When we think of films, we typically first think of actors, then directors and eventually writers and sometimes we think of cinematographers (but that’s usually the films snobs), but we rarely ever think of the producers. In fact, after having a few conversations with producers, it almost seems as if there’s this big grey cloud on what a producer actually does. It’s not just consumers who lack this knowledge, but people in production too.
So, what is a producer?
Typically, a producer falls in line with being the ‘ring master’ of a production, either jumping on board from the moment an idea sparks, to the very last leg of distribution and marketing. So basically, without them, sourcing all the people, places, equipment, licenses and especially money, a production really doesn’t exist.
Just for the sake of this conversation we are going to focus on 4 main producer identities:
- There’s the ‘Producer Producer’ – who organises the logistics and finances of the production.
- There’s the `Executive Producer’ who sometimes can be referred to as the ‘Creative Producer’ who works on the development side of film, such as scripts etc. Sometimes directors also take the role of executive producers, so they have total creative and logistical control over their films.
- There’s the ‘Associate Producer’ usually referred to as the ‘AP’ – This is someone who puts the moving parts of a production together. This could be script editing, casting, location scouting etc.
- ‘Line Producer’ – Whose role is pretty interchangeable with the roles of a production manager (basically the person who does all the groundwork on a production.
There may be a few other forms of producers but typically these main four roles are consistent in film and TV production. Sometimes they can be all fused into one role as a single producer (if the budget doesn’t accommodate). A lot of directors/writers who start out in filmmaking often play the role of a producer on their own films. This could be for budgeting reasons, but also for the lack of accessible producers to work on low budgets at an early stage in filmmaking. For this reason, the process of filmmaking has birthed a lot of independent producers.
I’ve managed to speak to a few producers about what makes them stand out as identifiably good producers and thanks to Elizabeth Rufai (a film producer), David Sule (creative director/producer) and Nelson Adeosun (TV/Factual AP) and, we’ve been able to highlight a few key points on what makes a good producer.
- A good producer has to be able to discern everything in regard to a project, assembling a team that functions and delivers the project. They need to be able to see the potential value in a project and maximise it both critically and commercialise it – Critiquing and adjusting scripts, characters and themes accordingly
- They have to manage relationships between the financier and the team and try to unify their aims and their definitions of success for the project.
- A producer should be someone who thinks fast on their feet knows when to pivot back and forth whether it is regarding roles, haggling or research.
- A producer should develop younger talent to give them time to shine, no matter their age.
- They should also feel free to work with an outside talent pool who may not be as known as others in the industry, it’s always good to mix it up and bring new talent into the fold. Not everyone does things the same way and you yourself as a producer may learn something new when taking this approach.
- A good producer needs to be organised, they need to understand the many moving parts and stages of a production and be able to schedule them appropriately. In order to do well in orchestrating the elements which bring a story to life, a producer should have a strong grasp of the vision the director is trying to convey.
- A good producer should have interpersonal skills in order to communicate with the various personalities and situations they will encounter. A producer needs to be able to solve problems objectively, but should also know how to appropriately balance logical and emotional input when approaching difficult decisions.
- A good producer recognises the purpose and responsibilities of the individual roles that are part of making a film, especially their own. When you thoroughly assimilate your own role, you can then respect the other roles you are collaborating with in the process.
All in all, being a ‘good’ producer is really subjective and part of having a role within the creative field means there isn’t just one set way of doing things. It’s hard to judge a ‘good producer’ based on the finished product, as filmmaking is a joint effort from many roles. However there are identifiable traits in many successful producers which really shouldn’t be ignored.