5 Essential Skills You Need To Be a Movie Producer
Quick, off the top of your head, name three movie producers. Can you do it? Maybe you said Steven Spielberg, and if you did, you’d be right. He is a movie producer. He’s also a director, and generally more well known for that. Can you name three movie producers who are just that, and not also directors?
In my opinion the most well known movie producers right now are Kevin Feige, Jason Blum and arguably still Jerry Bruckheimer, although his heyday was the 80s and 90s (he’s still making movies now though!) Now, that’s obviously not an exhaustive list – there are literally thousands of producers all over the world making films.
What does it take to be a movie producer? Well, first we might start with what a producer actually does.
What Does a Movie Producer Do?
In big budget Hollywood films, if you watch the credits you might see endless credits with titles like Executive Producer, Line Producer, Associate Producer, Co-Executive Producer, Producer – how many producers does a film need? Some of these titles may be… decorative; see Bill Smith, a character from the movie State and Main describe it:
Joseph Turner White: What’s an associate producer credit?
Bill Smith: It’s what you give to your secretary instead of a raise.
But most of those titles do actually have specific roles that they need to carry out. In this article we are going to focus on the “Producer”, and even then, a producer on a low to mid budget independent film (and probably produced outside of Hollywood).
Oversimplified, a producer is responsible for delivering the completed film on time and on budget to the investors.
They are usually the first person to come on board a movie project. They are then usually the last to leave the project. The first ones to put their hand in their pocket to give money, and the last to receive any money made from it.
They would hire the director and key crew, organise shooting schedules, manage the budget, then sell the film, i.e. get the film into theatres.
So are you still interested in being a movie producer? Well, let’s have a look at the skills you’re going to need to do it.
5 Essential Skills You Need to be a Movie Producer
1. Leadership and Management
A producer is a leadership position. You are basically the boss of the film. Making a film is essentially like running a business and all the cast and crew are your staff members. So as the producer, you need to be able to effectively manage your staff, getting the most and the best out of them. The director is your staff, as is the cast. All the way down to the runners and caterers – although you probably wouldn’t be micro-managing them. You’ll have your own set of managers below you – just like a normal company would.
But in that environment of the film set, you’ll need to manage that business and staff. You’ll need to inspire them to do their best, and keep turning up to long shooting days. If there are any issues or workplace problems, it’s your job to sort that out so the film can continue being made.
2. Time Management
As the producer, it’s up to you to put in place a timeframe of when the production will start, when it will end, when the film will be released. Along with your production managers, you’ll need to create shooting schedules and liaise with cast availabilities to make sure that the film gets completed on time.
If you go over time, that’s going to cost money. And if you’re on a tight budget, you might not have any more money, so that could mean the production stops and the film doesn’t get finished. On every film shoot, there’s never enough time, so it’s your responsibility to manage the time you have as effectively as possible.
3. Financial Literacy
You’ve heard of massive blockbuster films having budgets of up to $200 million, right? Well, sorry producer, but it’s up to you to manage that cash and make sure don’t go over it. Okay, on huge blockbusters they will have accountants and line producers whose sole responsibility on that, but on a small indie movie, the buck stops with the producer.
Making sure the budget doesn’t blow is supremely important, especially on low budget films. Like we mentioned in the last point, if you go over time, that’s going to cost more money and it might not be money that you have. You need to be on top of cast and crew rates, overtime rates, equipment hire fees, location fees, catering costs, props and set building costs – everything costs money on a film!
What do I need to sell? I’m a filmmaker! I’m not some soulless door-to-door elixir salesman! Yes, well, it’s all well and good to have made a film, but now you want people to see it, right? And no one is going to see it unless you’ve sold the rights to exhibitors who will play it in their cinemas.
It’s the job of the producer to sell a film to a number of different people. They could sell it directly to exhibitors or cinema operators. Or they could sell it to a distributor in a certain country who would then on sell it to cinemas on the producer’s behalf. Or they could sell it to a sales agent who would on sell it to distributors and so on.
There are many ways to go about selling your film: it could be purchased after screening at a film festival. You might go to a film market and sell it to a buy – usually a representative of a sales agent or distributor. Or as mentioned before, you could approach cinemas directly and sell it yourself.
Lastly and definitely not at all least, you will need creativity. A movie producer is not just a businessperson, working behind the scenes on all the boring paperwork and numbers. The producer’s job is to deliver the promised film to the investors. They guide the production of the movie not only in a business sense, but also creatively.
The most well known producers all have their own style. You can pretty much always tell if a movie was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer because it has heaps of action and is probably directed by Michael Bay. A Jason Blum movie is usually a small budget horror film. A Kevin Feige movie is a superhero movie that looks very similar to all his other ones. You can tell those producers produce these movies, because they have creatively produced and guided those films to be what they want and what they’ve promised to investors.
Still Want to Produce Movies?
It might not sound glamorous but there is definitely something appealing about being a movie producer. If there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be thousands of successful movie producers around the world. So if you want to produce movies, just start doing it! A lot of producers work for themselves and generate their own work so don’t wait, go for it!
Supported by the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, an Australian Government initiative.
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