Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #489: Time Fer Sum Lernin!

Welcome to the show folks...

Yesterday we all had some shits and giggles about an indie film company naming a partner's teenage granddaughter a producer, but today, I'm going to use the to try to get some real information crammed into your head.

I am going to attempt what many call an impossible task. I'm going to explain what a producer does.

Now there are many different kinds of producer, and each type of producer comes in many different flavors. So I'll start with a very simple 1 sentence definition:
While a director makes a film, a producer gets the film made.

Does that make any sense?

Okay, I'll expand on it. Orson Welles once said: "A poet needs a pen, a painter needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army."

That's actually a good analogy. Film crews are essentially small armies sent into the field to complete a mission. They require the marshaling of large numbers of people, and large amounts of resources. To do this marshaling, you need what's called a chain of command.


This is where the process of producing begins. The Executive Producer is like the commander in chief of any given theater of operations. At any given time an Executive Producer, like a military commander in chief can have multiple "armies" operating under them.

It is their job to select the objective of each "army," namely picking the script, then hiring the people needed to complete this objective, like the Producer, the Director, and the principal cast, and bringing together the resources needed to complete the objective. This means making the deals necessary with the studio or financial investor(s) needed to pay the bills and hopefully get the film released. Once this "package" is put together, and either goes into production, or is given up, the Executive Producer moves on to putting together another one.

Then we move on to the responsibilities of the...


If the Executive Producer is like Eisenhower, in commanding an entire theater, then the Producer is like a Patton, or a Montgomery, in that they are running a specific army set to achieve a specific objective. (If you don't recognize those names, then shame on you and read a goddamn book!)

It's supposed to be the job of the producer to make sure things run smoothly and within the budget. That means working with their staff of associate producers, line producers, and production managers to handle the money being spent, the hiring, the firing, and the all important schedules.

They have to make sure that the director (if it's not a director/producer one-man combo) is not going over schedule or over budget, and that their creative work is not hindered by the myriad problems created by large numbers of people working with lots of expensive equipment and lots of other people's money.

All a Producer must do is make sure the film is done on time, on budget, and is good enough to put some bums in seats.

Now unlike Directors or Writers who have large guilds backing them up and carefully defined contracts regulating who can be called a Director or a Writer, the position of Producer is a vague one at best and often used and abused. Usually credits given out as favors are usually limited to the even more vaguely defined position of "Associate Producer," but recent economic shifts in Hollywood have changed things. Now anyone with a remote interest in a movie can be named a "producer" if they have the right connections, without doing the real work of actually getting a movie made.

I would like to see some sort of industry set standard be made about who really does qualify as a producer. Because if we keep getting the sort of incidents like the one I was mocking yesterday, some yahoo in the government is going to get involved, and then everyone's going to regret it.

1 comment:

  1. Being in the MIARNG, I can attest that there is not much difference in organization between a film crew and an army. except of a film set the FOOD is far better.

    In the army we have a Tactical operations center, a film set has a production office. In the army we have generals who make idiot tactical decisions. In film we have studio execs who think it is a great idea to cast Miley Cyrus to voice a animated talking raccoon in a r-rated blood and guts ninja film.