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So what *does* a producer do?

Production is such a big and poorly understood topic, I thought I'd chuck my thoughts out there, see who agrees or corrects me (both very welcome!), and hopefully in the process help some shooters understand what a producer actually does.

In its shortest form, the producer makes the film - everyone else works for her or him. There are several subcategories though, and various production credits. They do all mean something different, so know what you're asking for if posting an ad! The two producers who do any direct work are Producer and Line Producer, so let's start there.

The Producer is responsible for every single aspect of the film, from script to camera choice to music to paying for the milk in the coffee. They get the money and write the cheques. If there was only one role in filmmaking, it would be Producer. It's a big deal. It's such a big deal, nobody can do it alone, so they employ helpers - directors, cinematographers, production designers, writers, cast, everybody else. All those roles exist to help the producer to get a film made. If you're posting an advert for a 'producer wanted', it's probably wrong, and not what you really want. If you want a producer, you're looking for a boss to employ you. You won't get one for expenses/NMW for sure.

Line Producers help the producer manage the budget. Budgets are made up of lines, the LP will draw up a budget and deliver the film to the producer for that budget managing the line items, knowing where they've overspent or underspent as the shoot progresses. They're unlikely to waste time visiting set too much, they're always several days ahead of the actual shop floor filming, and worrying about dull paperwork. The division between Line Producer and Production Manager is blurry, I have no objection to either title, but you'd typically expect a PM to be maybe a bit more present on the floor and less focused on teams of spreadsheets. The LP is the boss of everyone on a shoot except the producer and maybe director (although they can get a director removed if they pose a financial risk). It's a tough role, and probably what you actually want when you advertise for a producer, unless you're really asking for a financier and investor! You may find someone who will do this for a reduced fee, but seeing the scope of the job, and how close they are to the heart of it, they're typically not going to accept £50/day when they know to employ a runner will cost £70. However, this is the role that will save more than it's cost in your production. A good LP/PM will know how to structure your project economically and save you money.

Financiers will help manage getting money in for a fun at the behest of a producer. They will know investors and various tax grey areas, and will typically work for a percentage but in return they stake their credibility with investors that the project will make a profit. Bottom end of this area may crowdsource, but that's not very compatible with 'proper' finance, and the money it raises is pretty bottom-end, all told. If you're making a short, don't even bother advertising for a professional, get a second job.

There are some other 'producer' positions that don't actually do any direct work. Executive Producers may bring money or something if value to the table. Star talent are sometimes Execs when they work on a split fee taking the bulk from the back end, effectively they're investing their name and £x/day of value. Execs are going to make money out of the film.

Associate Producer is a bit of a joke credit, it's what you give someone who hasn't on the project, hasn't invested in it, but you had to give them a producer credit for the sake of politics. It could be the hairdresser who introduces you to a client looking to invest a million, maybe she takes a fee for doing so. Offering this credit to anyone actually working on the film can be taken as either well-meaning but misguided or a mild insult.

Production roles may include production accountants, production managers, production coordinator, production researchers, production assistants, most of which are self explanatory. The PM is likely to be the LP's right hand, the accountant is going to manage the cash and pay who they're told to and keep financial systems and reports up to date. PC may run logistics, catering, accommodation etc - the mundane stuff that is the reality of production. PA's will do the grunt, the role isn't dissimilar to being a floor runner.

So, apart from everything, what does a producer do? The three T's - tea, transport and toilets. Get those right, the job'll look after itself ;)

If you're posting an advert for a producer role now, what you probably really want is a line producer or hoping someone will magic some money out of thin air for you. But look at the above, if you're advertising, you probably already *are* the producer - what you may actually need is a production consultant/advisor/mentor to get you confident and oversee from afar and to give you the odd pep talk. I wonder if we'll ever see such roles advertised?!

  • Co-producers - the project is being backed by two people. These are typically international partners, maybe a film is being shot in 2 countries, and both have different tax benefits for local companies, so a co-pro will optimise the tax benefits between the two countries. Co-Producer ... is a person, Co-Production In Association With ... is a company.

    6 years ago
  • Do Producers put their own money in or is that only Executive Producers?

    6 years ago
    • It depends. I've done finding for assets and my take is typically 10% of the money found, plus back-end profit. I DON'T do this on a lark as I have a good track record for the people I get to invest.

      6 years ago
    • Not usually, or not usually very much at least. They will, however, be pouring in hundreds and thousands of hours, so they do make a very real investment.

      6 years ago
    • Premature posting! They will likely put in the seed money, though. The money at a stage long before they're going to the market to try to presell the project - perhaps on book options, wining and dining key creatives, getting a script together, etc. It's harder to find the first £10k than the last £10k, so they may very well take their financial risks early on in the project lifestyle.

      6 years ago
  • This video is a good one from Doc/Fest for answering that -

    And this one too for a case study -

    6 years ago
  • Paddy:
    Thank you SO much for posting this. Having been a Producer for approximately ten years, every time I work with someone who's just coming away from the fray (infer recent school graduate, dabbling in film, or only completed a few shorts), I feel like I'm in Film Production Basics 101.
    One thing I will add to the traditional Executive Producer role: What a lot of people don't realize is that the EP will often hire the Producer and turn him/her loose to complete the project as well. They typically have the final say. If the EP trusts the Director and Producer, the EP typically will not interfere too much. If the EP brought money or talent, trust me when I say they will have input. That being said, if there is an issue that the a Line Producer feels a Producer is creating or enabling, they can and often circle back to the EP. A good example of this is when you see someone with 'Financial Line Producer' credit, it means the EP had to fire someone and the Bond Company entered in to complete the film OR the EP arranged more assets.
    Over all Paddy, I must tip my hat and say that your post is a very to the point explanation. I don't work for free, but I do have my own equipment (camera, glass and edit suite). If I like a project enough, I'll work out a deal. Still have to put bread on the table.
    All the best,

    6 years ago
    • Cheers, I think we'll all work out a deal for the right project, if it's the right project with a realistic chance of doing something at least!

      6 years ago
  • Great posts that should be extremely helpful to many of our members.

    Often times though the areas of responsibility associated with job titles can get blurred. Unlike with militarily ranks, where for example we know that a Division is commanded by a Major General or Brigade by a Brigadier, the film/video/TV industry is no so proscribed by absolutes. It's been clear though that many members here trying to get projects underway have misunderstood the terms they often use. Paddy's definitions should help remedy that; at least with those who read this thread.

    6 years ago
    • Agreed, there are naturally crossovers and different people will group the work differently - but broad brush I think we're all on similar pages ;)

      6 years ago
  • Good post, Paddy. I'd like to add something; Recently I had a conversation with a young filmmaker who was part of a group of filmmakers, who did a bunch of shorts. They would rotate jobs of directing and producing. This time he was producer, and complained that he was being cut out of the creative process. He thought they should find a "real" producer that would deal with all of the logistics of making a film. My immediate reaction was "you have no idea what a producer does. They can't cut you out of the creative process. Producers are part of the creative process."

    A good producer IS a creative part of the team. He/she is also someone with final say over the creative aspects of a film. As an editor, I LOVE a good producer. They are fresh eyes to look at cuts. They are, if good, great problem solvers on the set when the director is really fucking up. Yes, a producer takes care of a lot of logistics and looks over a lot of people. But let's not forget when advertising for a producer, that they are in it for a good film, and EVERYTHING that entails. They've hired a specific director for a reason, and do everything to support that. But in the end, it is very much their film, and if the director isn't cutting it, that director isn't going to last.

    I've worked with some crap producers, and I've worked with some amazing ones. The amazing ones are completely hands on in the creative department--even when that means being hands off if things are going well. And guess what? Things are going well because of the producer.

    Much like an editor, a good producer can push a better film out at the end. A bad producer can make it much worse than it should be.

    As for Associate Producers... here in America, it can be a throw away title as well. But it can also me a reward. I've seen PMs get that credit after being amazingly good at their jobs--above and beyond. I've seen an advisor to a writer/director get that credit as a thank you. But it can be a credit for a bad producers girl friend, too.

    6 years ago
    • Amen Dan! A lot of people (i.e. writers and directors mainly) think that the Producer has no creative input, but nothing could be further from the truth. The amount of directors I've met over the years insist the opposite. At Columbia Uni, they really create a good program that describes how it all intertwines (director/producer/writer). They each have a go and learn about the roles, but the producer is the grand high Poobah in the end. ;-)
      We deal with the vendors, the agents, the distributors, the creatives and the crew.
      My old saying to a director and writer is this, "It's your BBQ, but I'm here to make that much sweeter/tangier/spicier. I want something tasty!"

