Sunday 18 November 2012

What is a producer ... ?

A producer, in the most obvious sense, needs to produce. In the case of a business, a result. A positive result.

So what then is a film producer? The movie business is a business, and like any other business, it is about making and selling products/services. A film producer makes a product and sells a product. In the non-studio world of independent film producing, a film producer is a serious entrepreneur. A film producer should not to be confused with a production manager - that is someone who runs a production.

A successful entrepreneur has to produce a good product, and he/she has to produce a good result. In the case of the film business, the product, or movie, has to be good and it has to be sold. Producing only the product is not entrepreneurial - it is actually irresponsible. Ask an alleged producer if they are entrepreneurs and then ask them about their track record of taking a product to market. We are not in Hollywood here - we are not part of the studio system. We need to sell the products we make. That is the bottom line. Making a film without any regards for distribution leaves you in a highly vulnerable situation. Of course, if you do have a distribution deal concluded and the film has been "pre-sold", then there is still no guarantee of success, but at least you have a chance. You are always vulnerable in the business of the arts, but to make art, without having a distribution scenario in place before you make the product, is very very risky.

Let's look at an example in another industry. If you bake 10,000 cakes and go to Pick 'n Pay and ask them to distribute them, ie, you ask them for shelf space, well, they are probably not going to be interested. Because, for a start, they don't know you. You will most likely be stuck with the cakes and they are gonna go off and you are take proper strain. But, if you go to Pick 'n Pay and say that you want to bake 10,000 cakes and you want them to distribute them, well, then if they say no, you don’t go and bake the cakes. Same with an indie film - if you can't find a distributor before you make the film then don't do it.

The key is to make, say, a dozen sample cakes and then see who bites (excuse the pun).

Los Angeles is 90% in development and 10% in actual film making/production. That is why most successful indie producers have a sleight of film projects, ie, lots of sample cakes on the go.

Movie producing is about making and selling a product. Just like the guy who bakes and sells cakes. Taking care of business first is critical. And if you do, then you are producing for real.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker