If you enjoy being behind the camera but don’t want to pursue the cinematographer or director route, or need to pursue a path that may lead to a career as a director, becoming a film producer is a fantastic option. The role offers an immense sense of creative fulfillment and professional recognition.
Who wouldn’t want to follow in the footsteps of J.J. Abrams, Stanley Kubrick or Quentin Tarantino?
I try to push ideas away, and the ones that will not leave me alone are the ones that ultimately end up happening. — J.J. Abrams
What exactly is a film producer?
The remit of a film producer is often perceived as an open-ended one, not least because the number of tasks which falls under their responsibility and professional jurisdiction.
Whether employed by a production company or hired by a studio, a film producer is routinely charged with planning, coordinating, and man-managing countless aspects of the craft of filmmaking, including script selection, writing coordination, directing, editing, and even arranging finance for the movie.
I have been interested in dreams, really since I was a kid. I have always been fascinated by the idea that your mind, when you are asleep, can create a world in a dream and you are perceiving it as though it really existed. — Christopher Nolan
Due to time and budget constraints imposed by the financial backer, film producers cannot always supervise every individual aspect of the acknowledged production process, and will turn to executive producers, line producers, and unit production managers who essentially represent the producer’s interests; all positions will almost certainly be appointed by the head honcho, as it were.
However, the buck will always stop with the film producer, be it overseeing and giving the nod to sound, music or, indeed, scene amendments. Also, it’s usually the film producer’s role to sell the film, together with arranging distribution rights. What’s more, film producers are responsible for hiring, create filming schedules, and check and approve locations, to name but three of the other areas of responsibility.
The Key Roles of a Film Producer
Expanding on some of the topics we’ve touched on above, to succeed as a film producer, those seeking to carve out a future career in this specific discipline will need to possess a keen interest in filmmaking, coupled with strong financial and business sense.
Essentially, the ability to wear the two, often polar-opposing hats simultaneously. Assuming an integral role in the film industry, the producer will oversee each project from conception through to completion, as well as have a pivotal and far-reaching input in the marketing and distribution process.
Breaking elements down to afford those considering entering the profession an at-a-glance guide to the key job definitions most closely associated with the role of film producer, the following aspects all figure prominently day-to-day as a producer:
- Reading, research and assessment of ideas, concepts, and finished scripts
- Commissioning of and securing rights to novels, plays, and screenplays
- Build and develop a network of industry contacts
- Liaise with financial backers, discussing projects
- Facilitate IT packages for screenwriting, budgeting, and scheduling purposes
- Hire key staff (including directors/crew)
- Control and man-manage budget
- Allocate resources
- Harness attributes of all creative partners and talent
- Organise shooting schedules
- Ensure regulation of industry codes of practice
- HSE governance/compliance
- Supervise progress from pre-production to post-production
- Hold regular meetings with the director to discuss characters and scenes
- Bring the finished production in on budget
Should I Become a Film Producer?
For a start, you should prepare for very long, unsociable hours as working hours habitually envelop weekends and evenings, especially during production. You should also expect to encounter many changes of scene.
Working environments vary greatly, and can take in numerous studio settings as well as on-location work. There’s an almost nomadic sense to the accepted life and times of a film producer.
In terms of actual geographical locations in the UK, London tends to be recognized as the epicenter for film production; not least due to all the major film studios being within striking distance of the nation’s capital city. That said, other large conurbations and more rural vistas encounter their fair share of on-location action as and when required, so make sure you can drive and travel easily.
In the US of course it ks Hollywood where the action happens.
If a million people see my movie, I hope they see a million different movies. — Quentin Tarantino
Addressing the employment type, or status, usually, film producers are classed as self-employed and work on a freelance basis due to the nature of the role, with contracts forming the foundations from the outset. Sometimes this can lead to employment insecurity.
The core attributes which mark out film producers from other professional walks of life are
- tolerance of pressure (the role can be both a challenging and stressful one)
- being highly-motivated
- strong communication and people skills
- presentation and pitching skills
- effective time and resource management
- creative ability
- a strong head for figures
- leadership skills
How to Become a Film Producer
Qualifications will enhance your ability to break into the profession from the get-go, especially if the courses you’ve studied relate directly to the industry. That’s not to say alternative routes of entry are closed off (on the contrary, as film production is open to all graduates), merely that if possess a degree or at least formal training in broadcasting, communication, media studies, IT/multimedia, or photography/film/television, it will significantly increase your chances of getting a foot in the door.
Postgraduate qualifications are not the be-all-and-end-all, suffice to say, but again might improve the likelihood of being taken on in some circumstances. What will almost certainly help your cause is if you’ve attended a course which has comprised practical experience with the theoretical, specifically if this covered any form of broadcasting production. Again, and bearing in mind the notoriously competitive environment, such additions to your CV could, potentially, work to your advantage.
Indeed, gaining early experience will provide your chances with a massive boost, as there’s no better career preparation than learning about filmmaking. And did you know that those who go on to become film producers generally begin their fledgeling careers as either writers or actors? All the while watching, listening, and learning about how films are produced while being on or around various sets.
If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed. — Stanley Kubrick
Internships are another valid means of entry into the world of film producing, with many film producers originally having participated in a dedicated production internship at a small studio, local television network, or radio station.Despite such positions involving a great deal of work in exchange for little or no pay more often than not, they teach interns valuable lessons about the business and provide the necessary experience to progress to an entry-level position.
Furthermore, such openings provide the perfect platform to commence the all-important ‘networking’ phase, whereby you mix with like-minded people/seasoned professionals within the context of your chosen field of expertise.
Securing an entry-level position with a studio and working your way up through the acknowledged ranks is another route in to film production, although bear in mind that most entry-level positions are as production assistants or story editors. However, this cross-fertilization of attributes affords prospective film producers a chance to observe professional film producers and acquire advanced knowledge of filmmaking techniques. It’s commonplace to discover that a raft of film producers spend several years gaining experience in related disciplines as they work towards their end career goal.
Film producers are in the habit of working on a self-employed/freelance/contractual basis, often short-term (or at least pre-agreed) in nature. What’s more, there’s no accepted or fixed route when it comes to promotion in the industry, with progression generally depending on opportunities arising ‘as and when’. So, there’s an element of getting ahead via accident rather than by design on some occasions. It’s this perceivable unstable and unstructured career path that might put some off entering the profession. But if you’re passionate and dedicated, working or otherwise, seize every spare moment you may have to educate yourself about all aspects of the film and television industry.