      6 years ago
    • @Xavier Santiago To stretch your BBQ metaphor a little Xavier, you're also buying the meat, turning the spit, doing the promotion, selling the tickets, doing the side deals with the guy running the bar, and paying the tax on the profits ;)

      6 years ago
    • @Xavier Santiago I think the creative input of the producer is an imperative and evidence for the director and/writer that you all share the same vision for the project ... like any good business you need to confident about what is at the core of what you're taking to market - it's not just a film you're making, it's your film.

      6 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin
      @Stuart Wright
      Oh I know Paddy and agree, but my comment is more about managing the delicate sensibilities of the director and writer. A confident director or writer will not get defensive but in my experience, most do.
      Yeah Stuart, trust me I know. I can't push a product if I don't agree with the direction or choices. I will politely bow out. Luckily I've got some nice working relationships where the dialogue is great and we can truly see the vision manifest...makes my job SO much easier!

      6 years ago
  • tuppence worth. I've worked with the same producer more or less for the last 12 years. I'm still the creative force and drive behind my documentaries as they are: a) my original ideas which I b) write up b) research myself c) usually film myself d) am very involved in the editing and choice of music e) choose any archive images ....Oh I guess the list could go on.

    The producer I refer to is quite 'hands off' re my projects but does throw in a few ideas as does the editor of course. This has advantages and disadvantages. On one level it's quite a lonely path to take but on another level I have a great deal of freedom to make the type of authored work that make my documentaries MY documentaries!

    The producer sources the funding and distribution if not already a broadcast commission. He also has full offline/online edit facilities that I use and other pieces of kit I may need outside of my own camera and sound equipment. Oh and he does some of the awful paperwork I hate so much....that's got to be worth something.

    6 years ago
    • Thank you for this response, its nice to see one from someone in a similar position to me. If I come up with the idea, and i write it and i film it the final say is mine, not the producer. In the traditional industry models it is different but if we all stuck to the traditional way of doing things in the current economic climate nothing would ever get made.

      6 years ago
    • @katy vans If you write it, direct it, shoot it, and god forbid, edit it, a good producer can save you from yourself. It amazes me to no end how young filmmakers don't understand their own lack of objectivity.

      What if, in this world of yours, the investors insist on a completion bond, and you blow your shooting ratio on the 3rd day? I've seen this happen a lot.

      A producer is there to support you, but if you don't trust them, or respect their job, the collaborative nature of making a film goes down the toilet, and everyone suffers. The producer is not the enemy.

      I'm not sure what "traditional model" means.

      6 years ago
    • @katy vans

      So the "art" is all you, and the funding is sorted, and maybe the project isn't too large.

      You need a Producer who views themselves as a Project Manager, and doesn't want to get involved in the "art", (though they will want you to show that you have it all down pat, because that goes to costs).

      They need to be the Captain Sensible on the team, esp if resources are stretched and running out of money means NO FILM.

      Their job is to be brutal about costs, resources and scheduling and assume that nothing will ever go better than expected, and usually it will go worse.

      Frankly, they should be a pain in the arse.

      I am playing this role for a writer / director friend's low budget short.

      He's only just starting to realise what he's let himself in for :-)

      6 years ago
    • @Dan Selakovich i was referring to the OP message that the film belongs to the producer and they just hire everyone else, which everyone was agreeing with, and I don't. I do want/need a producer but if the idea is mine the script if mine and i direct the film it's mine, which is why i was welcoming a different perspective to the original post

      6 years ago
    • @Marlom Tander yes this is how i see a producer that i want to work with

      6 years ago
    • @katy vans Katy, if it's your idea, you wrote it, you got the crew together and filmed it, with your money, then you *are* the producer. What I'm trying to say is that a producer isn't an add-on, it's the person whose project it is. The producer produces the film.

      If the whole of making films could be done my a single person, that person would be the de facto producer, no matter whether it involved cast, animation, just audio, lights, dark, script, anything. You can't direct no actors, you can't light audio, but you can still produce a piece without those other requirements.

      6 years ago
    • @katy vans I get what you're saying. I really do. I used to think that way, too. But there's a weird psychology that happens when you push that too far. You can't make the typical feature all by your lonesome. All of a sudden, you have a shitload of partners; DP, editor, costume designer, production designer, actors, etc. All creative people in their own right. All hired by the producer, who is also a creative partner. ALL of those people will have input, which the director can use or discard. But many, and frankly it's those with the least experience, see the producer as a non-creative person, and should just stay out of the director's way. And if things are going well, they do. But a producer's input can't be so easily discarded. They liked the script. They liked you to direct. It is they who went out and raised a shitload of cash so that you could direct your script. Now it's their film too. Like it or not. And if you go into it with the attitude of ME and not WE, it's going to be a long hard slog.

