage, you have access to everything you need such as film equipment/ film crews, editing space, actors from the drama or theater department, and the best part is they will work for free...

D Marcus

Exactly what I said in my first post, G. A great place for a producer to get started in by producing films as a film student. There are student directors and writers in film school who would be thrilled to work with a student producer

Jesse Kozel

Produce a Short to start. Find the content, or make the content. You'll need to have some capital to produce or be a very savvy fundraiser. Stay away from Kickstarter or IndieGoGo your first time out. Unless it's family/friends giving you money, the public at large probably won't invest in your project. Put together a team. That's the key to Producing. If you aren't a screenwriter, find one, if you aren't an actor, audition them, and the same goes for the director. Find locations that are free/cheap. Don't spend a ton, just get some experience. My first short cost me $500.00 and got recognition at some major festivals and screened at SAG, WGA & PGA. It was pretty amazing. I just think it's all about the people you know and the content you want to put out in the world. All the best!

Simon © Simon

And Jesse brings it full circle. Money

Mark Foster

Network, hobnob, kiss a$$, smooze, etc...and pick up the tab ! It takes $ to raise $ !

Chaitanya Kulkarni

I have seen my friends working as an assistant to producer or executive producer, just to know about it and develop contacts. You can give it a try too.

Nicholas Chase

They work up from Production Assistant to creative above-the-line staff by always being kind and respectful, an excellent listener, and doing the work no one else is willing to do on set or off before, during and after regular hours. Remember the names of everyone you meet using any strategy required. Keep in touch with everybody you meet, they may hear of a project you are well suited to interview for. Get to know Casting Directors, they hear requests from Directors and Producers daily and Casting Directors know who is hiring and for what. Never get angry or talk back, suck it up, and plow ahead, you do not want to be identified as 'the problem' you want to be the solution. Once you master all of the above you will be welcomed into the 'inner circle of acceptance', and be that 'known quantity' who can be relied upon to over-deliver your unique skills and services. Respectfully, Nicholas Chase - producer / director / writer / engineer - Nicholas Chase Productions

Jodi Hans

Nicholas this was an excellent response. Thank you

Gordie Scott

Yes this industry doesn't have any rule books its trial and error, I have been apart of this 'make or break' industry for years and it has made me laugh and cry BUT its wonderful to see your project on the screen. Hi Nic are you a producer cause I am looking for one for a tv series and feature. Gordie

JR Olivero

My scenario: P/A>Cameraman>Editor>Assistant>Assistant>Assistant>Waiter>Bartender>Restaurant Manager>Cameraman>Lied about being a Producer>Started producing slide-tape-powerpoint presentations for $35 a pop for the steel industry in Indiana>Actual Producer>Director. Years later... Writer, Executive Producer.

Doug Nelson

The best advice I can offer is to just go do it. I’m a writer with a few award winning scripts under my belt. I started looking for some local production talent to give them to because I’m trying to build a film industry in my town. I found that there is no real talent out here – so I became a producer and started encouraging local film students. We shot our first short last autumn – and it’s STILL in post. I have a short (non-award winning) script that that I’ll freely share with any and all up & coming producer or filmmaker wannabes. You may use it however you wish but if you do shoot it, all I ask is that you provide me with a copy. We shot it for less than $200 (my cost to feed the cast/crew,) that’s pretty much chump change for me and if I find a really talented filmmaker – there is some money available. Any takers?

Gordie Scott

Hi Nick - Its Gordie from Oz, I am the same as Doug, I got jack of asking big time producers to come on board and help me produce my films and by the time I waited on them replying - I thought I miss way start trill and error myself, now with a major short film about to have its premier and now in pre production of tv series and feature I am working my ass of to reach the stars mate. So, educate yourself mate and get stated - and don't be sy mate go catch your dream. Gordie Gordon Scott Films

Jodi Hans

Hey Gordie... thanks for the advice. Even though you gave it to Nic I heard/read ever word. Been pitching to Producers myself and getting jack. Would you advise making a short film of my feature project? Also how did you get your TV Series off the ground? Thanks

