Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Movie Production Part 10 "The Big Cheese"

"What all good producers have, whether they grasp it or not, is an instinct for a good idea."
- ART LINSON (producer of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Melvin and Howard, and The Untouchables)

There are many different classes of film producer including associate producers, executive producers, and plain old producers, but the overall task for these people is the same: to help guide the development of all the film elements into a successful motion picture.

The film producer, generally the head producer, is the person who is given control over the entire production of a motion picture and is ultimately held responsible for the film's success or failure.

The producer organizes the development of the film and perhaps even puts in creative input, but once filming begins, does little more than supervise and give suggestions. However, the fact that these suggestions must be taken seriously by those actually creating the film, makes the producer a very important person whose preferable traits include: strong business mentality, tough master of words, careful cost accountant, flexible diplomat, and creative visionary.

The producer is usually with the film from start to finish. If the producer chooses the idea, or property to be adapted to film, he must first confront the studio with a pitch(a synopsis of the entire story to get the studio interested) in attempt to get the idea into production. Otherwise, he's assigned the idea by a studio's executive producer. The executive producer is partially responsible for a film's production but is almost completely alienated from any phase of the filmmaking. He usually oversees business aspects while trusting each venture to the authority of the producer. If the producer is assigned the story concept, the idea has obviously already been accepted.

Next, it's up to the studio to decide whether to assign a writer to the project or to let the producer choose who he thinks is best for the job. In either case, of course, the writer has to be a willing participant.

If the producer gets to make the decision, he can choose to either get the writer from the studio roster, or to find a free-lance writer. And if the producer also happens to be a writer, he may hire himself for the task. Assuming that the screenwriter is someone else, the producer will work very closely with him, discussing the story progression and related script elements. Together they create a treatment outline to submit to the studio or financial backers to get approval. The writer may not like the comprises made to his "vision," but the producer, along with everyone else involved with the project, has a vision too, and a profitable film is the primary concern. This entire process is subverted if the screenplay was written beforehand and was what attracted the producer to the project in the first place. In that case, a simple re-write may be all that's required.

Otherwise, now that the project has been approved thanks to a compelling treatment outline, the writer begins to write the entire screenplay. Normally, he will submit portions of the screenplay to the producer as he writes them, and frequent conferences will be held, concerning the work.

At the same time, the producer must choose a director, or let studio management make the decision for him. Unless the producer is confident enough to have himself assigned as the director, he will confer with the director about technical and creative aspects that include the approach to the theme to specifics such as location, choice of film stock, and technical crew.

The producer's main concern throughout the entire filmmaking process is budget limitations. He is expected to achieve maximum quality at a minimum expenditure. That goal governs his position involving major decisions such as the selection of the cast, location vs. studio shooting, the complexity of sets and costumes, and the duration of filming.

The director is basically in charge once filming begins, but the producer never loses his control. He makes sure that the budget isn't ignored or the timetable wildly exceeded. The producer must be available to handle technical problems or personality clashes that occur on the set, and once filming is complete, will probably supervise the post-production processes of editing, adding sound effects, scoring, dubbing, mixing, and designing the titles. Afterwards, to test whether the film is ready for release, the producer may present the film at sneak previews and request tightening the film or re-shooting parts of it, depending on audience response.

And yet, his job is not over yet. He co-ordinates the film's distribution and participates in the planning and execution of the publicity campaign for the initial release and then for TV.

Because of the gradual disintegration of the traditional studio system, there has been a growing trend toward independent production. Today's average producer is not a salaried studio employee but an active partner of a studio or a distributor or whoever raised the money to finance the picture. Today's producer is a packager who invests in obtaining a property, convincing a director and stars to commit themselves to the project, and then offers the entire package to a financial sponsor in exchange for a cut in the profits.

Producers working totally outside of the Hollywood system have various options available to them, but without a studio, they will have to raise the money themselves. One idea is to put an advertisement in a trade magazine announcing that you're going to produce a movie and would like to read some screenplay submissions. Eager screenwriters will send their work, and the only thing left is to pick a script, and get started!

In the past, the bulk of Hollywood producers were salaried studio employees who were assigned their projects, their budgets, their casts, and their crews. For every major decision that was to be made, the producer was accountable to an executive producer or the studio's vice president in charge of production.

Powerful independent producers such as Samuel Goldwyn who put up his own money and therefore had complete creative and financial control over all his projects, were a rarity.

Yet, the truly creative producers were able to leave a personal imprint on their productions which was often more distinct than that left by the directors themselves.

Courtesy of


Frasypoo said...

Very Informative

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Edit Suite 8 said...

Hey bro! Someone's been busy! I have to stop what i'm doing and read all of this now, i love these kind of posts. good work. thanks man.