Sunday, June 13, 2010

Surviving as a Film Producer

You've decided you want to be a film producer. So how do you make a living at it? That is the eternal question with which every film producer struggles.

The best way to survive as a film producer is to be flexible, confident, focused and prolific.

Be Flexible
You need to be flexible with how you look for and find money on which to live. Sure you can live off producer fees -- when you get them. Unless you are a machine or you are in a privileged position of not having to do much hands-on work, it is difficult to make more than about three films a year. And unless you are making high-budget films, most indie producer fees are low or even nonexistent. It's very difficult to live off producer fees alone.

So you may have to look for other sources of income, which can come in many different forms. Perhaps you are a writer and you can find gigs writing about filmmaking. Or you are a teacher or you have a day job in an entirely different field. Or you work for other producers in between your own producing gigs.

I used to wonder if I could call myself a producer if I wasn't working and earning a living full time from my producing. I eventually realized that it really doesn't matter where your income is derived. You are a producer if you are producing movies. Only you know how much you need to live on and if your producing fees are not enough then you just need to be flexible and figure out how to earn more elsewhere. You are not a failure if you cannot survive on producing fees alone. Instead, you are human and definitely not alone.

Be Confident
Confidence is very important to the survival of a producer. You need to be confident that you will get your movies financed and made. You need to be confident that when you don't have an income that one will eventually be found. You need to be confident that you have what it takes to be a leader. Because in the end, you are the film's leader. It needs you just as much as you need it.

Be Focused
It's very easy to spread yourself too thin over too many projects and genres. Try to focus on the projects with the best possible chances of success and give them your greatest attention. It also helps if you become known for a certain kind of film as financiers will feel more confident that you can deliver a film in a genre with which you have a track record of success.

Why do you think Judd Apatow gets comedy after comedy after comedy greenlit? He's proven himself in that genre. It's okay to want to make movies in many different genres but realize that you are increasing your chances of success if you are focused.

Be Prolific
You've heard the saying: A filmmaker is only as good as his or her next film. Well there is some truth to that. If you want to survive as a producer then you need to be making movies. And if you have a few in the works then you are spreading the risk out over a few projects. That way, the successes can help balance out those that don't perform as well as you had hoped.

In the end, if you want to make movies, you will. If you want to survive doing it over the long haul then you need to work at it and figure out how to make it happen in a way that works for you. No one's journey is the same and each one is a valid way of getting there.


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fun film said...

visulaized education is very affective. Documentaries are the best options for that.
You can say lots by this 30 or 60 minutes movie. It is not nesessary that the theme of
the documentary is always be serious matter. But you must see that your film say somthing.
Then it will be a original film.

Adam M said...

Lots of useful infomation on your site, good work!

James said...

thanks for sharing this!nice advices!I'm a new filmmaker and this kind of information is very useful..I have a nice website to share also lot of information there for new filmmakers :)

Anonymous said...

Great article.

What about learning to become a film producer? In your opinion, outside of the main film schools, what's the best way to learn the art of producing?

Jamie Paszko

Jane Kelly Kosek said...

Hi Jamie,

The best way to learn how to be a producer is to assist one. Hands-on experience is truly the best. I also think working in production and assisting a producer is very well-rounded.

Orlando said...

I making a feature animation ( and I am bringing on a producer friend to help. What is a fair split for points on production? I seen numbers like 2 to 4% but want to make sure this is fair (and I know there will be others I will need to give points to).