Gordie Scott

I wrote a novel, and got a mate of mine to write it into a short film, I have produce & directed it and about to premier it in two weeks. The tv series I am still in early stages of it, putting budget together takes for ever. With making a short film of your feature is good cause u can use it as a selling tool for investers to see wat they are investing in. BUT wen u make a selling tool u have to make sure its spot on make it as your life depends on it. I love the industry cause I am a people person and love to hang out with people that have same dreams as me I am not after to be famous just to enjoy going to work. I have given up on asking producers to look at my work years ago - its the same shit - don't have time, sorry BUT good luck with your project bla bla bla - so Jodi my advice is 'GO MAKE YOUR OWN MOVIE OR SHORT & TRIAL & ERROR - MY DAD SAID TO ME LEAN BY YOUR OWN MISTAKES SON' BUT ALWAYS - BUT ALWAYS STAND BESIDE BE PROUD OF YOUR EFFORTS MATE - FILM YOUR PROJECT CONTROL YOUR DREAMS' CHEERS GOOD LUCK MATE

Gordie Scott


Jodi Hans

Thank you Gordie... I'd love to have lunch sometime when you're free. I'm self employed so can be free anytime. And YES... I decided i MUST make the SHORT FILM to my screenplay. Thanks for the wake-up call to action...!!!!!

Vickie Paul

I take producing classes from the Academy of Art that are pretty good. If you are in film school, partner up with a few directing or screenwriting majors and offer to produce their projects. Also, get good software and read some marketing books.

Jacalyn Evone

I jumped in and just starting doing it. I produced locally for public access television which is a different animal altogether from film production, but it did give me the skills to direct crews, guests on television shows, and act as a host myself. I learned to work control boards and manage the whole production. The best thing about this is that it only cost a nominal annual membership fee of $40 a year, and also allowed me the use of studio cameras and equipment out in the field. About 5 years ago, I began using the studio equipment to produce documentaries and short films, later finding that film making was becoming a true niche, I started investing in and building up my own equipment. As an independent filmmaker, you learn to do some of everything. As a Virgo and perfectionist, I wanted to learn it all, producing, directing, cinematography, and post editing. While I may not do everything on a set today, I know how to do it, and I know how it should be done and whether or not I am getting what I want from others. Adding a few classes, volunteering on a few projects, and working as part of crews of local filmmakers will also give you an additional learning curve... but jumping in and simply doing is the best experience you can ever get.

Doug Nelson

Jacalyn – Now that’s what I’m talking about. To others of you out there, just roll up your sleeves and go do it. Yeah it’s gonna be hard; the wimps will fall out early – thinning the herd, making it easier for the go-getters. Learn about everything but keep in mind that you can’t do everything all the time, so you need others. Filmmaking is a team sport. Gather together a group of like minded folk or go join a group of like minded folk. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is one of the best teachers there is.

Mark Dowie

"Producer" is a vague and almost meaningless term. If you want to produce, i.e., MAKE a movie, you'll need money and know how (without which no one is going to invest in you). The know how is best obtained by working as an assistant or associate producer for some REAL and very good Producers .... not check writers, but folks who actually MAKE REAL and very good films.

Ed Spangler

Seems like most people get into the entertainment business to act, write, or direct, and they are always glad to have someone (you) handle all the other business and logistical things. You can start out as a PA working for other people or if you're looking to be involved more creatively, start collaborating with your peers and make your own projects. If you live in NY or LA, there are a bunch of entertainment industry specific websites where you can find jobs.

Doug Nelson

No, it does not start with money. Making a film requires dedication, drive and vast ambition - it's not for those with only half-vast ambition.

Allan Chen

Well said Doug. I too always thought it does not start with money.

Simon © Simon

You could also see if your college has any classes on the legal aspects of film or Film as a business. I took Music as a Business back in the day; 25 yrs ago. Not much difference.

Nicholas Chase

I can recommend two sites that will help a novice Producer: A brand new Community to promote local Production in the SF Bay Area, CA, but could extend Nationwide easily. Also A site for Investors and StartUps to collaborate and engage. All Producer's projects are in effect "StartUp Companie", and need money to fund their film and TV projects right? :-)

Calix Lewis Reneau

Pick a project. Set a production date. Start shooting on that date. Finish the film in post. Find a place to exhibit it. Repeat on the next project. Seriously. Even if that's just you with your cell phone shooting a YouTube video; work with what you have and MAKE something. Throw Momma from the Train has the immortal advice: "A writer writes." Well, a producer produces. So produce something.