      6 years ago
  • Thank you for this! And to all who commented. As a new entrant into the industry it's difficult getting my head round what happens in each role. Producer is always tricky as it covers so many things. And as said previously, a lot of the roles have blurred lines. Thank you!

    6 years ago
    • And none more blurred than production roles - a good PM/LP/producer should have an idea how each department works. They might not be a good camera op, or spark, or boom swinger, or editor, etc., but an appreciation of what's going on in all departments will help with feeling/being in control.

      6 years ago
  • Just a thought on the "Associate Producer" title: it is now often used for those who provide significant finance to films (especially shorts) or contribute in some other capacity (e.g. script editor), as well as for writers who do a lot of early stage production work to get the film made. Hopefully this trend will help to rescue it from *joke status*.

    6 years ago
  • @Katy vans

    You'll find it hard to find such people. It's the ultimate thankless task.

    I'm doing it for a friend of mine, but the point is that he's already a friend and we've already established that we can rip into each other freely, without it being taken as personal.

    If that's really the role you need, your candidate will almost certainly be someone you already know, and who you know just loves making stuff happen. I'd be very wary of trusting someone new in the role because if the relationship goes wrong, your project is dead and money spent to date, gone.

    Good luck

    6 years ago
    • Marlom, a friendship that works as is may not work as well when roles are different, wouldn't you say? Friendships like the one you describe must be few.

      6 years ago
  • @ aleve - agreed. I WOULD NOT offer to produce on this basis with most of my friends. In fact just today I told another that I would be happy to help them with planning etc, but NOT to take on any formal role. Because our friendship probably couldn't take the pressure.

    I suppose the point is that the kind of Producer that Katy wants is a rare beast, but if there is one out there for her, it's someone she already knows. If she doesn't know such a person, Katy - well done, you're also the Project Manager :-)

    6 years ago
  • I stand up and admit: looking for a producer who can shoulder 1, 2 or 3 large projects. Meaning is in a position to convince heavy-weight parties to collaborate on these.

    6 years ago
  • i seem to be getting conflicting information on here and from people who i have spoken to who have found people to produce for them. I know people who have started a project, the idea, research, started a bit of filming etc; they then have found a producer to go out and find funding to help complete the project, who have been the person talking up the project and speaking to funders on a level so the director can get on with directing - and none of these people worked alone, that's not how i am positioning this. I know a project is collaborative, i have worked as an actor for years. The OP suggested that the producer says i have an idea, i will hire people to work for me, i am the person who owns this film. Which is not the story i am hearing.
    Are you saying therefore i will not be able to find someone to work as a producer on my projects unless i say "hey wanna take over my project and tell me what to do?", which is very different from my plan of saying "wanna work WITH me on a project?"

    6 years ago
    • No, Katy, we're not saying that AT ALL. But those of us who've been around awhile have seen this "auteur theory" take hold in very nasty ways. Especially when you have an experienced producer and a 1st time director. A good producer supports you and the film you're trying to make. But often, a 1st timer starts to go off the rails, and when the producer tries to right the ship, the director goes insane with no give and take at all, because "IT'S MY FILM!"

      I've spent 99% of my career working uncredited fixing films. Most of the time that means the director has been fired, I direct new scenes or take over what's left, then re-edit the entire picture. Now in that, is the producer gone? Only if the completion bond company has stepped in. Most of the time it's the same producer trying to right the ship on a project he/she believed in, with a director that lost his way or didn't have the chops to begin with. There are a great number of directors out there that know what they want, but have no idea how to get it. When the producer tries to help with that, the director's ego kicks in, and things turn to shit. It's incredibly common. There are bad producers too, and that's worse than having a bad director. I was editor on a picture were the bad producer and the bad director were constantly complimenting each other. The crew started calling them "The bobbing dog heads of mediocrity." Having done a lot of pictures, I much prefer a good producer over a good director--if given that choice. A good producer brings out the best in a director, but a great director can only get so far with a bad producer. But, in the end, the director has to be open to suggestion and completely trust his/her people.

      Your original post was "I wrote it. I directed it. It's mine." That's very different than "wanna work WITH me on a project?"

      6 years ago
    • @Dan Selakovich thanks, this is now getting clearer. Now that means that the selection of the producer should be stricter than that of the director. And poses the question: how does a director "manufacture" their vision.

