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08/24/2001 - The Challenge of Being A Producer

How to Produce Movies for Television

"Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them."

-- Aristotle

The Challenge of Being A Producer

"Here come the producers. It must be lunch." This tired old joke still makes the rounds on some movie sets.

However in today's world, real producers do produce. Some of the daily challenges include finding compelling material, discovering new actors and new directors.

No two movie shoots are the same. Every movie has its own set of unique challenges. During inclement weather a producer often has to resort to using "cover sets." This means foregoing planned exteriors in favor of interiors and hopefully making up for lost time during the rest of the shoot provided that the weather cooperates.

Sometimes producers have to plead with screenwriters to rewrite dialogue that stars adamantly refuse to say; or, they find themselves attending to minute details that are overlooked by a busy set decorator or costumer.

Digital shoots are a new challenge for producers, directors, and cinematographers. Some directors take it for granted that because the shoot is digital that it's automatically more economical. So they keep the cameras running, encouraging their cinematographers to take it all in. Editing a digital film on Final Cut Pro means working on the cutting edge of technology. This, in itself, is a challenge which strikes fear in the hearts of grown men and women.

Creative Producers are a breed unto themselves. They are essentially risk takers, waiting out "development hell" and the clarion call of a green light. Unlike Line Producers, they have to keep finding good material in order to continue making more movies.

Line Producers, on the other hand, are basically for hire. They come on board when the picture is a ?go.' Line Producers are more attuned to the ?nuts and bolts' of production. Unfortunately, Creative Producers don't have that luxury. As a result, they often struggle as much as some of the actors that they hire for their movies.

In the end, Creative Producers and Line Producers complement each other. And if they're smart, they also respect each other, understanding that they both represent important functions and contributions that serve a common goal.
Creative Producers learn the hard way how the business operates. They realize that it's essential to juggle many balls in the air at the same time because one never knows how many balls are going to stay up and how many are going to come down.

Projects fall through. This is an inevitable fact of life. Never make the mistake of falling deeply in love with one project. That's the kiss of death. Always have more than one project on your plate, otherwise you may come away hungry and starving for a very long time.

Producers are vulnerable to the studio system. Whenever development executives or studio heads are replaced, the projects that these same executives have championed often fall by the wayside.

Going into "turnaround" with a script is not unlike raising a troubled orphan that nobody wants. Producers faced with this predicament often find themselves searching for a new home. Sometimes they get lucky if they can marry a bankable star or director to the project. The "catch-22" is finding a star or director that's not only right for one's project but also passionate for the material to the extent that they are prepared to kill do become a part of it.

Dear friends of ours who are successful book authors once said to us: "Do you realize that every time you produce a movie that it's like winning a lottery? The odds are not in your favor to win, so when you do win, consider yourself very fortunate."

The secret to becoming a successful Creative Producer lies in one always remaining "a possibility thinker" and embracing the philosophy that "in life, anything is possible."

"Impossible is an opinion, not a fact."

-- Anonymous


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