Friday, November 20, 2009

What a producer needs and what they should know

I've dealt with this a little bit in previous blogs but I realized I should lay out what I think a producer needs in order to produce. Besides the money. That is something you're reading about every week and this part is more what you should have before you try it on your own. For some of you this will be quite familiar, but for others it might be interesting. Let's have a look. 

A Screenplay
This is definitely the first thing you should have. How do you get it? You can write it like I did, but if you don't write and don't even want to, then find a script.

  • Ask your writer friends if you have any, they will be happy to show you their scripts.
  • If you don't know any writer friends there are dozens of websites that have hundreds and thousands of screenplays from wannabe writers and real ones.
  • Put an ad in Craigslist under the writer's category or go to which is for more professional and serious writers.  You will get dozens of them. Study the websites first and see how the ads are usually done. If you haven't read the funny ones I listed last week, you definitely should look at them, but don't copy their desperation.
Luckily, you won't need screenwriting programs like Movie Magic Screenwriter or Final Draft (the best one is Screenwriter in my experience) as scripts are usually sent in pdf format. You should insist on pdf format as otherwise you won't be able to read the screenplays from Screenwriter or Final Draft. There are other screenwriter softwares out there but don't even bother with them.

Or you can even ask for them to mail a "hard copy". Remember that. I still get producers who want me to mail 50 pages of paper (I print double-sided screenplays, an easy function your printer has, and saves on paper. And in spite of what anyone else says, the industry does use double-sided scripts for reading. Once you're in production the actors and creative people will use single-sided so they can make notes. 


You'll need some specific software for producing, some of which is quite expensive as in $600 for budget programs like Movie Magic Budgeting and Scheduling. But if you can't afford them there are others, basically spreadsheets. Or you can pay a Production Manager to make them for you, although they can charge $1000 or more to do one.

Or find a film school student who has access to these programs for free.

An Office

This, of course can be ritzy office in Beverly Hills or a spare bedroom in Spokane or even a 1996 Ford Explorer. With cell phones, you don't need to worry about phone service. But if you have a spare room, use it. Have a door so you can close it and nobody can bother you.

You should have a computer with email capability and high speed broadband as dial-up isn't going to work great with the big files you'll get. Get a desk at Ikea, producers gotta have a desk after all, to put your stuff on. And a lamp for when you're working at night. Faxes are okay but I rarely use a fax anymore, even had my second phone line taken out as I used the fax maybe 2 times a year. You should get a texting/email type of cellphone, although it's not really necessary if you check emails a few times a day.

You don't have to worry about meetings at your office, be it humble or grandiose, because most meetings independent producers take are usually at Starbucks or your favorite lunch place. I always like to meet people at my places, not theirs mostly because I don't have to drive. LA is a big town.

Meeting a writer or actor or director? Buy them a coffee. You don't want them to know where you live in case you don't end up hiring them. And it's not because you're afraid, it's more likely their home is bigger and better than yours. I love my little home here, but I hate it when the cameraman has a mansion in Beverly Hills.

So that's what you need, more or less. A producer's office can be a huge suite at Paramount, or a table at Norm's cafe, these days it doesn't matter all that much. 

Monday's blog will address the question of what you should know, and believe me, it's not all that hard.

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