The Producing Myth

A week spent hanging around on set and then mentoring an emerging Producer, led me to think of this blog I wrote for the MRC a few years ago.

A prominent, local producer once joked to a colleague that putting on a producer’s workshop is simple. You just give all the participants a block of wood, a hammer and chisel. They then carve out the word ‘producer’, varnish it and hang it on a wall and voila!, they are now a producer.

As simplistic as this is, sadly this is what a lot of emerging (and sometimes established) filmmakers think is all that is required to be a producer. Quite often we find here at the MRC, that people put their hand up to be the producer without a clear idea of what it takes.

According to Quentin Kennihan a producer: “realizes the financial objectives of the film and assists the director in being accountable for the creative objectives of the film.”

Producing is often that grey area in production; not so clearly defined, yet the driving force behind any film. This is because a lot of what we do happens before anyone walks on set or into the studio.

Producer and SAFC Program Manager, Industry Development and Production, Rebecca Summerton believes a producers’ role is: “to protect and nurture the creative vision of a project from initial development right through to marketing and distribution. (They) juggle the demands of money, time, differing creative visions, investor and market expectations and individual needs to (hopefully) create an environment where creativity can flourish.”

Emerging producer Alexandra Blue agrees and adds: “a producer must be creative in everything they do… from giving input in script development, to convincing investors of the merits of the project, to problem solving during production, and implementing smart festival or distribution strategies while also managing a creative marketing campaign. The Producer spends the longer a project than anyone else, as they are there from financing to sales, and it is their passion that ensures the project makes it through from beginning to end.”

Or as Mark Knight simply says; “Producers instigate, motivate, evaluate, negotiate, delegate, integrate and at the end of the shoot, when everyone else has left, makes sure to shut the gate.”

It is easy to see why people often don’t understand what our role is, what we do is complex, varied and often unseen. We work hours and hours, alone at our desk, on the phone or in meetings.

So next time you think, ‘no sweat, I can produce that!’ remember it will be your pay that is the first to get cut when budget shrinks, it will be you who will spend the next two years marketing the film when everyone else has moved on, and it will be you who will be making the hard decisions that can make you the unpopular on set.

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