Producing : Where to Learn the Nuts and Bolts of Producing by Preston Poulter

Preston Poulter

Where to Learn the Nuts and Bolts of Producing

I have a friend who had been very successful in a variety of businesses. He lives in Los Angeles and has amassed a good deal of money. In addition, he manages money for other wealthy investors including billionaire. We've discussed the idea of him becoming a film producer and he is interested, but has no idea of the day to day ins and outs of the process. Is there a good book or seminar to learn these things that I could refer him to?

Regina Lee

Hi Preston, I am skeptical that any one seminar could teach anyone the "nuts and bolts of producing." It would require a lot more than a seminar to accomplish that tall task. If he is open to a longer course, the UCLA Producers Program offers non-MFA programs (Summer Programs, online, Producers Programs). I was a guest speaker in the evening program years ago. I have a friend who lives in Florida and has an MBA from Duke. He's in real estate but he loves movies, and like your friend, some of his MBA friends make a great deal of money. He successfully produced a sub-$1M movie, and he attended the summer program 2 years ago. He still found it valuable even though he had produced a small movie.

Laurie Ashbourne

Hi, Preston - the term producer is very broad. There's a big difference between the producers in the thick of it on set, the ones greenlighting projects and the executive producers (who are usually the money or highly connected ones that help push a project to reality. Here's a very simple rundown: But if you do some searching you'll find more detail. So, the big question you have to answer is what kind of producer do you and your friend want to be? It sounds to me he would fit the executive producer bill -- in which case, I'd love to talk with him!

Preston Poulter

Yes, executive producer. That is what he would want to be.

Regina Lee

Hi Preston, I don't think there's a class for EPs who may want to come on as an investor, assess risk, and define their EP brand. If your friend is a finance guy, tell him that financing film is very similar to VCs and portfolio investments. Forbes and MBA types have blogged about it. That should be a nut that he knows exactly how to crack. Some basic questions to ponder: What's my risk tolerance? Do I want to come in as "first money"? Am I willing to finance development, production, or co-production? Do I want to finance a slate/portfolio or one-offs? Do I want to get behind a particular piece of talent (e.g. Tobey Maguire, or perhaps a particular genre of film and use a genre as my brand? If he wants to start with a smaller investment, he can finance development of a script, or a low budget movie, or he can join other financiers as a co-financier of a movie. If he wants to go all-in, then look at a company like Fred Smith's Alcon Entertainment. Those are some questions to start thinking about. If he's serious, I would be happy to meet you in LA. I prepared a similar brief for my Duke MBA friend who was in LA for the UCLA Summer Producers Program. I've also consulted for a few foreign high-net worth individuals, but to be honest, none have ever gotten past the risk factor and jumped into the pool. I'm a Duke undergrad, hence the Duke MBA connection, and I would be happy to share my bio with you. I can also discuss a few pitfalls with you, but I'm not going to post in the public space. :-)

Preston Poulter

Yes he is a CFA so that's what he is used to. So what does an Executive Producer do exactly other than simply raise the money. Do they decide on the script or other creative elements?

Regina Lee

In short, he can be as hands on or hands off as he wants to be. Typically, if he wants creative control, the top talent will be less likely to want to work with him. For example, look at Minnesota Twins owner Bill Pohlad. He gets to work with Sean Penn on amazing movies because he lets Sean Penn do his thing.

Regina Lee

It really depends on the situation and the types of filmmakers/films he makes his brand.

Shaun O'Banion

Hi, Preston - Regina, as usual, is right on here. If I were you, I'd message her and take a meet. Oh, and based on your post, expect a large influx of producers looking for financing to hit your inbox now. ; )

Tony Fisher

Thanks, this was very interesting. I have recently been approached with regards to signing up as a producer (aka supplying money), at the moment Im in two minds about it.

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