What does a film producer do?
When the Oscar for Best Picture is awarded, it’s the producer who receives it. The role of the producer in a feature film can vary from producer to producer but essentially the producer is the professional who figures out everything that needs to be done and finds the people to do what’s needed.
It’s the producer who finds and discovers the story, or comes up with an idea they believe will make a good movie. They’re the person who secures the rights to the story, idea, or screenplay during the “development phase” of making a movie.
Once the film rights are secured, the producer is the one who secures financing for the movie. Oftentimes, this means putting together a package with a director and a star to pitch to the studios. Distribution of the final film is also part of the producer’s responsibilities.
The producer almost always hires the screenwriter and director. Depending on the project, the producer may also hire the talent, the crew, and everything else from the location scout, craft services, to officially hiring the AD (Assistant Director), AC (Assistant Camera), and the editor, even though the director often selects who will occupy these top level positions. At the end of the day, the film producer is in charge of the bottom line and has the final word on all aspects of the film.
What skills does a film producer need?
- Business smarts
- Problem solving
- People skills
- Leadership ability
“Film Connection is a great alternative to traditional film school, which concentrates mostly on theory and the mechanics of production. The film business to me is more much about connections and hands-on experience. I share with young producers and directors what it really takes to get an idea to screen, then what you do once your film is shot. Understanding financing, marketing, and sales is key to getting your movie seen and being able to build a career in this very competitive marketplace. I wish I would have had something like this program.”
Aimee Schoof, Intrinsic Value Films/Red Giant Media. Producer of over 30 films including The Alphabet Killer, The 36, The Attic, The Skeptic, Marjorie Prime
The film producer must have both creativity and business skills. They need to have the creative vision to recognize a story idea and see it through pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. It takes strength and tenacity to see a project through from concept to completion, and distribution (the process by which a film is made available for viewing by an audience).
It is therefore important for the film producer to know which actors should be cast to deliver the on-screen performance they and the director envision for the film. They need to be able to make sound business decisions to keep the project on-budget and on-schedule. Often this requires imaginative problem-solving skills and the ability to make decisions quickly—time is money on any film set and it’s the producer’s job to keep things moving. The producer needs an abundance of people skills in order to handle the high-powered egos they will deal with on a daily basis and to act as mediator when there is conflict on the set or at any time throughout the production process (pre-production, production, post-production). Above all, the producer needs to be a leader whose decisions and directives are followed without question. People who become film producers often get their start as line producers, segment producers, and associate producers. All of those positions may be considered battle-training for the all-important role of the film producer.
How do I become a film producer?
The role of the producer is multi-dimensional and requires a wide range of skills and technical abilities. Producers ideally need a combination of street-smarts, educational-smarts and real-world experience in filmmaking as prerequisites.
The Film Connection was conceived with these skills in mind. Students are placed in externships within a local film production company. The student obtains first-hand practical experience working that company’s projects—everything from video shorts, to animations, to feature films. The student is paired with a mentor from the production company who is there to guide them through all aspects of the filmmaking process.
“Joining this program has basically gotten me very, very comfortable with working with a large group of people, with getting familiar with the delicacy of shooting a scene….Basically the Film Connection opened a ‘crapton’ of doors for me and I’m infinitely better than what I was. I’m not saying I was pitiful or anything, but compared to what I was, I am immensely more well-educated in the filmmaking process. It’s been extremely, extremely helpful.”