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What’s a Producer?

The producer’s paradox: in some ways, producer is the least well-defined role on a production, but at the same time, it’s one of the most important. Your producer is the person who will guide your project to completion. In the writing process, your producer will help develop the story and secure any necessary rights. If you need to hire a director, the producer spearheads that effort, along with pretty much everyone else who will do significant work on the project through the post-production stage. Any time a problem comes up during the production, the producer is the one to solve it…and a really good producer has already anticipated the typical obstacles that arise when working within your budget range.

Photo: Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in The Producers (1967) - Embassy Pictures

Qualities

Great Communicators

While the producer needs to be a good leader, you don’t want someone who acts like a tyrant. One of the producer’s main tasks is to hire the right people, so in theory, a producer doesn’t need to micromanage the entire set. If anything, a producer should facilitate communication between individuals involved in the production, making sure everyone understands their goals and responsibilities. Especially on a lower budget production, a producer who understands the different departments can be a huge asset. A lot of crew work can be somewhat thankless. If your producer knows how to make even the lowliest production assistant feel appreciated, you won’t have anyone spiking the coffee in a fit of revenge.

Under Pressure

Believe it or not, productions can be really stressful. There are long hours of tedious work involved for even the simplest 30-second take. Because the producer is the leader, he or she needs to stay cool when things go wrong. If the kid who’s been holding the boom mic for eight hours sees the producer freaking out, things can go south pretty quickly.

“You’re saying Alderaan things, General Obvious.”

Despite what “Entourage” taught us all, screaming and throwing chairs isn’t usually the best course of action. Unless someone needs immediate medical attention, whatever has gone wrong is not a real emergency. And when other people inevitably lose their $%#!, the producer just needs to sit there and listen, then offer a little bit of positive reassurance.

Probably you.

Problem Solving

A big part of producing is really just problem solving. Good producers who anticipate possible issues ahead of time can calmly sort them out as they arise. On a low budget production, you can’t just throw money at problems to make them go away.

The producer should always have at least one backup plan ready to go. And even if there’s an obstacle that nobody saw coming, the producer should still act as though this kind of thing happens all the time. Let the director do all the worrying while your producer figures out what to do. If there’s no real way around the issue, even a temporary fix can do until a better solution presents itself. Your production probably will lose some money, but a good producer can prevent wasting time.

Executive Producers

You’ve probably watched a credits sequence before and thought, “Gee there sure are a lot of executive producers on this 85 minute romantic comedy.” Of all the credits, it’s definitely subject to the most abuse within the industry, though it’s not always as bad as it looks. Basically, Executive Producers should bring a significant share of funding to the project, or have some important creative involvement such as finding a director or lead actor. However, whatever area the Executive Producer handles, industry experience is a serious strength for this job.

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