Ever wonder what a producer actually does? The director and the actors we know, because they are the famous ones. Their names are called out by their adoring fans – the ones kept at arms length by metal barricades. Every once in a great while you might recognize the name of the screenwriter. But the producer? During the month of February, the Academy Awards (Oscars) pays homage its own. There are specific categories for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor. But what about Best Producer? Nope… that category doesn’t exist. There is however a category that stands head and shoulder above the rest – Best Picture. And this category belongs to the Producer!
In the broadest sense, the producer is the captain of the ship… the CEO… master architect…. the visionary. The producer is the first person on the field and the last to leave…. the frame that holds the picture on the wall… the foundation that keeps the skyscraper from plummeting to the ground. Regardless of which analogy you prefer, he or she is the driving force behind every motion picture. The producer has to be fearless in the face of certain doom – like a modern day William Wallace. He has to be willing to risk life and limb to ensure that the aim of the mission stays on course. The producer is the defender of the directors vision, a manager of people and resources, an onset therapist, and anything else the production needs him to be.
In a less vague sense, the producer is a creative business person who typically initiates the entire filmmaking process. Everything begins with an idea – whether an original concept or a pre-existing body of work. The producer’s first job… typically before he is ever hired… is to find that illusive idea. An idea that ignites a creative spark in the deepest part of his or her being. If this tiny spark turns into a flame, the producer will develop that idea until it becomes a solid concept. From there, the producer may write an outline or just go ahead and write (or hire a screenwriter to create) a treatment. A treatment is a summary of the plot, characters, locations, and the three main acts of the film. With this treatment in hand, the producer can then start approaching the key players that will make his vision a reality.
Beyond finding and developing the right idea, the most important role of a producer is fundraising. It takes money to hire a great director, brilliant actors, and all the necessary crew. It takes money to rent locations, equipment, and wardrobe. The better job the producer does during fundraising, the fewer hats that he has to wear during preproduction, production, and post. The best producers are master negotiators – that is a fact – but no matter how good a producer is at negotiating the reality remains that not everything can be free. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way for some reason. Producers must learn to accept that they will always be the dancing monkey on the street corner begging for spare change. So I guess you could call a producer a peddler too. (No offense to any of our salesmen or saleswomen readers)
Producers climb impossible mountains every day. They are willing to carrying their entire army of soldiers on their back if they must. In a supernatural sense – they are very similar to the Ultimate Creator – able to magically materialize something out of thin air.
Check out this video from Leverage – the tv series to learn more about this topic.
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