      6 years ago
    • @Alève Mine Well, I'm not so sure the producer is "selected". More often than not, a script finds its way to a producer that wants to do it. It's more like winning the lottery.

      A vision (for lack of a better word) is manufactured by the director doing their homework long before the 1st day of principle photography. Often long before the official start of pre-production. Shot lists, story boards, the look--including lighting, costume, makeup... Notes on the emotional life within each scene. Overheads on camera placement and movement. Lenses. In other words, how do you convey that emotion with camera placement? And editing--how will that scene cut given the coverage you've selected?

      The more homework you do, the better you can communicate with your crew and head off any problems getting there.

      If you don't do that homework, this is what will happen: under the pressure of shoot days, you'll fall back to basic coverage and it will look like most television does, no matter how good your actors, production designer, editor, and DP.

      6 years ago
    • @Dan Selakovich
      Dan's right here again. I've read over 100 reports, read 25 scripts from those reports and now settled on 2 scripts. Only one is going to be a writer/director piece and he already has one feature and is bringing 10% capital of the total budget.

      6 years ago
    • @Dan thank you for the description, I'm taking note.

      @Dan @Xavier Maybe producers can't be selected, but they can be deselected, as I can testify that I did deselect a team of two producers which would have been a nice international co-production. Due to a lack of trust. Berlinale was only the second festival I had met one of them, the first being Cannes. Still somehow you get a feeling. Other offers were on lower risk participation that would only be feasible when a main solid producer would kick off.

      Quite seriously, I'm starving, but instinct still prevails in such a venture. It should not be assumed that scripts are just lying around for any producer to pick. Somehow your guts start walking the other way and you know you'll need them to digest the day you find food, so you follow your guts however weak you already feel. It just needs to happen (my material needs to reach the right eyes) timely. Before survival efforts suppress freeable time.

      I guess when I hear numbers with regard to scripts, it feels like the number of facebook page likes that the industry is asking for. It doesn't make much sense in my head, not relating to the content.
      A writer director may bring 10% of capital, but their result may bring 20% less return.

      Do I sound fed up? I should sound fed up by now.

      I've got some killer stories. It is important that they don't get castrated, it is important that they get made and that I come out alive and kicking at the other end of the process.

      6 years ago
    • @Alève Mine Hi Alève, I'm so pleased you have a load of killer stories! There are some great untold stories out there waiting to be told. There are also a staggering number of scripts out there literally pleading to be filmed. They actually are lying around for studio producers to take their pick, they get sent hundreds a week, they have to pay people just to read them and filter them out in fact.

      Also, in reality, the story is worth way more than 10% of the value of a film. More than 30%. Alas, all the other costs are so high by comparison, it won't get that level of respect/recognition by a long straw. It's not fair, but it isn't fair.

      6 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin Thank you :)

      Yes it is unfair for me, for the producer, and for the audience.

      Were I a producer, how would I know where to find THE missing scifi saga/franchise? THE outlandish action film? THE eye-opening controversial fantasy series?

      Gobbling up, funneling in all works out there is numbing. Where do you source that anyway? My screenplays are not on any website except for IP registration. Is that the place where producers look?

      I guess that chances may be higher when you look at the works of writers with an intriguing story as their biography, but how would they find even these? If any www.writerswithanintriguingstoryasabiogr..., it would soon swell with wannabe intriguing biographies.

      If you source your reads at agents, you've filtered out most of the unusual stuff out there due to the hermetic regurgitative nature of the business.

      What a conundrum. I must admit I'm glad producers have catch-22s of their own. Some of them may realise that.

      6 years ago
    • @Alève Mine Absolutely: walking away is always an option. And "NO" has a lot of power. I've said no to a lot of wannabe tools. BUT I can think back on my career and easily wished that I hadn't been so stubborn with my work with more established people. Because it works like this: the producer will have notes. the studio will have notes (really bad, bad notes), then they will want to give it to a Name. They'll ask you to re-write for the Name. Blerg. Then they'll have found a director that's not you. OK, fine. More notes. More writing. But you know what? Directors seem to be listened to by all of the above. Hopefully you'll be embraced by him/her and your original work will get out there into the world. Perhaps it will be even better. Part of the game is taking lousy notes and making the script better with lousy notes. Their are 2 things that are amazingly true: everybody in the chain thinks they can write. Everybody in the chain thinks they can edit. And it's a great big shit sandwich. It's amazing that anything of quality gets made at all.

