Anatomy of a Producer
25th September 2017
When I started my MA Production for Film and Television my main aim was to learn as much as possible about the film industry. I’ve written five screenplays but have no idea how to get them made. When I’ve searched in the past, the websites of Producers always seem to say; “No contact without a letter of introduction from an agent” so I’d then go across to the websites of agents and be greeted with the message, “No contact without a letter of introduction from a producer”, it seemed like a plot, what are they trying to do to me?
I wanted to learn how to make a film but, despite paying off my entire student loan for my undergraduate degree in speech, the government will only give me another loan if I gained a higher qualification, the buggers, so MA here we come, no undergrad for me…bugger. Before starting, beginning, commencing this course I had some understanding of the role of a producer; that was all about to change.
- Final look of any film
I knew that producers were involved in making the final decision on how any film looks. This comes mainly from a huge number of “Directors cuts” DVD’s that I have. Being a cynic, I generally think that “Director’s Cuts” are used to get people to buy a second copy of a DVD, this allows those huge studio’s to make even more money. I do however know that occasionally the directors’ interpretation of any script differs from what the film’s producer and/or studio want the film to look like, or indeed what they think will sell.
I believe, or I read somewhere, that it was the Producers of the film Blade Runner who decided on the introduction of an Opening crawl, this was to make the film easier to ‘get into’, some very unkind people have claimed it’s so ‘thick’ Americans can understand the movie, but I’m not one of those people.
Few movies have seen as many revisions as Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi cornerstone Blade Runner. Eight different cuts of the film have been completed and seen by human eyes, though a sparsely mentioned “early cut” running four hours was only screened for private studio personnel, and a sneak-preview cut shown only once in San Diego allegedly contains three scenes unseen prior to that or since. That still leaves six different iterations of what canon-determiners have determined to be an essential part of the Blade Runner canon.
Ridley Scott himself considered the U.S. theatrical version to be something of a betrayal, having been spliced together by executives after post-production without the director’s knowledge.
At the onset, I knew that Producers have something with finding money for a project. However, before my initial lectures, I am unclear as to the distinctions and differences between Producer and Executive Producer, hope this clears up as quick as a dose of…
Hirer and firer or Boss
My belief that the Producer is basically The Boss of any project goes hand-in-hand with who makes the final decisions, see above and who gives the money, again see above. I was also aware of a number of occasions when a director has been fired from a project because they had a disagreement with the producers. Rumours that Peter Jackson was fired from the making of the Hobbit were grossly exaggerated, I think.
I’m aware it’s anecdotal but from A Northern Film and Media Course Writers course facilitated by James Bartlett, I was told that the film Little Miss Sunshine has over a hundred drafts and over twenty five different writers. The hiring and firing was carried out by the Producers who weren’t getting what they really wanted.
At this point, I learnt that a writer may have the initial idea and complete the initial script drafts but, once they sign ‘on-the-dotted-line’, the control and idea becomes the property of the producer. I think this is the point at which I wanted to learn about becoming a producer as I don’t want another person deciding on the ‘feel’ of my screenplays.
However, a more precise understanding of the role was limited, my main and primary understanding was based on a forty minute conversation with a lecturer in which, I was left unsure as to the distinction between Production Manager and Producer and Executive Producer.
Here comes my journey.
9th October 2017