Friday, December 26, 2008

Need a Producer?

As a writer and/or director, you will eventually need to find a producer for your project. This is an important search as a good producer will mean a smooth shoot, top crew, and strong positioning for your film. Even if it's a micro-budget film, a good producer will do the best job one can do with limited resources.

Before reaching out to producers, you need to assess what kind of film and budget you will be seeking. At this stage, you need to try to be as realistic as possible, while not selling your project short. You won't get very far by approaching a top Hollywood producer who has a studio deal with your $1 million film. Producers with studio deals are seeking projects that will fulfill their studio deals, with budgets more in the $20 to $100 million range -- give or take. In those rare cases that a top Hollywood producer takes on a small film, they are usually supporting a certain person in the production or they were introduced to it by a trusted colleague in the industry. If you have these kind of connections then certainly leverage them. If you don't, you are usually better off approaching producers known for working on films similar to the one you are trying to get made. 

At the same time, you don't want to aim too low when looking for a producer. It can seem like the path of least resistance to attach an inexperienced friend or family member as producer. However, your film will suffer without having a person experienced in filmmaking at the helm. In the event you can't find an experienced producer to consider your film, there are many wonderful production coordinators, production managers or line producers looking to make the leap to producer. The inexperienced friend or family member should be your last resort. And if you are at this last resort, perhaps you need to assess the quality of your film before moving forward. You may need more time at the drawing board, developing the project. 

Once you know the genre and budget of your film, do some research into similar films and note who produced the project. This is a great start to your list of producers to approach. Don't stop there. Do some research into the actors you want to work with. See if they have starred in any low budget films recently. You may find more up-and-coming producers who haven't had a release in the theaters or video stores yet. But they have successfully made features with the actors  you want for your film. And ask around. Referrals are a wonderful, often the only successful, way to find a producer. Remember that even small producers are bombarded with projects and referrals help projects to leap to the top of the pile.  

With your list of producers, start reaching out. Send email pitches or call and pitch your story over the phone. Never send the script without permission. Besides the liability concerns it poses for the producer (he or she may have a similar project and you may decide the idea in the script you sent over was stolen), it also shows your inexperience and that is not how you want to be perceived. When calling, start with the development executive or assistant, unless the producer works solo. The development executive or assistant has the producer's ear and your project will make it to him or her if it is right for that producer. And keep the faith. You will eventually find your producer and when you do, it will be one of the most fulfilling relationships you build on your production -- one that could truly last a lifetime. 

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