David Thrasher

The long and short of it is that being a producer is easy to break into but hard to actually do. What does a producer actually do? The producers, finds the property (book, play, screenplay, etc.) raises the money for the project and hires the principles (the director, the cinematographer, etc.) and shepherds it all the way to the end (distribution and marketing). It is definitely not an easy job and most schools do not provide training for this aspect of motion picture and television productions. If there's any advice to be given it would be this: find people who have produced projects like you wish to do (preferably commercial as opposed to home grown "for fun" projects) and ask all the questions you can think of. Treat them to lunch. Ask them their stories. Learn from their mistakes and remember their advice.

Vincent Lowe

Nicolas, consider all of the advice you see here, but most of all, listen to people who have actually produced projects. (It's not about just "buying the credit" or just footing the bill. Ask someone who has done the work.) Here's how I say it. When you agree to be the Producer, you are promising to own the heart of the story as a personal commitment. No matter what happens, your job is make sure that the movie finds its way to an audience. To start, pick a project and make sure it gets finished. You'll do it wrong. That's okay. Do that over and over again. Along the way, you'll want to build a strong network of talent -- actors, writers, directors, cinematographers. You'll want to learn as much as you can about business, as much as you can about the craft of modern storytelling with "film" and "broadcast media." (Both of those terms are changing rapidly to mean something unlike what they meant before. Most of all, prepare to have your heart broken over and over when people don't do what they said they would. Be prepared to have your work trivialized by others who think that standing behind a camera, or in front of it, or even holding a boom pole is real filmmaking but what you do is not. Be prepared to pick up the slack wherever you have to, and most of all... Be prepared to stand firm and insist that "THIS show will go on, whatever it takes." When you do that over and over, one day you'll look in the mirror and say, "I'm a Producer."

Nicholas Chase

After ten years in Hollywood, advising producers and directors I decided to become one in 2003. Most producers have no clue about the role until they just do it. My live news and Celebrity golf and Kristi Yahamaguchi interviews are in fact field productions, produced by me. My participation in film and TV work goes back decades. Your advice rings true! Of course, producers sometimes are relegated to writing checks, as the Executive is usually the writer or major creative force. So many 'producers' contributed nothing to the creative direction of a project, as they are not really on-set daily. Thank you for your insights, they add value to the discussion. Stage32 is a wonderful forum for collaboration in our crazy industry.

Nicholas Chase

How about signing this petition if you live in California: 11,996 People Have Signed This Petition to 'Stop Runaway Production' in California. If you live in California, please sign and Share? THX! Call to Action: State Leaders Must Reclaim Film & Television Production Jobs & Keep California Competitive California Must Act to Reclaim Production Jobs and Economic Opportunity The motion picture industry has long called California its home and has grown into one of America’s greatest and most lucrative exports, a cultural touchstone known around the world, an economic engine for jobs and business and a tourist magnet.

Devlin Mann

working as an assistant, usually unpaid and unappreciated, is a great way to get your foot in the door

James Stewart

Not to sound facetious Nicolas, but a shit load of money always helps.

Jack Binder

start with a budget for investors

Anne Marie Gillen

Go online and download my FREE eBook ( which gives indie producers an overview of all the areas a filmmaker must take accountability and responsibility for in order to lead their team through development, pitching, financing, production, marketing and distribution.

Tom Townsend

The only requirement for becoming a producer is money.

D Marcus

I am a producer. There is SO much more to becoming a producer than money.

Doug Nelson

Tom - I hate to be so abrupt but you're not even in the right book, let alone on the right page.

Calix Lewis Reneau

Okay, calm down people - can we at least agree that it's hella easier to be a producer WITH money than WITHOUT? LOL! One of my top ten rules of producing: Hire the best people you can afford, give them the best tools you can to do their job, then get the hell out of their way. Much, much easier to do that as the access to funds increase, at least in my limited experience...