      My advice for you, is to find a production company that fits your script. For example, you wouldn't want to send your action script to "Killer Films" because they do things like "boys don't cry", "Safe", and "Velvet Goldmine." There's a fit for you, and lots of amazing producers like Killer Films Christine Vachon. You just have to do a little digging and a lot of homework.

      6 years ago
    • @Alève Mine
      Basically, Paddy, Dan, myself and others are offering insight where we can. Hitting trends is part of a producer's job but that is dependent upon the distributors and sales agents - they predict what the populace wants (relative I know).
      With first, second and even third time writers and directors, our job is to mitigate the risks so that we can maximize returns for a film. With those writers and directors, I send them home with 'homework'. Otherwise, like stated earlier, the film may appear like a TV show or even worse, a made for TV movie.
      Every time I see a talent, I need to know what they can bring to the table in PR. If I have an unknown, I know I need to pair them up with established talent. If my DoP and Director are having issues, I need to fix them. We are the quintessential problem solver. But we solve most before they happen.
      As one of my early mentors put it to me after I experienced a colossal screw up with a production: "You're job is to have a plan to prevent any issue on a set. It isn't just plan A, B, C but from A-Z and back again."
      PS For what it's worth, send me your three best scripts. No the big money, not the big drama, but the ones that speak of your voice in a well thought out three-act structure. I won't send them to a reader. I will read them.

      6 years ago
    • @Xavier Santiago Thank you so much! I tend to have Intro-I-II-III-Coda type of structures and hope that is okay for you. That'll be two features and a series pilot. I'm currently trying to get a (surreal) short done here in Zurich which is hopefully smaller money. The features are assumed to be big money, though. The sfx in the series may be that, too... Will now send you a message on here.

      6 years ago
  • Dan, I was merely responding to the OP who said the following:

    "the producer makes the film - everyone else works for her or him.

    The Producer is responsible for every single aspect of the film, from script to camera choice to music to paying for the milk in the coffee.

    If you want a producer, you're looking for a boss to employ you"

    Which i was disagreeing with

    6 years ago
    • Katy, for the sake of argument, all of that is true. Everyone DOES work for the producer. But no producer is going to force a DP to use a certain camera package, or tell a director which lens to use, or tell an actor how to play a scene.

      In the indie world, a great script might come with the director who wrote the thing. Here's where the rubber meets the road, because you might be faced with this choice: "I can get this script made, but not with you as director." What happens then? Do you give up getting your script made? Don't do what I did when I was faced with exactly that. I didn't let the script go, and it never got made.

      In other words, you'll discover very quickly who is REALLY in charge. You can disagree all you want, but when someone else raises the money and you're a first time director, that contract you'll be signing gives you no power. Once you get a track record, you'll be more trusted and more supported by a producer, but unless you have a huge hit, the power will still be on the producer's side. If you want to avoid that, be the producer/writer/director. But as Robin Williams put it: "the only creature on earth that can blow smoke up his own ass." Funny, and often true.

      6 years ago
  • @katy vans
    In regards to what @Dan Selakovich is saying, it is quite sage advice. Even when I've come in to clean up messes and often uncredited for it, it is because of a director or a producer not doing the right thing - but mostly the director. There is a growing attitude that the director runs the show from ground zero and it just isn't true. Even at the indie level where you are a writer/director, you will find that if you want it made and made right, then you need the producer.

    We do have input on various creative levels. I've told DPs they can't have a camera package because it's too expensive but then help him find an alternative. I've told a director we can't afford a Fisher 11 but found an alternative to complete the shots. Until you or any other director have a track record, it is our job to complete the vision with him/her and sell the project, even if that means having someone else direct or co-direct it. And Dan is right about the first time director contract. It is so completely limiting and without the producer sign off, it isn't going to happen.
    So, unless you're providing the funds...the truth is here.

    As for the type you need, it seems like someone who will do the grunt work and that is a very specialized character that they don't train at schools. I've done that once and it was paid through a bonding company to get the job done. See my earlier post in this chain.

    BEST ADVICE: Find a producing partner you trust, not one that you can boss around. His/her push back will save you when you least expect it! Good luck!

