Producing : So you want to be a Producer.... Do you really know the skill set? by Georgia Hilton

Georgia Hilton

So you want to be a Producer.... Do you really know the skill set?

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. cheers geo

Tim Bennett

What an awesome post this is Georgia. Every time I read your posts I learn so much! Great job Tim

Patrick Hampton

I like to tell people you have to know everyone's job and how to do it.

Julian Nabunya

good blogs on producing a movie surely i like to follow .

Tek Doko

Wow. Hit the nail on the head big time with this one.

Gary Craig

Great post..and thank talked me out of being a producer

Lucifer Divinitas

Thank you for posting the nightmare of producing. Haha I could never get people to understand.

Georgia Hilton

most low budget projects require people to wear more than one hat, and , in fact, should wear as many as possible and still do their job(s) well. There isn't enough money in most projects to fill al the roles with individual people. If you are producing your own project, why pay for a line producer, UPM, AD, production manager... just do it yourself. Do you really need a DP, AC, 2nd AC, ... or can your DP handle it by themselves.... if you have money to burn, go ahead and hire a bunch of people.... but if the money is tight, i'd rather have 5 great crew who can cover 20 positions, than have 20 underpaid, low quality crew....

Julian Nabunya

your right Georgia .

Mark Ratering

you forgot the drugs and sex

Marife Necesito

The Production Manager jobs are also BIG part of this :)

Jason Van Niekerk

You said it !!! Great post. Thanks for this.

Carlo Mov

very well described :)

Carlo Mov

you can be a great teacher too

Georgia Hilton

i'm actually giving a lecture/discussion in NYC on High-production value on a micro budget project.

Tracey Cuesta

Beautiful Georgia!! And all so very very true!!!! :-)

I-Esha Henderson

This is awesome!

David Boorboor

Great Post. If I could find a producer like this, I would be well on my way :)

Amanda J Asquith

Thanks Georgia. Heading down the producing road . . . :-)

Georgia Hilton

best of luck and I look forward to hearing you thank me when you get your first Producing Oscar! ;)

Calix Lewis Reneau

1) When I worked in high-end construction as a superintendent here in Los Angeles, a lot of clients and friends in the biz were convinced that my skillset in that field would transfer to film producing. It did - it's actually easier to produce a film than it is to build a Hollywood mansion (there are fewer moving parts - "departments" - to manage in film, and even the egos are about the same - try managing a meeting of egos between a top architect, a top designer, a very rich client, your powerful boss - all wanting different things!) 2) I had a dispute with a "fellow producer" on an earlier project of mine; he felt like I was expecting him to do some "non-producerly" tasks as part of his work. Eventually I landed on my working definition, which is what I demand of every producer working on a project with me anymore: "A producer is the person who does whatever it takes to get a project made and distributed." Anyone not willing to accept that ENTIRE responsibility (no matter who else is on the project and what they expect of him or her) frankly isn't ready to be a producer... at least, not on the indie level. Real producers sweep the floors at the end of the day if that's what it takes. IMPHO! (...In my probably heretical opinion... )

Mark Ratering

if you say it's easier your doing something wrong.

Georgia Hilton

yup. I'm actually putting my money where my blog is and i'm make a micro-budget flick in public so you can follow the story from script to distribution.

Mark Ratering

would love to have that for my film festival. Good Luck Mark

Mark Ratering

I like it wish you had a bigger Star.... maybe of you get 2.8 million. If it does not get funded I maybe would be able to help but lets just cross our fingers you hit. LOL Mark

Calix Lewis Reneau

@Mark - interesting observation; so, how many mansions have you supervised the construction of, and how many independent films have you made? For me, it's only been a handful of each... three shot-out features from script to screen and half a dozen homes valued well north of $10M each taken from ground to occupancy. But maybe your much more experienced at both than I - looking forward to learning more from you about that! Physical construction on a legit mansion usually takes from three to five years, minimum - often longer; taking that long on physical production on an indie film means the filmmaker is doing something wrong. Over the course of building a home, I would work with 35-50 different subcontractors; on an indie film, there are far fewer departments to deal with (even factoring in pre- and post-production.) As a superintendent, I had the same responsibility as I do in producing (making sure the product was made as excellently, as cheaply, and as timely as possible while meeting the creative expectations of the big players in the project and keeping the craftspeople motivated to do excellent work and on-task in terms of budget and schedule) but as a superintendent I had much less authority in the larger picture than I do now as a producer. So, yeah, in my experience: making a movie is easier than building a legit mansion. But as I said, I'm very interested in learning how your experience has been otherwise!

Mark Ratering

I do see the where the two "endeavours" are similar, don't get me wrong. I grew up in a town that had a Frank Lyold Wright house and my friend Howard Preston was the main man to put together Cranbrook.... so I believe these men face the same "is my magic working" as any film-maker. The men that build ....have the same problems as the film-maker except that "magic" making a film is so much harder to get. People ask actors "did you know if that was going to be a hi when you were making it" the honest ones say "nope. didn't know". The mixture of music, lighting, acting, story,post etc etc etc all put into one endeavour and being really really great and really really perfect happens once or twice in a lifetime..... even for the greats. The number of perfect functions happening at once to make a perfect film.... makes making a perfect film..... the hardest thing in the world. In my 40 years as a film-maker I lost 3/4 of my credits because I fought with the powers that be, because I felt the people that I was working for...... were not striving for that perfection. I am yet to find it. As my wise Jewish partner used to say.... in yiddish.... "Art is long...Life is short".

Calix Lewis Reneau

@Mark - ah, the "magic" aspect of the art and craft! I think it's just as difficult to pull off in architecture as in film - probably more so, actually. Which is why I focus on craft and business and heart, and leave the ineffable sense of "magic" to the whims of Providence and the experiences of those who choose to encounter my work. And the work of the Producer is to provide the best possible environment for excellence to happen... indeed, one of my "Rules of Producing" (which I should formally code someday, LOL!) is one I learned in high-end construction: "Find the best people you can afford, give them the best tools and environment for their work you can manage, and then stay out of their way as much as possible!" After all, life is indeed short - and as Voltare wrote: "Dit que le mieux est l'ennemi du bien."

Calix Lewis Reneau

Speaking of the multiplicity of opinions as to what a producer does:

Dar Curcio-Elsbury

Bless you, Georgia, for taking time to spell it out so clearly. As a screenwriter, it's so beneficial to know the traits and mindset of the person, the stressed out producer audience, to whom a writer is pitching. Profoundly useful.

Mark Ratering

Georgia you make some bread on your projects or "tabla" as the Filipinos say.. "break even".Mark

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