• James Stranahan

Do You Want to Be a Film Producer? Here’s Some Inside Advice.

If you’re considering a career as a movie producer, you’re about to have an incredibly difficult job. No doubt about it - shepherding a movie from its conception to its release on the big screen is an adventure that will test everything you’ve got. It’s also wonderfully exciting, and if you’re a movie buff like I am, it’s the best profession you could choose.

As much as I love what I do, I could have gotten off to a firmer start if I had known back then what I know now. To help you avoid the fumbles I made in the beginning, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, pick the right team and trust them. Yes, you’re going to have a hand in pretty much everything, but if you pick the right crew, that should be minimized. Everyone you bring on board, from the director, to the actors, to the cooks, should be capable of doing their jobs without you hovering over them. If you find yourself getting involved with every department every day, you’ve probably got one of two problems: you’ve either hired the wrong people, or you are a micromanager. Either one is an issue that I recommend fixing as fast as you can. Know your team, trust what they can do, and step out of their way so that they can do it.

My second piece of advice isn’t so far removed from the first: delegate. Let me say it again: delegate. Great, you are the film producer, so that means you’re good at handling everything that goes on with a movie. That does not mean that you should be the one to do it. I once heard another producer describe it as the catch and release approach, and I agree with him: every time an issue pops up, take it, look it over so that you know what’s going on, and then throw it to the right person to deal with it. If you try to keep everything on your desk, very soon the whole production is going to fall apart, and you’ll only have yourself to blame. Delegate!

It is vitally important that you know where your film is going. Everything, from costume design, to casting, to the production of special effects, will all come together for one final vision: the ending of the movie. What is it that you need in order to make it happen? Your cast and crew, as you know, will usually work on different parts of the movie each day. For them, the production won’t be chronological, and they may have a hard time envisioning where everything is going. That can’t be you. You have to keep all these moving pieces straight in your mind and keep your eyes on the prize: how the film concludes. If you know the ending, then you can keep the film progressing towards it no matter which part of it you may be working on that day.

Lastly, remember to communicate. Too many producers experience trouble on their sets because they keep their thoughts in their heads. No one can read your mind, as I have learned the hard way. If you’re a guy, that might be your Achilles heel, as women like to say. Learn to speak whatever is going through your mind so that your assistants can be kept in the loop. Get a system for everything and stick to it, be it writing everything down in the same place at the end of each day or something different. Whatever you choose, make sure your staff knows what you’re thinking. It will save you a lot of time and trouble on the set.

Those are just a few things I’ve learned over my time as a movie producer that has made my work easier. A lot of it has been trial and error, so when you fumble just like I have, remember to take it as a learning opportunity so that you can avoid the issue in the future. Then get back on the horse and move your production forward again!

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