    6 years ago
    • Katy: Just to add what Xavier said about completion bonds... First, incase you don't know, a completion bond is sort of like investor insurance. The investors of the film will probably (if they are smart) insist on a completion bond. This is usually 4-6% of the budget paid to a completion bond company. These guys really know what they are doing, and only hire the very best people. They keep an iron hand on the daily reports that come from the production. If a film goes over budget or over schedule, for example, they can take over a film. HERE'S THE RUB: Bond companies only promise a film to be finished (so hopefully the investors can see some of their money back). They DO NOT promise that it will be good. Thankfully a bond company coming in is rare. I've only worked on 3 or 4 bond takeovers in all my years at this (2 in the last 2 years!). Those that the bond company hires try to do the best they can, but at this point in the production, finishing is paramount to anything else.

      Since Xavier has done bond work, please listen to what he has to say. Bond companies hire very, very, good producers. And if you do catch your dream of making your film your way, don't fuck up the production side, because a bond company coming in is the last thing you want.

      6 years ago
    • @Dan Selakovich
      Thanks Dan for elaborating. Much appreciated! All your input has been especially helpful on this thread!

      6 years ago
    • @Xavier Santiago Thanks, Xavier. Now if I can only get you brits to let the director call "action" I'd be a happy man. ;)

      6 years ago
  • @Dan and @Xavier, this is a great dicussion. You guys are so generous in passing on what you know - much appreciated. But here's a question: if 'the producer is the boss', what about films where there are several producers? Do they tend to have different roles? Is one the boss?

    6 years ago
    • Follow the trail of money - you'll have found out the lines of authority most likely! It won't be necessarily obvious from the outside, but as we all know even the word 'showbusiness' is one-third 'show', two-thirds 'business'.

      6 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin Quite so. It's another truism that making the film is often a lot easier than getting the money to make it. Whoever controls the money is the boss and no one who controls the money and also knows what they are doing is likely to make themselves contractually subservient to anyone; unless of course that anyone happens to be a guilt edged superstar and then some!

      But at the end of the day it's all about relationships. If a director, writer or the like and the producer don't have full understanding and a mutual accord within a good personal relationship it's likely to have a very negative impact on the film.

      6 years ago
    • Lyn: What Paddy said. But if you find yourself working on a project with several producers, you'll find out very quickly and with no effort, who's in charge. For example, if you're introduced to the "Line Producer" they are the ones with a tight fist on the money and day-to-day logistics of a production. Then there are producers who seem to do nothing at all. Often, they have expertise in sales and distribution, and have worked a stellar deal with a major distributor that gets them that title "producer". I've worked on shows where the post supervisor gets a producer credit (and deservedly so. A CGI heavy film is amazingly complex). Then I've met producers who seem to know little about filmmaking at all. They are the Executive Producer's girlfriend, and are just there for the credit and will not be the only producer on the show. Then you'll have several production companies that want to spread the risk of the film between them. Each will have their own producers that you'll see in the credits, but rarely see on set (this is incredibly common nowadays). It all depends on the deals made to get the picture made. Television can have many producers because people want a cut beyond what their actual job is (for example, the lead actor wants a cut of those producer residuals). But make no mistake: there is ONE producer in charge, because if there's not, shit will get out of hand really quickly.

      6 years ago
    • All of the above is true. That one Producer is the one everyone has to deal with. It can be subtle sometimes but if you look closely, it can be very overt.

      6 years ago
  • I'm *bump*ing this thread as I think it may be useful to a number of people posting 'producer wanted - raise your own fee and pay for my film' type jobs at the moment!! Many of the posters on the thread are not active any more, but there's so much valuable insight here it's worth getting the benefit of their experience :-)

    5 years ago
  • I'm going to bump it again, Paddy. I couldn't agree more. I've had the good fortune of chatting with Xavier on the phone, and both your and his advice is spot on. READ THIS THREAD!

    5 years ago
  • Paddy, this is one of the most read threads! Good on you. I'm going to bump this thing again, since it's been a year. Hopefully SP can start an advice archive!

    4 years ago
  • I thought I'd bump this up because more and more people have unrealistic ideas of how long a producer takes.

    I mean, £300 a day might sound fair to some (if you're as busy as a driving instructor and get every job you bid on), but to budget and schedule and plan an entire feature film (often shot in multiple countries) in 2 or 3 days? Does that sound realistic to the experienced producers on this list? (If so, then I might be able to afford you.)

    What do people think a producer (even a line producer) does with a script, or a documentary, to be able to work it that fast?

