Most of us like to watch movies for fun, but have we ever asked ourselves how they’re made?
What goes behind the scenes? How are they produced?
We asked experts to give us an inside look at some of the primary roles of being a movie producer.
Producer, Alphadu Productions | Founder, Berkshire Short Film Festival
The soup-to-nuts creators of the film
Depending on the scope of the project, Movie Producers are the soup-to-nuts creators of the film or one cog in a very large process.
There are several different types of movie producers, all of whom have set a level of responsibilities but in the case of an independent Movie Producer, all of that flies out the window because budget restraints will not allow for hiring each level.
In Independent Films or what is often referred to “Low Budget” films, meaning under several million dollars (last year’s Oscar contender The Favorite was considered a low-budget film at 15 million dollars,) each rank of movie producer is not always used.
In ultra-low budget films, where people are shooting films on their phones or $5-10K cameras and spending a few hundred dollars to 15K for the film, usually, only one Producer is attached. That person does it all.
The Producer will often be the catalyst for the project themselves because they have written the script and want to have the movie made. If they don’t have connections or significant prior work, the only way to prove their ability is to produce the work themselves. They will take their own script or one they have agreed to produce and do the following:
- Find locations.
- File permits with city or town to shoot in the locations.
- Hire crew.
- Place ads for auditions.
- File paperwork with Screen Actors Guild for the film.
- File the film online with the Independent Movie Database (IMDB).
- Create a website for marketing.
- Create social media accounts to generate an early buzz.
- Secure financing – either through crowdfunding, other investors or themselves.
- Audition and hire actors.
- Hire a Director.
- Continue social media marketing.
- Work with Director and Director of Photography and writer about the direction of the script.
- Buy Insurance for the location/shoot/equipment.
- Hire an editor.
- Continue social media marketing.
- Complete the film through Post-production.
- Market the film through entering Film Festivals.
- Continue social media marketing.
- Travel and network to have that film distributed.
The list is not necessarily in this order and often the Producer will take on several of the other roles such as Director, one of the actors, the writer, etc.
Until the budgets and scope of films get larger, and more people get involved and the roles become more delegated, it is you, a few crew members and actors. The Movie Producer will do whatever it takes to get that film completed, edited and ready to be seen.
Writer | Puppeteer | Producer, Evening Squire Productions
Ensuring that everyone has the tools and resources they need
I believe at its core a Movie Producer’s role is to ensure that everyone has the tools and resources they need to effectively execute their jobs.
This can range from financially backing the film to fighting operational problems on set. They are responsible for setting the tone of the entire collaboration from start to finish.
Their role is multi-faceted and will often end up wearing multiple hats to make sure everyone from technical to creative are able to do their job to the best of their abilities. They are a roadblock remover and enabler of action.
They are the Nick Fury to the Avengers, bringing together the superheroes to create an amazing end product.
Author | Writer | Producer, StolenDress Entertainment
Technical, creative, and investing
A common refrain, even among some movie producers, as to what a movie producer actually does, is that “no one knows,” and, while of course, this isn’t true, the varying nature, from job to job, can make the title ambiguous.
Especially when a producer is someone who is credited for a reason that doesn’t involve additional input but, instead, is given the credit as a reward for longstanding service.
In my case, I’m doing literally everything, because of the micro-budget, independent nature of the films I make. This means paying for expenses out of pocket, organizing cast and crew, setting up shooting schedules, finding assets for editing, and feeding the cast and crew when it comes time to shoot. Since I’m also writing the things I produce, I’m a “creative producer,” as well.
The primary types of producers are technical (someone who knows the ins-and-outs of how to get a crew put together and generally how a film is made), creative (someone who has a creative input and knows the right creative brains to involved in the production and may also be a writer) and investing.
The latter is someone who pays for the actual production and gets a producer credit because they made it happen, and in some cases helps bring in other investors, either by setting an example or by actively seeking them out.
Producer | Director, Free Dream Pictures
Responsibilities for each role may vary on individual projects
There are different kinds of movie producer jobs, and responsibilities for each role may vary on individual projects. Generally speaking, an Executive Producer may help with financing and/or bringing an instrumental component to the project.