Doug Nelson

Calix, I’ll debate the other side with you. The original inquiry was about how to start producing. Becoming a (successful) film producer requires substantial knowledge and understanding of the basic art and craft itself but also a significant understanding of the business. The producer needs to know where the required finances are to be found and how best to acquire them but when starting out, having sufficient (excess) funding available allows the inexperienced producer to employ others to perform tasks way beyond his own understanding. When the project goes south, the newly minted producer fails to know how or why. He has no understanding of how to repair the situation and is in debt beyond his means – often making it impossible to remain in the field. So as I see it – having substantial funds available to a freshman producer is a burden; not an asset. Knowledge needs to come before money so I agree to bring the most qualified folk you can onto your team. (Truly knowledgeable and professional people are glad to share their wisdom and experience with newbie’s.)

Calix Lewis Reneau

Well, as long as we're debating... LOL! Becoming a "successful producer" is different from "how to start producing." Becoming a "successful" anything is a process of making a helluva lot of mistakes and hopefully surviving them... and even then, surviving doesn't mean rising to recognizable levels of worldly success. I just think it's silly to dismiss the idea that having access to a lot of money as a shortcut to producing; I know a lot of successful producers who got their start simply because they had access to funds, and a lot of other producers who've slogged it out and have made no-budget projects and have not much success to show for it other than the experience (like, me for instance, LOL!) The former might be all smoke-and-mirrors, and the latter might be more qualified. But it's the money that gets things done. To really understand the advantage that money brings to launching a film producing career, we could do a case study of Larry Ellison's kids, if you want...

D Marcus

Calix, no one has dismissed that having access to a lot of money is a shortcut to producing. The only requirement for becoming a producer isn't money, as Tom said. There is much more to producing than having money. Your views are too limiting in my opinion. Many producers have made no-budget projects and built a career.

Michael Wearing

Nicholas there's some good advice there. Perhaps on top of all that attend film festivals network and also at the start looking for short scripts where it might prove easier to get funding. For example one around social issues where a charity might be keen to come aboard. All films are projects and as such have three inter dependent variables. Time, scope, and cost. Having more time may for example mean you are able to find equipment props actors and crew at cheaper rates, but doing things on the cheap may reduce the scope of your project. Of course having more time may also mean that you can acquire a bigger budget and increase the scope of the film. As a new producer you will want to chose scripts with limited locations and actors. You will make mistakes but you will learn from them.

Michael R King

Thank you, thank you, thank you Nelson for such thorough and awesome answer.

Marcelo Dietrich

Great write up, Mr. Perez! I happened upon this article last week & found it quite informative! Hope it helps!

Viviane Haxel

Create a story u want to produce. Then try to purchase all the equipment u need or at least rent it! So now u have the equipment or are renting it. Start looking for those interested in your project. You are in school perfect place to find all the players. Do not be nervous in asking your professors to come on board. They should have contacts. Being a producer just means you are able to pull the team together! My mantra in life don't be afraid to ask, the only thing that can happen is they say no! Great place to get equipment is B &H in NYC. Voila! Your a producer!

Doug Nelson

... and the more you learn (the less you'll seem to know), the more you must become to passing that knowledge on.

Shaun O'Banion

Nicholas - Out of curiosity, where are you going to school?

David O'Brien

Breaking into production requires a multitude of talents, several of which I struggle to achieve. I've bitten the bullet and broken a few teeth on it. The hardest for me is Management (I can only just manage myself). I would suggest that you assume you have the creative clout to recognise a script worthy of several years of your life. Without that script you can call yourself what you like but it'll just be a name. If you've been successful in any other business, ask yourself what qualities you brought to it and be honest about what you lack. Study business but especially the art of selling because that's the bottom line to what a producer does. If you're not a salesman even the best script in the world won't get funded (there's just too much competition). But also bear in mind that many bad films get made. They were made because someone believed that they were better than they were (or convinced others to believe it). Go to lots of movies and analyse them for yourself, not what others say about them but what you see in them. Much of the rest you'll be making up as you go along; you'll need to be very good at bluff and have far more than your natural dose of good luck. Oh! And thanks for the question. Its always worth peering into your own mind to find out why we do what we do.

Ken Koh

Best place is on the job. Work on as many film shoots as possible, as a producer you need to really know everyone's job well to be able to produce on a tight budget, which is always.

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