When you ask someone to produce your movie, it’s important to define exactly what you are asking of that person. You may not know, especially if it’s your first feature or if you’ve never produced anything yourself. You might just know that there is a whole host of things that will make your movie GO and later, FINISH.
I’m not going to hate on you for lacking knowledge. You know enough to know you NEED a producer. But before you hit send on your “In Search of Producer” email, please consider a few things. If you’ve already sent the email, consider some of these things before you do your interviews. If you’re already in the middle of your film and wondering why your producer is so… grumpy, consider these things now maybe send some flowers!
There are all different kinds of producers. Creative Producers, Supervising Producers, Post Producers, Find-You-The-Money Producers, Line Producers, Executive Producers, the list goes on. In low-budget indies, your Producer is often some combination of all of these in addition to wearing a couple of additional hats. A beautiful collaboration and partnership can emerge if expectations align with reality…on both sides. Where the responsibilities begin and end is often ambiguous. The timeline is often unspoken. The compensation is generally unclear (deferred, points and backend are all words that get tossed around early on without definition).
So, I’ll flip the script.
As a producer, here’s a few questions I’m likely to ask YOU when you ask me to produce your movie. If you can answer these questions – hypothetically before you send that ISO email – your replies and meetings will be a lot more fruitful. The tone, wording, and parameters of your ISO will reflect a better understanding of exactly what you are asking of your Producer and that will leave everyone less…grumpy. Better yet, have these conversations and draw up a Memo of Understanding between you that outlines some parameters – even and especially if this Producer is your BFF:
- HOW CLOSE IS THE SCRIPT? What phase is the script in? How many drafts do you expect are still in front of you and are you open to hearing my notes? When do you anticipate being able to lock this script? The answer to these questions will let me know if we share an understanding of my role as a creative, collaborative producer and how close you are to shooting.
- WHEN DOES OUR PARTNERSHIP BEGIN AND WHEN DOES IT END? Do you expect your producer to join the film before financing is secured? Do you expect them to secure it? Are you crowdfunding – AND IF SO are you expecting the producer to use their personal contacts and social media to crowdfund? Do you have an understanding of how crowdfunding works? Do you expect the Producer to submit to festivals? Do you expect them to travel to festivals to represent the movie? Do press? Be your publicist? Be your sales agent? Write and negotiate your contracts? Be honest with yourself – if you don’t have the budget for these things, DO YOU EXPECT your producer to do this?
- WHO APPROVES CREW HIRES? Is this a collaboration?
- WHY DO YOU WANT TO TELL THIS STORY? WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO TELL IT? Do you know your audience?
- WHO WILL BE IN CHARGE OF THE MONEY? When you ask someone to budget and schedule (part of the producer’s creative arena) will you trust them to execute it and adapt or do you expect to approve every line item in real time?
- HAVE YOU IMAGINED THE APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF HOURS PER WEEK THE ANSWERS TO THE ABOVE QUESTIONS WILL TAKE A HUMAN BEING TO EXECUTE?
- WHAT KIND OF COMPENSATION ARE YOU OFFERING? Are there benchmarks? Most likely you are starting to realize that whatever compensation you are able to offer is nowhere near commensurate to the size of the task you are asking this person to take on.
You are asking this person, this Producer, to be your everything. In a nutshell, make sure your ISO sounds like a love song.