The main Producer(s) are involved throughout the entire process from concept through creation through delivery.
This process includes development (optioning, perfecting and shopping a script, attaching elements, and finding funding), pre-production (hiring and overseeing all department heads, casting, crewing, budgeting, overall equipment, and resources), principal photography (overseeing all production elements assuring the movie has the highest production value and comes in on schedule and budget), post-production (editing, music, color timing, and delivery), marketing (which will happen throughout the entire process) and distribution (finding the best home where the movie connects with its audience).
A Line Producer manages the budget of a movie and oversees the day to day physical aspects of the shoot. Co-Producers and Associate Producers have varying producer-related responsibilities that are defined by each individual product.
Andrew and Adrian Nuño
Producer | Founders, Diginamic Productions
A movie producer is a problem solver
Especially in the indie film world, a movie producer is a problem solver. Whether you’re producing a short film on depression and suicide or a web series about Latin culture, you’re the one that people come to whenever they need something. And that can literally be just about anything.
We’ve had to find new sets within days because our old sets got flooded because of rain. We’ve had to negotiate contracts, manage budgets, develop investor decks, plan and execute crowdfunding campaigns, and even drive actors in the dead of night after filming has concluded.
When you’re a producer, you have to be the swiss army knife of advocates for a project. No task is above you. You have to be ready to jump in however needed to help realize the vision of the film.
Actor | Producer | Writer
The more appropriate question would be “Is there anything a movie producer doesn’t do?”
I think it really comes down to where you sit in the layer cake and your function as a producer. Do you bring money to the table? Do you help organize cast and crew? Do you have good relationships with distributors?
I’m an indie film producer, so in my case, the more appropriate question would be “Is there anything a movie producer doesn’t do?“
To offer a detailed answer to your audience I will give an example of what I did as a movie producer on my most recent project “Standing Eight”.
For this particular project, I wrote the film, assembled key crew, cast, ran two successful Kickstarter campaigns. (In order to succeed in this particular fundraising front, I emailed everyone I knew, I bombarded my social media friends daily – almost begging them to donate, entertaining them with me singing, dancing, doing push-ups, and other silly things like this to entice potential donors and, somehow it worked. Twice. Once for production, once for the post.)
Fast forwarding to when we got the funds and start working, what did I do? I controlled the boards on our festival entries. I had to be the face of the franchise and go to as many festivals as financially possible.
After a successful run and eleven awards later, I prepared for release, but decided to do an extended cut; (Because that’s what we do as producers; we keep checking and checking and see if there is room for improvement), therefore, even though the film did so well in festivals, before releasing it to the world, I decided to do a new cut.
For the new version, I went again through all the dailies. Worked with two editors with all new selects to do a completely new version of the film. Worked with the sound designer. Recorded ADR and punch sounds (while on the set of another film).
I found an incredibly talented musician, Jase Harley to score and gives us the soundtrack. I oversaw numerous VFX shots and I sat in and on numerous color sessions until we got it right. I also put together all the promotional materials.
I think that covers most of it. So yeah, what don’t producers do?
Actor | Director | Producer | Author, Circumstances Beyond My Control
The term “producer” is the most ambiguous word in the film business
In TV commercials (also known as very short movies), this is especially true. Commercials are initially created by advertising agencies but the agencies don’t actually make the little movies.
Once a client (AT&T, Ford, Arby’s eg.) approves the idea, a film production company, built around one or more directors, is booked. The ad agency team generally consists of an account executive (deals with the clients), one or more writers, an art director, and a producer.
This “producer” oversees the whole process for the agency and deals with the production and post-production (editing) companies. The center of the production company team is the director.
There is an executive producer whose primary job is either writing the bids or overseeing a staff assistant who does the calculations. Some companies have “line” producers (more like production managers) on staff who do the actual producing of the jobs while others use outside, freelance, producers.
On really big jobs there will sometimes be staff and a freelance producer on board. In these cases, the staff producer handles the politics and the freelancer does the real producing.
And what, exactly, is that?