    Still, if I say I'm looking for a producer (as a writer), it's like saying I'm looking for an agent. I want someone, basically, who has access to things I don't. I don't think it's appropriate for a writer to hire a line producer (especially before a director's in place), what I would mean is someone to take the script through the funding process. And I might not mean a person either, I might mean a company. Like an author looking for a publisher. If the writer is executive producing, that's different. Just my two cents.

    2 years ago
    • Im not sure I understand what you mean when you say... "unrealistic ideas of how long a producer take." Takes to do what? Produce a movie?

      2 years ago
    • @Lee 'Wozy' Warren I meant how long a line producer needs to do their job in development / pre-production. I guess I wasn't clear, the jobs I'm talking about usually involve planning, scheduling and budgeting a film. Look at some of the line producer job descriptions over the past couple of months and see if you come to the same conclusion.

      I understand that some producers can oversee a lot of projects at a time. With all different kinds of producers.

      2 years ago
  • Apart from in broadcast television parlance I don't think a writer, unless he or she is a gold plated mega star, would actually be in a position to hire a producer. The person who budgets, resources and organises the elements is the Line Producer. For the most part Producers don't have a day rate per se. They take percentages.

    2 years ago
  • Congratulations Paddy on your comprehensive description of the position of producer. As one who has both produced and directed in broadcast television as well as in the corporate sector, both separately and in the dual role of producer/director, I think it is important make the distinction between the two positions and to clearly define the responsibilities of the producer. Of course, this varies substantially, even just in drama, according to the genre – feature, short, television drama series, serials and soaps. From my experience, the relationship between producer and director is very important and this depends on them being very clear about where the dividing line between them on responsibility and duties.

    2 years ago
  • Thanks to all involved in this thread. Having now read all of it, things are clearer. However, from a ‘beginner’ perspective, it only really comes into practice when projects are ‘bigger’ or on a more ‘professional’ footing than the short films I’m able to produce. Out here in the provinces, away from London in a sort of creative Northampton Triangle, Producers are a relatively rare breed. Of course it could be my scripts are rubbish and nobody wants to produce them. I’d like to think that’s not the case but I’m pretty realistic. So I’ve ended up producing most of the films I’ve been involved in, and I can happily testify that being Producer, Writer and Director is an awful position to be in. The film with which I had greatest success was Produced by someone, as described above, who was a part of the creative process. She asked questions of the script and offered suggestions whilst demanding nothing. She pulled together a great cast, some of whom are still my first choice to work with, and managed all the logistics in such a way as to make them invisible.
    Sian has gone into teaching now and I miss her. I don’t want to Produce, I want to write and direct (if I’m the best choice to direct, but I have to write) guided by someone with a more objective, but creative, perspective than my obviously subjective myopia.
    My experience, even in the few short films I’ve made, is that the ‘traditional’ process, as outlined above, has lasted for so long because, in the main, it works.
    Again, thanks to all above for the insight and clarity. It gives me reassurance that, although I’m producing now, I shouldn’t give up the desire to pass that baton on.

    2 years ago
    • Really interesting to hear your thoughts. Self-producing is essential to get an understanding of the challenges that a script can create (on the page, INT - AEROPLANE 1ST CLASS - DAY costs the same as INT - BEDROOM - DAY)!

      The reason there's a "rare breed" factor to producers is largely because everyone wants to write/direct and have creative control without the practical grief of delivery! The creatives get all the glory, after all ;-)

      Production is thankless hard work, and then sometimes people ask you to find the money for their creative vision. In order to raise money (which is a HUGE task!!), a producer needs to convince backers and that means showing them that the writer/director isn't going to waste their money. To do that, the writer/director needs experience and showreel, and to get that they will need to basically self-fund and self-produce. It's not an easy life!

      2 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin I hear you! I have huge respect for anyone who can successfully herd the cats. At the stage I’m at, I have no issue with self funding if, please god, someone else produces! ;-) The bigger the film, the longer it takes (exponentially) for a self-funding, self-producing, writer/director/propmaker/location scout/caterer to make a film. But you’re right, without that ‘hardship’ it would be easy to overlook the impact each and every one of those involved in a production has on the outcome of a film.
      My next film will be titled ‘Seven Years In Northampton’; it will take 9 years. ;-)

      2 years ago
    • @Andrew Griffin shot over 9 years, another 3 for the edit, and then the year or so for sales and distribution won't seem so bad ;-)

      2 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin you’re full of encouragement! ;-)

      2 years ago
    • @Andrew Griffin Here to help ;-)

      2 years ago