• James Stranahan

3 Pieces of Advice for Beginning Film Producers

Making movies is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got a script that you believe in, which is part of the battle, but still, it’s a long way from having a two-hour film that audiences can see in theaters. There’s a lot that happens in between, some of which you can prepare for and much of which you just learn on the job. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I’ve learned a lot the old-fashioned way: through trial and error (emphasis on the latter).

Now that the dust has settled and I’ve walked through some open doors, I’d like to pass on to you some of what I have learned along the way in hopes that it might help you out in your own career as a movie producer.

First Suggestion: Taking Action Is Always Better Than Wallowing.

This is especially important because you’re in an industry whose odds of success are not in your favor. You’ve got talent, you’ve got skills, and you’ve got a fresh vision. Wonderful! You’re clearly in the right profession and have something to contribute. The problem, at least in the beginning, is that so few people are going to notice. So, what do you do? Sit around and enjoy Instagram or YouTube on your phone? Well, maybe for a minute, as we’re only human, but then get up and get going again. While you sit still and focus on less important matters, the world is passing you by. Really try to limit the time you procrastinate, and then figure out what the next step is. And the next one. And the next one. Action will always take you somewhere, even in Hollywood.

Second Suggestion: Be Original.

Copycats are everywhere in Hollywood. People see what worked last time and try to recreate it in hopes that they, too, will hit it big. Perhaps they do! The problem, as you already know, is that copying other people’s success won’t lead you anywhere in the long term. Look, for example, at Steven Spielberg, the force behind E.T., Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List, among so many others. His movies are so popular because they take viewers to new, exciting places. Then the copycatos come out, inevitably. Those people normally don’t have long careers in Hollywood. Spielberg is here to stay.

If you want to have a lasting career as a film producer, be unique every time you make a movie. Don’t be part of the boring horde.

Third Suggestion: Create Your Own Destiny.

Hollywood is so hard to break into that it can cause film producers to become passive. It’s easy to understand why. You need backing for your film, and you receive rejection after rejection, which forces you to remain at a standstill.

As a producer, though, you can’t afford to be passive. It’s a job that requires assertiveness, and that means going forward even when you’ve got funding obstacles or can’t get permission to shoot somewhere. In the early days, when I encountered something challenging, I would brainstorm ten things I could do to solve the problem, then went down the list. Hopefully by the time I got to number ten, I had found success! Sometimes I had to come up with ten more things I might do, but eventually, I got to where I needed to be. I did not wait around for other people to give me permission to do something or to solve my issues for me.

It’s all about having the right mindset: you’re a film producer, which means that you are in charge of your movie’s fate, not others.

As a Last Resort…

If the above doesn’t help, try this last piece of advice: believe that every day brings with it new possibilities. The past does not have to dictate what will happen in the future. What you can do tomorrow really is limitless, including bringing the vision you have for your film to life.

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