The line producer hires the crew (all of whom are freelancers), rents the stage or secures the location. In consultation with the key crew members, they rent the equipment, props, wardrobe, and special effects if needed, and oversee (but do not have input to) casting.
For distant locations, the producer arranges for the travel, lodging and other logistics for the production unit. The producer (line producer, freelance or staff) makes it all happen.
They provide the director with the material and people he or she needs to put the movie on film. “Film” is by now an archaic term but until the digital revolution, it was nearly always filmed (sometimes videotape – now also obsolete).
The producer is also responsible for bringing the job in on, or preferably under, budget. And in commercials, the producer is the liaison between the ad agency and the production company with regard to budget overages, scheduling, and other logistical and political considerations.
When you work as a freelance producer in commercials, you really have three clients. This often makes the job politically hazardous.
Your first client, the company that hired you and pays your fee, is the production company. They give you a story-board, script, and budget and it is your job to get the commercial “in the can” within the constraints of that budget, into which you had no input.
In most cases, the person who wrote the budget was competing for the job and made it too low. In some cases, this person had no real field experience and overlooked necessities that cost money and/or underestimated the amount of time (money) it would take to get it done so the pressure is built into the job.
Your second client is the director. Line producers are mostly movie people, we have theatrical backgrounds and are trained or experienced in making movies.
In feature films most directors come from this same mindset either through film school, job experience, being film editors, directors of photography or some discipline of that sort.
Commercial directors, on the other hand, generally come out of advertising or photography. They are often (there are exceptions) less secure in the craft than movie people and tend to “overshoot” to cover their asses.
A personal example (true story) of this occurred for me on a mountainside in Arizona when an advertising agency guy said to me. “Can’t you make him stop shooting? We had this hours ago.”
The point is that your second client, the director (whom you were hired to support in the first place) is often the producer’s biggest headache when it comes to bringing the shoot in on budget.
The third client is the Ad agency producer who gave the job to your primary client in the first place and whom you usually need to “butter-up” a bit. In my experience, it is not unusual that they ask for things to be done that were not in the specs or the budget of the job so you have to negotiate budget overages.
As you see the pressure comes from multiple directions and, as the line producer, you have to handle all this while running the shoot itself, dealing with the crew and “talent”, the weather, the helicopter that’s late, the local Sheriff, etc., etc., etc. It’s not always an easy job.
Why would anyone want this job?.
I have always sought challenges, and – believe it or not – the work of a producer is often fun. I thoroughly enjoyed being on location with a crew and exercising my organizational, managerial and logistical skills.
And I took great pleasure in the camaraderie developed among those who share and accomplish an exacting and often difficult mission.
Related: Building Strong Work Relationships
And how many top management jobs are there where you go to work in shorts and sneakers?
George Henry Horton
Writer | Producer | Director
The one person always involved in every stage of the process
A movie producer captains the ship of a film from start to finish – from the script to distribution. He or she is the one person always involved in every stage of the process.
Unlike the writer, who may only come on during development, forced(!) to hand off his or her baby to the director during the production process. Unlike the editor, who will likely just come in for production and post-production. Unlike even the director, who is usually hired by the producer to direct the film.
They are responsible for making the movie happen – for establishing financing, hiring the team, and ultimately looking out for the story. Of course, the director has the power during filming, but it’s the producer’s cut of the film, which the audience sees, not the director’s (this, of course, has led to numerous ‘director’s cuts’ being released at a later date.
Why does the producer get the final say? Because they have all the responsibility. The responsibility to investors in particular, which leads them to be the one who must navigate the treacherous waters of art vs business.
Responsibility to the story in the sense that they should strive to protect the writer’s work from being degraded in any way by a director or anyone else, whilst acknowledging any weaknesses in the script upon which others may ultimately improve.
Crucially, they must have a rare combination of excellent delegation skills and good taste. They must choose the right filmmakers for the job, and they must choose the right film to champion in the first place.
Kelly Ann Barrett
Actress | Writer | Producer | Founder, KAB Films
You have to have everything set up prior to making a film
Being a movie producer is not easy. You are responsible for finding funding for features. You are responsible for finding distribution and actors and putting together a team of cinematographers, finding locations, a director, etc.
If you have millions of dollars in the bank, you can make a movie. You can also even make a movie for 10k. There have been a lot of movies made under 40k that have been successful.
The key is making a move on a budget, then making it so successful that you get your money back plus some. A lot of people make movies in the wrong way. They pay a star a ton of money to be in a movie, then film a movie and then take it out and try to get distribution.
You have to have everything set up prior to making your film. Raising funds for films is the hardest part, and getting a script read by producers in Hollywood is also very hard. I’m an actress, a writer, and I just started producing TV Shows. We have some shows being shopped around right now.
Actor | Producer | Writer
The producer is the glue that guides all of the moving parts of a production
A producer’s role starts with finding, buying, and developing an original or adapted screenplay. Once the project is found, a producer is involved in securing financing, finding distribution, the hiring of the director and screenwriter(s), the daily operations of production, and management of postproduction.
A good producer develops a team that can manage the daily operations so the producer can manage the broader needs of the project. In essence, the producer is the glue that guides all of the moving parts of a production.
While on a big budget studio production, there typically is a hierarchy of producers including but not limited to the Executive Producer, Line Producer, Producer, and Associate Producer.
For a typical low budget production, such as what I’m currently working on, generally, there is a limited producing team, which requires everyone to wear multiple hats.
Actress | Producer
A producer’s role varies depending on the project
I like Producer Robert Teitel’s analogy: “The studio or whoever finances the movie is the team owner. The director is the coach. The star is your star athlete. And the producer is the general manager.”
A producer’s role varies depending on the project. Part of their task is often to either fund the project or find someone to fund it then manage the relationships and ensure the investors get the movie they invested in.
As a producer on a smaller project funded by the Director like I was, it can more about coordinating the project, managing the relationships, and creating an environment that supports the creative talent of the cast and crew.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Become a Movie Producer?
Many aspiring filmmakers dream of becoming movie producers, but it takes work. However, you can make this dream a reality with hard work, dedication, and the right skills.
Here are some key steps you can take to become a successful movie producer:
Gain experience in the film industry: The best way to start your journey as a movie producer is to gain hands-on experience in the industry. You can work as a production assistant or in another related role to get a feel for filmmaking’s fast-paced, dynamic environment.
Build a network of contacts: Networking is critical for success in any industry, and filmmaking is no exception. Building a strong network of contacts, including filmmakers, executives, and investors can help you stay connected to the industry and increase your chances of securing funding and opportunities for your own projects.
Understand the business side of filmmaking: To be a successful producer, you need to have a strong understanding of the business side of filmmaking, including budgeting and financing. This will help you make informed decisions about the projects you undertake and ensure that your productions are financially viable.
Secure funding: To produce your own movies, you must secure funding. This can be done through your own investments, by pitching to investors, or a combination of both. You need to know how to raise funds and create a compelling pitch to convince investors to back your projects.
Build a track record of success: Finally, building a track record of producing successful films is critical to establish yourself as a reputable and sought-after movie producer. This will help you secure future funding and attract talent to your projects.
Can Anyone Become a Movie Producer?
Yes, anyone can become a movie producer if they work hard, are dedicated, and have the right skills and connections. However, it’s important to remember that the film industry is highly competitive, and you’ll have to work very hard to succeed.
Here are some factors you should consider if you want to become a movie producer:
Education: While a formal education in the film industry or a related field can be beneficial, becoming a movie producer is not a requirement. It’s more important to deeply understand the film industry and have a passion for storytelling.
Networking: Networking is crucial in the film industry. It would be best if you built relationships with actors, directors, writers, and other key players in the industry to get your projects off the ground. Attend film festivals, join industry organizations, and connect with as many people as possible.
Experience: Start small and gain experience in all aspects of the film industry. You can start as a producer’s assistant, work on indie films, or even produce your own short films. The more experience you have, the more confident you’ll be in your abilities and the easier it will be to get your projects greenlit.
Financial backing: Making a film is expensive, and as a producer, you need to secure funding for your projects. This may mean finding investors, securing grants, or even crowdfunding. A solid business plan and the ability to sell your vision to potential investors are vital in securing the funding you need.
