Reading: One of the Secrets of a Great Film Producer
I’m going to say something that may scare off some people: any good movie producer is almost assuredly a reader. It’s a funny idea, don’t you think? I’ve heard many kids and teens - and adults, for that matter - say that if they had to choose between a book and a movie, they’d choose the movie every time. They like that the movie is roughly two hours long, a time commitment that’s easy to make. Books, on the other hand, can take weeks or even months to read, and some people don’t seem to be able to dedicate themselves to it. Yet, here we are: I believe that for a movie producer to do their job well, they need to be a reader. It is not, though, the contradiction it might appear to be.
The inspiration for many movies, I think, can be found in books. The Lord of the Rings is one obvious example, as is the Harry Potter series. Hollywood has mined a lot of books for stories that translate well to the big screen, and any movie producer should remain aware of what’s out there and be ready to jump on an especially good idea. Look at To Kill a Mockingbird, an excellent movie with Gregory Peck that is based on the book by Harper Lee. The Godfather is another classic that was turned into an amazing film. When you look at the long history of novels turned into excellent movies, you’ll see a strong case for movie producers reading as much as they can.
I think the reason goes deeper than that, though. The best movies, I think, are complex: they go into a character’s emotions and motives and confront the audience with new ideas. It follows, then, that a complex movie can only be created by someone who has a complex mind, and that can be cultivated through reading books. Doctor Zhivago, No Country for Old Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Exorcist - all are novels that will challenge how you see the world and perhaps make you question what you believe in. With that kind of experience, you can then make movies that go beyond the superficial and have, as we say, layers to them. I know that’s the kind of movie I like to see in theaters and to make.
So, if you’re an aspiring movie producer, what should you be reading? The answer is anything and everything! I always recommend that people read as wisely as they can. By all means, find your genre and start there because ultimately, if it’s not fun for you to read it, you’re going to hate it. Once you’ve found your favorite type of book, I recommend branching out from there. In my home, I’ve got several bookshelves and am always reading a few books no matter how busy I get. My own favorite genres are suspense and fantasy. Currently, I’ve got my nose in The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and The Hours by Michael Cunningham. As I read, I make a mental note of interesting ideas that I want to remember and of stories that could translate well to the big screen.
As your own library grows, I think you’re going to find some favorites, those books that you return to again and again because their stories are just so absorbing or because you just have to revisit their information and take it more deeply into your mind. That’s when you’ll become an even better movie producer because you’ll be truly engaging with that complex information I told you about, and you’ll be better able to bring it into your career and see a wonderful difference in the quality of the movies that you make.