“Fix it in Pre-” How to approach the role of ‘the Producer.’

Rosie Grahame

Rosie Grahame

Words by Rosie Grahame
Having announced our six shortlisted screenplays for 2014, MannIN Shorts are currently running a series of ‘Producer’s Workshops’. In preparation for the next stage of development we’re encouraging anyone who might be interested in the role to find out more and get involved!

On Wednesday evening (12th Feb) we invited Bev Lawley (of Ex-Isle Casting Agency) and Emily Cook (of Reel Vision Film Solutions) to share their experiences and offer advice to any would-be Producers. Both Bev and Emily have previously produced short films as part of the MannIN Shorts scheme and have since taken on their own independent projects.

Producer 101 workshop with Emily and Bev

Producer 101 workshop with Emily and Bev

So what does the Producer actually do?

We hear this question quite often… in fact, before I got to grips with the basics of the movie-making malarkey I remember asking it myself. Like so many roles in the industry, if you’re doing your job properly, you shouldn’t be seen to be doing it at all.

So for those still wondering, the Producer is – the project manager, the puppet-master, the tiny little acorn to the vast oak tree of cast and crew. The Producer will oversee (and assume responsibility for) the entire filmmaking process, from the initial concept through to screening and distribution. It’s worth noting that in the early stages of project development, Producers render ultimate creative control… they can (and have) fired Directors!

The main responsibilities:

  • – Bringing the team (both cast and crew) together.
  • – Preparing and managing the budget.
  • – Raising money (through private/corporate sponsorship, or crowd-funding for example).
  • – Securing locations.
  • – Scheduling the shoot.
  • – Organising catering (a film crew, like an army, marches on their stomach!)
  • – Managing the legalities of health and safety and insurance.
  • – Screening and distribution of the final film.

Easy-peasy(!)

A good producer has a varied skillset here are a few worthy traits:

  • – Diplomacy and strong interpersonal skills to develop beneficial working relationships.
  • – Knowing your limits, and when to ask for help; delegation is a key task and a supportive framework of team members, (production assistants and/or runners) will be happy to assist.
  • – Organisation and preparation; the ability to foresee problems and resolve them before they arise.

As part of the MannIN Shorts scheme, the three final films that enter production this year will be made on the Island. The Isle of Man offers many benefits for film production; as well as the varied landscape for locations, the island has a vibrant creative hub, often making it easier to get introductions to people or locations or venues.

As you may have gathered however, that’s not to say that producing a movie on Man is plain-sailing! Overcoming challenges and resolving problems is a regular feature in the Producer’s job, and is part of what makes the role so rewarding. Low-budet movie-making is a skill in itself, and obtaining sponsorship can be a daunting task, often suited to anyone with a background in sales or marketing. Our MannIN Shorts Producers were on-hand to offer some useful advice…

Sponsorship:

When approaching the corporate sector, put together a list of potential businesses who may have an interest in becoming involved with your project if it is addressing a topic that relates to the services they offer. Emily gave the following example with reference to MannIN Shorts’ ‘Barry Brown’:

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Members of the Barry brown Production with Sponsors Allmode

“We knew the story would resonate with businesses and organisations concerned with issues relating to war and it’s human collateral. We approached AllMode who hire ex- service personnel to work as international private security around world. They recognised and shared our vision and came on board generously. We had a similar experience with our other main sponsor DoxBond.”

For certain creatve projects, crowd-funding campaigns such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo can provide a huge resource. If the right bods see your work, you can gain immense support both financially and through online promotion of your project.

It is important to explain to any potential sponsor the reason that you are involved with the project. Stay true to the vision of the project; don’t compromise the production values to please someone else. A sponsor is more likely to come on board if you can articulate your passion and enthuse them; excitement is infectious, prove to them that this is a rewarding endeavour.

For most businesses, supporting local projects is tax deductable, so from a purely financial perspective it has great potential for both parties. You could equally offer a sponsorship package, for a fixed price to give the business advertising and marketing opportunities within the film, and credit at the end. Emily advises:

“Think of your fund-raising in terms of what you can offer [the organisation] more than simply what they can give you. Don’t underestimate the value of signed posters, a credit on the film, VIP premiere invites, set visits, access to special material surrounding the film and powerful brand association.”

Emily Cook Producer of Barry Brown

Emily Cook Producer of Barry Brown

Another useful approach is to look at “payment in kind”, if a company is unable to offer financial support, they may be able to provide a service (such as travel or kit-hire) for a reduced price.

Be resourceful and creative in your approach, and follow through with your promises. Sincerity, politeness and enthusiasm can go a long way.

Hard work? Yes. Stressful? There are moments…!

So why do they do it?

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

(John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, The A-Team)

It’s undeniably encouraging as the project begins to gather momentum. The Producer will see the project from start to finish, and there is an immense sense of achievement when the film reaches completion. To know that you have been an integral part of the process is hugely rewarding. As a Producer, every day is different, with a variety of tasks you will also gain innumerable transferable skills that can be applied to other areas of your professional and personal life, or can be taken to future projects.

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Alistair delivering his Producing Tips

Also, if you’ve ever worked as part of a crew before, or if you see any of the behind-the-scenes videos from shoots, you’ll detect an almost tangible creative energy from all involved. The Producer helps to make that happen, too.

Alistair Audsley

Alistair Audsley

Our next Producer’s Workshop was held at The Forum, Mount Havelock Road, the following Wednesday.  We had independent Producer (and Writer, and Director) Alistair Audsley flown in especially to join us!

Alistair has experience in producing films of varying budgets all over the world. His short film ‘A Night At Robert McAlisters” became the award winning feature ‘The Paddy Lincoln Gang’ – both of which he wrote, directed, produced and shot in LA. He currently has several projects in pre-production and some in post- and distribution land, so has a wealth of experience to share.

In the meantime, for a look at our Producers-in-action, check out the link below to access the behind-the-scenes video from the MannIN Shorts ‘Scene Stealer’ competition:

If you’d like to read more about low-budget producing, Emily recommends the following publications:

‘How Not to Make a Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmer Paperback’

Roberta Marie Munroe http://www.amazon.com/How-Not-Make-Short-Film/dp/1401309542 ‘Raindance Producers’ Lab Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking’

Elliot Grove (founder of Raindance Film Festival) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Raindance-Producers-Lab-Budget-Filmmaking/dp/0240516990

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About MannIN Shorts

"MannIN Shorts" is a brand new Isle of Man film initiative set to provide a platform for hopeful filmmakers.  Young or old, local or international it provides a launch pad to develop skills, ideas and actually make films, right here on the Isle of Man.
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