Marketing and distribution: A great film is only as successful as its marketing and distribution. As a producer, you need to know precisely how to market your film and get it to audiences. It would be best if you also had a distribution plan, whether for a theatrical release or for participation in film festivals.
How Has the Role of a Movie Producer Changed Over the Years?
The role of a movie producer has changed significantly over the years to adapt to the changing landscape of the film industry.
Here are some key factors that have shaped the role of a movie producer:
Increased involvement in the creative process: Producers today are more involved in the creative aspects of film production, working closely with writers and directors to develop and refine the script. They play a critical role in shaping the film’s vision and helping bring the story to life.
Greater responsibility for distribution and marketing: With the advent of new technologies and platforms, producers are now more involved in the distribution and marketing of films. They’re using social media, online streaming services, and other innovative marketing strategies to reach a wider audience and ensure the success of their projects.
Expanding opportunities for independent and alternative filmmaking: The rise of independent and alternative filmmaking has given producers more opportunities to experiment with new and innovative forms of storytelling. Producers can now bring unique and diverse perspectives to the film industry and push the boundaries of what is possible.
Maintenance of core responsibilities: Despite these changes, the core responsibilities of a movie producer remain the same: to bring a film project to life and ensure its success, both creatively and financially. Producers need to be able to manage budgets, schedules, and personnel, and they need to know the film market intimately to ensure that their projects are successful.
How Does a Movie Producer Work With the Director and Other Key Players on a Film Project?
The relationship between a movie producer, the director, and other key players is critical to the success of a film project. The producer oversees the entire production process and ensures that the film stays within budget and on schedule.
To do this, the producer must work closely with the director to align the creative vision for the film and regularly communicate with other key players, such as the writer and actors, to ensure that everyone is working together effectively.
Communication, collaboration, and trust are essential components of a successful working relationship between the producer and director, and other key players in a film project.
Can Movie Producers Work on More Than One Project at a Time?
Yes, movie producers can definitely work on more than one project at a time because that is a common and expected part of the job. However, it’s more than just a matter of being able to handle many tasks and being able to do them well.
Here are some factors that can help producers manage multiple projects effectively:
Good organizational skills: Producers need to keep track of deadlines, budgets, and the progress of each project and prioritize their tasks accordingly.
Effective delegation: Producers must be able to delegate tasks to the right people, whether assigning tasks to a production assistant or working with a director on a specific scene.
Strong communication skills: Producers must be able to communicate effectively with all parties involved, such as actors, directors, writers, and investors.
Adaptability: Producers must be able to adapt quickly to changes, whether a sudden delay in filming or a change in the budget.
Passion for the industry: Most importantly, producers must have a passion for the film industry and be motivated to produce high-quality films.
What Are Some of the Challenges That Movie Producers Face?
Movie producers face several challenges in their work, including:
Financial pressures: They need to ensure the film stays within budget and is financially successful.
Creative differences: Dealing with disagreements between the director, writer, and other key players.
Technical difficulties: Dealing with unexpected setbacks, such as weather conditions or equipment malfunctions.
Competition: Staying ahead of the competition in a highly competitive industry.
Market changes: Keeping up with changes in the film industry and evolving technologies.
Despite these challenges, many producers find their work highly rewarding, and bringing a film project to life is a powerful motivator. With hard work and a passion for film, anyone can overcome the challenges of movie production and succeed in this exciting and dynamic field.
How Does a Movie Producer Find New Projects to Work On?
Movie producers find new projects in several ways, for example:
Networking: Building relationships with agents, writers, directors, and other industry professionals and being aware of new projects as they develop.
Reading scripts: Reviewing new scripts and identifying potential projects to work on.
Attending film festivals: Networking with other industry professionals and discovering new talent at film festivals.
Explore new platforms: Learn about new technologies and platforms for film distribution, such as streaming services, and explore opportunities to produce content for these platforms.
Working with agents: Partnering with agents who can match producers with new projects and talent.
Staying active in the film industry and keeping an eye out for new opportunities can help movie producers build a diverse portfolio of projects and grow and succeed in their careers.
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