Friday, September 4, 2009

Blog 10: The Producer Pt 2

A few more short notes on producing.  As mentioned I am producer on Travel Day. While not common for a writer to produce, it has been done many times, especially in Television. If you look at movies pre-1980, most of them had one producer. An interesting phenomenon began to happen in the late 1980's up to now. 

First, when a big actor came on a movie, he/she often brought her agent or manager or dog handler and insisted on giving them an "Executive Producer" credit. Up to then, it was usually a studio or network executive who got the credit and it was more or less to keep an eye on the money. They rarely showed up on the set as they were busy on other productions.  

Then another event took place that changed credits once again, in a very different way. 

It was mostly due to less money being available to producers as studios began to cut their risks on smaller movies and focused more on big blockbusters. So many independent producers found they had to get "partners", primarily lawyers and money-raisers. Say your budget was $10 million, and you had only $5 million, well then you would have to find that other $5 million and you did this by looking for one or more hustlers or lawyers who could cough up that much. 

And these hustlers and lawyers  began to ask for credits -- title credits -- the names at the beginning of the movie. They brought in the money you needed, they want their names up on the big screen just like you.  

What happened after also changed movie credits. 

Since most or none of these "producers" knew much about making movies, they had to hire someone who did. This fell to the Production Manager, someone usually hired to run the day-to-day operation for the producer on a crew level. But then the PM as they are called, decided to ask for his/her credit.  And thus born was the "Line Producer". And they also get title credit. 

And since the other producers who weren't really producers opted for "Executive Producer", so that title once given to one studio exec was now handed out to anyone who could bring in a substantial amount of money to the movie cost or who the big star wanted to be one, like his workout coach (believe me this happened). Now it's not uncommon to see several Exec producers on a movie. In fact there were 20 producers, executive producers and co-producers on The Wicker Man, a remake of a movie that had one producer. 

And the original movie made more money.

I have allowed for one Executive Producer who would get a credit and facetime with the actors, the obligatory crew photo, maybe a car that's not being used and a whole muffin.  All this and a commission if they bring a portion of the budget. 

Like half.

(Coming Monday: The Director)


  1. I knew it! In a way it's kinda too bad as this feels like it lowers the authenticity of various roles - are you a producer? Or a poser? But then again, if I become the 'muffin lady' or a damn fine 'girl friday' I might get the same consideration and find myself on equal billing with some greats. Then again, it would first have to permeate my Catholic conscience. Damn. Never mind...

  2. I didn't include "Associate Producer" which was more common pre 1980. This was often a hard working assistant to the producer, but also more than likely the dog groomer or brother-in-law. As such it was generally mocked by the crew. Co-producer can also be a non-entity, often given as a gift, like I got on Target, that Steven Baldwin movie I did. I mostly sat around the muffins and watched my script get destroyed. But I did get WGA minimum and health care.

  3. Excuse anonymous above, I couldn't get my name accepted on this damn thing.